Best Snow Boots Reviewed & Rated for Performance
A world blanketed in downy white can mean snowball fights, winter sports, and snow days. It can also mean mountaineering icy peaks, navigating treacherous avalanche country, and the dreaded task of shoveling your front driveway. The right snow gear is essential to brave the arctic climate and allow you to take on the fierce beauty of mother nature’s winter wonderland with confidence. When choosing snow boots, the temperatures they’re designed for, their durability, and their price point all play major factors.
The most important thing that differentiates a pair of snow boots from your regular pair of boots is the fact that they are made for much colder conditions. Whether you need them to protect you from a regular cold winter with temperatures in the low 10s or are expecting to experience weather that is as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, a good pair of snow boots will offer the insulation to keep you warm and safe. Furthermore, they will be water resistant or waterproof and will enable you to tread through snow without allowing your feet to get wet. Finally, the soles of your snow boots need to be durable, but flexible enough to allow you to safely walk on snowy and icy surfaces without slipping or falling.
- Columbia Ice Maiden II
- 200g insulation
- Salomon X Ultra Mid 2
- GORE-TEX waterproofing
- Spiked outsole
- Kamik Nationplus
- -40 F rated
- Rustproof speed-lacing
In order to help you with choosing the best possible pair of snow boots for your need, we have gathered in this list the 15 best-rated products available for purchase, describing their unique features, pros, and cons. This means that you will be able to make the right choice based on what you require, while also having plenty of information about what to look for in snow boots.
15 Best Snow Boots
1. Columbia Ice Maiden II
These boots are rated for -25 F weather and the hard rubber outsoles have enough traction and endurance to make sure the wearer won’t slip on any embankments any time soon. The shaft is suede and the toe box a canvas and rubber combination, making for a highly versatile and uncompromising design. You can trudge in ice, mud, and into powdery drifts while your feet stay completely dry and toasty with insulation rated at 200g.
The interior of the Columbia Ice Maiden II’s consists of the insulation familiar to all Columbia boots, Techlite. The lightweight midsole and extra cushioning mean long lasting, all day comfort is guaranteed, while the removable, waterproof bootie sock on the inside means your feet will stay dry no matter what.
Cost and Value
For a snow boot that looks this good, you could pay a lot more. But since looks aren’t everything, Columbia has taken great care to make sure these design-heavy boots measure up with their Bugaboot line in every way, from waterproof construction, Techlite insulation, and unparalleled comfort. Only for the most hardcore snow bunnies at a truly attractive price.
- Techlite insulation 200g
- Removable inner bootie
- Fashionable design
- Non-marking outsole
- Not designed for extreme temperatures
- Run narrow
2. Salomon Ultra X Mid 2
The outsole on these snow boots is made out of a blend of materials cut just in the right way to give you maximum traction on snowy and icy surfaces. You will find that the 9 Carbide-metal spikes help keep you slip-free in all conditions, while the fact that these are non-marking boots will make it easier to wear them indoors.
These boots will feel like running shoes thanks to the advanced chassis located between the outsole and midsole. It provides optimal motion control, energy management, and return, and keeps you stable throughout your steps. The insole is a contoured EVA footbed topped with an OrthoLite insole that adds cushioning and moisture wicking properties to an already awesome pair of snow boots.
Cost and Value
Being the latest edition of the Salomon Ultra X line, these boots will cost you quite a bit. However, they are one of the definite best pairs of snow boots available for purchase, thanks to the fact that they are both comfort and snow-protection oriented. You’ll find that they provide a customized fit, and plenty of protection with the numerous technological features both in the upper, outsole, midsole and inner.
- Protective heel and toe caps
- GORE-TEX waterproofing
- Advanced chassis
- OrthoLite insole
- Contagrip outsole with metal spikes
- Rather expensive
- Runs narrow
3. Sorel Joan Of Arctic
It's always important to check the temperature rating of a boot, as you want to be certain that it is designed to withstand the specific level of cold that it will be used in. This boot is rated with the ability to perform in up to -25F/-32C. If you live or play in conditions that meet or are above this temperature, then this boot will be very effective at keeping you warm and dry.
While most boots are filled with a material to give it it's insulation, these boots are built with a removable liner. What this means for you is that you can change how warm they are by either adding or removing the liner making them great for warmer winter days, as well as very frigid ones.
Cost and Value
These boots are a bit more expensive, but that has a lot to do with the fact that you're paying for both performance as well as appearance. A lot of winter boots are designed with only performance in mind and they look bulky and bland. These have decorative fur features and an attractive design that makes them look just as good as they feel.
- Waterproof suede leather
- Removable inner boot
- Felt frost plug
- Vulcanized rubber shell
- Great for heavy snow
- Can be clunky
- Run slightly small
4. Kamik Greenbay 4
You will find that the 8mm removable thermal liner is a great addition, allowing you to remove it when doing long treks so that your feet don’t overheat, or put it back in when temperatures continue to drop, securing you some much needed extra warmth. The hook-and-loop strap is handy for when you want to adjust the fit of the boot near the toe box.
Capable of withstanding temperatures of -40 F, these boots are completely waterproof and weigh less than 2 pounds. The drawstring at the top keeps snow out and warmth in, removing the need for excess buckles and clasps so the shaft is streamlined. Its thick tread on the outsole means that while extremely sleek, the Kamik Greenbay 4 is still a protective, secure boot for taking on snow and ice.
Cost and Value
These boots are designed for snow days and work outside in urban areas; their synthetic material would prove prone to tearing on rugged terrain. For the versatility and innovation associated with these lightweight boots, the price is fair and reasonable. As everyday snow boots in the winter season that don’t look like your typical snow boot, the Kamik Greenbay 4 is definitely one of the top choices available on the market.
- Drawstring top
- 8mm thermal liner
- Sleek design
- Lugged rubber sole
- Runs large
- Not made for hiking
5. Kamik Nationplus
These boots use Thinsulate for insulation, a common material among the Kamik brand of boots. It manifests in a removable slipper like liner that can be taken out of the boot. This is a feature usually found in ankle-boots, but helpful in a taller boot that might mean its wearer is trekking through higher mounds of snow.
The Thinsulate insulation is composed of three layers of moisture-wicking material that makes perspiration evaporate and keeps the foot dry. The seams of the liner are also reinforced so that it’s more durable and won’t fray. The lacing system has speed laces and rustproof D-rings.
Cost and Value
For the innovation and functionality of Kamik boots, they consistently rank as one of the most economically friendly brands of snow boots. They have more tread than Sorel boots, are every bit as warm as a Merrell, are light for a tall boot, and all for a low price.
- Low price
- Removable slipper liner
- Speed laces
- Thinsulate insulation
- Rated -40F/-40C
- Can run small
- Don’t offer much support
6. Columbia Bugaboot Plus III
These snow boots have some pretty amazing features, including the non-marking Omni-Grip outsole that is specifically designed for walking in the snow. The Omni-Heat reflective lining has 200g insulation, keeping you warm with the aid of small silver dots reflecting heat back onto your feet.
Spend all day in these snow boots and you won’t feel a thing. Their Techlite lightweight midsole is made for support, cushioning and shock absorption, while still providing you with enough energy return so that you aren’t fatigued at the end of the day. With all of these amazing features, you will be happy to hear that the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III is a durable pair of snow boots, ready to last you for several seasons.
Cost and Value
The features that make these boots so functional like the Omni-Grip and Omni-Heat mean they’re ideal for outdoor activities, like hiking. Because they’re waterproof, you can rest assured that your feet will stay dry and warm, even when met with deep and slushy snow, while the 200g of insulation means they’re ideal for moderately cold weather, but not arctic conditions. They’re incredibly comfortable and breathe like sportswear, which means that these boots offer excellent features for an average price.
- Great for hiking
- Keeps heat circulating
- Non-marking grippy outsole
- Eyelets are of a lower quality
- Some users don’t find them warm enough
7. Sorel Caribou II
Most families that live in areas where winter means heavy snow have had their Sorel boots for decades. Once solely made in Canada, the company recently relocated to China, though they continue to be manufactured with the same attention to detail. The leather and rubber construction and D-ring lace system make for a tried and true element-defying construction.
Thinsulate is the insulation of choice for Sorel, with thin, hollow fibers trapping heat in their boots. Normally, this would be considered a light insulation, but the Sherpa style lining inside provides plenty of extra cushion. No need to double layer your winter socks.
Cost and Value
These boots can be worn while shoveling the walk, jousting on snowmobiles, or delivering Christmas packages. They’re solid snow boots at a little over 6 pounds, which means they mean business. They’re more expensive than Kamik or Columbia boots but can be considered family heirlooms, meaning you’ll get decades of use out of them.
- Thinsulate insulation
- Leather and rubber
- Will last a long time
- Soft, sherpa liner
- Rated -40F/-40C
- Cost a bit above average
- Rubber will crack after a few years
8. Merrell Moab Polar
M-select is the class of insulation that Merrell developed for its snow boots, retaining and diffusing heat to keep the wearer’s feet warm. The M-select Ice Grip outsole is a rubber and nylon construction that provides plenty of traction. It’s like wearing snow tires, but on your feet.
Though these boots don’t have a whole lot of flexibility, especially where the shaft meets the heel, they’re very comfortable. An 8-hour hike is nothing with these boots. And being completely waterproof, your feet will stay dry all day. They’re also comfortable at -20 F, which beats a lot of similarly styled boots.
Cost and Value
For those wearers used to sporting a running shoe or sneaker the rest of the year and suddenly find themselves in colder climates, this snow boot is the business. They’ll hug your foot like a second skin, with enough traction to ensure you won’t be missing the tough grip of a heavier duty boot. They’re a solid price for a solid mid-range snow boot.
Great for hiking
Great for narrow feet
Weigh 2lb 12oz for the full pair
- Not designed for extreme cold
- Not waterproof above the rubber section
9. UGG Adirondack II
These fully waterproof, seam-sealed boots have a special event bootie that is moisture wicking and vents airflow in the boot so the wearer doesn’t overheat. Exclusive to the brand, the UGG Adirondack II’s have a Vibram outsole with a unique repeating lug tread pattern to ensure that you get maximum traction and durability over rough terrain.
This is an UGG boot, and the comfort of an UGG boot can’t be overemphasized. The fleece inside is plush and thick, allowing the wearer to withstand temperatures as low as -20 F. These boots feel great immediately, so the breaking in period is minimal.
Cost and Value
If you know and value the UGG brand as a guarantee of comfort and quality, then these boots are for you. They will become the most comfortable boots you have for all day wear in the snow, from errands to more vigorous outdoor activities. That being said, they’re some of the most expensive snow boots on the market.
- Extremely comfortable
- eVent bootie
- Able to withstand -20 F
- Vibram outsole
- Soft, cushiony lining
- Inconsistent quality in different colors
10. Baffin Wolf
The Baffin Wolf has a seven-layer insulated bootie that’s removable, ensuring that even vigorous activity out in the snow means the wearer won’t overheat. It has a lot of arch support thanks to the flexible and light midsole and a rubber compound outsole. They have two adjustable snap closures at the shaft and ankle to maximize fit. They also allow them to be easily slipped on and off.
By combining typical molding technology with a foam-heavy inner boot, the Baffin Wolf is a snow boot of the most technical kind of functionality. The sole is made up of several thermo-set polymers that combine to make a lightweight, but incredibly strong performance. They also have a drawstring at the top of the shaft.
Cost and Value
These bad boys are best for working outside, especially where the snow is deep. The two adjustable snap closures, drawstring top, and specifically engineered sole make them one of the most technical snow boots on the market to wear every day.
- Tall shaft
- Two adjustable snap closures
- Specifically engineered insole
- Removable insulated bootie
- Locking snow collar
- Not designed for extremely cold temperatures
- Quite expensive
11. The North Face Shellista II
One of the most important factors when it comes to snow boots is insulation, and these boots are not lacking in this category. With 200g of PrimaLoft Silver Insulation, you are sure to notice how warm and comfortable your feet, ankles, and shins feel all day long. PrimaLoft is considered one of the best down alternatives, so those with down allergies will get the same type of protection without any irritation or reaction.
Mid Calf Lace Up
If you want a boot that is going to fit great, regardless of your calf size, then these boots are worth checking out. With a lace-up front that extends up to the mid-calf area, you have full control over the tightness and fit of these boots. With a secure fit, you will find that heat is trapped efficiently and cold air and moisture is prevented from sneaking into your boot.
Cost and Value
We all know that snow boots are not cheap, as they are a fairly heavy duty piece of footwear that is meant to withstand some fairly rough conditions. With that said, these boots are relatively inexpensive for what you're getting and they should stand up well in snowy conditions. They are also very attractive boots that are neither bulky nor bland, making them fun to wear in the winter.
- Fully waterproof
- 200g of insulation
- Streamlined shell
- Temperature sensitive lugs
- Don’t use down insulation
- Heavy around the ankles
- Some users find them to be too stiff
12. Vasque Snowburban Ultradry
As a mid-loft insulate, the 400g found in this boot will be both warm and fairly light in weight. Unlike heavier alternatives, you shouldn't feel too much of a weight difference in your boot which is great for those who are using these for long periods of time. 400g of insulation means frigid conditions will be no match for these boots, and your feet should stay warm regardless of the outside temperature.
Winter Traction Outsole Lugs
The lugs on the sole of this shoe will give you superior control and traction while you move across slippery and wet terrains. Designed as a hiking boot, you should find that the grip is secure and the lugs help anchor you as you climb and descend on your hike. The lug pattern is enhanced to give you the ultimate grip, and there should be little chance of slipping or sliding.
Cost and Value
Surprisingly inexpensive, these boots are a great bargain for anyone looking to get out and explore the wilderness during the winter. Heavy and durable, these boots are very rugged and you are getting a very good deal as they should stand up to almost any weather conditions.
- Extremely durable
- Incredible traction
- 400g of insulation
- Winter traction lugs
- Wool collar lining
- Very heavy
- Comes with low quality laces
13. KEEN Elsa
If you live in a climate that gets extremely frigid, then these boots may not be best suited for you. For those who live in more general climates, where winters are cold but not arctic cold, then these will withstand most temperate conditions. They are rated as being effective up to -4F/-20C, so as long as you are around or above that then you should find these to be great boots.
Sherpa Collar and Lining
The lining on the collar and inside of the boot is made from a faux fleece known as sherpa. This gives it a warm and comfortable feeling, while also looking attractive and wintery. The lightness of the material makes it extremely breathable, so it won’t make your calfs sweaty or irritated.
Cost and Value
Since these aren't designed for extreme conditions, the price is reflective of their limitations. This means that you are getting a well designed and effective boot for a lot less than some of the others we have looked at. The tradeoff is that if you are going up into the mountains, or live in very cold areas, this boot may not be enough to keep you completely warm.
- Natural odor control
- 100g of insulation
- Heat reflecting strobel
- Sherpa collar
- Metatomical footbed design
- Limited temperature range
- Not fully waterproof
14. London Fog Melton
Having a full lace-up boot is extremely beneficial, as it gives you full control over the tightness and fit. Regardless of your calf size, you can adjust the boot so that it feels customized to you, making it more comfortable throughout the day. The lace-up style also allows you to prevent cold air from getting inside, as you can tighten it against your leg so that there is no opening.
To keep both your feet and legs nice and warm, this boot is lined with faux fur that will trap the heat like a blanket. It is also incredibly soft so that your feet feel more cushioned and cozy, giving you a comfortable boot for walking around in the snow.
Cost and Value
Given that these are more of a fashionable snow boot than a high performing one, the price is reflective of this fact. You will save quite a bit of money when you opt for a less durable boot such as this, but if you only are wearing boots for walking around town in the snow then you don't need something heavy and intense.
- Waterproof faux leather
- Full lace up front
- Faux fur lined
- True to size
- Affordable price
- Cannot be used for hiking
- Snow gets stuck in treads
15. Sorel Conquest
The Sorel Conquest is all about function and grit. It’s waterproof like every top rated snow boot, but also has a built-in gaiter bootie and molded EVA footbed. It has a drawstring at the top of the shaft much like the Kamik Greenbay 4, and the barrel lock ensures that snow is kept out and feet are kept dry and warm.
Where most snow boots have either D-rings or quick laces, this has both, as well as an Achilles adjustment strap that lets you tighten or loosen the area around your ankle as needed. The molded EVA footbed is also removable if your feet get too warm on your quest. The 400g graded Thinsulate means these are perfect for very cold temperatures.
Cost and Value
Sorel is one of the best quality snow boot brands money can buy, so for the functionality and versatility of the Sorel Conquest, the slightly higher price tag is no surprise. However, with the 400g graded Thinsulate, the combination of Achilles adjustable strap and D-ring/quick laces, as well as the removable molded EVA footbed and waterproof design, you’ll feel like you should be paying a lot more.
- 400g grade Thinsulate insulation
- Heavy duty waterproof
- D-ring/quick laces
- Achilles adjustable strap
- For extreme cold
- Molded EVA footbed
- Can be difficult to break in
- Not suitable for rugged use
While most instances of frolicking in winter wonderlands conjure specific images of snow boots, there are a wide variety to choose from. Some can withstand extremely cold temperatures, while others are designed for warmer winter days. Some are designed for onerous work outdoors, while other have snow sports in mind with their presentation. The features a wearer considers when it comes time to purchase a pair of snow boots greatly depend on what activities they’ll be performing in the snow and in what conditions. Snow boots can be tough and heavy or light and technologically advanced, while others can be fashionable and furry. Any good snow boot will be waterproof, be able to withstand at least -40 F, and provide a good balance of warmth on the inside and traction on the outside. Their aesthetic appeal, however, is entirely up to the wearer and as evidenced, varies widely.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Snow Boots
When spending time in the snow, keeping your feet warm is paramount. While your pair of snow boots may not be able to generate heat themselves, they can help you retain the heat that your own body produces within the boot. It’s extremely important that your snow boots come with the necessary features that prevent heat from escaping the boot. This retained heat is what keeps your feet from suffering the consequences of being exposed to low temperatures, and it becomes more and more important as it gets colder.
Aside from retaining heat, your snow boots also have the task of preventing natural airflow, more precisely the entry of cold outside air into the boot itself. If you’re in snowy climates, one thing is for sure; the wind will be just about as cold as the snow beneath your feet. As you can guess, cold is not something you want passing through your inner boot and affecting your feet, so less air flow means more warmth for you.
In order to properly retain heat, snow boots must be equipped with a smart sealing system. These systems usually consist of strap seals and specific upper build materials that make sure the heat stays inside. Additionally, the fit of the boot has a role in heat retention; in order to optimize the heat seal, your boots should fit snugly. This doesn’t mean your boots have to strangle your feet – just keep in mind that an adequate fit is better at retaining heat.
Regardless of the activity you’re performing – whether it’s snow hiking or simply walking in the snow – making sure that your feet are warm is imperative, seeing that it can influence your performance, especially during athletic activities such as hiking. If your boots do not perform adequately, allowing for cold air to reach inside them, you may find yourself seeing a drop in your performance levels, or even experiencing some rather unwanted symptoms. Not only will feeling cold slow you down and make you uncomfortable, but it can also pose a safety threat.
Every single part of your body must be prepared to endure very cold circumstances, with your feet being no exception, which is why a decent pair of snow boots is so important. Exposure to the cold can eventually numb the entirety of both your feet, and it can damage the skin if this happens for a prolonged period of time. The numbness you feel will represent a huge reduction in your performance, and it can quickly escalate to becoming a reduction in your mobility as well.
Additionally, the numbing can affect your sense of touch. This means that your feet won’t quite feel the surface they’re stepping on, and thus fail to obtain a firm and stable grasp on it. If you’re not able to fully determine the orientation or elevation of the surface you’re walking on, you are simply waiting for an accident to happen. So, if for any reasons your feet start numbing from the cold while hiking, we recommend to immediately stop the activity and to make your way back down the mountain. Like we explained, numbness can elevate from a performance factor to a security hazard and you should never take that risk.
In addition to heat sealing and retention, it is highly advised to look for an upper build sealing that also protects your feet from being affected by water leaks. Water is already an annoying obstacle during regular hiking, but this measure becomes especially important in cold weather.
Performance-wise, water within your shoe is terrible. If you’re in a snowy environment, chances are any natural water nearby is pretty cold. Soaked feet can lead to fungi, odors, blisters, and calluses, but can also up your chances of experiencing hypothermia as your feet will inevitably get more and colder.
However, when we talk about waterproofing we’re not just talking about the inner part of the shoe. Waterproofing also refers to the ability of the snow boot to repel water from its materials; in simpler words, applying materials that do not absorb water. This is a fairly simple point – bulky snow boots are already heavy enough and if they soak during contact with water their weight could potentially become twice as much.
Water within the shoe would also interfere with our first criteria; heat accumulation. If water manages to leak into the inner shoe, not only will it make your feet cold at that moment, it will also affect the inner accumulation of heat, and prevent further heat accumulation within the inner build.
The leaking of water also becomes an obstacle to multiple shoe elements. For instance, the contact between the foot and the insole is obstructed. Additionally, the insole itself becomes soaked if it’s not waterproof – leading to a very sloppy performance and a lack of inner traction. The leakage would also affect the socks, exposing feet to irritation.
We recommend the use of further waterproof equipment, such as socks that offer protection from water and waterproof insoles. In case of leaks (whether it’s because of a fabric malfunction or natural deterioration), this equipment will considerably reduce the impact water has on both your feet and your performance.
Waterproofing is especially important because it’s not a temporary obstacle. The effect of water (soaked insoles, wet socks and feet) will follow you around until you’re done hiking or performing activities in the snow. If you happen to then get a fungal infection or other issues, this can last days, weeks, or even longer making you both uncomfortable and unhappy.
It is important to keep in mind that certain products offer water protection in place of waterproofing. There’s a huge difference between these two features, and while they may seem similar at first sight, waterproof products offer a much more complete protection against water. Water resistant products offer simpler protection, such as walking through a puddle or preventing rain from leaking in. But, when it comes to submersion or prolonged exposure to water, water resistant products are not the most optimal choice.
Equipment for cold wear, such as snow boots, needs to adequately prepare you for when the temperature drops; this often involves a high-top design, a thick rubber midsole with a substantially lugged outsole design. While all of these features are necessary, they start adding up quite a bit of weight when they’re all together.
Thick protection is necessary when we’re talking about cold environments, especially if activities such as snow hiking are involved. However, the excessive bulk has one huge downside – weight. While environmental protection features are important, weight tends to have a big impact on the quality of the shoe. We’re not even talking about performance yet – as even casual wear can become tiresome when having to drag a very heavy boot around, especially during extended use.
However, modern technology allows manufacturers to deliver these environmental functions at a much lower weight than ever before. In fact, some of the lightweight technology we’ll mention has proven to be more efficient than their heavier counterparts. This innovation applies to pretty much every element of the shoe; from the upper build fabrics to the insole, midsole, and heel/outsole design.
The midsole materials, for example, went from the traditional rubber to a more modern EVA midsole. Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is a somewhat new compound that resembles some of the features offered by traditional rubber. It also improves some other functions and even offers some aspects of its own that are not present in rubber. Although, there’s a big misconception regarding EVA products and their use that needs to be dispelled.
Contrary to what most people believe, EVA is not a rubber derivate – it’s a type of foam. You may have heard of this compound being used in all types of shoes, although mostly in performance ones. In comparison to rubber, this compound is much more flexible, counts with low-temperature resistance have stress-cracking resistance, and protects against UV radiation. Lastly, and most importantly for this parameter, it’s much lighter.
In addition to using different materials, applying them in a different manner also makes the shoe lighter. For instance, manufacturers employ these materials in denser amounts, rather than in greater volume. When you combine low volume with high density and a lighter material, you obtain a considerably lighter boot.
Performance-wise, weight has always been (and continues to be) a huge factor. In sports that involve running and jumping, every single ounce of difference is considered an advantage amongst professional competitors. While an ounce might not make that much of a difference in such a voluminous build such as snow boots, you want to focus on finding a shoe that is light in general.
When snow hiking, for example, dragging a boot that weights 2kg is considerably tougher than doing so with a boot that weighs 600g. You might not feel it at the very moment you put them on – but when we’re talking about 2-3 hours of hiking, that extra 1.4kg will sure be noticeable.
The longer you plan on performing (or simply walking), the lighter your boot should be. A lightweight approach will reduce the effort you need to take a step. If you take 10 steps, you might not notice a thing. Walk a thousand steps, however, and the difference is crystal clear.
There are many aspects of the protection a snow boot should deliver. Basically, it comes down to two different types: external protection, and internal protection. Customers tend to focus on the external protection, which as you can guess, is the one responsible for protecting your feet from external elements (water, rocks, snow). Some of them make the mistake of forgetting about the internal protection.
Now, it would make sense to think that your feet are safe as long as they’re protected from external factors, but that’s not the case. In a good snow boot, there should be no physical element in the inner shoe that would harm your feet. However, it’s not physical elements that you need internal protection from.
Things such as impact and shock can be just as harmful to your feet as physical external elements. Some people would argue these two are even a greater threat than any external hazards. If a boot isn’t equipped with adequate cushioning and shock-absorbing materials, activities as simple as walking can generate a considerable amount of stress on your heels, your arch, and even your forefoot (toes included).
Additionally, any further impact activity or rough sport such as hiking will produce a much larger amount of stress on your feet. Thus, we consider cushioning and shock-absorbing features to be paramount when selecting the best snow boots. The lack of these features would make any shoe a bad option, let alone a boot that is meant to endure rough environments.
Yet, this doesn’t make external protection any less important. The elements have proven to be a pretty rough obstacle if you underestimate them. Waterproof or water-resistant protection, like we mentioned above, is one of the most important aspects of protection in a snow boot – and any shoe that is meant to be near water.
Some snow boots (and boots, in general, depending on their purpose) may have a toe cap plaque. This plaque is usually found on construction boots and footwear intended for similar activities and is meant to provide additional protection to the toes in case something lands on them. This feature has been quickly adapted to hiking boots and boots in general, given that protection is one of the main aspects people look for when they decide to purchase boots.
The upper build materials have a big role in external protection as well; these materials are the only thing standing between you and the exterior. Thus, they should be able to endure pretty much any circumstances you put them up to (as long as they meet the boot’s purpose). Certain external elements, such as branches and debris, should pose no threat to a boot that features adequate upper build materials.
Keep in mind that it is possible that external elements may penetrate the boot regardless of the materials, although it’s unlikely. In these cases, a high-quality boot should be able to stop the penetrating object from reaching your foot. While the first layers of material might receive damage, your feet will be safe. You might lose the boot – but it’s much better than receiving direct damage to your foot during a hike.
Grip & Traction
Snowy environments are unpredictable; the uneven surface and the things it may cover can quickly become hazardous. People tend to underestimate snow; it sure is harmless while you hold it in your hands, but environments covered in snow are a completely different story. When stepping on snow, especially when hiking, you need to know there’s something under the surface – even if it’s more snow. Taking a false step and sliding is the last thing you want.
To avoid this, the primary thing you should focus on is a strong grip. Having a grasp of the surface is a must when you’re on snow. If your shoe lacks grip and fails to work as a solid platform, your feet will just bend sideways with every step due to the irregular surface.
Aside from proper equipment, there’s a tiny bit of practice when it comes to walking on the snow. While it’s not a super complex skill to master, knowing how to move around on snow can make it much easier for you. If on top of that with the right equipment, you’ll be all set for hitting the snow like it was any other surface.
Now, we’ve seen a question that troubles a lot of users while they’re looking for shoes: “What’s the difference between grip and traction?” The answer is fairly simple.
- Grip – The grip of a shoe is what allows you to hold onto the surface – to literally grip to it. A completely flat sole with a very smooth surface will barely have any grip, as it will fail to firmly grasp the surface. On the other hand, a snow boot with a fairly thick sole should be able to keep you on almost anything you step on (given that the balance is right).
- Traction – The traction, on the other hand, is the quality of the contact between the outsole and the surface. In this case, a smooth, flat outsole delivers efficient traction. Keep in mind, though, that a slippery shoe has good traction – but this doesn’t make it practical or efficient.
An example of traction is a car tire and the highway; the material of the tire has super smooth contact with the road. Thus, mobility is considerably easy and is possible with even a slight impulse. The less traction there is, the harder it is to perform a continuous sliding motion.
Depending on the activity you’ll perform, you should opt for more grip and less traction, the opposite case, or simply an equal balance of both.
In order to obtain a better grip, you should look for snow boots that feature a thick sole with some kind of irregular surface (as in not smooth). Rubber lugs, for example, do a great job of gripping to the surface – especially on environments that involve dirt or snow. Aside from acting as a firm platform, these lugs dig into the snow, providing you with much more stable gaits.
It’s important to remember that low traction, or no grip, doesn’t necessarily translate into a bad shoe. It all depends on what you’ll use them for. In the case of snow boots, you’ll want to get as much grip as you can, instead of a smooth outsole design.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What type of closure should I get?
A: Straps deliver a much more firm support, though this doesn’t mean laces aren’t a functional solution. As long as the laces go up as high as the tongue, it should be able to deliver a firm fit. The best option would be a combination that consists of both laces and straps. Laces provide support throughout the whole tongue, while straps will place some more support on key points such as the shin and ankle area.
Q: How much room should there be in the toe box?
A: Regardless of the activity your performing, whether it’s just walking or going on a hike, you should have the right amount of toe box space. The most optimal fit consists of a comfortable type of tight; meaning they’re adequate for your size, but still, give you enough room to move your toes around a bit. The fit should not be loose or tight.
Q: Will snow boots stretch?
A: In order to get the most effective product, you are ideally going to be purchasing a pair of snow boots that are snugly fitting. Loose boots will let in cold air and moisture, making them ineffective and a waste of your money. If you do happen to buy boots that are a bit too tight, there are a few tricks you can try to help stretch them. Unfortunately, the materials used in snow boots are designed to not have much give, so if your boots pinch your toes, or are painful to walk in, then you are better off returning them and purchasing a pair that fits. The benefit to this inflexible material is that your perfectly fitting snow boots won’t stretch with use. You are far more likely to have to replace your boots due to degradation then you are because they have loosened.
Q: How much does it cost to rent snow boots, and is it worth it?
A: Renting snow boots costs anywhere between $5 and $10 per day. This is a great option if you’re going to be on the snow for just a few days, as snow boots are generally too expensive to buy a pair and use it 4 or 5 times a year. If you don’t live in a snowy environment, renting snow boots will be considerably cheaper (and more efficient) than purchasing a pair of your own.
Q: How to waterproof snow boots?
A: Depending on the amount of water protection you’re looking for, you might (or might not) be able to provide the waterproofing function to the shoe yourself. You can follow our guide on how to waterproof shoes for further detail. Keep in mind that obtaining waterproof shoes is the best way to go, rather than waterproofing them yourself.
Q: Do snow boots prevent the snow’s temperature from affecting your feet?
A: Yes, this is known as insulation. Snow boots have a determined insulation capacity. Thermal insulation basically refers to the retaining of heat or keeping the cold outside (insulating it). Depending on your boot’s capacity, they may or may not endure certain temperature and circumstances. Make sure to refer to the product description for specific details on what temperature they are effective in.
Q: How do I seal snow boots?
A: Make sure you properly apply the respective closure of your shoe; no straps should be left off or strings untied. Any closure or sealing measure that is left off will affect the waterproofing protection of the shoe. Additionally, make sure the closures are properly tightened as indicated by the product description or manufacturer instructions.
Q: What shoe height should I look for in a snow boot?
A: The higher you go, they more protection you’ll get. Keep in mind that a high-top boot may not be as easy to move around with when compared to a mid-top boot. Lastly, if the environment is really cold, we recommend going at least mid-top high; low-top boots will leave your shins out of the protection zone.