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.

Last Updated: December 15, 2017
By Tenby Lloyd:

Our latest update brings an additional 5 boots to the list, bringing it to a total of the best 15 currently available. All models were checked to ensure that they were still the newest and most relevant, and we made sure to highlight new snow boots that are worth looking at. The FAQ was also updated in order to ensure that the most relevant questions were being answered and that all information given was current and correct. 

Featured Recommendations

Kamik Greenbay 4
  • Kamik Greenbay 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Drawstring Closure
  • Price: See Here
Columbia Bugaboot Plus II
  • Columbia Bugaboot Plus II
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Omni-Heat Lining
  • Price: See Here
Columbia Ice Maiden II
  • Columbia Ice Maiden II
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Plush Faux Fur Lining
  • Price: See Here

The ability to trek and tread through a snow covered landscape is the reward for smart shopping.

 

15 Best Snow Boots

 

1. Kamik Greenbay 4

Some people think that snow boots have to be bulky monstrosities that have no aesthetic appeal and are solely fabricated for tackling the harshest terrain. Enter the Kamik Greenbay 4 Cold-Weather boot, a tall, elegant black boot that has all the functionality of a tough snow boot without sacrificing style. You won’t find any clunky buckles or snap closures on these black beauties. At just under 2 pounds, it has a drawstring top and removable, making it both versatile and highly adaptive, not to mention one of the lightest options available.
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Versatile
With a 8mm removable thermal liner, your feet won’t overheat on long treks through the powder or, when temperatures continue to drop, provide extra warmth. The hook-and-loop strap is handy for when you want to adjust the fit of the boot near the toe box.

Innovative
Capable of withstanding temperatures of -40 F, these boots are completely waterproof and weigh less than 2 pounds. The draw string at the top keeps snow out and warmth in, removing the need for excess buckles and clasps so the shaft is streamlined. It’s thick tread on the outsole means that while extremely sleek, the Kamik Greenbay 4 is still one tough boot.

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 every day snow boots in the winter season that don’t look like your typical snow boot, the Kamik Greenbay 4 can’t be beat.
Pros

Lightweight compared to other brands

Drawstring top

8mm removable thermal liner

Sleek design

Cons

Runs large

2. Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni

A rugged ankle-boot that looks more like athletic footwear than a snow boot, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni is a study in functionality and durability. It has features specifically designed to trap heat in and keep water out, as well as be some of the most comfortable snow boots on the market.
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Functionality
Omni-grip traction is specially designed for the outsole to give you extra grip. Omni-heat reflective lining has 200g insulation, which means small silver dots reflect heat back onto your feet.

Durability
Spend all day in these snow boots and you won’t feel a thing. Their Techlite lightweight midsole and extra cushioning ensure that from snowball fights to an inclement paper route, your snow dogs won’t be barking.

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, that could include through some frigid streams. 200g of insulation means they’re ideal for moderately cold weather, but not arctic conditions. They’re incredibly comfortable and breathe like sportswear. These features make the slightly higher price point worth it.
Pros
  • Breathable

  • Lightweight and heavily cushioned

  • Great for hiking

  • Keeps heat trapped inside and circulating

Cons

Slightly more expensive

3. Sorel Caribou II

Sorel Caribou II’s look like what you think of when you think of snow boots. They have the classic two-toned design of the shaft and toe-box, and puffy white cuff around the calf. Like other snow boots, they’re waterproof and will keep your feet toasty, with standard lacing up the leather shaft and a rubber sole. In a market of styles that have become more streamlined and sporty, their style is enduring and timeless and reminds their wearer of hot cider, sledding, and hours building the perfect snowman.
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Durability
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.

Comfort
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 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.
Pros
  • Thinsulate insulation

  • Leather and rubber construction

  • Will last a long time

  • Soft, sherpa liner

Cons

One of the more expensive brands on the market

4. Merrell Moab Polar

4. Merrell Moab Polar
Another ankle-boot that is sporty and great for the rugged outdoors is the color-blocked and winter ready Merrell Moab Polar. It combines the athletic look and feel of the Columbia with the classic look of the Sorel to make for a hybrid in functionality and versatility. Merrell has it’s own insulation specifically designed to withstand moderately cold temperatures that makes for a great everyday winter boot.
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Functionality
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. 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.

Comfort
Though these boots don’t have a whole lot of flexibility especially as 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.
Pros
  • Great for hiking

  • Breathable

  • Athletic design

  • Great for narrow feet

Cons

Not designed for extreme cold

5. Kamik Nationplus Boot

5. Kamik Nationplus Boot
Proving producing high tech snow boots isn’t the only game in town, Kamik also offers a classic boot that has a tall but rugged profile, able to withstand -40 F temperatures, and is comprised of a leather shaft and rubber outsole. It’s not as tall as their Greenbay 4’s but it’s taller than a Sorel; halfway between the calf and the knee. It’s perfect for inside or outside the chalet, since Kamik believes functionality doesn’t mean sacrificing style.
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Functionality
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.

Durability
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 tred than Sorel boots, are every bit as warm as a Merrell, are light for a tall boot, and all for a low price.
Pros
  • Low price

  • Removable slipper liner

  • Speed laces

  • Thinsulate insulation

Cons

Can run small

6. Columbia Ice Maiden II

6. Columbia Ice Maiden II
Columbia may be known for their rugged, tough, and sporty snow gear, but it doesn’t mean they can’t introduce a luxe piece into their catalog. Conjuring images of Dr. Zhivago in a horse-drawn sled, the Ice Maiden II’s are ideal for the wearer that wants to navigate inclement environs while looking every bit the snow queen. A waterproof exterior and fuzzy lining help to keep the element out while not sacrificing the elegant look.
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Durability
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.

Comfort
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.
Pros
  • Techlite insulation rated at 200g

  • Removable inner bootie

  • Fashionable design

  • Waterproof

Cons
  • Not designed for extreme temperatures

7. Sorel Conquest

7. Sorel Conquest
There is no better boot for a winter adventure than the Sorel Conquest. The name evokes imagery of traipsing through snow-capped fjords, surviving off the land and battling nature’s fiercest adversaries. It combines some of the best elements of the boots on this list while introducing a few improvements to the overall design and construction. Somewhere between a calf and ankle boot, it has both laces and buckles, and is able to withstand at least -40 F.
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Functionality
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 foot bed. It has a draw string 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.

Versatility
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 foot bed 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 foot bed and waterproof design, you’ll feel like you should be paying a lot more.
Pros
  • 400g grade Thinsulate insulation

  • Heavy duty waterproof design

  • D-ring/quick laces and Achilles adjustable strap

  • For extremely cold temperatures

Cons

Can be difficult to break in

8. UGG Adirondack II

8. UGG Adirondack II
UGG’s have the reputation for being the perfect boot to slip on after spending a long time out in the elements, so the fact that they now make a snow boot for wearing in those elements is kind of a big deal. Typical of the brand these boots are bursting with downy white cushion, and don’t skimp on the features to keep your feet well protected from temperatures as cold as -20 F.
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Functionality
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.

Comfort
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.


Furthermore, they have a durable which leather provides superior upper protection, maximizing protection with a waterproof, seam sealed construction. The Columbia Women’s Bugaboot have 200 grams of insulation to keep feet warm down to -25°F. As well as that they have Techlite cushioning which enhances midsole support. An Omni-Grip & trade outsole boosts traction on snowy surfaces. Take the Bugaboot with you on all cold-weather excursions. They can also wear to school or work because they're light weight (weigh just 1.3lbs per pair) and go nicely with jeans.
Pros
  • Extremely comfortable

  • eVent waterproof removable bootie

  • Able to withstand -20 F

  • Vibram outsole for maximum traction

Cons

Expensive

9. Baffin Wolf

9. Baffin Wolf
Like a beefed up version of our Kamik Greenbay 4, with a minimalistic approach to closure systems and a sleek, sporty appearance, the Baffin Wolf makes an impression in a sea of fleece linings and rubber toes. It’s a tall shafted boot with features that favor both versatility and functionality in temperatures rated at -40 F. It’s also got a bit of the retro vibe about it, harkening back to the era of wearing your moonboots and listening to your Sony walkman on a snow day.
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Versatility
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.

Functionality
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.
Pros
  • Tall shaft and sporty appearance

  • Two adjustable snap closures

  • Specifically engineered insole mold

  • Removable 7 layer insulated bootie

Cons

Not designed for extremely cold temperatures

10. Salomon X Ultra Winter

10. Salomon X Ultra Winter
The Salomon X Ultra Winter is an ankle boot specifically designed with hiking, skiing, and other snow sport and activities in mind. The brand is the brainchild of Francois Salomon, a designer of ski equipment in the 1940s. His love of snow sports meant a commitment to innovation of snow footwear design and performance, allowing mountaineers, trail runners, and winter athletes to compete with confidence. Many of its features were designed with functionality and innovation at the forefront.
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Functionality
These boots have a climashield waterproof membrane combined with a Thinsulate insulation interior rated at 200g, so they stand up to the stalwart names in snow boot construction. They too have a molded EVA foot bed and an injected EVA midsole, meaning flexibility and durability on uneven trails and passes. They also have a protected rubber toe and heel caps for a sturdy fit.

Innovation
An eyelet wrap between the upper portion and middle portion of the laces allows the wearer to “lock” in the tightness of the boot’s lower laces, letting you adjust the upper laces independently. They also have an advanced chassis system that supports high arches and provides comfort and malleability for the wearer that will be hiking for several miles.

Cost and Value
The Salomon X Ultra Winter boot is designed for the athletic snow boot wearer, who wants the most versatile and innovative footwear for their snow sporting needs. The features that make it innovative assure the best performance, such as EVA molded technology, an eyelet wrap in the middle of the laces, and a reinforced chassis system that allows for maximum comfort and flexibility.
Pros
  • Innovative construction

  • Athletic look

  • Mid-lace eyelet wrap

  • Great for hiking and mountain sports

Cons

Runs small

11. The North Face Shellista II

11. The North Face Shellista II
The North Face is one of the most reputable companies when it comes to snow gear, and there is good reason for this. Like their other clothing and footwear options, these boots stand out in both appearance and performance. With a completely waterproof upper made from nubuck leather, and a waterproof rubber bottom, these boots will keep you warm and dry no matter how much snow you encounter.
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PrimaLoft Silver Insulation
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 fir of these boots. With a secure fit, you will find that heat is trapped efficiently and cold air and moisture is prevented from sneaking in to 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 mean 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.
Pros

Fully Waterproof

200g of Insulation

Streamlined Shell

Temperature Sensitive Lugs

Cons

Heavy Around the Ankles

12. Vasque Snowburban Ultradry

12. Vasque Snowburban Ultradry
When you want a boot that is going to keep your feet ultra dry, then it's generally a safe bet to go for the model that has "ultradry" in the name. Thick and durable, this is a beast of a snow boot, and the intense rubber sole will ensure that your feet stay dry even in high depths of snow. This boot is rugged enough to take you on hikes, and will keep your feet protected in frigid conditions.
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3M™ Thinsulate™ Ultra Insulation
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 different 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.
Pros

Extremely Durable

Incredible Traction

400g of Insulation

Winter Traction Lugs

Cons

Very Heavy

13. Sorel Joan Of Arctic

13. Sorel Joan Of Arctic
A gorgeous and versatile boot, the Joan of Arctic from Sorel is something you will love slipping on and wearing throughout your long winter days. Sorel has put together a number of features which make this a durable boot that will keep you warm and dry in the snow. With extra insulation, a liner, a frost plug, and a seam sealed construction this boot is going to be a winter favorite for sure.
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Temperature Rating
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.

Insulation
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 be 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.
Pros

Waterproof Suede Leather

Removable Inner Boot

Felt Frost Plug

Vulcanized Rubber Shell

Cons

Can be Clunky

14. KEEN Elsa

14. KEEN Elsa
With an array of fun and funky designs and colors, this is a boot that is sure to stand out in a crowd. Not only is it visually appealing, but it also has all of the important features that make it a useful and well performing snow boot. The seam sealed waterproof construction is also paired with water repelling materials so that no moisture will be able to penetrate any part of this boot. This boot also has a heat reflecting feature, which provides a thermal barrier to keep you nice and toasty warm.
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Temperature Conditions
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 wont 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 trade off is that if you are going up in to the mountains, or live in very cold areas, this boot may not be enough to keep you completely warm.
Pros

Natural Odor Control

100g of Insulation

Heat Reflecting Strobel

Sherpa Collar

Cons

Limited Temperature Range

15. London Fog Melton

15. London Fog Melton
London Fog is known for crafting superior and well made products, so it's no surprise that we would see them appear on a list of best snow boots. The Melton is a truly impressive looking boot, with thick faux fur pouring out of the top. They are both warm and comfortable, and are made with with a waterproof exterior so that you stay dry all day long. The full lace up front gives you tightness control, and the multiple color choices means you can find a pair that matches any outfit.
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Lace Up Vamp
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.

Warm Lining
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.
Pros

Waterproof Faux Leather

Full Lace Up Front

Faux Fur Lined

True to Size

Cons

Cannot be Used for Hiking

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

 

Heat Retention

Heat-Retention-The-Best-Snow-Boots-Reviewed

When going on the snow, keeping your feet heated is paramount. While the snow boots may not be able to generate heat themselves, they can help you retain the heat within the boot. It’s extremely important that your snow boots come with the necessary features to prevent heat from leaving the boot. This retained heat is what keeps your feet from suffering considerable cold, becoming more important as it gets colder.

Aside from retaining heat, it’s also important that the boot doesn’t allow for a natural amount of air flow. If you’re on 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 accordingly. 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 – you should take note of the importance of heat retention. However, it does become considerably more important when we’re talking about performance, especially hazardous activities like hiking. If your boots fail to retain heat, and furthermore allow cold to reach inside them, you’ll experience a significant decrease in your performance.

Not only will cold slow you down and make it notably more uncomfortable for you, but this is also a matter of safety. People tend to underestimate the importance of heat in cold environments, not realizing the huge impact cold will have on them. Believe or not, cold can actually hurt you, and that risk is increased if you’re not properly equipped. One of the biggest mistakes amongst beginner snow hikers is underestimating the importance of decent boots.

Every single part of your body must be prepared to endure very cold circumstances, with your feet being no exception. The cold can eventually numb the entirety of both your feet, and it can really damage the skin if it  remains exposed for too long. 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 don’t quite feel the surface they’re stepping on, and thus fail to obtain a firm grasp of the surface. This also means you’re not able to fully determine the orientation or elevation of the surface you’re walking on.

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.

Waterproofing

Water-Proof-Boots-Best-Winter-Boots-Reviewed

In the last point, we talked about 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 weathers.

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 are not only utterly uncomfortable, but they also expose you to feet fungi, bad scents, blisters, and calluses.

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, 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 from water (soaked insoles, wet socks and feet) will follow you around until you’re done hiking or performing activities on the snow. If you happen to then get a fungal infection or other issue, 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.

Think of it the same way you would waterproof and water resistant watches. Waterproofing will allow you to completely submerge the watch (up to certain depth depending on its protection), while water resistance protects it from splashing, rain, or brief exposure to water. Keep in mind that completely waterproof products tend to be costlier than that of water-resistant models, but depending on what you’re doing this may be a price worth paying for.

Weight

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Equipment for cold wear, such as snow boots, need to be adequately prepared for what the temperature drops; this often involves a high-top design, a thick rubber midsole with a substantial outsole slugged 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, 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 lately on all types of shoes, although mostly on performance ones. In comparison to rubber, this compound is much more flexible, counts with low-temperature resistance, has 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 different 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 weights 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.

Protection

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There are many aspects behind 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 that 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 of 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

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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.

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).

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.

 

FAQ

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 snuggly 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.

Sources

  1. eBay, Important Features in Snow Boots, Mar 03, 2016
  2. BigSkyFishing, Importace of Winter Socks,
  3. Mountain Warehouse, Hiking with Snow Boots, Oct 23, 2013
  4. Shoe Zone, How to Wear Snow Boots , Jan 25, 2017
  5. Big Sky Fishing, How to Keep Your Feet Warm in Winter,