Winter boots are a timeless and charming piece of gear. They bring back memories of being a kid, when snow falling always meant the anticipation of stomping around for hours at a time with the promise of hot cocoa at the end. Below we break down the best winter boots for 2019, including our favorite options for everyday use, hiking, and extreme cold. Many of the boots are offered in both men's and women's styles, but we've also dedicated a section to our top women's-specific winter boots. For background information, check out our comparison table and buying advice. To complete your cold-weather kit, see our articles on the best winter jackets and winter gloves.
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz.
Insulation: 200g synthetic
What we like: Versatile, tough, and reasonably priced.
What we don’t: Not the warmest boot on the market.
Many winter boots are specialized for warmth, mobility, or even style, but the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is a true all-rounder. It’s reasonably light, very grippy with its Michelin outsoles, and comfortable for hiking and snowshoeing, but the tough build should last you many seasons of shoveling and winter commutes. Packing 200 grams of synthetic insulation along with Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat technology, we’ve found the boot is warm enough down into the single digits while walking, but isn’t overly insulated to make your feet sweat when the temperatures are closer to freezing. It’s also a good value at $145, and you still can find earlier Bugaboot models for quite a bit less.
What are the downsides of the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV? The boot is decently warm and super versatile, but it isn’t built for full-on sub-zero conditions. Those looking for more warmth should consider stepping up to the Bugaboot Plus XTM model, which offers a big boost in insulation (from 200g to 600g). And for sedentary activities in seriously cold weather, check out Cabela’s Predator Extreme below. But balance wins out here, and the Bugaboot Plus hits the right mix of durability, comfort, and warmth for most wintertime uses.
See the Men's Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV See the Women's Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV
Best Budget Winter Boot
Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
Insulation: 200g synthetic, 15mm foam
What we like: A great price, reasonably warm, and comfortable.
What we don’t: Loose fit and some cheaper materials.
Kamik’s NationPlus doesn’t stand out in any particular category, but it checks all the right boxes for a quality budget option. The boot has a traditional construction with a burly leather upper and thick rubber providing waterproof protection for the feet and toes. Insulation comes from the removable liner, which includes 200-gram Thinsulate along with substantial 15-millimeter foam. Pair them with some thick socks, and the NationPlus will keep you comfortable while walking or shoveling snow in temperatures well below freezing.
What do you give up at the NationPlus’s value price? The materials aren’t up to the standards you’ll find on more expensive models, and there are occasional long-term durability issues (although they are comparable to the much more expensive Sorel Caribou below). Further, the removable liner gives the boot a loose feel that you can’t cinch down as snugly as with the Columbia Bugaboot above, but this is something you’ll hardly notice during everyday tasks and short walks. It’s worth noting that the NationPlus only is made in a men’s version, but Kamik’s women’s-specific Momentum below offers a similar balance of warmth, build quality, and value.
See the Men's Kamik NationPlus
Best Winter Boot for Extreme Cold
Weight: 5 lbs. 10 oz.
Insulation: 1,200g synthetic, 9mm liner
What we like: Incredibly warm and burly design.
What we don’t: Overkill for mild conditions and runs a bit small.
If you’ll be outside in sub-zero temperatures for extended periods of time—think ice fishing or outdoor work in places like the Upper Midwest, Montana, or Alaska—it’s worth investing in a serious boot. One of the best is Cabela’s aptly named Predator Extreme. For fending off the cold, you get a whopping 1,200-gram synthetic insulation (for reference, the Bugaboot and NationPlus above both use 200-gram fill), along with a 9-millimeter liner. And a nice touch is an integrated pocket in the liner that fits heat packs to give you yet another boost in warmth. If staying safe and comfortable in extreme weather is your primary goal, the Predator is well equipped for the job.
Not surprisingly, Cabela’s Predator Extreme is heavy and overkill for many winter conditions. The boot weighs nearly 6 pounds and understandably is thick and unwieldy to hike in, and it can be a downright sauna in mild temperatures. But for areas of the country that consistently see temperatures deep in the negatives, the Predator Extreme is a popular option. In terms of fit, this boot runs on the small side and can be narrow in the toe box when paired with thick socks. It’s a good idea to size up, and some people have even gone a full 1.5 sizes over what they typically wear in street shoes.
See the Men's Cabela's Predator Extreme
Best Boot for Winter Hiking
Category: Winter hiking
Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
Insulation: Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort
What we like: Excellent all-around design for active use.
What we don’t: Limited insulation and low ankle height.
Salomon’s Quest Winter takes our favorite hiking boot—the uber-popular Quest 4D—and gives it a thorough cold-weather treatment. To increase the boot’s protection from snow, the Quest has a water-resistant leather and nylon upper, and an insulated Gore-Tex lining provides both warmth and waterproofing without adding a ton of weight. Importantly, Salomon retained the Quest 4D’s excellent lacing system that has a secure fit and feel. All told, it’s a great pick for long winter walks, hikes, and snowshoeing.
Where the Salomon Quest falls short is as an everyday winter boot. The relatively light insulation is ideal for balancing warmth and ventilation when hiking, but likely will leave you cold during low-output activities. Additionally, the Quest Winter is the same height as a standard hiking boot model, so its collar is an inch or more shorter than most other options on the market. This leaves it vulnerable to snow sneaking over the top when walking in deep powder without gaiters. In the end, the Quest’s focused design pushes it a little down our list, but it’s still our favorite hiking-specific model. For another popular hiker with winter chops, see the Merrell Moab Polar below.
See the Men's Salomon Quest Winter GTX
Best Casual/Everyday Winter Boot
Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz.
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate (footbed only)
What we like: A nice mix of casual and performance features.
What we don’t: Insulation only is along the footbed, although you can spend up for the fully insulated Gore-Tex version.
Many boots on this list trend toward the casual or performance sides of the spectrum, but L.L. Bean hits a nice combination of the two. On the bottom, you get a waterproof rubber construction for protection from snow and other moisture. On the top, the leather upper is both comfortable and gives the boot a polished look. Throw in a quality build that is put together and sewn in Maine, and there’s good reason why L.L. Bean’s winter boots have been so popular for years.
Within the same classic winter boot line, you have different insulation options to choose from. The 8” Thinsulate model we’ve listed here has insulation along the footbed but not around the upper part of the boot (this should be sufficient with wool socks or when it’s not frigid). You also can choose the fully insulated Gore-Tex version, which offers extra warmth and protection from the elements for $50 more. Both come in narrow, regular, and wide fits, so L.L. Bean offers something for just about everyone.
See the Men's L.L. Bean 8" Thinsulate See the Women's L.L. Bean 8" Thinsulate
Best of the Rest
Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Insulation: 200g Heetseeker
What we like: Excellent weatherproofing and comfort at a good price.
What we don’t: Not as warm as some other options on this list; a bit bulky.
For those looking for a versatile winter boot at a good price, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by The North Face Chilkat III. Similar to our top pick, the Columbia Bugaboot IV above, you get 200g insulation, solid weatherproofing with a large swath of rubber around the bottom half of the boot, and a noticeably comfortable interior that molds nicely around your foot (it was so cozy that it left us thinking of memory foam). And for $110, these boots should have you covered for everything from daily wear around town to snowshoeing and other outdoor use.
In terms of warmth, the Chilkat III sits solidly in the middle of the pack. When active, the 200g Heetseeker kept our feet toasty over extended stretches outdoors during a brutally cold Arctic blast in the Upper Midwest. But if you plan on standing still for long periods of time in frigid weather, you may want to look for a boot with 400g fill or more. And for serious winter hiking, the Chilkat was comfortable and easy to wear, but the boot does feels a little large and burly on the foot compared to more streamlined models. The Merrell Moab Polar below, for example, is the same price but has a smaller form factor and lower weight.
See the Men's North Face Chilkat III See the Women's North Face Chilkat III
Weight: 5 lbs. 8 oz.
Insulation: 5mm neoprene, fleece lining
What we like: Fantastic foot protection, traction, and warmth.
What we don’t: Heavy and hard to take on and off.
Insulated rubber boots are a popular choice for outdoor work and walking through brush for hunting—they offer fantastic protection from water, ice, and mud. The Muck Boot brand is a standout in this category, and one of their long-time favorite models is the Arctic Sport. This boot features a durable rubber exterior, thick and flexible neoprene booties, and a soft-touch fleece lining. In addition, the very tall construction (you can also get the Arctic Sport in a shorter mid-height model) is super warm and built to handle anything from ice fishing to wandering in deep snow.
Mucks Boot and Bogs are long-time rivals in the insulated boot market. The Bogs Classic Insulated below excels for casual wear and is more affordable, but in rough weather and conditions, we give the edge to the Arctic Sport. It has a tougher construction, a taller and warmer neoprene bootie, and better all-around traction. A final alternative to consider in this category is LaCrosse Footwear’s Alpha Thermal, which has a sturdy build like the Arctic Sport but is easier to get on and off with an adjustable cinch at the back of the calf. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive of the three at $160.
See the Men's Muck Boot Arctic Sport See the Women's Muck Boot Arctic Sport
Category: Winter hiking/work
Weight: 3 lbs. 3 oz.
Insulation: 400g Keen.Warm
What we like: Warm, comfortable, and good protection.
What we don’t: Strikes us as a little pricey.
In only a few years, the winter boot market has made a strong shift away from heavy pac designs like the Sorel Caribou to more hiking-friendly models. We get the appeal—a boot like the Keen Durand Polar has a significantly more precise fit and offers nearly as much warmth and protection in most winter conditions. With solid traction in snow, a cushioned collar that sits partway up the shin, and decent flexibility, the Durand Polar is an excellent option for long winter walks and snowshoe adventures.
The $200 Durand Polar sits at the top of Keen’s winter boot lineup, but there are a number of more affordable alternatives including their Summit County ($160). Made only in a men’s version, this boot shares the Durand’s roomy and comfortable fit that works well with thick socks and wider feet. The Summit County sits higher on the leg—its collar height is 9.5 inches compared with the Durand’s 6.7 inches—but the Durand has the superior lacing system that isn’t prone to loosening throughout the day. It’s a close call between the two, but the Durand’s softer interior, better fit, and dedicated men’s and women’s versions give it the edge for us.
See the Men's Keen Durand Polar See the Women's Keen Durand Polar
Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz.
Insulation: 9mm felt
What we like: Timeless looks and cozy interior.
What we don’t: They are still classically heavy.
It doesn’t get much more classic than this. The Caribou from Sorel seemingly has been around forever, and we love the combination of comfort, style, and performance. First off, this is a very warm boot with a 9mm felt liner, stout leather upper, and wraparound rubber lower. Most manufacturers nowadays turn to synthetic fill to reduce bulk, but the throwback felt liner insulates well and adds soft cushioning along the interior. You also can remove the Caribou's liner, which is a great feature to expedite the drying process should the boot get wet in deep snow.
It’s true that Sorel boots used to be manufactured exclusively in Canada and now are made in China, but they are a quality option nevertheless and work well for a wide range of winter uses. Walking long distances, however, is not one of them. The Sorel is heavy and feels much more cumbersome than a lighter and sleeker boot like the Columbia above. It's also not a great value at about twice the price of the Kamik NationPlus above. But if you keep to shorter distances and like the style, these boots will be a cozy and warm haven in almost all conditions.
See the Men's Sorel Caribou See the Women's Sorel Caribou
Weight: 5 lbs. 14 oz.
Insulation: 8-layer lining
What we like: Truly ready for -50 degree temperatures.
What we don’t: Not night-out-on-the-ski-town compatible.
The Baffin Impact is an exercise in excess, but for truly rough and frigid conditions, it’s in a class of its own. The boot is insulated with an 8-layer system of foam and polyester, which is encased in a burly nylon and rubber shell. Winter boots are notorious for having ambitious temperature ratings (usually -25°F to -40°F), but the Impact is rated to -148°F. We haven't tested that claim (and don't plan to), but users have reported being comfortable in the Impact in temperatures reaching as low as -50°F. As cold weather boots go, this is about as good as it gets.
The downside of so much warmth is that it doesn’t handle mild winter conditions well and isn’t very breathable. The boot also weighs nearly 6 pounds for the pair, so it’s not intended for covering much ground. But if you live in an area where the temperatures consistently dip well below zero, we heartily recommend protecting yourself with the Baffin Impact.
See the Men's Baffin Impact See the Women's Baffin Impact
Category: Winter hiking/work
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Insulation: 400g synthetic
What we like: A good winter hiker at a reasonable price.
What we don’t: Low ankle height.
Merrell’s Moab line is about as popular as it gets in the hiking boot world, and the Polar is their winter-ready version. All things considered, this is a quality cold-weather hiker that comes in considerably cheaper than options like the Vasque Snowburban below and the Salomon Quest Winter above. For casual winter use and light outdoor trips, the Moab Polar gets the job done at a reasonable price.
Those familiar with the Moab line of hiking shoes and boots will recognize the tread pattern, although Merrell uses a different compound for better grip in ice and snow. The conversion works fairly well, but snow does have a tendency to build up between the tightly spaced lugs. And with a low ankle height of just 6.5 inches, the Moab Polar is good for moderate conditions but can’t stand up to pricier models in terms of weather protection and durability. From a value perspective, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better winter boot. For a higher performance winter hiker from Merrell, their all-new Thermo Rogue Mid GTX offers an upgrade in traction and comfort over the Moab Polar but at a steep $200.
See the Men's Merrell Moab Polar
Weight: 2 lbs. 15 oz.
What we like: Light yet very warm and protective.
What we don’t: Expensive and only offered in one color.
Salomon’s Quest Winter above is a top lightweight choice for winter hiking and snowshoeing, but their premium Toundra Pro is built more for everyday use and serious cold. The boot has a tough look with a burly, waterproof exterior, and its tall ankle height provides excellent protection from snow. For warmth, Salomon utilizes a unique Aerotherm insulation that bucks the synthetic fill trend, and the foam-like design is an efficient insulator that keeps weight and bulk to a minimum. Tack on a roomy interior that can accommodate thick socks and Salomon’s reputation for quality builds, and you have a solid option for outdoor work, commuting, or wintertime play.
The biggest downside of the Toundra Pro is price. At $200, it’s among the most expensive options on our list, and it’s not as insulated as a similarly-priced boot like Cabela’s Predator above (although it offers comparable warmth to the Keen Durand Polar). In addition, we don’t love that the Toundra only comes in a single color (black), plus its styling is fairly workmanlike and may not appeal to everyone. But it’s hard to fault the Toundra Pro’s well-rounded feature set and cozy feel, which earn it a spot on our list for 2019.
See the Men's Salomon Toundra Pro See the Women's Salomon Toundra Pro
Weight: 3 lbs.
Insulation: 9mm wool liner
What we like: Extremely warm and comfortable.
What we don’t: Lacks stability and traction for winter hiking.
Hiking and pac boots dominate the footwear options for winter, but there’s a time and place for traditional mukluks. These soft-sided boots offer fantastic insulation and comfort at a surprisingly low weight. One of the most respected designs in this category is the Yukon from Steger Mukluks. Handmade in Ely, Minnesota, the boot features a thick 9 mm wool liner, moosehide and Cordura nylon upper, and an impressive range of available sizes and widths. The look may be polarizing, but the Yukon provides Antarctic levels of warmth at about 3 pounds for a pair.
What are the downsides of the Mukluk Yukon? First off, the boot isn’t as stable or grippy on ice and snow as the more hiking-inspired designs above. The flexible construction and single strap that cinches around the ankle just can’t provide as secure of a fit as a typical lacing system. In addition, the Yukon is not waterproof and requires a treatment to keep moisture from absorbing into the leather. But in frigid conditions, nothing out there can deliver this much warmth at such a low weight.
See the Men's Steger Mukluks Yukon See the Women's Steger Mukluks Yukon
Category: Winter hiking/work
Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Insulation: 400g Thinsulate
What we like: Solid performance, plenty of insulation, and clean design.
What we don’t: Will require gaiters in deep snow.
Vasque’s men's Snowburban and women's Pow Pow are nimble boots designed for active use. With the looks of a hiking boot—and the grip, support, and waterproof protection to match—along with hefty 400-gram Thinsulate insulation from 3M, they are great options for strapping on a pair of snowshoes in frigid conditions or summiting a local peak. The Snowburban/Pow Pow line is decently stylish too (in a hiking boot kind of way), with the leather uppers adding a little class in a sea of black rubber.
One consideration with the Vasque Snowburban is that the ankle height may be a little low if you spend a lot of time in deep powder and don’t want to put on gaiters. Further, the 400-gram insulation can be overkill and too hot for working hard in mild conditions (the Salomon Quest Winter above is the better option for those uses). But most will appreciate the extra warmth, and the Snowburban’s $160 price (the Pow Pow is slightly less at $150) nicely undercuts competitors like the Keen Durand Polar above.
See the Men's Vasque Snowburban II See the Women's Vasque Pow Pow III
Weight: 5 lbs. 4 oz.
Insulation: 7mm Neo-Tech
What we like: Simple, warm, and surprisingly good-looking.
What we don’t: Less of a backcountry boot, very heavy.
Bogs Classic High Insulated takes the signature look of a rain boot and adds a healthy dollop of warmth and protection. A thick 7-millimeter neoprene construction puts this boot on par warmth-wise with the Sorel Caribou, but it does fall a little short of the Muck Boots above. The Bogs’ low profile makes them well suited for daily wear—as does the flexible neoprene upper material—and it’s a classic choice for running to and from classes in cold places like the Midwest. Predictably, it’s also extremely waterproof and holds up very well in slushy conditions.
Keep in mind that the Bogs Classic High Insulated is best for use around town or for work, as the boot is extremely heavy and lacks the precise fit we look for in a hiking option. Moreover, its traction and warmth falls short of the Muck Boots Arctic Sport. But the Bogs is a good value at $120, and hits a nice middle ground for everyday and occasional rough use.
See the Men's Bogs Classic High Insulated See the Women's Bogs Classic High Insulated
Category: Winter hiking/work
Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz.
Insulation: 400g Thinsulate Ultra
What we like: A more winter-ready boot than the popular Sorel Caribou above.
What we don’t: Questionable build quality.
Sorel’s signature boot is the Caribou above, but they also make a more performance-oriented version in the Conquest. What are the differences? The Conquest has a tougher rubber lower, 400g Thinsulate Ultra insulation instead of just felt, and a built-in gaiter up top for preventing snow and cold air from entering the boot. Whereas the Caribou is built more for style, the Conquest is built for protection and warmth.
Our main issue with the Conquest is not design but build quality. Sorel boots used to be known to last forever, but those days seemingly have passed. Many users have reported that the Conquest has a tendency to fall apart more quickly than it should, and particularly the seams around the rubber. Sorel does offer a 1-year limited warranty, but that isn’t sufficient for serious winter boots that may come apart in the second season or later (again, that’s still too soon).
See the Men's Sorel Conquest
Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
Insulation: 6mm felt
What we like: Warm, waterproof, and stylish.
What we don’t: Expensive.
A modern take on the classic Sorel boot, the Joan of Arctic offers a really nice blend of function and fashion. Fully waterproof with a suede upper and seam sealing, it’s a sturdy choice for everyday wear. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of warmth that you get from the tall, 11.8-inch height and felt interior, and the removable liner makes it easy to dry the insides should they get wet in the snow. Importantly, despite its classy design, Sorel’s trademark wrap-around rubber lower is ready for all sorts of use and abuse.
It’s the versatility and good looks that make the Joan of Arctic a favorite year after year. Unfortunately, the price has increased another $10 for this winter, making it a significant investment (at the time of publishing, you can still find prior year’s color options on sale). The boot also isn’t as steady when walking on snow and ice as a dedicated hiking design, although we’ve found it’s pretty reliable on hard-packed trails. Nitpicks aside, the Joan of Arctic boot is the whole package: it’s warm, comfortable, made to last, and comes in a variety of colorways.
See the Women's Sorel Joan of Arctic
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
Insulation: 200g Heatseeker
What we like: Good price for a light and comfortable boot.
What we don’t: Not very warm.
The North Face doesn’t always blow us away in terms of build quality, but their Shellista boot hits a nice mix of weight, comfort, and price. The use of thin leather keeps weight in check, so the boot doesn’t have the heavy feeling of a traditional pac boot like the Joan of Arctic above. And you don’t compromise much in foot protection with the Shellista’s waterproof build and solid traction underfoot for walking in wet snow and rain.
As with the Columbia Minx below, the Shellista is not made for the extreme cold. The boot is 8.5 inches tall—shorter than the 11.8-inch Joan of Arctic and 10-inch Columbia Minx—but more importantly, its 200-gram insulation and minimalist leather upper aren’t built to withstand an Arctic blast. But the Shellista excels as a lightweight around-town and short-distance hiking option when temperatures are relatively mild.
See the Women's North Face Shellista II
Category: Winter hiking/casual
Weight: 3 lbs.
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate
What we like: A very functional winter boot at a great price.
What we don’t: Build quality can’t quite match some of the pricier boots on this list.
There is a lot to like about the women’s Momentum boot from Kamik. First, it’s built for serious winter use with a tough rubber lower, waterproof nylon upper, and a healthy 8-inch height for good clearance from snow and water. Second, despite all of the aforementioned features, the boot looks the part for everyday use and comes in a wide variety of colorways. Finally, we love the price of the Kamik, which depending on your size and color choice, can be less than half of other women’s winter boots on this list.
Keep in mind that the Momentum has only 200-gram Thinsulate insulation, which is less than many men’s boots but on par with other leading women’s options. And given the attractive price point, the build quality of the Kamik is good but not quite up to the level of some pricier options. That being said, we love the versatility of this boot and it’s one of the best values on this list.
See the Women's Kamik Momentum
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
Insulation: 200g wool
What we like: Cuff design lends versatility in style and function.
What we don’t: Premium materials means this boot is expensive.
UGG might not be the first brand that comes to mind when selecting a sturdy winter boot, but their Adirondack III will give any of the options above a run for their money. It’s not often that we see wool used in a serious design, but this premium material is plush, warm, and even insulates well when wet. Furthermore, the Adirondack’s use of wool throughout lends a great deal of versatility. When the wool cuff is rolled down, you get a playful, casual boot that’s at home overtop jeans or leggings. Leave it fully extended, and the Adirondack is a traditional leather model with no-frills warmth that layers well with a pair of snow pants or gaiters.
Keep in mind that temperature ratings can be misleading: UGG gives the Adirondack III a -25-degree-Fahrenheit rating, but don’t go racing to the Arctic in this boot. In our testing, it held up in snow, puddles, and cold temperatures (as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit) on par with the TNF Shellista and Sorel Joan of Arctic above. Its shorter, more casual build gives up a bit in the way of coverage and warmth, but lends greater freedom of movement for activities like shoveling the driveway or walking the dog. In addition, with a recent upgrade, the III boasts a much grippier sole than the Sorel or TNF. Overall, for a versatile boot that’s at home both in town and in the mountains, the Adirondack III is one of our top choices.
See the Women's UGG Adirondack III
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
Insulation: 200g synthetic
What we like: Comfortable, low profile fit.
What we don’t: Not for serious conditions.
With light insulation and a foot and leg-hugging fit, the Columbia Minx is a very comfortable option for mild winter conditions. The Minx isn’t as capable in deep snow as the Joan of Arctic and our top-rated Bugaboot above, but its woven upper fabric has a nice feel that is far less bulky. As with the Bugaboot, Columbia inserts its Omni-Heat lining into the Minx to give it a boost in insulation, but it still falls on the low end of the spectrum in terms of warmth.
The Columbia Minx's flexible nature makes it easy to cover long distances, and it can be a fine partner on long winter walks provided you avoid heading too far off trail (it's not as waterproof nor as stable as the boots above). As is typical in Columbia’s winter boot collection, the Minx line is extensive and includes a range of boot heights and styles. For a more affordable option from Columbia, check out their popular Ice Maiden boot.
See the Women's Columbia Minx Mid II Omni-Heat
Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Insulation: Shearling lining
What we like: Beautifully made with quality materials.
What we don’t: Expensive and not waterproof.
It’s easy to appreciate L.L. Bean’s Wicked Good boot. The tough rubber around the feet sheds slushy puddles and snow, the premium suede and leather upper is artfully made with exposed stitching, and the sheepskin shearling lining is as soft as advertised. With only a modest amount of insulation, a non-waterproof build, and a steep $249 price, the Wicked Good isn’t as practical as the Joan of Arctic above. But its handmade feel and plush lining are pretty enticing for those that don’t need maximum warmth or protection.
How does L.L. Bean’s Wicked Good boot compare to their 8” Thinsulate model above? To start, the two designs share the classic duck boot look and chain-like traction underfoot. In addition, both are sewn in the Maine factory and beautifully constructed. The Wicked Good model is noticeably cozier along the inside with the soft lining, but isn’t waterproof (L.L. Bean does sell a waterproof coating that you can apply separately) and costs an additional $94. Considering the big jump in price, we’d be inclined to stick with the standard Thinsulate version, but both are solid everyday winter options.
See the Women's L. L. Bean Wicked Good 10"
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
What we like: Light and waterproof.
What we don’t: Limited warmth and simplistic fit system.
The Bogs Snowday winter boots represent a significant departure from the brand’s classic farm-ready designs. Ditching the rubber and neoprene construction for thin nylon saves a lot of weight, and the new model still offers full waterproof protection. It’s certainly not as tough and won’t hold up to mucking around in rough terrain, but the Snowday’s light fleece insulation and nimble feel are a welcome departure from the heavyweight options above. As with most Bogs designs, the Snowday is offered in a range of heights, and we think the 8-inch tall “Mid” hits a nice balance for light winter use.
What’s not to like with the Bogs Snowday? It’s hard to get a super precise fit because the boot only is sold in full sizes, plus there are no laces to speak of. Instead, a cinch at the back of the leg is the only way to secure the fit (plus it helps seal out any snow from entering the top of the boot). The simple fit system and less durable construction make these best for casual applications, but we like the airy feel for quick winter trips outside.
See the Women's Bogs Snowday Mid
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: A nice budget winter boot available in a ton of colors.
What we don’t: Not very warm or well built.
Sharing more than a passing resemblance to a Sorel design, the Kingshow Globalwin is popular for casual wear and winter commutes. Style-wise, this boot is very similar to the Joan of Arctic above, with a tall profile, metal eyelets, and faux fur along the cuff. They differ in traction, and the Joan of Arctic gets the clear edge in ice and snow as it has a better tread pattern and grippier outsoles. But it’s hard to beat the price of the Globalwin, which at just over $50 is one the least expensive winter boots on this list.
What are the shortcomings of the Globalwin? The warmth provided by these boots is questionable at best—Kingshow rates them down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit, which is barely below freezing. The culprit is the lack of insulation, with warmth coming only from thin microfiber and a heat reflective lining (we recommend wearing thick wool socks with these boots). And it’s important to have realistic expectations from winter boots in this price range: they should do the trick for running errands and light outdoor use, but don’t expect them to last forever.
See the Women's Kingshow Globalwin
Weight: 2 lbs.
Insulation: 100g synthetic
What we like: Stylish and light.
What we don’t: Least insulated of the group.
On the pendulum of fashion and function, Sorel’s Tivoli line of boots unapologetically swings to the former. It’s no more apparent than with their short Tivoli III boot, which offer less warmth, protection, and traction in snow and ice compared with the options above, but plenty of style. It has one of the shortest heights of our women’s-specific options at 6.6 inches, but the Tivoli is beautifully made with high quality leather, a faux fur cuff, and a swooping rubber midsole.
As mentioned above, the Tivoli is not nearly as well rounded as a boot like Sorel’s Joan of Arctic. The 100-gram synthetic insulation isn’t very warm—even combined with the soft fleece lining—and the chunky heel isn’t as stable for hiking or longer walks. But for mild winters or even on wet fall and spring days, the Tivoli III will do the trick (and look good in the process).
See the Women's Sorel Tivoli III
|Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV||$145||Casual/winter hiking||3 lbs. 2 oz.||200g synthetic||7 in.|
|Kamik NationPlus||$70||Casual||3 lbs. 10 oz.||200g synthetic||10 in.|
|Cabela's Predator Extreme||$190||Work||5 lbs. 10 oz.||1200g synthetic||11.5 in.|
|Salomon Quest Winter GTX||$180||Winter hiking||2 lbs. 7 oz.||Gore-Tex lining||6 in.|
|L.L. Bean Boots 8” Thinsulate||$155||Casual||3 lbs. 12 oz.||200g synthetic||8 in.|
|The North Face Chilkat III||$110||Casual||3 lbs. 6 oz.||200g synthetic||6 in.|
|Muck Boot Arctic Sport||$100||Work||5 lbs. 8 oz.||5mm neoprene||16 in.|
|Keen Durand Polar||$200||Winter hiking/work||3 lbs. 3 oz.||400g synthetic||6.7 in.|
|Sorel Caribou Boots||$150||Casual||4 lbs. 10 oz.||9mm felt||10 in.|
|Baffin Impact Boots||$190||Work||5 lbs. 14 oz.||8-layer lining||14 in.|
|Merrell Moab Polar||$110||Winter hiking/work||2 lbs. 12 oz.||400g synthetic||6.5 in.|
|Salomon Toundra Pro||$200||Work/casual||2 lbs. 15 oz.||Aerotherm||8 in.|
|Steger Mukluks Yukon||$200||Work||3 lbs.||9mm wool lining||12.5 in.|
|Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry||$160||Winter hiking/work||3 lbs. 6 oz.||400g synthetic||8 in.|
|Bogs Classic High Insulated Boot||$120||Casual||5 lbs. 4 oz.||7mm Neo-Tech||14 in.|
|Sorel Conquest||$150||Winter hiking/work||4 lbs. 6 oz.||400g synthetic||8 in.|
Women's-Specific Boot Comparison Table
|Sorel Joan of Arctic||$190||Casual||3 lbs. 13 oz||6mm felt||11.8 in.|
|The North Face Shellista II||$140||Casual/winter hiking||2 lbs. 4 oz.||200g synthetic||8.5 in.|
|Kamik Momentum||$90||Winter hiking/casual||3 lbs.||200g synthetic||8 in.|
|UGG Australia Adirondack III||$250||Casual/winter hiking||2 lbs. 10 oz.||200g wool||7 in.|
|Columbia Minx Mid II Omni-Heat||$110||Casual||1 lb. 11 oz.||200g synthetic||10 in.|
|L.L. Bean Wicked Good 10"||$249||Casual||3 lbs. 8 oz.||Shearling lining||10 in.|
|Bogs Snowday Mid||$110||Casual||1 lb. 12 oz.||Fleece||8 in.|
|Kingshow Globalwin||$54||Casual||3 lbs. 4 oz.||Microfiber||10.5 in.|
|Sorel Tivoli III||$130||Casual||2 lbs.||100g synthetic||6.6 in.|
- Winter Boot Categories
- Warmth and Temperature Ratings
- Insulation Types
- Boot Height
- Removable Liners vs. One-Piece Boots
- Waterproofing and Gaiters
- Boot Outsoles and Grip
- Your Socks Matter
- Fit and Sizing
- Boot Care and Treatment
- Traction Systems for Winter Boots
- Using Regular Waterproof Hiking Boots in Winter
Casual or everyday winter boots are not the absolute warmest or best at resisting the elements, but they offer plenty of both for most winter walking and après-ski activities. The constructions of casual boots tend to have less rubber and more leather and suede, although some models, including the women’s Sorel Joan of Arctic, do a great job at incorporating both. Other commonalities include a moderate level of insulation and well-cushioned interiors that will keep most people warm and comfortable while shoveling or on short jaunts out of the house. Popular options in this category include the Sorel Caribou, the budget-friendly Kamik NationPlus, and L.L. Bean’s classic duck boots.
Winter Hiking Boots
Looking a lot like beefed-up hiking boots—because they are—winter hikers are a great choice for snowshoeing and other hiking adventures in the snow. These models typically have a lower ankle height and less insulation than the other boot types, which allow them to breathe reasonably well when you’re working up a sweat. And their more flexible and nimbler designs make it easier to cover serious ground. Traction is another important feature, and you’ll see some of the more advanced tread designs with rubber that grips well even on frigid and icy ground. Leading models in this category include Salomon’s Quest Winter GTX, Merrell's Moab Polar, and Vasque’s Snowburban II.
Work/Extreme Cold Winter Boots
Made for the depths of winter and the coldest parts of the world, these boots are big, bulky, warm, and tough. They also take the function over fashion approach with heavy applications of rubber, nylon, and/or thick leather that perform best in frigid temperatures and in deep snow. Keep in mind the heavy construction does add weight and bulk and you won’t want to cover major distances with 5+ pound boots like the Baffin Impact or Cabela’s Predator Extreme. They’re also often too stiff to safely use while driving. Instead, what you get is a super high level of warmth that is great for low-output activities in subzero temperatures.
Some, but not all, brands will include a comfort or temperature rating for their winter boots. And they’re often very impressive numbers, claiming a rating of -25°F or lower. Right off the bat, let’s be clear: there is not a standardized test to rely on for measuring a temperature rating. And as such, comfort ranges are not a guarantee that you’ll be warm at the listed temperatures. In fact, we can almost guarantee you will not be—particularly if you’re standing still. As we all know, how well a boot keeps you warm is dependent on a number of individual factors, including age, level of activity, the thickness of your socks, and whether or not you run hot or cold. We recommend using the comfort ranges as basic guidance but stay very conservative with your real-world use.
The most common insulators nowadays are synthetics stuffed between the inner lining and outer shell of the boot. Primaloft and Thinsulate by 3M are popular synthetic insulations that have a strong presence in the jacket, glove, and ski boot world, and have an equal standing with winter boots. They’re non-bulky and lightweight and continue to insulate even when wet. Proprietary synthetic insulations for The North Face (Heatseeker) and Columbia (Omni-Heat), among others, offer comparable performance to the name brands (including the synthetic fill in our top-rated Columbia Bugaboot Omni-Heat). For an indicator of warmth, check for the number of grams being used in the boot. Light to midweight boots will have 200 to 400 grams, while heavy-duty cold weather boots will have significantly more.
Felt and Sheepskin Linings
Some boots eschew modern technology and opt for warmth through a thick lining of felt or sheepskin, including the classic Sorel Caribou. While bulky, these insulation types surely can be effective. Unlike synthetic insulation that is encased by the boot, felt and sheepskin linings can get wet if exposed to the elements, but they will continue to insulate. And the nice part is that many of these linings are removable (these types boots are often referred to as "pac boots"), so you can set them by the fire to dry in-between runs on the sled hill.
Down-insulated boots are not commonplace outside of insulated booties, and for times when you will be in direct contact with the snow (read: most uses outside of a cold cabin), they are not the most secure option. Moisture spells the end of down’s effectiveness in insulating. As such, we recommend steering clear unless you’re in the market for a very casual around-town boot or basecamp shoe that is for use exclusively inside your tent.
Winter boots have a fairly wide range of heights from just over the ankles to just below the knees. In general, their various heights fall in-line with our categories above (to see the specific heights for each model, which is measured from the footbed to the top of the boot, see our comparison table above). At the low end of the spectrum are hiking models, which measure roughly 6 to 7 inches in height. This makes them lighter and more flexible, but they are more prone to having snow come in over the top of the boot if you’re postholing in the deep stuff. The good news is that a pair of waterproof gaiters can help resolve this issue (more on gaiters below).
Work boots and full-on extreme weather models sit higher on the leg, including the 11.5-inch Cabela’s Predator. Certain muck boot models offer even more leg protection, reaching as tall as 16 inches for a design like the Muck Boot Arctic Sport. It’s worth noting that the extra height does inhibit range of motion, and muck-style boots can be a real struggle to remove at the end of the day. Finally, boots in the casual category fall somewhere in the middle, with a number of options in the 8 to 10-inch range. There are some outliers, however, including the Sorel Tivoli that just clears the ankles, and the tall, 11.8-inch Joan of Arctic.
As with boot height, the weight of winter boots varies significantly. Unsurprisingly, the heaviest designs are meant for the worst conditions. Work-ready builds from Muck Boots, Bogs, and LaCrosse Footwear can reach a hefty 6 pounds per pair, and the same is true for a burly boot meant for extreme conditions like the Baffin Impact. On the other end of the spectrum is the Salomon Quest Winter, which weighs about the same as a standard hiking model at just 2 pounds 7 ounces. For the most part, weight goes up as the level of insulation increases. One notable exception is the Steger Mukluks Yukon, which tips the scales at a very impressive 3 pounds for the pair yet delivers Iditarod-worthy levels of warmth. It does, however, compromise elsewhere—the mukluks aren’t as stable or grippy when hiking over difficult terrain.
Traditional winter boots like the Sorel Caribou and Kamik NationPlus are two-piece designs with outer shells protecting insulated, removable liners. The advantages of this construction are that the boots are extremely tough: the rubber and leather exterior materials are very durable and waterproof, and they do a great job isolating you from the cold. And the removable insulated liners are cushioned and soft, providing more comfort than a typical one-piece design. Finally, you have the option to remove the liners to dry them more quickly should the boots get wet. These types of boots can feel a bit sloppy and ungainly when you’re covering long distances, but for short walks, outdoor work, and harsh conditions, a boot with a removable liner is a great choice.
For active use like hiking or snowshoeing, or if you want to keep weight and bulk to a minimum, it’s better to go with a one-piece boot. These models often resemble a hiking design and offer a more precise fit and nimbler feel for greater control and stability in difficult terrain. They’re also lighter on average, which is a positive for longer walks and snowshoe trips. You do compromise a little in comfort and protection, but quality one-piece designs like the Columbia Bugaboot or Keen Durand Polar still are formidable options in harsh conditions.
Considering that you’ll be spending a good amount of time walking in varying depths of snow, waterproofing matters. The good news is that most designs excel in this respect. Traditional two-piece boots that have a separate shell and liner rely on a burly exterior to keep moisture out. The rubber lowers are fantastic barriers from the wet, shedding anything from falling snow to slushy puddles. Further, treated leather uppers and seam sealing keep you protected when walking through deep snow. One-piece boots have a thin waterproof and breathable membrane sandwiched in between the outer material and lining. In general, this style is a little less waterproof overall and you’ll want to be sure the exterior fabric has a water-resistant treatment to keep it from soaking up moisture (more on this in the boot care section below).
It’s worth noting that a waterproof design doesn’t do much good if snow and moisture come in from the top of the boot. As we touched on in the boot height section above, a tall design like Sorel’s Caribou can be useful in keeping your legs dry, but it’s often worth adding a pair of waterproof gaiters to truly stay protected in deep snow. Typically made out of durable nylon, gaiters are tough and provide an additional barrier around the top of your boots and lower leg. This makes them popular for uses like hiking, snowshoeing, and mountaineering. Models vary significantly by activity and how much protection you need, but for serious winter use, the Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters are the real deal.
Snow boots have a different lug pattern and rubber compound than their on-dirt hiking boot cousins. The compounds are softer and don’t harden even when temperatures drop, which helps them continue to grip on snow and ice. In addition, the lug patterns are aimed to prevent snow build up. The outer soles themselves are very thick and absorb energy well to isolate your feet from any jarring impacts while walking. In general, hiking-ready models have the best traction, while casual and work boots can be a little cumbersome and prone to slippage. Vibram has made some headlines lately with their Arctic Grip compound that's specifically designed to stick to slippery and icy surfaces. But from our experience, we still turn to a traction system (covered below) in very icy conditions.
Pairing your winter boots with quality socks help maximize warmth and comfort. It’s true that you can get away with just about any design for quick trips outside, but if you’ll be hiking, working, or spending any significant stretches of time in harsh weather, it’s worth dialing in your sock selection. Material-wise, the clear leader is wool—and particularly the merino variety—for its high level of warmth, breathability, and stink prevention. Synthetics are a viable alternative, but they’re usually not as warm and will retain smells more than wool. Cotton is the one to avoid because it doesn’t wick away moisture and doesn’t insulate when wet—a bad combination for winter use.
In addition to choosing the right materials, you also need to think through the thickness of your socks. For the most part, the best socks for winter use fall in the mid and heavyweight categories. Both are fairly thick, which means you’ll likely need to size your boots accordingly (more on this in the fit section below). For everyday use or if you’re not prone to running cold, a midweight sock is a versatile choice. In this category, we love Darn Tough’s Hiker Boot Cushion socks: they provide decent warmth to compliment your boots but won’t overheat as easily in mild temperatures or when working hard. Heavyweight options like Smartwool’s legendary Expedition model are a whole different breed—they’re thick enough to nearly double as a pair of slippers and provide a noticeable bump in insulation and cushioning underfoot. For subzero temperatures or if you’ll be sedentary outside, it’s worth going with a super thick design.
Fit always is an important consideration with footwear, and the same holds true for winter boots. A properly-sized boot should be large enough to accommodate your thickest socks without pinching (a fit that is too snug will inhibit circulation and compromise the warmth the boot provides). It’s also important to consider the type of activity: a boot that will only be worn around town like the Sorel Caribou doesn’t have to fit perfectly to perform well (you can err on the side of going a little loose). But for the more hiking-focused models like the Salomon Quest Winter, it’s best to get fit dialed in.
Sizing varies widely between brands and individual models, and we provide as many insights as possible in our products write-ups above. In general, be prepared to order a different size than what you normally would for a pair of everyday sneakers or running shoes. If there aren’t specific recommendations from the manufacturer or you can’t piece together a good idea on fit from reading user reviews, we’ve found the following works pretty well: if you’ll be wearing midweight socks, it’s a good idea to go up a half size. Expedition-level socks are extremely thick, so it’s common to go up a full size in these cases. Again, fit can be tough and it’s always best to try them on if you can before buying. But if you’re shopping online, do your research and be prepared to size up in many cases.
To keep your winter boots lasting as long as possible, it’s worth taking proper care of your investment. For starters, it’s always a good idea to keep them clean to avoid any breakdown in the materials. The grime that you pick up when walking through a slushy parking lot can wreak havoc on a boot if it isn’t cleaned out. Warm water, dish soap, and a simple brush can do the trick in most cases. Further, many of the designs above have leather in the construction, which is a material that benefits from occasional treatment to avoid drying and cracking. A quality sponge-on design like Nikwax’s Conditioner works well on full-grain leather, keeping it in good shape while adding a water-resistant coating to the top. For boots that don’t have a waterproof membrane or coating, such as L.L. Bean’s Wicked Good, it’s a good idea to treat them from the start (L.L Bean’s Boot Guard works well for this model). Another benefit of adding a leather dressing right away is that it helps soften the leather and shorten the break-in period.
Winter boots have outsoles designed for walking on snow, but the reality is that even the best rubber compound and tread pattern won’t grip all that well on a sheet of ice. To safely hike or even walk around town if the conditions are really bad, we use an additional traction system (also referred to as a traction device). There are a variety of designs on the market, from chain-style Yaktrax for casual walking to the Kahtoola MICROspikes for heavy-duty ice and backcountry use.
For wearing with winter boots, one of our favorite traction systems is the Kahtoola NANOspikes. Designed for running in winter, we’ve found their minimalist style to work wonderfully on icy sidewalks and trails. The 10 small carbide tips provide excellent grip (we were particularly impressed with their secure traction in freezing rain), and the NANOspikes are lightweight and take up very little space in a bag. The downside with all traction systems is they take a little time to put on and take off and can be overkill for mixed conditions, but they’re the best way to cover ground safely on icy days.
Dedicated winter boots offer premium protection and warmth in freezing, snowy conditions, but we often use our regular hiking boots for short and active winter jaunts. For example, if you will be snowshoeing or walking without stopping, uninsulated and waterproof hiking boots with good socks may very well do the trick. Some of our favorite models include Salomon’s classic Quest 4D 3 and Scarpa’s R-Evolution Mid GTX, both of which have durable, water-shedding exteriors and Gore-Tex booties that offer lightweight warmth. To be clear, these are good options for trips when you will be on the go the whole time and the weather isn’t particularly frigid. If you’ll be stopping or out for long stretches of time, it’s safest to stick with an insulated winter-specific design.
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