Winter boots are a timeless and charming piece of gear. From classic Sorels to light and modern designs, they aim to keep your feet protected and warm from wet snow and frigid temperatures. Below we break down the best winter boots for 2020, 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.
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 6.7 in.
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-gram 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... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV See the Women's Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV
Best Budget Winter Boot
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate (inside removable liner)
Shaft height: 9.5 in.
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 foam-like Thinsulate. 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. And take note: the NationPlus only is made in a men’s version, but Kamik’s women’s-specific Momentum offers a similar balance of warmth, build quality, and value.
See the Men's Kamik NationPlus See the Women's Kamik Momentum
Best Casual/Everyday Winter Boot
Insulation: 9mm felt
Shaft height: 10 in.
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 9-millimeter felt liner, stout leather upper, and wraparound rubber lower. Most manufacturers nowadays turn to synthetic fill to reduce bulk, but the throwback felt interior insulates well and adds soft cushioning around your feet. You also can remove the Caribou's liner, which is a nice 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 casual 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 our top-rated Columbia. 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
Best Boot for Winter Hiking
Category: Winter hiking
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate
Shaft height: 7 in.
What we like: Light, reasonably nimble, and not overly insulated for active use.
What we don’t: Pretty narrow fit.
Salomon’s X Ultra Winter CS WP 2 takes our favorite hiking boot—the uber-popular X Ultra Mid—and gives it a thorough cold-weather treatment. To increase the boot’s protection from snow, the Winter CS is taller by about 2 inches and features an in-house waterproof bootie as well as a coated, water-resistant leather upper. Warmth comes courtesy of 3M’s proven Thinsulate 200-gram fill that kept us comfortable while hiking in temps that dipped into the low teens Fahrenheit. We were also happy to see that Salomon kept most of the standard X Ultra’s light and nimble feel, and the lacing system does a great job providing a secure fit. All told, it’s a solid pick for long winter walks, hikes, and snowshoeing.
Where the X Ultra Mid Winter falls short is as an everyday boot in extreme conditions. The relatively light insulation nicely balances warmth and ventilation when on the move but will leave you cold on frigid days and while doing low-output activities. Additionally, the toe box is pretty snug and likely won’t work well for those with wide feet or if you’re wanting to wear heavyweight socks (sizing up is an option). These downsides hurt the boot’s all-around appeal a bit, but it remains an excellent performance choice. Finally, it’s worth noting that Salomon doesn’t make a women’s X Ultra CS WP 2, but the shorter CS WP (no “2”) is offered in a women’s-specific fit... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Salomon X Ultra Winter See the Women's Salomon X Ultra Winter
Warmest Winter Boot for Extreme Cold
Insulation: 8-layer lining
Shaft height: 15 in.
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 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 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 breathable. The boot also weighs nearly 6 pounds for the pair and is pretty bulky and ungainly, so it’s not intended for covering much ground. But for areas of the country 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
Best of the Rest
Insulation: 200g Heetseeker
Shaft height: 6 in.
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 200-gram 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 200-gram 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 400-gram 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 Thermo Chill below, for example, is the same price but has a smaller form factor and lower weight.
See the Men's The North Face Chilkat III See the Women's The North Face Chilkat III
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate (footbed only)
Shaft height: 6.5 in.
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
Category: Winter hiking/work
Insulation: 400g Thinsulate
Shaft height: 8.5 in.
What we like: Very comfortable, warm, and protective.
What we don’t: Expensive and the utilitarian looks aren’t for everyone.
Sitting at the top of Oboz’s winter boot lineup is the Bridger 10” Insulated. This premium design uses high-quality materials throughout, offers excellent foot protection and warmth with its tall, sturdy build, and includes helpful touches like a ring for attaching gaiters and a rubber tab at the heel for removing the boots hands-free. All told, it’s among the warmest in its weight class thanks to the 400-gram 3M Thinsulate insulation, heat-reflective insole, aforementioned tall height, and lacing system that effectively seals out the cold. We've found its stiff upper takes some time to break in, but for anything from serious winter hiking to outdoor work, the Bridger 10” Insulated is a top choice.
What pushes the Oboz to a mid-pack finish is its price. At $199, it’s among the most expensive on this list, and most casual users will be fine saving with a cheaper option. Further, the Bridger’s utilitarian looks don’t translate as well to urban use, which hurts its value. Fit-wise, the boot runs a little narrow in the heel (Oboz states it’s a C for men and B for women) and is fairly standard in the toe box. Oboz has expanded its winter line for 2020 to include the Sawtooth 8” Insulated, which is also based on one of the brand’s popular hiking lines. Compared with the Bridger, the Sawtooth is a little lighter and less protective with a mixed leather/synthetic upper but comes in cheaper at $165.
See the Men's Oboz Bridger Insulated See the Women's Oboz Bridger Insulated
Insulation: 5mm neoprene, fleece lining
Shaft height: 14.5 in.
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/casual
Insulation: 200g PrimaLoft
Shaft height: 7 in.
What we like: Great looks and all-around performance.
What we don’t: Expensive considering its warmth and protection.
Winterizing a popular hiking boot is not a new trend, but Danner’s Arctic 600 stands out as one of the best efforts yet. Starting with their Mountain 600 boot, Danner added high-quality 200-gram PrimaLoft insulation, Vibram’s snow- and ice-specific Arctic Grip outsole, and nice touches like exposed wool on the collar and tongue. Further, there’s a zipper along the instep of each boot to ease the on and off process. Just as importantly, however, is what they retained: the smooth suede exterior looks great just about everywhere, and the Arctic 600 feels light and energetic for a winter-ready design.
What drops the Danner towards the middle of our list is value. Simply put, it’s hard to justify the steep $220 price tag. For about $20 less, you can get Oboz’s Bridger 10” above, which easily outperforms the Danner in cold and deep snow conditions with a significantly taller height and more substantial 400-gram insulation. That said, it’s hard to knock the Arctic’s build quality and versatility. The design is one of only a few on the market that’s equally as comfortable in the city as it is exploring a snowy forest service road.
See the Men's Danner Arctic 600 See the Women's Danner Arctic 600
Insulation: 200g synthetic
What we like: Light, flexible, and good-looking.
What we don’t: Thin construction impacts protection and durability.
Columbia’s Bugaboot above excels in icy and rough conditions, but for casual around-town use, their Fairbanks Boot makes a lot of sense. Looking a lot like a pair of sneakers, the Fairbanks is good-looking, surprisingly flexible, and extremely light at under 2 pounds for the pair. For the cold and wet, Columbia inserted a waterproofing bootie and the same combination of 200-gram synthetic and reflective Omni-Heat lining that you get with the Bugaboot. Made in a wide range of colorways and priced right at $130, the Fairbanks is well-suited for quick jaunts in and out of the city.
Understandably, there were some performance sacrifices made in the Fairbanks’ construction. To start, by utilizing a lightweight textile along the majority of the upper, the boot lacks the extra insulation and protection that you get from a standard rubber design. Further, the thin build has us concerned about long-term durability, especially for those that need to wear their boots a lot during the winter months. But if you’re wanting something light and comfortable that is also reasonably warm and protective, the Fairbanks deserves a look.
See the Men's Columbia Fairbanks
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 6 in.
What we like: Great value; comfortable with a roomy toe box.
What we don’t: More of a casual piece than a capable winter hiker.
Merrell is known for providing a lot of bang for your buck, and we like what they’ve come up with in the Thermo Chill. The hiking boot-inspired design has a soft and cozy lining, roomy toe box that pairs well with heavyweight socks (something a surprising number of boots don’t allow), and enough flexibility in the construction to be comfortable while walking or even driving. Moreover, the boot’s sturdy upper and waterproof lining do a nice job repelling moisture. Tack on a price of $110, and the Merrell adds up to one of the better values currently on the market.
Where the Thermo Chill comes up short is in the backcountry. The lightweight 200-gram insulation does a pretty good job of keeping you warm without overheating, but the boot is noticeably lacking in stability. We found the heel cup to be overly roomy to effectively lock in your feet on the uphill, and the basic lacing system doesn’t offer a very solid hold overall. Further, the padding is rather thin around the ankles and is missing the confidence-inspiring support that you get with higher-end options like Salomon’s X Ultra Winter over rough ground. But these complaints don’t matter much for around-town wear and light winter walks in less-than-extreme conditions. For these uses, the Thermo Chill is a well-priced and perfectly suitable choice.
See the Men's Merrell Thermo Chill See the Women's Merrell Thermo Chill
Insulation: 9mm wool liner
Shaft height: 11 in.
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-millimeter 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 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/casual
Insulation: 200g Keen.Warm
Shaft height: 6.5 in.
What we like: Versatile design that excels for daily wear and on snowy walks.
What we don’t: Leather is prone to wetting out; the X Ultra above is the better performance option.
Like the Salomon X Ultra Winter above, Keen’s Targhee High Lace is based on a core hiking boot line. What did they change for this cold-weather conversion? As the name indicates, the High Lace has a taller design that comes well over the ankle, plus the lacing system includes an additional set of hooks at the top. The boot also is moderately insulated with Keen’s 200-gram synthetic fill and has a fully waterproof build (although we found the leather upper can wet out in slushy conditions). Finally, we're happy to report it still has the Targhee’s high level of comfort with a wide toe box that can accommodate heavyweight socks, soft cushioning around the ankles, and good shock absorption underfoot.
In comparing the Keen to the Salomon X Ultra, both boots have a hiking focus with streamlined builds but go about their business in different ways. The Salomon is a little taller, nimbler, and its traction is better on slippery surfaces. On the other hand, the Targhee is a bit more stylish and versatile for everyday use (and its more accommodating fit works better with wide feet). In the end, winter hikers, backpackers, and serious snowshoers will be happier with the X Ultra, while the cozy Targhee is the superior all-rounder.
See the Men's Keen Targhee High Lace
Category: Winter hiking/work
Insulation: 400g Thinsulate
Shaft height: 8 in.
What we like: Solid performance, plenty of insulation, and clean design.
What we don’t: Finicky lacing system.
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 400-gram insulation can be overkill and too hot for working hard in mild conditions (the Salomon X Ultra Winter above is the better option for those uses). In addition, the lacing system towards the top of the boot isn't as secure as a design like the Oboz Bridger above that has locking eyelets, and it can be a pain to adjust. But most will appreciate its warm and cozy construction, and the Snowburban’s $160 price (the Pow Pow is slightly less at $150) nicely undercuts competitors like the aforementioned $199 Bridger.
See the Men's Vasque Snowburban II See the Women's Vasque Pow Pow III
Insulation: 7mm Neo-Tech
Shaft height: 15 in.
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: Casual/winter hiking
Insulation: 200g Heatseeker
Shaft height: 8.5 in.
What we like: Great price for a comfortable boot.
What we don’t: Traction could be better.
Like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV above, The North Face’s Shellista II takes our top women’s-specific spot based on balance. It’s not the warmest, plushest, or most protective, but the boot is competitively priced and hits a great middle ground for anything from shoveling the driveway to winter hikes or walking around town. With rubber covering the outsole and feet, the Shellista sheds water and snow like a traditional pac boot (at least partway up the leather upper), and its mid-calf height, 200-gram synthetic, and soft cushioning around the ankles provide a nice amount of warmth and coziness. In terms of styling, we like the classy leather upper and streamlined build that makes it easy to layer over yoga pants and jeans or under snow pants.
We were comfortable wearing the Shellista for extended stretches in temperatures dipping below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but the lightweight design isn’t intended for sub-zero conditions. Another nitpick that we have is traction, which is pretty good overall on hardpack snow and icy road crossings but falls short of the UGG Adirondack below on especially slippery and steep terrain. Finally, the upper material can occasionally bunch up right around the bend in the ankle, although this is a common issue with casual winter boots. It’s worth noting that The North Face has released the Shellista III for 2020. Both the II and III are currently priced at $140 and share the same general design, although the newer model includes a partial wool upper (rather than the II’s knit) and substantial pull tabs along the top of the boot to make it easier to put on... Read in-depth review
See the Women's The North Face Shellista II
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Insulation: 200g wool
Shaft height: 7 in.
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 gives any of the options on this list 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 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.
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 above and better than the Sorel Joan of Arctic below. 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 well-rounded boot that’s at home both in town and in the mountains, the Adirondack III is one of our favorites... Read in-depth review
See the Women's UGG Adirondack III
Category: Winter hiking/casual
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate
Shaft height: 10 in.
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 winter use with a tough rubber lower, sturdy nylon upper, and a healthy 10-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 womens' winter boots on this list.
Keep in mind that the Momentum is only moderately warm with its 200-gram Thinsulate insulation. Further, the nylon upper is made with fairly cheap materials, so water and wet snow will eventually make their way through to the interior. Finally, you can't dial in the fit as nicely as the top two options above due to the simplistic lacing system (it is fast and easy to use, however). That being said, we love the versatility of this boot, and it’s one of the best values on the market.
See the Women's Kamik Momentum
Insulation: 6mm felt
Shaft height: 11.8 in.
What we like: Stylish and great waterproofing.
What we don’t: Expensive and limited in terms of warmth.
A modern take on the classic Sorel boot, the Joan of Arctic offers a 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 protection 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 wraparound rubber lower is ready for all sorts of use and abuse.
It’s the premium materials and good looks that make the Joan of Arctic a favorite year after year. Unfortunately, the relatively thin felt liner and two-piece construction don’t do a good job trapping heat. Even in temperatures just below freezing, we found ourselves surprisingly cold (something we didn’t experience with the options above). Further, the heavy and clunky design feels dated and can be cumbersome on longer walks. To be clear, the waterproofing is excellent and the Joan of Arctic will certainly do the trick in moderate conditions, but we prefer the more well-rounded alternatives above... Read in-depth review
See the Women's Sorel Joan of Arctic
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 10 in.
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 includes 200-gram synthetic and inserts its Omni-Heat lining into the Minx to give it a boost in insulation. But the thin construction means 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 III Omni-Heat
Shaft height: 8 in.
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
Insulation: 100g synthetic
Shaft height: 6.2 in.
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 and Slimpack lines of boots unapologetically swing to the former. It’s no more apparent than with their short Slimpack II 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 6.5 inches, but the Slimpack is beautifully made with high-quality leather, a faux fur cuff, and a swooping rubber midsole.
As mentioned above, the Slimpack is not nearly as well-rounded as a boot like UGG's Adirondack III. 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 Slimpack II will do the trick (and look good in the process).
See the Women's Sorel Slimpack II
|Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV||$145||Casual/winter hiking||6.7 in.||200g synthetic||3 lbs. 2 oz.|
|Kamik NationPlus||$70||Casual||9.5 in.||200g synthetic||3 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Sorel Caribou Boots||$160||Casual||10 in.||9mm felt||4 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Salomon X Ultra Mid Winter CS 2||$180||Winter hiking||7 in.||200g synthetic||2 lbs. 8 oz.|
|Baffin Impact Boots||$190||Work||15 in.||8-layer lining||5 lbs. 14 oz.|
|The North Face Chilkat III||$110||Casual||6 in.||200g synthetic||3 lbs. 6 oz.|
|L.L. Bean Boots 8” Thinsulate||$159||Casual||6.5 in.||200g synthetic||3 lbs. 12 oz.|
|Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated||$199||Winter hiking/work||8.5 in.||400g synthetic||3 lbs. 6 oz.|
|Muck Boot Arctic Sport||$130||Work||14.5 in.||5mm neoprene||5 lbs. 8 oz.|
|Danner Arctic 600 Side-Zip||$220||Winter hiking/casual||7 in.||200g synthetic||2 lbs. 13 oz.|
|Columbia Fairbanks||$130||Casual||Unavail.||200g synthetic||1 lb. 15 oz.|
|Merrell Thermo Chill||$110||Casual/winter hiking||6 in.||200g synthetic||2 lbs. 4 oz.|
|Steger Mukluks Yukon||$200||Work||11 in.||9mm wool lining||3 lbs.|
|Keen Targhee High Lace||$170||Winter hiking/casual||6.5 in.||200g synthetic||2 lbs. 8 oz.|
|Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry||$160||Winter hiking/work||8 in.||400g synthetic||3 lbs. 6 oz.|
|Bogs Classic High Insulated Boot||$120||Casual/work||15 in.||7mm Neo-Tech||5 lbs. 4 oz.|
Women's-Specific Boot Comparison Table
|The North Face Shellista II||$140||Casual/winter hiking||8.5 in.||200g synthetic||2 lbs. 12 oz.|
|UGG Australia Adirondack III||$250||Casual/winter hiking||7 in.||200g wool||2 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Kamik Momentum||$90||Winter hiking/casual||10 in.||200g synthetic||3 lbs.|
|Sorel Joan of Arctic||$200||Casual||11.8 in.||6mm felt||3 lbs. 14 oz.|
|Columbia Minx Mid III Omni-Heat||$120||Casual||10 in.||200g synthetic||1 lb. 11 oz.|
|Bogs Snowday Mid||$110||Casual||8 in.||Fleece||1 lb. 12 oz.|
|Sorel Slimpack II||$145||Casual||6.2 in.||100g synthetic||2 lbs.|
- 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 cold. 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 X Ultra Winter CS 2, Oboz's Bridger 10" Insulated, Merrell's Thermo Chill, 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. 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 (measured by weighing a 1 meter by 1 meter section). Light to midweight boots will have 200- to 400-gram fill, while heavy-duty cold-weather boots will have significantly more.
Felt, Sheepskin, and Wool 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, sheepskin, and wool 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 post-holing 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 15-inch Baffin Impact Boots. Certain muck boot models offer even more leg protection, reaching as tall as 15 inches for a design like the Bogs Classic Insulated. 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 6 to 10-inch range. There are some outliers, however, including the Sorel Slimpack 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 X Ultra Winter, which weighs about the same as a standard hiking model at just 2 pounds 8 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 nice 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 protection, but quality one-piece designs like the Columbia Bugaboot or Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated 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 around the tongue or top of the boot. If deep puddles are a concern, it's worth checking to see how high up the tongue is connected to the upper (the higher the better to keep water from seeping in). And 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 (they 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, and the Michelin outsole on the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is truly excellent. But from our experience, we still turn to a winter 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 X Ultra 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, it’s a good idea to treat them from the start (L.L Bean’s Boot Guard works well for their duck boot models). 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. One of our favorite models is Salomon’s classic Quest 4D 3, which has a durable, water-shedding exterior and Gore-Tex bootie that offer lightweight warmth. To be clear, this is a good option 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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