If you've ever halted mid-step to wonder whether a pile of gray slush is frozen solid or ankle-deep, you've also probably contemplated buying winter boots. Paying for a pair dedicated to one season might feel daunting, but so is making do without them. But the world of boots can be daunting — what should one look for when shopping for a new pair of winterized kicks?
What to Look For in a Winter Boot
When it comes to a winterized boot, you'll want to keep an eye out for a few must-have features. These include waterproofing, a grippy outsole and plenty of insulation. In terms of waterproofing, the industry standard is Gore-tex. Most styles will make sure to call this out in their description, but keep an eye out for the phrases "water resistant" (the lowest level of protection), "water repellent" and "waterproof" (the highest level). Regarding outsoles, you can't go wrong with Vibram, but keep a sharp eye out for other types as well. And with insulation, 20 grams is standard — anything below will leaving you wishing you had an extra pair of socks on.
If you are going to buy a seasonal boot, you might as well make it versatile. That's why we compiled a list of options that balance style, function and heat retention, whether you're hiking through a snowy forest or simply trekking through a parking lot.
Best for Snowy Conditions
In addition to packing enough insulation to keep your feet warm down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, Keen's new Revel IV is loaded with features. There's the brand's proprietary waterproofing tech, an anti-odor treatment, an internal shank for support during serious hikes and an outsole that grips onto ice.
Fastest Break-In Time
Vasque blew out its lightweight Breeze collection this spring to accommodate any hiker, and it's adding another boot to the line for those who don't quit just because the trails are covered in snow. The Breeze WT GTX includes a Gore-Tex liner for waterproofing and 200 grams of insulation for warmth. Even without a set of snowshoes on your feet, this boot is made for hiking in the snow.
Best Street Style
Forsake's founders began with the desire for slush-proof shoes that looked good enough to wear all the time. While the Phil Mid doesn't include any insulation, it is indeed waterproof despite its casual look. That makes it a great boot to tromp around town in, regardless of the weather.
Teva's Ember Moc has earned a devout following thanks to a design that combines slip-on and sleeping bag. It's been so popular that Teva decided to expand the Ember collection, which now includes this all-occasions boot. The Ember Commute WP combines the original nylon ripstop design with waterproof leather and a set of laces to make a shoe with enough style to believe how cozy it actually is.
Salomon is well-recognized in the outdoor space for their capable footwear, and this boot is no different. This mid-cut, Gore-Tex version of the beefier X-Ultra 4 combines the agility and responsiveness of a trail runner with the waterproofing and ruggedness of a typical winterized hiker. An upgraded chassis allows you to feel the variations in the trail, without sacrificing durability. Take it on trails, technical descents or a light hike and you'll be more than prepared for whatever winter throws your way.
Danner has plenty of beefed-up rugged boots that can handle winter with ease. But one of its subtler options, the Arctic 600 Chelsea, does the same without looking like it. Its upper is suede, but there's a waterproofing layer to make sure if it wets out, your feet won't. There's also 200 grams of Primaloft Gold insulation inside, the very same used in some of our favorite insulated jackets. Take a look at its outsole, and you'll notice blue speckles scattered in the black Vibram rubber; they don't look like much, but they allow you to walk on ice without sliding an inch.
The Bridger is another hiker favorite that Oboz modified for walking in wintertime. It's as burly as it looks but far comfier. Like many boots on this list, the Bridger has 200 grams of insulation between its seams, but it also comes with a thermal insole that's proprietary to Oboz. If the snow where you're going is too deep for the eight-inch model, Oboz makes a taller ten-inch version too.
Best at Repelling Water
When you're dealing with snow and slop in addition to the cold, you might need more than a waterproof membrane. Like a classic rubber boot, Muck made its Arctic Ice Mid with a combination of soft and rugged rubber as well as neoprene for full waterproofing. The neoprene has the added benefit of heat retention that's also aided by a fleece lining. To underscore what it's going for here, Muck added Vibram's Arctic Grip outsole to this boot, which prevents it from slipping on wet or dry ice.
Columbia's newest winter boot combines function and form like few others here. Its over-ankle upper is made of a TPU-laminated mesh that provides a distinct dappled look in addition to waterproofing. Then there's its quick-cinch lacing. Inside, in addition to insulation — yes, 200 grams of it — Columbia included its trademark Omni-Heat reflective lining for added heat retention.