Winter is coming and though we've been pent up inside our homes more this year than any other, your usual canvas sneakers just won't cut it when it hits the slick, icy pavement. You need to get yourself a proper pair of winter boots. However mild or intense your winters are, here's what to look for in a good pair of winter boots and which ones we recommend.
Waterproofness: More seams means more ways for water to sneak into your shoes. Look for shoes that have sealed seams or are made with waterproof materials like rubber and Gore-tex. Many winter shoes will feature a rubber shell spanning from the toe to the heel which are instrumental in several inches of snow or puddles. The taller the the rubber portion and heel, the better. Above that, the tongue has to be gusseted to keep debris, rain and snow from entering. Good winter shoes will have gusseted tongues that reach high up the boot
Warmth: Winter shoes have to keep your tootsies warm. They can do this a number of ways. Many brands choose some kind of insulating lining like Thinsulate and Primaloft in varying amounts to achieve temperature ratings well below freezing. Synthetic sherpa and natural shearling are also common materials to keep your feet warm. Synthetic sherpa tends to be lighter and less expensive, but it also has a tendency to become odorous after a while compared to natural shearling.
Traction: As temperatures near freezing, the ground is less and less reliable for keeping you upright. Rain turns to snow and ice, all of which are at in cahoots with gravity and against you. Traction is vital. Winter shoes often have more prominent lugs on the soles to better dig into and grab ahold of icy ground. Some companies even use sole materials which are engineered to remain soft and grippy even in subzero temps.
Sorel Caribou Boot
Best Overall Winter Boots
Sorel's mega-popular Caribou Boot has been lauded by warm and dry feet everywhere. Its tall vulcanized rubber portion in conjunction with water-proof full-grain nubuck leather uppers and seam-sealed construction makes it one of the most waterproof boots out there. The recycled felt inner boot provides major insulation with a temperature rating all the way down -40F. It's consistently one of the best-performing boots on the market and handsome to boot.
Viberg Pachena Bay
Best High-End Winter Boots
We realize that this a huge price jump. But there's no denying the insane craftsmanship of these Pachena Bay boots from Viberg. It's got handsome hiker sensibilities with a lot to offer under the hood. 200g of insulation boosts its warmth factor to a -25F while a Goodyear storm welt and oiled calf leather prevents water from seeping in. The channeled insole construction is something you'll only find in bespoke shoemakers or a very select few esteemed brands, but never in a hiker. Until now.
Kamik Nationplus Boot
Best Affordable Winter Boots
The Nationplus Boot from Kamik is one of the most popular winter boots on Amazon, holding its own against our top pick, the Sorel Caribou. Like the Caribou, the Nationplus boasts a -40F temperature rating with seam-sealed construction and a rubber shell. Though the construction isn't as good, this boot will be more than enough for most people.
The North Face Chilkat IV
DryVent technology keeps these boots dry while temperature-sensitive soles maintain their grip on the ice. With 200G of insulation, the Chilkat IV's can handle temps down to -25F, so pretty much most of the United States.
Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat
Using reflective wizardry to bounce body heat back to you to keep you warm, the Bugaboot provides 200g of insulation with superior traction.
Salomon Ultra Mid Winter CS WP
One of the most stable and cushioned winter boots out there, the Salomon Ultra Mid Winters is ideal for icy hikes.
Keen Revel IV Mid Polar
Not as waterproof as other options due to the lower tongue, but the Revel IVs are great at both wicking moisture and keeping your feet super toasty.
Timberland 6-Inch Premium Waterproof Boots
One of the OG waterproof boots, Timberland's innovative construction set itself apart when it was first introduced in the early '70s. It's got sealed seams, 400G of PrimaLoft insulation and a tough lug outsole ready to stomp the rainy streets.
Ugg's Butte boots are some of the coziest boots on the market, thanks to premium sheepskin lining. The boots can be cuffed when it ain't all that serious, or unfurled to its stand on its tip toes when the weather's worse than you thought.
Blundstone Thermal Chelsea Boot
Blunnies, but for winter. These elastic fantastics are just like the original, but lined with Thinsulate insulation and a sumptuous sheepskin footbed for extra warmth.
L.L. Bean Shearling-Lined Bean Boot
Standing at 10 inches, this tall glass of Bean is lined with exquisite shearling that makes the iconic waterproof boot an iconic snow boot.
Diemme Balbi Boots
When duck boots and chelsea boots fall in love, they make one slick winter baby. Made in Italy and primed for slush and rain, these may not be as weatherproof as some of its competitors, but it's one of the hottest.
Danner Mountain Light
If your winters are more wet than they are freezing, Danner's game-changing Mountain Light is for you. The one-piece upper combined with a Gore-Tex lining make it waterproof while the shank and tough Kletterlift Vibram sole make it ideal for hiking.