Winter is coming and though we spent the last one pent up inside our homes, reasons to get back outside abound — even in subzero temperatures. That being said, your usual canvas sneakers just won't cut it when they hit the slick, snowed-over 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.
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What to Consider Before Buying Snow Boots
Consider this a sort of sub-section of waterproof capabilities in the best snow boots or at least a reminder. While certain styles of rugged leather lace-up boots are going to look great crunching over fall leaves, a pair of leather boots without waterproof capabilities simply won’t cut it come winter. Nor will sneaker boots made with canvas, nor will a pair of cool leather Chelsea or cowboy boots.
Look for durable materials like rubber throughout, especially if it’s incorporated into the front and bottom of the boots (think of L.L. Bean’s iconic Bean Boots). Take care to reach for waterproof leather when selecting leather-minded options. At the same time, what’s inside the boot can make a big difference, right down to the waterproof liner.
"Finding a boot that allows your feet to breathe and keep warm is an essential combo," Brent Dykstra, Wolverine’s Vice President of Product Design and Development, says. "Select boots with a breathable waterproof membrane."
Pay close attention to the materials that make up your snow boots, and your feet will thank you later.
Finding the right pair of winter boots calls into question some key factors, like warmth and waterproof capability, but keep in mind that a pair of snow boots should also wear comfortably all day long. After all, a warm pair of boots is no good if they’re tough on your feet.
"The perfect winter boot is not only functional but comfortable," Dykstra said. "Look for boots with footbed cushions that flex with your foot all day for maximum comfort."
Other crucial features include EVA midsoles, along with sturdy-yet-comfortable outsoles from a company like Vibram, which tend to be lightweight yet durable. The term "spring in your step" can still apply to hearty snow boots.
Dependability means different things to different people, but it’s more simple than it sounds. Think of this more abstract factor as the sum of each of these parts: Boots that are waterproof, well-made and well-priced. That’s the ultimate checklist when it comes time to shop for the best snow boots, and you’ll know it when you find the right pair.
More seams mean more ways for water to sneak into your boots. Look for options that have sealed seams or are made with waterproof materials like rubber and Gore-tex. Many winter boots will feature rubber shells spanning from the toe to the heel, which are instrumental in several inches of snow or puddles. The taller 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's shaft.
Winter shoes have to keep your toes warm. They can do this in a number of ways. Many brands choose some kind of insulating liner, like Thinsulate or Primaloft, applied 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, especially compared to natural shearling.
As temperatures near freezing, the ground is less reliable at keeping you upright. Rain turns to snow and ice, all of which are 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.