What are the warmest waterproof winter boots

The best winter boots 2021 for women and men

From casual walks to winter hikes and work in freezing temperatures, this is where you'll find the best winter boots of 2021

Winter boots are a timeless and charming piece of hiking gear. From the classic Sorels to light and modern designs, they aim to keep your feet protected and warm from wet snow and cold temperatures. Below are the best winter boots for 2021, including our favorite options for everyday use, hiking, and extreme cold. Many of the boots are offered as both men's and women's boots, but we've also dedicated a section to our women's-specific top winter boots. You can find background information in our comparison table and purchase advice.

Best winter boot overall

1. Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV

Category: Occasional hiking / winter hiking
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 15.24 cm
What we like: Versatile, robust and inexpensive
What we don't like: Not the warmest boot on the market.

Many winter boots specialize in warmth, agility, or even style, but the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is a real all-rounder. It is relatively light, with its Michelin outsoles very grippy and comfortable for hiking and snowshoeing. With 200g synthetic insulation and Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat technology, the boot is single-digit warm enough when you walk, but not overly insulated, so your feet won't sweat when the temperature is close to freezing . In addition, it has a good price at € 150, and you can sometimes find older Bugaboot models for a little less.

What are the disadvantages of the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV? The boot is decently warm and super versatile, but it is Not for conditions below 0 ° C built. Those looking for more warmth should consider switching to the Bugaboot Plus XTM model, which offers a huge improvement in insulation (from 200g to 600g). And for sedentary work in very cold weather, check out Baffin's Impact below. But here the balance wins, and the Bugaboot Plus hits the right mix of durability, comfort and warmth for most winter uses.

Best cheap winter boot

2. Kamik NationPlus

Category: Casual
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate (inner removable liner)
Shaft height: 22.86 cm
What we like: A good price, reasonably warm and comfortable
What we don't like: Loose fit and some cheaper materials.

The Kamik NationPlus doesn't stand out in any particular category, but it does everything right when it comes to a solid, affordable winter boot. The boot has a traditional construction with a sturdy leather and thick rubber upper that provides waterproof protection for the feet and toes. The insulation comes from the removable inner lining, which contains 200 grams of foam-like Thinsulate. Combine it with a pair of thick socks and the NationPlus ensures that you feel comfortable when walking or shoveling snow in temperatures well below freezing point.

What do you have to do without due to the low price of the NationPlus? The materials don't meet the standards you'll find on more expensive models, and there are occasional issues with long-term durability (although they are on par with the much more expensive Sorel Caribou below). In addition, the removable inner lining gives a minimally loose feeling that you can't tie the boot together as tightly as the Columbia Bugaboot above. But this is something that you will hardly notice with everyday chores and short walks. And note: the NationPlus is only made in a men's version, but Kamik's women-specific Momentum offers a similar balance of warmth, build quality, and price

Best leisure / everyday winter boot

3. Sorel Caribou winter boots

Category: Casual
Insulation: 9 mm felt
Shaft height: 25.40 cm
What we like: Timeless design and cozy interior
What we don't like: They're still pretty heavy.

It couldn't get any more classic. The Sorel Caribou has apparently been around forever and we love the combination of comfort, style and performance. First of all, this is a very warm boot with a 9 mm felt inner lining, a thick leather upper and a rubber base all around. Most manufacturers these days use a synthetic filling to reduce bulk, but the felt lining insulates well and makes for soft padding around your feet. You can also remove the inner lining of the Caribou, which is a nice feature to speed up the drying process should the boot get wet in deep snow.

While it's true that Sorel boots were once exclusively made in Canada and are now made in China, they're still a quality option and are good for casual winter use. Covering long distances on foot, however, is not one of them. The Sorel is heavy and feels much heavier than a lighter and smoother boot like our top model Columbia. It is also not particularly cheap and costs about twice as much as the above-mentioned Kamik NationPlus. But if you stick to shorter distances and like style, these boots will keep your feet cozy and warm in almost any condition.

Best boots for winter hiking

4. Salomon X Ultra Mid Winter CS WP 2

Category: Winter hiking
Insulation: 200g insulation material
Shaft height: 17.78 cm
What we like: Light, reasonably manoeuvrable and not overly isolated for active use
What we don't like: Pretty tight fit.

The X Ultra Winter CS WP 2 from Salomon takes our popular hiking shoe - the extremely popular X Ultra Mid - and gives it a thorough cold treatment. In order to increase the protection of the shoe against snow, the Winter CS is about 5 cm higher and has a waterproof inner shoe and a coated, water-repellent leather upper. The warmth comes from the tried and tested 200 g Thinsulate filling from 3M. We were also pleased that Salomon retained most of the light-footed feel of the Standard X Ultra. The lacing system also does an excellent job and ensures a secure fit. All in all, it is a solid choice for long winter walks, hikes and snowshoeing.

Where the X Ultra Mid Winter falls short is as an everyday boot under extreme conditions. The relatively light insulation provides a good balance between warmth and ventilation, but leaves you freezing on cold days and during low-powered activities. In addition, the toe space is very tight and may not work well for those with wide feet or if you plan to wear thick socks. These drawbacks hurt the boot's all-round appeal a bit, but it remains an excellent choice nonetheless. Finally, it should be noted that Salomon does not make an X Ultra CS WP 2 for women, but the shorter CS WP (no “2”) is offered in a women-specific fit.

Warmest winter boot in extreme cold

5. Baffin Impact Boots

Category: Work / hiking boots
Insulation: 8-layer lining
Shaft height: 38.10 cm
What we like: Really ready for -50 ° C temperatures
What we don't like: Not suitable for the après-ski party.

The boot is insulated with an eight-layer system made of foam and polyester, which is encased in a durable nylon and rubber shell. Winter boots are notorious for their ambitious temperature readings (usually -31 ° C to -40 ° C), but the impact is rated at -100 ° C. We have not tested (nor do we intend to) test this claim. But there are enough users who report that they feel comfortable in the Impact at temperatures of down to -45 ° C. The Baffin Impact is the warmest winter boot we know.

The downside of so much warmth is that they cannot handle mild winter conditions well and are not breathable. Plus, the boot weighs almost 2.7kg the pair and is quite bulky and unwieldy so it is not intended for long hikes. But for areas where temperatures constantly drop well below zero, we heartily recommend taking a closer look at the Baffin Impact.

The best of the rest

6. Oboz Bridger 10 ″ insulated

Category: Winter hiking / working
Insulation: 400g insulation material
Shaft height: 20.32 cm
What we like: Very comfortable, warm and protective
What we don't like: Expensive and the look isn't for everyone.

At the top of the Oboz winter boots is the Bridger 10 ″ Insulated. This first-class design uses high-quality materials throughout, and its high, robust construction offers excellent foot protection and warmth. It has helpful details such as a ring to attach gaiters and a rubber strap on the heel to easily take off the boots. All in all, it is one of the warmest in its weight class thanks to the 400 gram 3M Thinsulate insulation, the heat-reflecting insole, the already mentioned high height and the lacing system that effectively seals against the cold. We found that its stiff upper took some time to break in, but for everything from serious winter hikes to outdoor work, the Bridger 10 ″ Insulated is the go-to choice.

What keeps the oboz from snagging one of our top picks is its price. At around $ 200, it's one of the most expensive on this list, and most casual users will be fine with a cheaper option. As for the fit, the boot is a bit narrow in the heel area (Oboz says it's a C for men and a B for women) and fairly standardized in the toe area. Oboz has expanded its winter line with the Sawtooth 8 ″ Insulated, which is also based on one of the brand's popular hiking lines. Compared to the Bridger, the Sawtooth is a bit lighter and less protective with a mixed leather / synthetic upper, but is cheaper at around € 165.

7. Merrell Thermo Chill

Category: Occasional hiking / winter hiking
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 15.24 cm
What we like: Very inexpensive; comfortable with spacious forefoot space
What we don't like: More of a casual piece than a capable winter hiker.

Merrell are known for their great value for money and we love what they come up with the Thermo Chill. The hiking shoe-inspired design has a soft and cozy inner lining, a spacious toe box that pairs well with thick socks (which a surprising number of boots don't allow), and enough flexibility in construction to be comfortable while walking or even driving to be. In addition, the boot's sturdy upper and waterproof lining do a good job at repelling moisture. At around € 110, the Merrell is one of the better boots currently available on the market.

Where the Thermo Chill comes up short is in the real wilderness. The lightweight 200-gram insulation keeps you warm pretty well without overheating, but the boot lacks stability. We found that the heel cup is too roomy to effectively fix your feet on the mountain, and the basic lacing system doesn't provide a very solid hold overall. Plus, the padding around the ankles is pretty thin and lacks the support you get with higher end options like Salomon's X Ultra Winter on uneven surfaces. But these points do not play a major role in city clothing and light winter walks in less extreme conditions. The Thermo Chill is an inexpensive and perfectly suitable choice for these uses.

8. Muck Boot Arctic Sport

Category: job
Insulation: 5 mm neoprene, fleece lining
Shaft height: 35.56 cm
What we like: Fantastic foot protection, traction and warmth
What we don't like: Heavy and difficult to put on and take off.

Insulated rubber boots are a popular choice for working outdoors and when hunting through brush - they provide great protection from water, ice, and mud. The Muck Boot brand stands out in this category, and one of their long-time favorite models is the Arctic Sport. This boot is characterized by a hard-wearing rubber outside, a thick and flexible neoprene layer and a soft fleece lining. Plus, the very tall construction (you can get the Arctic Sport in a shorter, medium-height model too) is super warm and built to handle everything from ice fishing to hiking in deep snow.

Mucks Boot and Bogs have long been rivals in the insulated boot market. The Bogs Classic Insulated Boot pictured below is great for casual wear and is more affordable, but in inclement weather and conditions we give preference to Arctic Sport. It has a more robust construction, a larger and warmer neoprene layer and better all-round traction. A final alternative to consider in this category is the Alpha Thermal from LaCrosse Footwear, which has a sturdy construction like the Arctic Sport but is easier to put on and take off with an adjustable strap on the back of the calf.

9. Danner Arctic 600 Side-Zip

Category: Winter hiking / free time
Insulation: 200g PrimaLoft
Shaft height: 17.78 cm
What we like: Great looks and all-round performance
What we don't like: Expensive considering its warmth and protection

Transforming a popular hiking shoe into a winter shoe is not a new trend, but Danner's Arctic 600 stands out as one of the best attempts to date. Starting with the Mountain 600 shoe, Danner has added high-quality 200-gram PrimaLoft insulation, the snow and ice-specific Arctic Grip outsole from Vibram and nice details such as exposed wool on the collar and tongue. There is also a zipper along the instep of each boot to make it easier to put on and take off. Just as important, however, is what they kept: the smooth suede looks great almost everywhere, and the Arctic 600 feels light and energetic - for a winter-ready design.

What puts the Danner in the middle of our list is price. Simply put, it's hard to justify the $ 220 high price tag. For around € 20 less you can get the Bridger 10 ″ from Oboz, which by far exceeds the Danner in cold and deep snow conditions with a significantly longer length and more substantial 400 gram insulation. The design is one of the few on the market that is just as convenient in town as it is when exploring a snowy forest road.

10. The North Face Chilkat IV

Category: Casual
Insulation: 200g Heetseeker
What we like: Excellent weather resistance and comfort at a good price
What we don't like: Not as warm as some of the other options on this list; a bit bulky

For those looking for a versatile winter boot at a good price, we have been pleasantly surprised by The North Face Chilkat. The popular model, which was updated to version "IV" this winter, has a lot in common with the Columbia Bugaboot mentioned above: 200 gram plastic insulation, solid weather resistance with a large rubber layer around the lower half of the boot and a remarkably comfortable interior, that hugs your foot nicely (the comfortable footbed feels like memory foam). For a reasonable price of € 115, you should be able to cover everything from everyday urban use to snowshoeing and other light outdoor activities in these boots.

In terms of warmth, the Chilkat IV sits firmly in the middle of the winter boot comparison. When he's active, the 200 gram Heetseeker is enough to keep your feet warm even in brutally cold arctic temperatures. However, if you plan to stand still for long periods of time in cold weather, then you should look for a design with 400 grams of filling or more. For serious winter hikes, the Chilkat is comfortable and easy to wear, but the boot feels a little big and clumsy on the foot compared to optimized models. For example, the Merrell Thermo Chill mentioned above is similarly priced but feels nimbler thanks to its smaller form factor and lighter weight.

11. Keen Revel IV High Polar

Category: Winter hiking / working
Insulation: 400g Keen, warm
What we like: Robust construction with winter-proof profile design
What we don't like: Falling behind the Oboz Bridger in protection.

Keen’s Revel is now available in the fourth generation and leads the brand's winter boot collection in both price and protection. The higher profile of the High Polar model (a shorter “Mid” model is also available) sits a little higher on the calf, which gives it good water and snow resistance. Together with a sturdy leather upper and waterproof lining, the boot does a good job by keeping the elements out. Warmth is provided by the latest 400 gram insulation from Keen.Warm, which is made from recycled plastic and has a competitive rating of -40 ° C (again, we only use these numbers to compare models and not as a real indication of insulation capability ). In summary, the Revel is well equipped for anything from winter work to a cold weather hunting trip.

How does the Revel compare to the popular Oboz Bridger above? There's not much that makes them different in terms of warmth, and their leather constructions offer good protection. They also offer a lot in terms of durability. We like that the Keen’s outsole was specially developed for slippery and icy conditions, but the Oboz offers protection and stability thanks to its larger shaft height (it is a few centimeters higher than the Keen). In addition, the Bridger is available in wide sizes for those struggling to get a good fit while wearing thick socks. For only 10 € more than the Revel, it is enough for us to place the Bridger 10 ″ as the winner.

12. Columbia Fairbanks

Category: Casual
Insulation: 200g synthetic
What we like: Light, flexible and good looking
What we don't like: Thin constructions have an impact on protection and durability.

Columbia's bow boat upstairs excels in icy and harsh conditions, but the Fairbanks boat makes a lot of sense for occasional urban use. The Fairbanks looks like a pair of trainers, is surprisingly flexible and, at less than 910g, extremely light for the pair. For the cold and wet, Columbia has used a waterproof boot and the same combination of 200-gram synthetic and reflective Omni-Heat lining that you get with the Bugaboot. The Fairbanks is made in a wide range of colors, costs around € 130 and is good for short trips.

Understandably, the Fairbank was designed to suffer from some performance issues. First of all, by using a lightweight fabric along most of the upper, the boot lacks the extra insulation and protection that would come from a standard rubber construction. In addition, the thin construction worries us about the long-term durability, especially for those who have to wear their boots a lot in the winter months. But if you want something light and comfortable that is reasonably warm and protective at the same time, you should take a closer look at the Fairbanks boot.

13. Bogs Classic High Insulated Boot

Category: Free time / work
Insulation: 7mm Neo-Tech
Shaft height: 38.10 cm
What we like: Simple, warm and surprisingly good looking
What we don't like: Less good for the wild; very difficult.

The Bogs ‘Classic High Insulated has the typical appearance of a rain boot and offers a healthy dose of warmth and protection. A thick 7 millimeter neoprene construction gives this boot the same warmth as the Sorel Caribou, but it lags a bit behind the Muck Boots at the top. The low profile of the bog makes them well suited for everyday use. It is also extremely waterproof and holds up very well in muddy conditions.

Keep in mind that the Bogs Classic High Insulated is best for city or work use as the boot is extremely heavy and does not have the precise fit we seek in a hiking option. In addition, its traction and warmth is less than that of the Muck Boots Arctic Sport. But the Bogs boot is fairly priced at € 130 and offers a good average value for everyday and occasional rough use.

Women-specific winter boots

1. The North Face Shellista III Mid

Category: Occasional hiking / winter hiking
Insulation: 200g PrimaLoft Silver Eco
Shaft height: 27.94 cm
What we like: Good price for a comfortable boot
What we don't like: The traction could be better.

Like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV above, the Shellista III from The North Face also takes our women-specific top spot due to its balance. It's not the warmest, coziest, or protective, but the boot is competitively priced and great for anything from shoveling in the driveway to winter hikes or walks around town. The Shellista, whose outsole is covered with rubber, sheds water and snow like a traditional Pac boot (at least part of the leather upper), and its mid-calf height, 200 grams synthetic and soft padding around the ankles ensure a comfortable fit Degree of warmth and cosiness. In terms of styling, we like the mixed leather and wool upper and the streamlined shape that makes it easy to layer over jeans or under snow pants.

Together with some warm, boot-high socks, the Shellista will keep you warm down to -6 ° C, but the lightweight construction has its limits should the thermometer drop further. Another treat we have is the traction, which is pretty good overall on hard snow and icy road crossings, but lags behind the UGG Adirondack below on particularly slippery and steep terrain. Apart from that, the Shellista undercuts the Adirondack in price by more than € 100 without making any significant compromises, which is why we prefer it in our ranking.

2. UGG Adirondack III

Category: Occasional hiking / winter hiking
Insulation: 200g wool
Shaft height: 17.78 cm
What we like: The cuff design gives it versatility in style and function
What we don't like: High quality materials make the boot expensive.

UGG may not be the first brand that comes to mind when choosing a sturdy winter boot. It's not often that wool is used in a reputable design, but this premium material is fluffy, warm, and insulates well even when it's wet. In addition, the consistent use of wool in the Adirondack gives it great versatility. When the cuff is rolled down, you get a playful, casual boot that looks great over jeans or leggings. Leave it all the way up, and the Adirondack is a traditional leather model with no-frills warmth.

Remember that temperature readings can be misleading: UGG gives the Adirondack III a -30 ° C rating, but don't go into the Arctic in this boot. In tests, it held up in snow, puddles and cold temperatures (down to -10 ° C) just as well as the Shellista above and better than the Sorel Joan of Arctic below. His shorter, more casual physique gives up a bit of cover and warmth, but gives him greater freedom of movement for activities such as shoveling in the driveway or walking the dog. In addition, due to a recent upgrade, the III has a much more grippy sole than the Sorel or The North Face. Overall, the Adirondack III is one of our favorites for a well-rounded boot that's at home both in the city and in the mountains.

3. Kamik Momentum 2

Category: Winter hiking / free time
Insulation: 200g insulation material
Shaft height: 25.40 cm
What we like: A very functional winter boot at a great price
What we don't like: The quality doesn't quite match some of the more expensive boots on this list.

The women's boot Momentum 2 by Kamik has a lot to offer. Firstly, it is built for winter use, with a sturdy rubber lower part, a sturdy nylon upper with a seam seal (a rarity in this price segment) and a healthy overall height of 25 cm for good snow and water resistance. Second, despite all of the above features, the boot looks like it was made for everyday use and comes in a wide variety of colors. Finally, we love the price of the Kamik, which depending on the size and color choice, can be less than half the winter boots on this list.

Keep in mind that with its 200-gram Thinsulate insulation, the Momentum is only moderately warm. Also, the nylon upper is made from fairly cheap materials, so it feels a bit plastic and can be more prone to absorbing moisture (a problem with wet snow or walking through puddles). Because of the simple lacing system, you can't choose the fit as nicely as the two options above (but it's quick and easy to use). Other than that, we love the versatility of this boot and it's one of the best on the market.

4. Sorel Joan of Arctic

Category: Casual
Insulation: 6mm felt
Shaft height: 27.94 cm
What we like: Elegant and well sealed
What we don't like: Expensive and limited heat.

The Joan of Arctic is a modern take on the classic Sorel boot and offers a nice mix of function and fashion. Completely waterproof, with a suede upper and seam sealing, it is a sturdy choice for everyday use. We were pleasantly surprised by the protection that is provided by the large height of 28 cm and the felt interior. The removable inner lining makes it easy to dry the insides in case they get wet in the snow. The important thing is that Sorel's trademark, the wrap rubber base, is ready for all types of hikes despite its stylish design.

It's the high quality materials and good looks that make the Joan of Arctic a favorite year after year. Unfortunately, the relatively thin felt liner and the two-part construction do not do a good job of storing heat. Even at temperatures just below freezing point, it is significantly colder than in the other boots. Plus, the heavy and chunky construction feels dated and can be unwieldy on long hikes. To be clear, the waterproofing is excellent and the Joan of Arctic will certainly do the job in moderate conditions, but we prefer the more rounded alternatives above.

5. Columbia Minx Mid III Omni-Heat

Category: Casual
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 25.40 cm
What we like: Comfortable, flat fit
What we don't like: Not suitable for severe conditions.

With its 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 premium bugaboot above, but its woven upper is comfortable to the touch and far less bulky. As with the Bugaboot, the Columbia is made of 200 grams synthetic and uses its Omni-Heat lining in the Minx to improve insulation. But the thin construction means it's still on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of heat.

The Columbia Minx's flexible nature makes it easy to cover long distances, and it can be a good partner on long winter hikes, provided you don't stray too far from the trail (it's not as waterproof and sturdy as the boots above). As typical of 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 the popular Ice Maiden boots.

6. Bogs Snowday Mid

Category: Casual
Insulation: fleece
Shaft height: 20.32 cm
What we like: Lightweight and waterproof
What we don't like: Limited warmth and simplified fit system.

The Bogs Snowday winter boot represents a significant departure from the brand's classic designs. Eliminating the rubber and neoprene construction for thin nylon saves a lot of weight, and the slimmed-down model still offers full waterproof protection. It's certainly not that tough and won't withstand rough terrain, but the lightweight fleece insulation and nimble feel of the Snowday are a welcome departure from the heavyweight options mentioned above. Like most Bogs, the Snowday is also offered in different heights, and we think that the 20 cm high “Mid” is a good balance for light winter use.

What can you not like on Bogs Snowday? It's hard to get a super precise fit because the boot is only sold in full increments and there are no laces to precisely lace the boot to the foot. Instead, a shoelace at the back of the shaft is the only way to secure the fit (and it helps keep snow out of the top of the boot). The simple fit system and less durable construction are best for casual uses, but we like the airy feel for quick winter trips outside.

7. Sorel Slimpack III Lace

Category: Casual
Insulation: 100g synthetic
Shaft height: 12.70 cm
What we like: Stylish and light
What we don't like: The least insulated boot.

The Sorel Slimpack 3 offers less warmth, protection and traction in snow and ice compared to the above options, but a lot of style. At around 13 cm, it has the shortest height of our women-specific options, but the slimpack is beautifully finished with high-quality leather, a wool felt collar and a curved rubber midsole.

As already mentioned, the Slimpack is not nearly as well rounded as the Adirondack III from UGG. The 100-gram synthetic insulation is not very warm - even in combination with the soft fleece lining - and the chunky heel is not as stable for hikes or long walks. But in mild winters or even on wet autumn and spring days, the Slimpack III will do its job (and look good doing it).

Winter boots comparison table

Women's winter boots comparison table

Winter boots purchase advice

Winter boot categories

Casual
Casual or everyday winter boots aren't the absolute warmest or toughest, but they do offer a lot for most winter hikes and après-ski activities. The constructions of casual boots are usually less rubber and more leather and suede, although some models, including the Sorel Joan of Arctic women's shoes, combine the two perfectly. Other similarities include moderate insulation and well-padded interiors, which keep most people warm while shoveling or taking short trips out of the house. Popular options in this category include the Sorel Caribou and the inexpensive Kamik NationPlus.

Winter hiking boots
They look a lot like spiced up hiking boots - because they basically are too - winter wall boots are a great choice for snowshoeing and other hiking adventures in the cold. These models usually have a lower ankle height and less insulation than the other shoe types, which allows them to breathe reasonably well. And their more flexible and nimble design makes it easier to tackle difficult terrain. Traction is another important feature, and you'll see some of the more advanced rubber tread designs that stick well even on cold and icy surfaces. The leading models in this category include the X Ultra Winter CS 2 from Salomon, the Bridger 10 ″ Insulated from Oboz and the Thermo Chill from Merrell.

Work boots / winter boots for extreme cold

These boots are made for the depths of winter and the coldest parts of the world, they are big, bulky, warm and sturdy. Here, the function outweighs the fashionable approach with heavy applications made of rubber, nylon and / or thick leather, which work best in cold temperatures and in deep snow. Keep in mind that the heavy construction adds weight and bulk, and you won't want to travel long distances with 2.5kg boots like the Baffin Impact. In addition, they are often too stiff to use safely while driving. Instead, you get super-high levels of warmth, which is great for low-powered activities in freezing temperatures.

Heat and temperature values

Some, but not all, brands give a comfort or temperature rating for their winter boots. And there are often very impressive numbers that indicate a rating of -30 ° C or lower. To get straight to the point: There is no standardized test that can be relied on when measuring a temperature rating. And as such, comfort zones are no guarantee that you will be warm in the temperatures listed.In fact, we can almost guarantee it won't be you - especially if you stand still. As we all know, a boot's ability to retain heat depends on a number of individual factors, including age, level of activity and the thickness of the socks. We recommend using the comfort zones as a basic guideline, but remain very conservative about your real-world use.

Types of isolation

Synthetic
The most common insulators today are plastics that are placed between the inner lining and the outer shell of the boot. 3M's Primaloft and Thinsulate are popular synthetic insulations that have a strong presence in the world of winter jackets, gloves and ski boots and are on an equal footing with winter boots. They are not bulky, light and insulate even when they are wet. Proprietary synthetic insulation, for The North Face (Heatseeker) and Columbia (Omni-Heat) among others, offer performance comparable to the branded products (including the synthetic filling in our top-rated Columbia Bugaboot Omni-Heat). An indicator of warmth is the number of grams used in the boot (measured by the weight of a 1 meter by 1 meter section). Light to medium-weight boots have a filling of 200 to 400 grams, while heavy-duty boots for cold weather have significantly more.

Felt, sheepskin and wool lining
Some boots avoid modern technology and opt for warmth through a thick lining made of felt or sheepskin, including the classic Sorel Caribou. Even if they are bulky, these types of insulation can certainly be effective. Unlike synthetic insulation, which is enveloped by the boot, felt, sheepskin, and wool lining can get wet when exposed to the elements, but they still insulate. And the beauty of it is that many of these linings are removable (these boots are often referred to as "Pac boots").

Down filling

Down-insulated boots are not commonplace these days, and at times when you are in direct contact with the snow, they are not the safest option. Moisture means that down is no longer effective at insulating. We therefore recommend that you absolutely avoid wet conditions such as rain or wet snow.

Boot height

Winter boots have a fairly wide range of heights, from just above the ankles to just below the knees. In general, their various heights correspond to our categories above (the specific heights for each model, measured from the footbed to the top of the boot, can be found in our comparison table above). At the lower end of the spectrum, there are walking models that are approximately 16 cm high. This makes them lighter and more flexible, but they are more prone to snow entering over the top of the boot. The good news is that a pair of waterproof gaiters can help solve this problem (more on gaiters below).

Work boots and full-fledged extreme weather models sit higher on the shaft, including the Baffin Impact boots. Certain boot models offer even more protection for the leg and with a design like the Bogs Classic Insulated extend up to a height of 38 cm. It's worth noting that the extra height hampers freedom of movement, and muck-style boots can be difficult to take off at the end of the day. Finally, boots fall somewhere in the middle in the casual category, with a number of options ranging from 6 "to 12". There are some outliers, however, including the Sorel Slimpack, which only exposes the ankles, and the 12-inch Jeanne d'Arctic.

Weight

As with shoe height, the weight of winter boots varies significantly. Unsurprisingly, the heaviest types are made for the toughest conditions. Boots from Muck Boots, Bogs and LaCrosse Footwear can weigh up to 3 kg per pair. The same goes for a sturdy boot designed for extreme conditions like the Baffin Impact. At the other end of the spectrum is the Salomon X Ultra Winter, which at just 1,270 g weighs about as much as a normal hiking model. In most cases, the greater the insulation, the greater the weight.

Removable liners vs. one-piece boots

Traditional winter boots like the Sorel Caribou and the Kamik NationPlus are two-piece boots with outer shells that protect the insulated, removable inner lining. The advantages of this construction are that the boots are extremely resistant: The outer materials made of rubber and leather are very durable and waterproof, and they provide excellent insulation against the cold. The removable, insulated liners are padded and soft and offer more comfort than a typical one-piece construction. Finally, you have the option of removing the inner linings to dry them out faster in case the boots get wet. These types of boots can feel a bit spongy when you travel long distances, but for short walks, outdoor work, and harsh conditions, a boot with a removable liner is a good choice.

For active use such as hiking or snowshoeing, or if you want to keep weight and volume to a minimum, a one-piece boot is more suitable. Often similar to a hiking design, these models offer a more precise fit and nimble feel for more control and stability in difficult terrain. They are also lighter on average, which has a positive effect on longer hikes and snowshoe tours. They do make a small compromise in protection, but high-quality one-piece designs like the Columbia Bugaboot or Oboz Bridger 10 ″ Insulated are impressive options in harsh conditions.

Waterproofness and gaiters

When you consider that you will be spending a lot of time walking at varying depths of snow, waterproofing is important. The good news is that most models can hold their own in this regard. Traditional two-piece boots that have a shell and a separate inner lining rely on a sturdy exterior to keep moisture out. The rubber soles are fantastic wet barriers that repel everything from falling snow to muddy puddles. The treated leather upper and the sealed seams ensure that you are protected when walking through deep snow. One-piece boots have a thin, waterproof and breathable membrane that is embedded between the upper and the lining. In general, this style is a little less waterproof overall, and you should be sure that the outer fabric has a water repellent treatment to prevent it from absorbing moisture (more on this in the boot care section below).

It is worth knowing that a waterproof design is of little use if snow and moisture seep in from the tongue or the top of the boot. If the puddles are deep, it should be checked how far up the tongue is connected to the shaft (the higher the better, to prevent water from entering). And as we mentioned in the boot height section above, a tall design like Sorel's Caribou can be useful for keeping legs dry, but it's often worth adding a pair of waterproof gaiters to stay really protected in deep snow. Typically made of nylon, the gaiters are durable and provide an extra barrier around the top of your boots and lower leg (they are popular for uses such as hiking, snowshoeing, and mountaineering). The models vary significantly depending on the activity and how much protection you need, but for serious winter use the Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters are the ultimate.

Breathability

In general, winter boots put an emphasis on warmth and protection, which negatively affects breathability. Their substantial, waterproof constructions, which trap the heat inside so well, have a tendency to get hot in mild temperatures and in active use alike. For many people, this is a fair compromise, and breathability shouldn't be a priority for those planning on short trips or when the conditions in your area are really cold. However, if you live in an area with mild winters, or plan to go on long hikes or snowshoeing, you will want a balanced design that has a lighter upper and less insulation (around 200g). Hiking-ready models like the Salomon X Ultra CS, Danner Arctic 600 and Merrell Thermo Chill all do well in this regard. And if breathability is a top priority and temperatures will be warm (around freezing point or above), it might be worth opting for a pair of bare-bones hiking boots instead.

Boot outsoles and grip

Snow boots have a different stud pattern and rubber compound than their hiking boot cousins. The mixtures are softer and do not harden even when the temperature drops, which helps them to keep their grip on snow and ice. In addition, the stud pattern is designed to prevent snow from building up. The outsoles themselves are very thick and absorb the energy well to protect your feet from shocks while walking. In general, models that are suitable for hiking have the best traction, while casual and work boots can be a bit clumsy and prone to slipping. Vibram has made headlines lately with their Arctic Grip compound, which is specifically designed to stick to slippery and icy surfaces, and the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV's Michelin outsole is really outstanding. But from our experience we still use a winter traction system (see below) in very icy conditions.

Your socks are important

Pairing your winter boots with quality socks will help maximize warmth and comfort. While it's true that pretty much any design can get by for short trips outside, if you hike, work, or spend long periods of time in inclement weather, it pays to think carefully about your sock selection. As far as the material is concerned, wool - and especially the merino variant - is clearly the leading sock because of its high level of warmth, breathability and odor prevention. Synthetic socks are a viable alternative, but they're usually not as warm and are better at blocking odors than wool. Cotton should be avoided as it does not wick away moisture and does not 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. Most of the time, the best socks for winter use fall into the medium and heavy categories. Both are quite 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 are not prone to cold feet, a medium-weight sock is the best choice. In this category we love the Hiker Boot Cushion socks by Darn Tough: They offer a pleasant warmth to complement your boots, but do not overheat easily in mild temperatures or when working hard.

Fit and size

Fit is always an important consideration in shoes, and the same goes for winter boots. A properly sized boot should be big enough to hold your thickest socks without pinching (too tight a fit will inhibit blood flow and affect the warmth the boot provides). It's also important to consider the type of activity: a boot that is only worn around town, like the Sorel Caribou, doesn't have to fit perfectly to perform well. But for models that are more geared towards hiking, such as the Salomon X Ultra Winter, it is best if the correct fit is chosen.

The size varies widely between brands and models, and we offer as much insight as possible in our product descriptions above. In general, you should be prepared to order a different size than what you would normally order for a pair of everyday or running shoes. Unless there are specific recommendations from the manufacturer, we've found that the following works pretty well: If you're wearing medium-weight socks, it's a good idea to order a half size up. Expedition-level socks are extremely thick, so it is common to go a full size in these cases. Again, fitting them can be difficult and it's always best to try them on before buying if you can.

Boot care and treatment

To ensure that your winter boots last as long as possible, it pays to take good care of your investment. To start with, it's always a good idea to keep them clean to avoid damaging your material. Warm water, dish soap, and a simple brush can help in most cases. Additionally, many of the above designs have leather in their construction, a material that occasionally requires treatment to prevent drying out and cracking. A good quality leather care product works well on full grain leather and keeps it in good shape while adding a waterproof 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.

Traction systems for winter boots

Winter boots have outsoles designed for walking on snow, but the reality is that even the best rubber compound and tread pattern won't stick as well to a layer of ice. In order to hike safely through the woods when the conditions are really bad, we use an additional traction system. There are a variety of designs on the market, from the chain-shaped Yaktrax for casual walking to the Kahtoola MICROspikes for use on heavy ice and off-road.

They were designed for winter running, and we've found their minimalist style to work wonderfully on icy sidewalks and paths. The 10 small carbide tips offer excellent grip (we were particularly impressed by their safe traction in icy rain), and the NANOspikes are light and take up very little space in a pocket. The downside to all traction systems is that they take a little time to put on and take off and can be oversized in mixed conditions, but they're the best way to safely cover the ground on icy days

Use of normal waterproof hiking boots in winter

Special winter boots offer first-class protection and warmth in frost and snow, but we often use our normal hiking boots for short and active winter trips. For example, if you hike with snowshoes or without stopping, uninsulated and waterproof hiking boots with good socks can be very suitable. One of our favorite models is the classic Quest 4D 3 from Salomon, which has a hard-wearing, water-repellent exterior and a Gore-Tex boot that offers light warmth. To be clear, this is a great option for travel when you are on the go all the time and the weather is not particularly chilly. If you are stopping for long periods of time or traveling, it is safest to stick to an isolated, winter-proof design.