Using Regular Waterproof Hiking Boots In Winter
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 Salomons classic Quest 4, which has a durable, water-shedding exterior and Gore-Tex bootie that offers 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 isnt particularly frigid. If youll be stopping or out for long stretches of time, its safest to stick with an insulated winter-specific design.
Why Do You Need Winter Boots
If youre asking this question, you may not live above the Mason-Dixon line.
What youre probably asking is, do I need different boots for winter than I do for hiking? .
Or, are there other options besides insulated snow boots? . Were here to answer yes to both of those questions.
Compared to hiking boots winter boots are designed to:
Durable, even after prolonged exposure to moisture
Hold traction against icy walkways
Keep your feet from freezing.
Why Choose Insulated Winter Boots
REIs article, Best Winter Boots of 2020, linked out to a great article explaining why women tend to have colder feet than men. But its scientific womens body temperatures tend to run higher than mens. While youd think wed feel warmer because of that, the opposite is true. When youre used to being warm, your body feels temperature differences more acutely.
Insulation like Thinsulate, shearling, fleece, and neoprene can ensure your toes stay warm. Even if you dont want to overheat your feet, your toes are one of the furthest extremities from your heart, and they need a little help to stay warmer in extreme temperatures. Look for thick soles that keep your feet away from the snow and ice, and ruffs around the top to trap snow before it falls down towards your feet.
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Boot Care And Treatment
To keep your winter boots lasting as long as possible, its worth taking proper care of your investment. For starters, its 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 isnt 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 Nikwaxs Conditioner works well on full-grain leather, keeping it in good shape while adding a water-resistant coating to the top. For boots that dont have a waterproof membrane or coating, its a good idea to treat them from the start . Another benefit of adding a leather conditioner right away is that it helps soften the leather and shorten the break-in period.
Reviews For The Columbia Ice Maiden Ii Boots
The Columbia Ice Maiden II Boots earned these ratings: Amazon , REI , Outdoor Gear Lab , Smarter Travel , Chicago Tribune , The Cut , Travel Gear Zone , Strategist , Good Housekeeping .
For starters, there are over for the Columbia Ice Maiden II Boots. Its also the for womens winter boots. But of the reviews we read, real customers were happy with the fit, ecstatic about the warmth, overjoyed at the waterproofness, stoked about the arch support, and blissfully content with the tread. They do warn to size up a half size if you plan to wear thicker socks.
The Strategist found a review from a rural mail carrier that gives you the best real-life experience: Everything was kept warm, the lacing was comfortable and kept the snow out, the height was just right, I tromped through a foot-deep puddle of freezing water and never felt it, I dont slide on the worst ice, and theyve held up to some of the most damaging metal skids/post-cons at my job.
Outdoor Gear Lab gave the Ice Maiden high marks for its affordability and waterproofness, even if they arent the warmest or most supportive winter boots on the market. They praised the versatility Perfect for winter chores, it’s also okay for light hiking, dog walks, and wearing around town. and noted that, compared to the heavy price tags of most of the competition, youd be hard-pressed to find a better deal.
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Also Consider: Bogs Arcata Knit Boot
*At the time of publishing, the price was $128.
Get this if: You prefer a cozier slip-on that will still keep you stable and dry while you are shoveling and running errands. What you gain in convenience with rubber, slip-on snow boots you sometimes lose in ankle stability . In the case of the Bogs Arcata, the faux fur lining helps address that issue.
Why its great: All of that faux fur makes the Bogs Arcata warm, cozy, and a better fit than any other slip-on boot we tried.
Faux fur is sometimes ridiculed among my friends as being the new pink, in terms of womens fashion. But in the case of winter boots, faux fur is a big advantage! The original native mukluks used fur for warmth, and in this case, the faux fur lining goes all the way over the toes. It makes an all-rubber boot, which can feel loose around the feet, fit more snugly and therefore behave more stably on loose snow, packed snow, and chunky ice.
These boots feel warm, and they should, since theyre rated to -58° F/-50° C, the warmest of our picks. Most of our choices in this guide arent made for such cold temperatures.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: As with every slip-on boot, the top is open, and snow can get in. Snow can also get in through the cut-out handles. But you may not notice or care if you dont regularly deal with large drifts of fresh snow, and the faux fur offers at least a small amount of protection.
Also Great: Sorel Caribou Boot Mens And Womens
Get this if: You want a snow boot with an impervious rubber base that also lifts you out of slushy, snowy muck. This boot is great for warmer winters that go through a lot of freeze and thaw cycles.
Why its great: The Sorel Caribou, which comes in mens and womens sizes, feels impenetrable. When we tested it against eight other options, it fit better and felt warmer, and its wide base and nubby rubber kept our feet steady on different winter surfaces.
The rubber sole lifts you almost an inch and a half above the ground, which keeps feet warm and dry by physically removing you from the slush. The tongue is gusseted all the way to the top of the snow collar, a rarity . The shaft laces high and tight, and the Caribou has its own sort of speed lacing, composed of four sets of fat, exterior D-rings that allow laces to slide with little friction this will help you get the boot on and off your foot with less effort. Finally, the snow collar prevents flakes from entering.
The boot has three features that provide traction similar to the Kamik Nation Plus: a wide surface area underfoot, a nubby lug pattern that grabs onto chunky ice, and a proper fit. Though the sole can feel clunky, the boot still fits well. Several other boots we tried didnt: Either the heel lifted or the ankle had no support, and both of those issues can cause a foot to slide while youre walking on snow.
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Who This Is For
We researched and tested designs meant for light outdoor activity in places that are cold enough to see snow. That means shoveling the driveway, walking an outdoor mall in the winter, or getting from your car to the office. We tested for functionality, not style. Hopefully youll find something you like here, and if you dont, we aim to show you what to look for when you shop.
What does this guide not cover?
Boot Outsoles And Grip
Snow boots have a different lug pattern and rubber compound than their on-dirt hiking boot cousins. The compounds are softer and dont harden even when temperatures drop, which helps them continue to grip on snow and ice. In addition, the lug patterns are designed to prevent snow buildup. The outer soles themselves are very thick, which isolates your feet from the cold and rough ground underfoot. In general, hiking-ready models have the best traction, while casual and work boots can be a little cumbersome and prone to slippage. Vibram made some headlines with their Arctic Grip compound that’s specifically designed to stick to slippery and icy surfaces, which we see in designs like the Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid. But from our experience, we still turn to a winter traction system in very icy conditions.
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Reviews For The Xtratuf Salmon Sister Legacy 15 Tall Boot
The Xtratuf Legacy 15 Tall Boots earned these ratings: Amazon , Wirecutter , Outdoor Gear Lab , and Gear Junkie .
Gear Junkie said it right: Built by and for Alaskan anglers, the Xtratuf boot line is designed for hard work in the harshest conditions. In collaboration with Salmon Sisters, the classic Legacy boot becomes a stylish option for the serious outdoorswoman.
New York Times/Wirecutter, although updating their top rain boot to another Xtratuf offering, still had great things to say about the Legacy: The 15-inch Xtratuf Legacy Boot for men and women is an all-around great boot that wed still recommend. Its high quality, its flexible at the ankle, it offers super-sticky soles, and it has stood the test of time.
Womens Outdoor News pointed out a great observation in their review of the Xtratuf Legacy 15 Salmon Sisters boots while Xtratuf makes both men’s and womens versions that inherently look the same, the womens versions have a narrower ankle and heel, which fit womens ankles better.
Out of the 17 adventure partners I asked who own Xtratuf Legacy 15 boots, every single one said that they wear their Xtratufs year-round. Our Colorado friends, upon seeing our Alaskan contingents wearing Xtratufs to the ski hill and out on the town, have begun to buy them for themselves. One couple brought them as their only winter boots to Japan. Theyre not just a boot theyre an institution.
The Muckboot shaft makes it easy to wear this boot as a slip-on.
A Lighter Boot For Easy Walking In Snow: Columbia Heavenly Omni
Get this if: You want a boot thats light and particularly good for walking over snow drifts. This is a great option for driving and running errands around townnot so much for extended time outside or in icy conditions
Why its great: The snug, form-fitting foot of the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat makes this boot wear almost like a slipper, and the tall, tightly laced shaft and faux fur snow collar keep fluffy stuff out. Plus, these boots are much easier to drive in than boots with a stiff leather exterior.
The Heavenly is a perfect example of how a good fit can create more traction. A nearly identical boot, the North Face Shellista II, didnt grip as well because the foot was looser. This boot has a tread pattern thats more pronounced than others , and the Heavenly had better stability on every surface we walked on, other than ice.
We tried the Kamik Sienna 2, but it doesnt have a tread pattern that provides any help on slick surfaces. And we also tried the GlobalWin Waterproof Winter Boot, but the flaws were many, including a sole so slippery that no tester would set foot on ice without holding onto something. Overall, the majority of winter boots, even most of our picks here, have only average traction on ice. Rubber is just not the solution if you need to stay completely sure-footed on frozen water. But with that in mind, the GlobalWin felt particularly treacherous.
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Reviews For The Ll Bean Boots
The L.L. Bean Womens Bean Boots earned these ratings: Forbes , Town and Country , The Cut , Forbes , Business Insider , Trip Savvy , Popular Mechanics , Travel and Leisure .
The L.L. Bean Boots are a common shoe worn for walking crusty snow-covered streets from Boston to Portland.
The Cut said, “L.L. Beans duck boots have sold out so many times in the past decade The hundreds of reviewers on L.L. Beans website all agree that these are worth the hype. Writes one, Everyone should own Bean boots.
Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus Omni
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Womens Boots were often compared to the Oboz Bridger 9 Insulated Boots, as well as the Columbia Ice Maiden II Boots. While we were impressed with the reviews we read of the Bugaboots, we were concerned by the alarming lack of availability for the womens version online. Both the Oboz Bridger Boots and the Columbia Ice Maiden IIs were more highly reviewed more recently on sites like REI, as well, whereas the Bugaboots were called out more often for feeling clunky.
Do I need different boots for winter than I do for hiking? Weve got answers.
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Reviews For The Muck Boot Arctic Sport Ii Mid Boots
The Muck Boot Arctic Sport II Mid Boots earned these ratings: Amazon , Outside Online , GearJunkie , Outdoor Gear Lab , Travel Gear Zone , Good Housekeeping , Muckboot , Popular Mechanics .
Amazon users knew exactly what they wanted from working through Alaskan winters to a blustery, -20 stroll around Michigans Mackinac Island: function over frills. An overwhelming majority of reviewers raved about the warmth , the waterproof construction, and the traction on ice.
Outside Online boot testers know that not everywhere has light, fluffy snow. “If your winter is mostly slush and sleet, what you want might not be a waterproof winter boot so much as a rain boot thats also built for cold. Enter the Muck Boot Arctic Sport II For a slushy walk to work, though, you couldnt do better.
Popular Mechanics relayed some good points: Like some of the other boots on this list, the Muck Boot Arctic Sport Mid stayed dry throughout our waterproofing test. Unlike those pairs, though, it has impermeable rubber extending more than four inches up the calf in addition to waterproof neoprene, meaning theres no chance melted snow, slush, or water can penetrate it. They did warn that, since the Arctic Sports arent breathable, theyre not suitable for warmer winter conditions, and left the testers sweaty after a full day of use.
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 wont 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 . 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 pairing with winter boots, one of our favorite traction systems is the Kahtoola NANOspikes. Designed for running in winter, weve found their minimalist style to work wonderfully on icy sidewalks and trails. The 10 small carbide tips provide excellent grip , 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 theyre the best way to cover ground safely on icy days. For a full breakdown of options, see our article on the best winter traction devices.
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How We Picked The Best Winter Boots
From the hundreds of winter boots on the market, we knew we had to cull the posers from the real deals. We wanted boots that could withstand the range of weather conditions that winter can throw our way. We researched the best boots for icy conditions, wet conditions, snowy conditions, and extreme cold conditions that were comfortable, provided good arch support, and were waterproof. We also wanted to find high-quality, durable materials without breaking the bank.
As we researched, we narrowed our criteria to meet five main themes: warmth, tread, waterproofness, fit, and height.
Our winners met all of our basic criteria. Then, we judged each pair of boots relative to its own specific criteria. For example, for the Best Budget Boots, they needed to be warm, comfortable, over the ankle, and reasonably durable at an affordable price. Our Best Traction and Ankle Support Boots had to have great ankle and arch support, combined with a killer tread for icy conditions. We also wanted to provide options for the Best Slip-On Boots in both insulated and non-insulated options and present the pros and cons of both.
Then our Best Traction and Ankle Support Boot might just be the ticket.