We have thoroughly combed this guide, and our recommendations are now available. In light of the ongoing difficulties in the supply chain, we will keep an eye on stock levels as the temperature drops.
Picture the parking lot of your local supermarket. At any given moment during a cold winter afternoon in the northern latitudes, you could be walking on dry pavement, wet pavement, packed snow, fluffy snow, chunky ice, black ice, wet ice, slush, a slick cocktail of oil and grit, or some combination of all of these. We spent 125 hours researching and testing 29 pairs of winter boots in the snow to bring you this assortment of options to help you adapt to the season's shifting underfoot terrain.
Some of the best are classic lace-up winter boots for both men and women, while others have a more modern design that plows through snow with ease. A number of slip-ons with above-average traction in snow and ice are advocated for. One is a snow slipper, ideal for driving in the snow or flying in the air, and the other is a plush, wool-lined leather boot that outperformed all others we tested.
We looked into and tested various designs for casual outdoor pursuits in climates cold enough to get snow. Whether it's the driveway, a winter walk through the mall, or a short trip from the parking lot to the office, all of these require some degree of physical exertion. We were looking for practicality, not form, in our tests. There's a chance you'll like what you see, and if not, we hope to give you some pointers for your next shopping trip.
Where does this manual fall short
- Winter work boots, also known as extreme-cold boots, are insulated to keep feet warm for long periods of time and may also have additional safety features, such as toe caps or electrical hazard protection, for the workplace environment.
- Walking boots for the winter season Since hiking boots are designed for walking (albeit on trails), and this feature has some crossover appeal, a select few were allowed to participate in the test. Conversely, winter hiking boots have more complex lacing (which can aid traction) than boots made for city use. It's also easier to flex your ankle because the shaft height (how high up your leg the boot goes) is lower—typically between 5 and 7 inches. Nonetheless, we didn't put a lot of these choices to the test because walking on trails is fundamentally different from walking on pavement.
- Winter shoes, which are insulated shoes of ankle height or less, have water-resistant exteriors (instead of being waterproof), and are great for walking in the city and the suburbs when it's wet and cold, were not among the footwear types we tested. You can choose from among millions of these.
- We didn't put mukluks through any tests because their usefulness is so niche. (A mukluk is a soft-sided, often knee-high animal-skin boot originally worn by the aboriginal tribes of the Arctic, particularly when hunting and dog-sledding. You can walk through deep snow without your feet getting stuck because they have one of the highest warmth-to-weight ratios of any winter shoe. However, they lack the lugs and traction pattern of more modern suburban footwear, making it difficult to negotiate the various sources of ice.
For nearly six years, I've been conducting boot-related research and testing while wearing boots for Wirecutter. During that time, I have subjected various pairs of shoes to two regional floods (one of which required a boat evacuation) and the fourth largest snowfall on record in the Lake Tahoe basin, as well as springtime in the Teton Valley of Idaho, where mud is a year-round phenomenon. My passion for extreme weather, my propensity to get mired in it, and my many hobbies (snowboarding, motorcycling) force me to wear boots practically 365 days a year.
The Kamik Nation Plus is the best all-around snow boot for men.
From icy driveways to snow-packed fields, the Kamik Nation Plus provides the best performance we've seen in a winter boot.
If you need something to keep your feet warm and dry while doing light outdoor activities in the snow, like shoveling the driveway or walking from the car to the office, then this is what you need.
The Kamik Nation Plus outperforms the competition by a hair without adding any unnecessary flash. It's warm, waterproof, and designed to keep snow out, and it has above-average traction on a wide range of winter surfaces.
The Nation Plus has superior traction due to three factors: its nubby tread pattern, which grips chunky ice, its wide base, which offers support on smooth surfaces, and its snug fit, which keeps the ankle stable on fresh snow. In this regard, the "speed lacing" system—originally designed for hiking boots but capable of producing a tighter fit in other footwear as well—is useful. The Nation Plus are the best winter boots I've ever owned, eclipsing the Baffin Canada, L.L.Bean Snow Boots, and LaCross Outpost II in comfort and support.
These -40 F/-40 C rated boots are just right for everyday use, as they keep your feet warm without making you uncomfortable. Advertised temperature ratings are an educated guess, not a rule of thumb, because they don't take into account the type of activity you're engaging in, how long you'll be engaging in it, or your unique metabolic rate. However, the personal impressions of our test subjects (who braved the cold without knowing how well insulated the boots were) consistently coincided with the poll results We all agreed that 40 degrees Fahrenheit was the ideal temperature.
Waterproofing the sole is only half the battle; the best snow boots also need to be tall enough to lace up over your pants. The Kamik, with a shaft height of 11 12 inches, will provide more leg coverage than the North Face Chilkat III, which measures in at only 8 12 inches. Additionally, the liner is detachable, allowing for a more rapid drying time should it rain inside.
Cons that aren't dealbreakers include the fact that they aren't a specialized boot, so if you need something for long distance walking or ice, you'll have to look elsewhere. This boot is only offered in men's sizes 7 (equivalent to a women's size 8), so if you have smaller feet, you should look elsewhere, like the Sorel Caribou.
The men's and women's Sorel Caribou boot is also highly recommended.
The Caribou, Sorel's first model, is a superior snow boot to the competition and particularly shines in slushy conditions.
Get these if you need snow boots with a sturdy rubber sole that can pull you up and out of the slush and snow. This is an excellent pair of boots for warmer winters with frequent freezing and thawing.
The Sorel Caribou, available for both men and women, has a sturdy, protective appearance and feel. We found that it fit better and felt warmer than eight other options, and that its wide base and nubby rubber kept our feet stable on a variety of winter surfaces.
The rubber bottom of the shoe raises the wearer's feet almost an inch and a half, protecting them from wet snow and ice. Rarely seen (not even the Kamik is sewn this high) is a tongue that is gusseted (sewn to the sides of the boot) all the way to the top of the snow collar. The Caribou has its own version of speed lacing—the shaft laces high and tight, and the lacing system consists of four sets of fat, exterior D-rings that allow laces to slide with little friction. Last but not least, the snow collar keeps the snow outside.
Similar to the Kamik Nation Plus, the boot has a broad underfoot platform, a nubby lug pattern that grabs onto chunky ice, and a snug fit. Although the boot's sole can be somewhat bulky, it is a good fit in all other respects. Several other pairs of boots we tried didn't, either because the heel lifted or the ankle lacked support; either of these problems can lead to slipping on snow.
Caribous are also rated to withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius), and reviewers said they kept their feet toasty warm during testing. A wool liner is also available for the boot, which won't retain odors like synthetics will.
There are some minor issues, such as the stiffness and the difficulty of driving in this boot, but these are not dealbreakers. Quite frequently, I notice that people are out and about with the laces undone on their driving foot. However, the Caribou was superior to the alternatives.
Ugg Adirondack III and Ugg Butte, the boots that feel like shoes.
If you want a high-quality boot and are willing to pay for it, this is for you. In exchange, you'll receive an item that is both more lightweight and cozier than anything we tried. These shoes are also safer to wear while walking or driving in the snow.
The Ugg Adirondack III (for women) and Ugg Butte (for men) are great because they have a comfortable, natural fit, much like a well-loved pair of leather shoes. More mobility in a snow boot makes it easier to walk and drive. The boots are lighter and more unobtrusive on your feet than others on the market. These are the Land Rover equivalent of the Sorel Caribou, the F-150 of winter footwear.
We needed a tall shaft, so both the Adirondack III and the Butte come with the wool lining rolled down, but you can roll it up to an additional 11 inches if you want. This boot's practicality stems in large part from Ugg's signature wool lining. For years of use free of odor, thanks to the non-synthetic lining. Unlike the men's boot, which has a wool lining all the way around the insole, the women's boot has a synthetic upper part of the liner.
This plush lining is both warm and sumptuous. While the -32 °C temperature rating for these boots is lower than what is typically considered acceptable, reviewers still noted that their feet stayed warm and comfortable.
Lastly, the lining makes a snug fit around the foot, which improves grip. Stability is provided by the wide, flat sole, which plants firmly on smooth ice, the nubby lugs, which grip textured ice, and the snug fit of the lining. The combination of these three factors makes this boot as stable as any we tested, and they are the reasons it was our top pick.
The Butte, designed for men, shares neither its rubber nor its tread pattern with the Adirondack, designed for women. But the lugs on the women's boot are almost better, as they can bite into and around ice with a lot of texture. The Adirondack III can also be purchased in a tall size.
Cons that aren't dealbreakers include the high asking price for what is overwhelmingly the most popular boot.
A women's snow boot that is both lightweight and warm, the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat is ideal for winter excursions.
Imagine a modern moccasin; the snug foot and flexible ankle make walking in the snow and around town a breeze. They're not as toasty as our other recommendations, though.
To those in search of a lightweight boot ideal for traversing deep snow drifts This is a good choice for trips to the car wash and other errands around town, but not for long periods of time outside or in icy weather.
The Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat (Women's) is a great winter boot because of its snug, form-fitting foot and tall, tightly laced shaft, both of which keep snow and other light debris out. Not to mention, these shoes are much more comfortable while driving than boots made of stiff leather.
As the Heavenly exemplifies, a harmonious composition can lead to increased momentum. North Face Shellista II boots, which are nearly identical, did not provide the same level of traction due to a looser fit around the foot. The Heavenly has a more pronounced tread pattern than other boots we've tried (including Columbia's own Ice Maiden II), and it provided superior stability on every surface we tested it on except ice.
We looked into getting the Kamik Sienna 2, but they don't have a tread pattern that helps with slipping. We also tried the GlobalWin Waterproof Winter Boot, which had numerous drawbacks, the most egregious of which was a sole so slippery that not a single tester dared walk across the ice without clinging to something for support. In general, even the best winter boots, including the majority of our picks here, have only average traction on ice. If you need to maintain complete footing on frozen water, rubber shoes are not the answer. Still, bearing that in mind, the GlobalWin appeared especially perilous.
Not perfect, but not fatal: Those who get cold easily should look elsewhere. Similarly to the other boots we looked at, the Heavenly has 200 grams of insulation. In addition, the interior is covered in a silver dot pattern that reflects heat. It's not as toasty as a boot rated to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (the rating that testers found worked the best), and it feels colder than others.
Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid, in men's and women's sizes, is a tough slip-on.
This winterized version of the traditional mud and farm work boot is a neoprene boot coated in thick rubber from top to bottom. Due to the open top, we wouldn't take them out in heavy snow.
*The price at publication was $185.
This is for you if you are the type of winter warrior who is constantly putting on and taking off their boots as they go about their daily chores of shoveling, trash collection, and neighborly visits.
The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid, which comes in men's and women's sizes, had the second-best ice traction of any boot we tested (behind only the Danner Arctic), and it looks and feels like it will last longer than any of us will.
For this guide, we only considered boots with "winterized rubber" soles. Rubber designed for use in the winter can retain its pliability even when temperatures drop. Except for those two, however, very few soles actually improved traction. Our team reported better traction while walking on smooth ice while wearing these boots and the Danner Arctic.
Both are equipped with Vibram Arctic Grip rubber lugs, which are flexible in cold weather and have a surface similar to a cat's tongue. As far as we can tell, no other rubber has any appreciable effect on static friction.
Traditional boots like Kamik and Sorel don't quite compare to this one in terms of fit. Neoprene is used in the construction of the Muck boot, and the boot itself serves as insulation. Even though it doesn't have a typical shoe shape due to its hard rubber exterior (like a rain boot), it provides more freedom of movement for the foot. So, unlike the lace-up Danner, you can quickly and easily slip these boots on and off whenever you need to.
It is common knowledge that this type of walking is not entirely stable on snow and ice. Here, the rubber effectively makes up for the fit's diminished grip.
Negatives, but not dealbreakers: The wide top opening is the boot's biggest negative. When you step into snow that is higher than the top of your boot, you will get snow in your foot (so much for the waterproofing). We still think it's a fantastic choice, though, because it's so useful in other respects. Those who prefer a lower profile can also get them in a knee-high style for both sexes.
As an alternative, think about the Bogs Arcata Knit Boot.
The Ugg Classic Short Boot is the best snowshoe currently available.
If you're flying somewhere cold or planning a ski trip, this is a must-have.
The Ugg Classic Short Boot (men's) and Ugg Classic Short II Boot (women's) are a practical winter shoe that is both easy to drive in and comfortable to lounge around in. They are also weather-resistant and have a real wool lining that won't develop a foul odor after a few wears.
That's an ideal set of amenities for after a day of skiing, when you'll want to remove your boots, dry your feet, and then likely head somewhere in your car. It's the ideal footwear companion for a wintry journey, serving as both a shoe and a warm slipper during the journey and a sturdy winter boot once you reach your destination.
The Ugg name is inextricably linked to its status as a divisive seasonal shoe option. It wasn't always like this, though. Authentic outdoor gear, these boots were initially designed to keep surfers' feet toasty when they emerged from the water. And to this day, we believe they are the best solution available.
There are drawbacks, but nothing fatal: the traction advantage is nonexistent. You won't get much traction in the snow or on ice with these boots. However, this is less of a concern if you plan on using them primarily on hard surfaces, such as pavement, automobiles, airports, or buildings.
To kick off our investigation, we looked at what some other review platforms were saying. GearLab, SectionHiker, and customer reviews from outdoor retailers like REI are some of the best resources we've found. We settled on the idea that we wanted a pair of traditional winter "pac boots," which are characterized by a large, waterproof rubber base that completely encloses the wearer's foot from the outside. We paid special attention to the following details:
When it comes to keeping water out, a waterproof sole is the obvious first step. The boot's shaft height and how well it hugs the leg are also important factors. We opted for 8-10 inch-tall shafts on the boots we bought. They serve to prevent snow from entering In addition, we sought out boots that featured snow collars, which line the opening of the boot and prevent snow from getting in or sticking to your leg.
To ensure that our boots would keep our feet toasty, we opted to test those that feature 200 grammes of insulation. What this means in terms of insulation is that one square meter weighs 200 grams. This is the typical density for boots made to keep your feet toasty while you're out and about for an hour or two. Boots designed to keep your feet toasty while you wait in the cold typically have more insulation, anywhere from 400 to 600 grams.
We also looked for boots with reflective layers that reflected the wearer's own heat. Many companies, including Baffin, Kamik, and Columbia, market similar reflective technologies under different names. The structure is more insulating without being cumbersome.
With regards to temperature ratings, we were initially hesitant to believe manufacturers' claims. How toasty your boots need to be is a function of your metabolism, the length of time you'll be outside, and how active you are. When we asked testers how warm the boots actually were to them, we found that the ratings and their subjective assessments were consistent with one another.
Traction: With so many different terrains to contend with, designing a great sole for winter boots is no easy feat. Walking on packed snow, dry snow, crunchy ice, smooth ice, dry ice, wet ice, or anything in between has a different effect on the shapes and materials of your shoes. Using clipboards and charts, we had our evaluators rank the traction of each of these surfaces.
Despite all the hype surrounding sticky, winter-specific rubber, we found that there are actually four ways in which a boot can gain or improve traction on snow and ice:
- There was a significant correlation between boot traction and stability and fit. Unstable footing on snow and ice is caused by poorly fitting boots. Traction issues can result from loose ankles, heels that lift, and room in the forefoot and heel.
- The bottom of the shoe should have as much surface area as possible to aid On flat ice, it adds a little bit of stability.
- For traction on the crunchy ice, lugs had to be nubby and widely spaced. Amazingly, they do a good job of preventing sliding laterally. Many pairs of winter boots have tread that is either smooth or wavy, both of which are dangerous.
- As it turns out, rubber did play a small role after all. Some of the boots were extremely hazardous on ice and compact snow because they were either made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or had extremely smooth tread patterns. Some boots (like the Vibram Arctic Grip) were constructed with specialized rubber that provided superior traction on icy surfaces. Almost everything else, however, has about the same amount of grip. This includes the entire middle range of proprietary "winter rubbers" we tested.
To lace up or to slip on? That is the fashion question. All depends on your requirements. A good ice boot or walking shoe will have laces for a snug fit and increased grip on icy surfaces. Slip-ons are convenient for the ten times a day that you leave the house. For this reason, we picked a few pairs of each, and if there were any shoes that could serve both purposes, we would have gotten them.
The only people we know who paid full price for their boots were those who bought them on purpose as a fashion statement. Due to the high likelihood of finding a good deal, we decided against setting a price range for this guide. Finding what actually worked, and only then analyzing why, seemed more pressing.
Formerly recommended for ice walking, the Danner Arctic 600 Side Zip for men and women, has been out of stock. Even though we still consider this a great boot, we've decided to leave it out of the guide in favor of focusing on snow boots that are better suited to the snowy conditions. If you can find it, though, and are thinking about it, we think you won't be let down.
We were really hoping the men's and women's Baffin Canada would be a good fit, but they didn't. All the pairs we tried had an uncomfortable amount of heel lift.
The L.L.Bean men's and women's snow boots are actually rain boots in disguise. There are no lugs in the tread pattern, and the boot is loose around the foot like a pair of rain boots.
Comparable to the Columbia Heavenly, the Columbia Minx Mid III In the words of a Columbia representative, these variations "relate to the rivets and aglets, and subtle changes in design." Simply by picking up the Heavenly, we could tell that the build quality was superior.
The Columbia Ice Maiden II, which is the best-selling pair of women's snow boots on Amazon, is a unisex style that, despite a tightening of the laces, is still somewhat roomy in the foot and calf. It's more of a warm shoe that pretends to be a boot than anything else, and it offered no traction advantage. The GlobalWin Waterproof Winter Snowboots, an "Amazon choice" as of October 2022 for "women's short winter snowboots," are similarly apt. There isn't much use for a snow collar, and the shaft isn't very tall. Moreover, they had the worst grip of any boot we tried (just picture plastic on ice).
The North Face Chilkat III is a hybrid between a snow boot and a hiking shoe. However, it is more expensive, chunkier, and shorter than its competitors and our top pick for snow. (The boot will no longer be available in time for the 2021–2022 winter season, and it appears to have been superseded by the Chilkat Nylon V 400 boot by the 2022–2023 autumn season.)
Testers found that the North Face Shellista II's foot did not fit as well as the Heavenly, and that the boot lacked the lugs that provided traction with the Heavenly.
So soft and cushiony is the LaCrosse Outpost II's interior. It's not uncommon for gear reviewers to make jokes like "This boot is like walking on marshmallows." Well, in this particular instance, that is undeniably correct. Unfortunately, despite that being a feature we appreciated, the boot did not fit right. The boot is enormous, and the ankle is padded for comfort.
Rain and snow don't mix well with the Sorel 1964 Pac 2 boots for men and women. In the same vein, both the women's Joan of Arctic and Tofino II are equally competent. The 100 grams of insulation in the Tivoli IV for women by Sorel is not enough to keep you toasty in the dead of winter.
The Bearpaw Elle has received rave reviews, and the pair we are testing looks and feels identical to an authentic UGG boot, but costs significantly less. To begin, please be aware that Fakespot graded this ad a "D," effectively lowering Elle's rating for this article to 1. 5 stars Whatever the case may be, we're worried about the interior lining. Shearling and wool blend is what the website says it is, but it has a very synthetic feel. We predict that after only a season of use it will become matted and pilled and start to stink. This is something we know for sure after putting dozens of similar shoes through their paces. We recommend the UGG shorty if you're looking for a pair of boots in this style that will last longer than a single winter.
Because of their even higher price than Uggs and the fact that you have to waterproof them yourself, we didn't put a pair of Steger Mukluks through their paces. Uggs are delivered to you with the appropriate coating already applied.
This year, when we went looking for new testing boots, we found that many retailers had run out. In any case, as soon as things are back in stock, we intend to order some brand new models from The North Face and Kamik.
The authors, Ria Misra and Christine Ryan, have edited this piece.
Former senior staff writer on travel and outdoors for Wirecutter, Eve O'Neill She still remembers the books from her youth that influenced her in this way: "Into Thin Air," "On the Road," and "The Call of the Wild." She has always been interested in theories about how humans can interact with and have fun in natural settings.
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