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Updated Dec 27, 2022 12:15 PM
Wading through fresh snowfall is one of the best parts of winter—but whether you’re hiking, snowshoeing, sledding, or simply exploring, the feeling of frigid toes can easily take the enjoyment out of any outdoor activity. But that doesn’t mean you need to stay confined indoors, as there are high-quality snow boots that will keep your feet protected and cozy all winter long.
These winter-wonder accessories come in all shapes and sizes, which is why it’s so important to find the right pair for your feet. The best snow boots are well-insulated with a waterproof exterior and minimal room for droplets to sneak in and soak your socks. Plus, they should match your personal style, the perfect combination of form and function. Don’t let a little snow stop you from enjoying time outside or, worse, numb your toes before you get to work in the morning. With that in mind, we’ve put together this little guide to get you started on the journey toward comfortable snow boots (and you can check out our roundups of the best heated insoles, heated socks, winter hats, and even heated slippers to help you stay extra cozy).
Best snow boots: Our picks
Best insulated: Sorel Caribou Boots
The Caribou Boots from Sorel are staples in protective winter gear. The snow boot is made in men’s and women’s sizes with a 9-millimeter removable felt lining and a rise of roughly 10.75 inches from the arch. These boots will keep you warm for hours at a time, but they can start to feel a bit heavy. That means they’re great for casual, everyday use, but you might need to try something else for activities like hiking or manual labor.
Best waterproof: Muck Boot Arctic Sport II
The Arctic Sport II is top of the line when it comes to waterproof, weather-resistant snow boots. Available in men’s and women’s styles, this shoe was inspired by a traditional farming boot with many upgrades. It has a rubber exterior, 5-millimeter thick neoprene booties, and an internal fleece lining for warmth. You can get the boot in two lengths, high or mid, to protect from heavy snowfall, plus they are pull-on, so you won’t have to worry about any tiny gaps from tongues and laces that could let in moisture.
Best for kids: Bogs Neo-Classic Boot
These uni-sex kids boots from Bogs are a great option for kids. They come in a ton of fun designs, slip on easily, and combine rubber with neoprene for maximum water resistance. With excellent traction, these snow boots will hold up easily in slushy weather. They come in three separate sizing categories: toddler, little kid (4 to 8 years old), and big kid (8 to 12 years old). Plus, they come in tons of fun patterns like rockets, butterflies, and smiling kitty cats.
Best winter hiking boots: Salomon Men’s Quest Element Gore-TEX Hiking Boots
These winter hiking boots from Salomon are a great companion on challenging trails. They have an athletic feel with a buoyant rubber heel and water-wicking full-grain leather. Some report a narrow fit, so if you tend to wear thick socks while hiking, consider going up a half size.
Best budget: Kamik Men’s Forester Snow Boot
Kamik makes some of the best snow boots around, at a great price. These men’s snow boots have a mid-calf shaft, are made from 95-percent rubber, and have a temperature rating suitable for temps as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. They have an adjustable nylon collar to keep snow out and a waterproof exterior to wick away moisture. Though Kamik doesn’t have a counterpart in women’s sizes, check out the Kamik Momentumlo Snow Boot for a similar price point and durability.
Features to consider when shopping for the best snow boots
The first things you need to think about before buying a new pair of snow boots are environment and activity. Do you live somewhere with occasional snow but frigid low temperatures? Are you guaranteed to be strolling through super wet snow or rain? Are these boots for everyday use, or do you want something rugged for a winter hike?
Are you preparing for super-low temperatures?
There are a few features every reliable pair of snow boots needs to have to keep your feet from freezing and your soles from sliding around.
First things first, if you’re expecting the thermostat to drop dramatically in the wintertime, regardless of snowfall amount, you want to find a boot that has extra insulation with a tall shaft and the ability to lace entirely over the ankle, keeping out the snow and cold. Good socks can go a long way, but if you really want to keep things nice and toasty, look for a boot lined with fur, wool, or other textiles. The added layer locks in heat, promoting circulation in below-freezing temperatures. This is particularly important if you spend a lot of time outside for work or play. Most boots nowadays use a synthetic liner like Primaloft as an extra layer. The amount of fill is recorded in grams; a 200- to 400-gram fill is good for mid-length bursts outdoors, while heavy-duty snow boots will have more.
Sheepskin, felt, and wool are also popular. Though these materials tend to be a bit thicker, they are naturally designed to insulate. Unlike synthetic options though, natural fibers can’t handle getting wet and often need a protective spray to keep them from being ruined by moisture.
Will you be walking through a lot of wet snow?
While all snow boots should be waterproof to a certain degree, it can be tricky to keep certain materials from getting soggy, especially if the snow tends to be wet or if the weather turns to rain. Weather resistance and waterproofing typically come down to material and construction. Insulated rubber boots are our go-to’s when it comes to keeping our feet nice and dry. Rubber soles with excellent treads keep you from slipping, and an extended rubber outer layer wicks away water. (There’s a reason why the classic rain boot is essentially just a rubber shell!) An insulated lining is key for adding warmth.
It’s also a good idea to examine the boot’s tongue. Try to find a model with the tongue seamed to the boot; if there’s a gap, water droplets can still sneak in.
Next, you’ll need to pay attention to the height. A short bootie might not do much for you if the snow is over your ankles. Look for a mid to high-length shaft in waterproof boots.
Will you be walking with a little one?
If you plan on walking around your local winter wonderland with a toddler, you’ll need to get them a durable pair of snow boots. Some older children can look at smaller-sized adult boots or at least follow the same principles; toddler’s shoes need to be a little simpler. Kids’ snow boots can and probably should skip tie-up laces, especially if your little one can’t tie their own shoes just yet. You don’t want to be constantly ripping off your winter gloves and exposing your fingers just to secure your child’s shoes. Luckily, there are plenty of great pull-on options for winter fun without pause.
You should also pay attention to the treads found on the bottom of the shoe, also known as lugs. While lugs are also super important when it comes to adult shoes, toddlers tend to have a hard time walking as it is. Heavy, clunky boots can sometimes emphasize the “toddle” aspect of traversing the streets. Look for a lightweight boot with a good, rubbery grip and deep treads to keep your tiny tot standing upright in the snow.
Finally, you might need to experiment a bit with the fit. Many parents recommend sizing up in snow boots; that way, your kid can easily slide their feet inside even while wearing super thick socks. The warmer, the better.
Are you looking for a winter hiking boot?
If you plan to do a lot of hiking or winter camping and there isn’t enough fresh powder to warrant the use of snowshoes, look for a boot designed with long trails in mind. While this may seem straightforward, find a boot that literally states its hiking performance, either in the name or description. If a shoe is designed for hiking, it will automatically be more lightweight than casual snow boot contemporaries. Designated hiking boots will also have better traction with thick, bouncy soles to support your feet over rugged terrain and tread patterns designed to prevent snow build-up in their crevices.
You’ll most likely want to pick a boot with a lower rise, hitting at or just above the ankle; this is especially true for hikers embarking on steep ascents. Winter boots that come up around the calves can limit movement and flexibility, leading to additional strain and lack of agility. If you’re worried about snow getting into the shoe, you can invest in additional gaiters or waterproof snow pants that tuck into your boots, creating a seal.
Once you’ve found a few hiking boot contenders, think about your priorities regarding insulation and climate. If you plan to be on the go throughout the entire hike, stopping only for brief rests, you may be able to relax on the insulation and opt for something more breathable. This is particularly true if you’ll be in temperatures that don’t usually dip below freezing. If you’ll be going on longer treks with an increase in stops, or hiking somewhere truly frigid, then there’s no harm in sticking with an insulated liner. Just know, these liners can add some weight to your step.
Do you want to keep warm but remain stylish?
Let’s be honest, winter snow boots aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing shoe on the market. By necessity, they are bulkier than most other shoes and made from materials that we wouldn’t call “sleek.” While it can certainly seem like there aren’t any options for those with a strong inclination towards fashion and creativity, don’t give up! There are several options out there; just make sure you don’t completely sacrifice function for form.
One thing you don’t want to compromise on when selecting a stylish snow boot is traction. No matter how short a walk you have, when there is snow on the ground, you want to minimize your chances of slipping and sliding. Thick rubber soles with deep grooves are generally a good sign, and no, we’re not talking about your Doc Martens. The good news is these soles don’t have to be an eyesore; you can even find a durable sole with great grip on a heeled boot if you’re really adventurous.
Aside from traction, the rest is up to you! Of course, insulation and waterproofing are essential to be a good snow boot; however, you can be a little more flexible, especially if you’re looking for something to supplement your boot collection. If you only need a boot for a short time, like brief walks from the subway to the office or grocery shopping, then you can opt for any insulation you like. If you live in a place with light snowfall that just gets a little slippery, maybe you don’t need entirely waterproof material. Keep in mind that many shoes can be treated with a waterproof spray, like Scotchguard, to create a protective layer between outside moisture and the shoes’ fabric. It’s a good idea to look up the material you plan to treat before purchasing to ensure you won’t damage the shoes’ outer shell.
Best snow boots on a budget: What you can get for under $75
You don’t need to break the bank just to find a sturdy pair of winter snow boots. Granted, you might miss out on the premium materials, longevity, and overall durability found in high-end boots, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with wet feet inside a flimsy shoe. As long as you look at the specs for the three most essential features in the best snow boots—insulation, traction, and water resistance—you’ll be safe and sound for at least one winter season, if not many more.
Q: Aren’t all snow boots waterproof?
We, of course, would like to think that any boots which boast their success in the snow are going to be waterproof. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Boots like classic Uggs or ones with a poorly constructed tongue not directly attached to the shoe’s sides are prone to leaks and water seepage. Make sure you understand what material you’re purchasing and the shoe’s overall design before stepping out into the snow.
Q: Can snow boots be washed?
Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to throw your snow boots in the washing machine. However, if they come with removable liners, you should be able to soak those in a tub of warm water with detergent. Some may even be designed to go in the wash; just make sure you follow the instructions. If possible, place the remaining snow boot shell in front of a fire or other heating apparatus to combat any odors.
Q: When should I buy snow boots?
There is never really a wrong time to buy a pair of snow boots. Of course, the newest models will hit the market in the fall to prepare for winter, but if you’re looking to score a deal, do your research and see what’s out there during summer sales. It’s always a good idea to try the boot on with a thick sock, especially if you won’t be able to return them after purchasing.
A final word on shopping for the best snow boots
Snow boots should be a staple in everyone’s winter wardrobe. They’ll keep you warm, dry, and upright no matter how much fresh powder is on the ground. Consider your environment and activity level to find the best snow boots for your needs, and get ready to enjoy all the winter season has to offer.
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