Today’s winter boots are waterproof, insulated, and compatible with traction aids such as microspikes and snowshoes. While 200 gram Thinsulate insulated mids are fine for commuting and short local walks down to about 20 degrees, we recommend buying boots with higher calf coverage and 400 gram Thinsulate insulation for all-day hikes and mountain climbs in colder temperatures. We are highly experienced winter hikers with many mountain summits and understand what it takes to stay safe and comfortable on long and challenging winter hikes.
Here are our top 10 best winter hiking boot recommendations:
The Merrell Overlook 2 Tall WP is a warm winter hiking boot rated to -40F with 400-gram insulation layered with fleece cuffs for comfort. They have waterproof wraparound rands that provide long-lasting moisture protection with full-grain leather uppers for comfort. EVA midsoles and molded nylon arch shanks deliver cushioning and stability. Snowshoe strap ridges, an arch, and a front gaiter ring help secure microspike and snowshoe bindings while providing gaiter compatibility. The sizing is unisex and no women’s specific model is available at this time. Note: the Merrell Overlook 2 Mid WP version of this boot only comes with 200-gram insulation.
The Chilkat 400 II is the North Face’s cold weather winter boot, rated to -40F and insulated with 400 gram Primaloft Silver Eco insulation. I wore these for off-trail hiking last winter and they’re very warm for cold, extended duration, hikes. They have a waterproof full-grain leather upper with a heavy-duty wrap-around rand, protective toe cap, and snowshoe compatible heel cup. A compression-molded EVA midsole provides good support, while extra hell cushioning and forefoot pads provide enhanced comfort. The lacing system has durable rust-proof metal hardware and a gaiter D-ring is provided. They run a full-size small, so size up if you plan to wear a thick sock. A women’s model is available.
Salomon’s Toundra Pro was the first winter hiking boot to incorporate ultralight Aerogel insulation developed by NASA for spaceflight. Rated to -40F, these popular winter hiking boots have a large comfortable toe box. a reinforced toe kick for added protection, and a heel cap that is compatible with microspike and snowshoe bindings. An arch in the midsole provides gaiter compatibility, while a fleece-lined tongue and upper boot provide a cushy, comfortable fit. However, some SectionHiker readers report that the toebox seam can separate. While we haven’t experienced this ourselves (through 2 pairs of these boots) it may be a quality issue in the current inventory that could affect you. We’re looking into it in greater depth because these have been really good winter hiking boots previously for many hikers.
Vasque’s Snowburban II UltraDry boots are beefy winter hiking boots insulated with 400 gram Thinsulate synthetic insulation. They have leather uppers with a waterproof lining to keep your feet dry and a slight arch for gaiter compatibility. The EVA midsole has a thermoplastic urethane shank which is lightweight but helps cushion and protects your feet from sharp rocks while relieving calf stress on descents. A wool collar helps reduce odors and increases comfort for all-day use. Read our Snowburban II Review. The women’s version of this boot is called the Vasque Pow Pow III.
KEEN’s Revel IV High Polar Boots are rated to -40F with 5 mm lugs for added traction in snow. These winter boots have KEEN’s large signature toe box and run a bit wide, so they’re good for people who have a hard time jamming their feet into narrow boots. A beefy toe kick, heel ridge, and excellent side protection make these boots ideal for challenging terrain. A thermal heat shield insole is included for added warmth. Wide sizes and a women’s model are both available.
Oboz Bridger 10″ BDry Winter Boots are lined with a waterproof membrane and insulated with 400 gram Thinsulate. The uppers are covered with synthetic leather for added protection, along with a beefy toe cap, and snowshoe compatible heel cup. An arched sole and front D ring provide gaiter compatibility, while aggressive lugs provide excellent traction on snow. The Bridgers have a PU midsole and nylon shank for added undercarriage protection and come with a wool-covered reflective insole for added warmth. A 9″ women’s model is also available. Read our Oboz Bridger 10″ Review.
7. Columbia Powderhouse Titanium Omni-Heat 3D Outdry Boot
The Columbia Powderhouse is the best boot for winter hiking if you have really cold feet. The Powderhouse has 600-gram insulation and is rated down to -65F. A wraparound waterproof rand provides good lateral protection, while a robust toe cap and heel cup work well with microspikes and other traction aids. An arched midsole and front gaiter clip ensure gaiter compatibility, while a padded tongue and collar provide all-day comfort. The extra tall cuff also helps seal in heat. The fit runs slightly wide, so these are a good option for people with larger feet. A women’s model is also available.
While most winter hikers use lightweight insulated hiking boots with microspikes for traction, there are times when a stiff-soled mountaineering boot and full mountaineering crampons are required. The La Sportiva Nepal Evo is a single skin leather mountaineering boot lined with Gore-Tex Duratherm, a lightweight and waterproof insulation layer. They have a rigid TPU last and innovative lace locks so you can get the lacing tight enough to front-point with crampons. An integrated mini gaiter helps seal the top of the boots for greater warmth and keeps out debris, while front and rear welts enable compatibility with all crampon types. Sizing is unisex.
The Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX is a waterproof mountaineering boot with an integrated gaiter like the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX, listed above. It’s insulated with Gore-Tex Comfort, another waterproof breathable liner layer. It has a sturdy PU midsole and nylon shank for rigidity and shock absorption, with front and rear lugs that provide universal crampon compatibility. The fit runs wide and has a large toe box, while all-metal lacing hardware lets you lock in a good fit for front pointing. A women’s model is also available.
The Lowa Alpine Expert GTX Mountaineering Boots have a Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable membrane and 400g PrimaLoft synthetic insulation to provide weather protection and warmth. The uppers are a mix of split leather and microfiber, while alpine Vibram outsoles provide excellent traction. Anatomic footbeds provide a comfortable fit while the insoles are aluminum-coated with a fleece cover for added warmth and comfort. They are step-in crampon compatible and can be resoled, ensuring years of use. A women’s model is also available.
Winter boots should be waterproof and insulated to keep your feet dry and warm, they should have laces, they should be comfortable so you can wear them all day, and they should be compatible with traction aids like microspikes and snowshoes. While the amount of insulation you need will vary, winter boots with non-removable synthetic insulation are the lightest weight and therefore the easiest to hike in. Boots made with synthetic materials are also lighter weight and more waterproof than leather boots.
The reason you can’t use your regular 3 season boots or shoes for winter hiking, comes down to waterproofing and insulation. Most insulated winter hiking boots are guaranteed waterproof out of the box. Many have lowers made with rubber or waterproof synthetics so you don’t have to worry about the fabric absorbing water. If you do get moisture in your boots, insulated winter boots will still keep them warm. The same can’t be said about leather hiking boots, even when treated with waterproofing creams and sprays. If your regular hiking boots absorb water in winter, they can freeze and lead to frostbite.
Some boot manufacturers provide temperature ratings for their products, but there’s no standard way for measuring the warmth of winter boots. Understand that these ratings are estimates at best and that users will have varying experiences based on their activity level, health, weight, sex, metabolism, and other factors.
Some winter boot manufacturers publish the thickness of the insulation in their boots, while others don’t. For example, some boots have 200 gram Thinsulate insulation, a popular synthetic insulation, while others use 400-gram insulation. All of the boots listed above have 400-gram insulation or the equivalent, so they can be used well below zero. This is the insulation we recommend if you hike in the backcountry, where winter hikes may last far longer than anticipated.
Key Winter Boot Features
While you need to take the manufacturer’s temperature ratings with a grain of salt, they are a good indication of the relative warmth of a boot. While it’s difficult to make warmth comparisons between boots that have different kinds of insulation, knowing the amount of insulation used in boots can help you compare the warmth of different models made by the same manufacturer.
This is just like a regular boot tongue, except the sides are closed and sewn to the side of the boots to prevent water from leaking into the boot when you step in puddles.
Reinforced toe cap
In addition to providing more protection, a beefy toe cap won’t collapse the front of the boot when worn with microspikes or crampons.
The soles of your boots should provide good traction when walking on loose or packed snow. Look for boots with a deep tread like a Vibram sole, although you’re likely to augment your boot with microspikes.
Look for boots with a soft cuff that closes off the gap between your leg and boot.
A gaiter ring is a small ring attached to the top of the boot that you can hook your gaiters onto. It’s not the end of the world if your boots don’t have one since can still hook the gaiter to your boot laces.
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