Today’s winter boots are waterproof, insulated, and compatible with traction aids such as microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes. While 200-gram Thinsulate insulated mids are fine for commuting and short local walks down to about 10-20 degrees (F), 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 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:
Oboz Bridger 10″ 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. They’re available in wide sizes. A 9″ women’s model is also available. Read our Oboz Bridger 10″ Review. These are warm boots with great traction. I’m breaking in a second pair this autumn because I liked the first pair so much.
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. The Salomon Toundras run true to size. A women’s Toundra Pro is also available. Read our Salomon Toundra Review. I wore a pair of these for a few years and think they’re great cold-weather hiking boots. I have friends who rave about them.
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. These are warm boots with a wide toe box. They have fewer technical features than the Oboz or Salomons above but are still perfectly suitable for hardcore winter hiking.
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 protect 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. The Snowburban’s are solid winter hiking boots but Vasque has had terrible supply chain issues this past year and they can be hard to find. My winter hiking partner swears by his.
Oboz’s Bridger 8″ Waterproof Insulated Boots have 200g of winter insulation. They’re quite similar to the Bridger 10″ insulated boots listed above, but only come up over the ankle instead of mid-calf. 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 quality insole for added suppport. They’re also available in wide sizes. The women’s version is called the Oboz Bridger 7″ Waterproof Insulated Boot. I own a pair of these Oboz Bridgers and use them in autumn and spring when temperatures are below freezing but there’s little snow. All Oboz boots come with very supportive insoles and not the crap insoles that other manufacturers put in theirs. I respect that.
The Columbia Bugaboot III is a winter hiking boot with 200-gram insulation, leather uppers, and a wide waterproof rand that provides superior toe and side protection. While it is styled as a pac boot, it has rockered soles that make it easy to hike in. Deep lugs provide excellent traction while a lightweight midsole provides extra support for heavy loads. They have a front gaiter hook and snowshoe ridges on the heel to help keep straps from slipping. The Bugaboot III is available in wide sizes and a women’s model is also available. They run small, so size up. These are dependable hikers good for winter hikes in milder weather. The wide rands provide superb waterproof protection in slush and snow.
The KEEN Revel IV Mid Polar Boots are waterproof and have 200g of insulation good for mild winter weather. They’re very similar to KEEN’s Revel IV High Polar boots which extend to mid-calf instead of just over the ankle. The Revel IV Mid Polar has KEEN’s large signature toe box which is particularly useful when you’re wearing a heavier sock in winter. They 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 and heel protection make these boots ideal for more challenging terrain. A thermal heat shield insole is also included for added warmth. Wide sizes and a women’s model are both available. These have the original KEEN fit, so they’re a good choice if you own other KEEN shoes and like your sizing. They’re also good boots, but getting a good fit can be tricky with winter boots unless you’re willing to try a lot of boots.
The Merrell Thermo Kiruna Mid Shell WP Boot is insulated with 200-gram insulation and comes with a fleece lining, plus a heat-reflecting insole that radiates body heat back toward the foot. The boots have a compression molded EVA midsole and a molded nylon arch shank for stability and comfort, while 5 mm lugs that provide good traction on snow and metal hooks for secure and durable lacing. A women’s version is available. These boots are extra WARM and ideal for people with cold feet.
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. Hardcore mountaineering boot that’s made with soft enough leather that you can winter hike in it too. Many of my hiking/climbing buddies swear by them.
The Scarpa Ribelle HD is a leather mountaineering boot that has a large toe box and doesn’t require a long break-in period. They’re waterproofed with HDry and insulated with 37.5 technology which is designed to keep your feet at a steady 37.5C (99.5F) of warmth regardless of the external temperature. While the Ribelle HD is a stiff boot and compatible with semi-automatic crampons, their low weight, enhanced sole rocker, and flexible uppers make them quite suitable for winter hiking with light traction and even backpacking on rocky alpine routes. A women’s model is also available. These are great boots that combine running shoe design with mountaineering boot support to make a boot that excels on approach hikes, but still has technical chops for serious alpine routes.
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.
Four 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.
Four more have 200-gram insulation which is suitable for hiking in temperatures down to 20-30F, especially in later fall or early spring when there isn’t that much snow on the ground.
The other two pairs of boots are intended for light-to-mid mountaineering, but can also be used for more serious winter hiking.
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.
Looks 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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I own the La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX Mountaineering Boots, have taken them out in ridiculously cold temps and never felt the slightest bit of cold in my feet. Amazing boots.
I have la sportiva Makalu, quiet similar to this one and I have hiked many high passes in Himalayas as well as many hiking trails in Sweden.
I have been wearing the Oboz Bridger 10″ Insulated boots this winter and they have been excellent. Wore them hiking the day after I got them with no issue. I have done 8 winter hikes with them and feet have always been warm and dry. The only negative was the D ring is very small and I could not get the hook from my gater to hook into it. I finally removed the plastic D ring and put on a bigger slit washer. Easy modification.
About 5 years ago, when planning some winter hiking and backpacking, I got a pair of La Sportiva Makalu online for $100 in a EBay bid. Lightly used, not a scratch, and bo wear on the rock hard Vibram soles, absolutely like new. I did a hike and overnight stay at Carter Notch Hut in fresh snow,, and found them to be overkill. Very stiff, probably better suited to mountaineering with crampons, rather than standard hiking. They were warm, but clunky to walk in. Next winter hike I used my Asolo TPS 520 EVO, with a gaiter, and they were just as warm, easier to walk in, good for my style of hiking. Makalus may go back on the for sale list..
You just didn’t know what you were buying. Those are hardcore mountaineering boots with full welts for step-in crampons. Total overkill for the White Mountains except maybe if you’re ice climbing or hiking a route that requires full crampons and kicking steps. Admittedly, I wore plastic mountaineering boots for many years, but that was also before the current generation of 400g single layer boots was available. Never again. But I wouldn’t use a TPS 520 for serious winter hiking in the whites. No insulation for a long day and certainly not if you’re benighted. I used to own those boots – three pairs in fact. My 2 cents.
Yes Philip, I did buy the Makalus before researching their intended use. Really nice boot for what they are made for, but not for day hikes. I bought another winter “day hiker” that I like. It’s a Vasque Coldspark. They have 200 grams of thinsulate, pretty warm, waterproof and lightweight,. I have used them for short dayhikes in snow and slush, ( with gaiters) and found them good for my needs. My Asolos are more my all around 3 season hikers, warm enough for short winter hikes, but as you said, not for extended wear in subzero long days.
Look at all the women’s versions!! Finally!!
There are very limited 400g boots available for men and women this year. Get them now if you want a pair, before they sell out.
In the Winter Day Hiking Gear List earlier this year, you had the North Face Chilkat Boots as one of the recommended options and I don’t see them on this list. Any particular reason why they didn’t make the cut? I’ve used a different North Face winter boot before that fit fine so was thinking of picking up a pair of the Chilkats this season. Thanks.
The North Face seems to have stopped making them. I’m updating my winter content now so that will be reflected soon.
Ok, thanks for reply. Cabelas has them in stock online (must be from last season) so I just bought a pair since they are so much cheaper than the other 400g boots. Hopefully they work out well.
Hey Phil – hope all is well. Do the Salomon Toundra Pro work with hybrid crampons? If not, do any of the other boots (with the exception of # 9 and 10)?
Mike – not sure what you mean by “hybrid” but they work fine with all of the hillsounds and full universal crampons that have a flex bar.
I actually ran into an issue last year with my Toundra Pros and both the Black Diamond Contact Crampons and the Camp Stalker universal crampons. The heel of the boot is too wide to fit in properly between the “uprights” (for lack of a better term) on the crampon’s heel. The Contact Crampons I bought at REI, and took them home to find they wouldn’t fit the boots at all. Brought the Toundras to REI to try the Camp Stalkers and those managed to fit the heel a bit better in-store.
The issue presented itself anew on the Lion Head winter route on Washington in early March when it was sheer ice and the ascent more resembled ice climbing a waterfall. The amount of torque involved (which was way more than you could apply in-store) kept popping the heel of the boot out of the crampons, and it was not an awesome experience. Once out of that technical section, I was able to take a Leatherman to the heels and carve out a few MM of the heel rubber to let the “uprights” slide in properly, and the rest of the hike and descent was without issue. Essential field mod totally saved the day.
Other than that, those Toundra Pros are fantastic. Super warm, very comfortable, no blisters, fully waterproof, and work a-ok with Lightning Ascent snowshoes. Looking forward to taking them winter camping up in the Whites this year.
Not automatic and not strap on
Sometimes called mixed or semi-step crampons, hybrids feature a heel lever and toe strap. They require boots with a stiff sole plus a heel groove or welt to hold the heel lever. The toe strap, however, doesn’t need a welt to fit securely. These are easy to put on with gloves since you don’t need to clean out the toe welt and line it up—you just pull on the toe strap and throw the heel lever.
no – not these shoes. You’re going to want what passes for mids, in the mountaineering boot world.
On, thanks Phil. Maybe it’ll run into you this winter!
If the weather is decent on Nov 1, I’ll meet you at thunderstorm junction at about noon. :-)
? You got it!
Hello Phillip. Any thoughts on pac boots. Something along 13 inch high/rubber/leather style? January start on the AT usage planned, Thanks for all you do.
They are simply awful to hike in. But if you need a removable liner, they’re one way to go. Personally, I’d find a mountaineering boot with a liner instead or get the Baffin Borealis.
Thumbs up for my KEEN Revel IV Highs… I’m not a boot person (ankle OR high cut) and wear my shoes with gaiters until it’s just not practical… but I needed something for really deep snow. These are wearable out of the box and keep my feet very warm. The only caveat is sizing, Keen advertises true to size but they did run a little big for me… maybe because I only wear one sock- who knows.
Very helpful article… thanks!
ONCE AGAIN: With ALL winter boots you need to wear a VBL (Vapor Barrier Lining) to keep sweat out of the insulation. Wet insulation is COLD insulation.
My best VBLs are 3 mm thick closed cell neoprene diver’s socks and the best of these are made by US DIVERS which have factory sealed seams and Left and Right shaped socks for best fit and no bunching of material at the toes.
**Wear thin synthetic liner socks, one pair PER DAY, that are changed out every night when you don your heavy wool “sleep socks”.
Today I received my Merrell size 11 boots from DSW. They didn’t have my size at Amazon. I had an old pair of Timberland boots size 10 but my feet froze in them and there was no room for thick socks. I wasn’t too sure about the color of the Merrells since Amazon said they were Olive but DSW said they were Dark Green. I was more interested in Dark Green because I have several green jackets of various warmth. It turned out that the Dark Green was a perfect match for my most used Winter jackets and I’m nothing if not a fashionista hiker. I selected these boots because you said they were good for people who have cold feet. My Raynaud’s feet thank you! I was worried about them having a gusset because I had to cut the sides of the Timberland gussets otherwise I couldn’t get my feet into them! My feet just slide into the Merrells and are very comfortable. I can’t wait to wear them. Thanks Phil! Woohoo!
Whereas, I look like a yardsale!
I’m trying to get the right size of a pair of women’s Revel IV High Polar Boot. My 3 season Keen boots are size 9 but I think I need a full size up for my 400g boots to fit liner socks, thick wool socks, and possibly thermal insoles.
Have any of you had to go a full size up for your 400g boots? Thanks for any feedback.
Those boots are so well-insulated, you probably don’t need to augment them with thick wool socks. If you don’t wear liner socks now, I wouldn’t bother wearing them in those winter boots. You do want space for your toes – they’ll stay much warmer. The only thing I do is to tape my heels with Leukotape, which is probably not entirely necessary either.