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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