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10 Best Winter Hiking Boots

10 Best Winter Hiking Boots

Winter hiking boots have evolved tremendously over the past 10 years and are now lighter weight and more comfortable than ever before. Gone are the days when you needed to choose between military surplus boots, plastic mountaineering boots, or heavy pac boots to keep your feet warm. Today’s winter boots are waterproof, breathable, and insulated to keep you warm down to -40 Fahrenheit or more. They’re also optimized for walking over ice and packed snow, and compatible with traction aids such as microspikes and snowshoes. Whether you’re climbing mountains or snowshoeing across mixed terrain, the latest generation of winter hiking boots will keep you warm and dry.

Here are our top 10 best winter hiking boot recommendations:

1. Salomon Toundra Pro CS WP

Salomon’s Toundra Pro CS WP 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. I’ve been wearing the Toundra Pro for the past few winters and think they’re a great cold weather hiking boot. The Salomon Toundras run true to size. A women’s Toundra Pro CS WP is also available.

Check for the latest prince at:
Moosejaw | Amazon | Zappos

2. KEEN Summit County

The KEEN Summit County is also rated to -40F, but it has more insulation positioned in the toe box than in the upper cuff to keep your feet warmer. 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 cap, and excellent side protection make these boots ideal for challenging terrain, while a heat-reflective foot bed covered with wool adds warmth from below.

Check for the latest prince at:
KEEN | REI | Zappos

3. Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry

Vasque’s Snowburban II UltraDry boots are beefy winter hiking boots insulated with 400 grams of Thinsulate synthetic insulation. The have leather uppers with a water proof 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 foot from sharp rocks while relieving calf stress on descents. A wool collar helps reduce odors and increases comfort for all day use.

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | Amazon | Zappos

4. Merrell Thermo Freeze

Merrell Thermo Freeze Waterproof Winter Hiking Boots
The Merrell Thermo Freeze is a mid-sized winter hiking boot with 400 grams of insulation. The height of the boot’s cuff is just 6″, so they’re much lighter weight than boots that run higher up your calf. The Thermo Freezes have a protective toe cap and heel cup, but less lateral protection than boots with heavy wraparound rands. EVA midsoles and molded nylon arch shanks deliver cushioning and stability. A generous arch provides gaiter compatibility, but the boots do not have a front gaiter ring so you’ll need to clip them to your laces. A women’s model is available.

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | Amazon | Zappos

5. The North Face Chilkat 400

The North face Chilkat 400
The Chilkat 400 is the North Face’s cold weather winter boot, rated to -40F and insulated with 400 grams of Primaloft Silver Eco insulation. 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.

Check for the latest prince at:
The North Face

6. Oboz Bridger 10″ Insulated BDry Winter Boots

Oboz Bridger 10” Insulated BDry Winter Hiking Boots
Oboz Bridger 10″ BDry Winter Boots are lined with a waterproof membrane and insulated with 400 grams of 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. 

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | Amazon | Zappos

7. KEEN Durand Polar Waterproof Winter Hiking Boot

The KEEN Durand Polar Winter Hiking Boot is narrower than the KEEN Summit County Boot listed above, with a smaller toe box and less external protection, but they just as warm, with 400 grams of insulation.  They have metal lacing hardware which is easier to use and more durable, an arch for gaiter compatibility, and more boot rocker, making it easier to walk in them. The Durands also have a TPU midsole shank and heel cushion providing underfoot protection from sharp rocks and debris. KEEN claims that they’re not compatible with third-party insoles or orthotics, but I can replace the factory insoles with green Superfeet without any issues. The sizing runs about 1/2 size small, so size up.  A women’s version is also available.

Check for the latest prince at:
KEEN | REI | Amazon

8. Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV XTM Omni-Heat Winter Boots

Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV XTM Winter Boot
Columbia makes many varieties of Bugaboots, but we think the the Plus IV XTM is the best model for winter hiking if you have really cold feet. The Plus IV has 600 grams of 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 mid sole 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.

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | Amazon | Zappos

9. La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX Mountaineering Boots

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boots
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.

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | Amazon | Zappos

10. Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX Boot

Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX Mountaineering Boot

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.

Check for the latest prince at:
REI | MoosejawAmazon

How to Select Winter Hiking Boots

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 amount of insulation in their boots, while others don’t. For example, some boots have 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation, a popular synthetic insulation, while others have 400 grams. All of the boots listed above have 400 grams of insulation or the equivalent, so they can used well below zero. This is the amount of insulation we recommend if you hike in the backcountry, where winter hikes may last far longer than anticipated.

Key Winter Boot Features

Temperature rating: While you need to take 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.

Gusseted tongue: This is just like a regular boot tongue, except the sides are closed and sewn to 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.

Lugs: 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.

Cuff:  Looks for boots with a soft cuff that closes off the gap between your leg and boot.

Gaiter ring: 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.

Methodology

How do we know what the 10 best winter hiking boots are? We survey our large readership to ask. If you’d like to participate in our surveys, be on the look up for the gear raffles we run every few weeks on SectionHiker, where we give survey participants a chance to win. Or sign up to the weekly, award-winning SectionHiker newsletter, so you never miss out on an opportunity to participate. We hate spam, so we’ll never share your email with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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33 comments

  1. Re: the metal lace hooks on the Durands being more durable. Those are the only parts of my boot, aside from the laces themselves, to break over 3 seasons of use (I’ve snapped 1 on each boot.) It’s also the only thing not covered by their warranty.

  2. Wish I could wear the Toundra Pros. I tried them on at home after ordering from REI & every step I took, the portion of the boot located above my toes folds & pinches my foot. That won’t work on long, Adirondack High Peaks trails. I’m giving serious consideration to the Columbia Canuk™ Titanium Omni-Heat™ 3D OutDry™ Ex Boot. They’re super lightweight, with OutDry Extreme waterproofing & 600 grams of insulation.

    https://www.columbia.com/mens-canuk-titanium-omni-heat-3d-outdry-ex-boot-1830431.html

    • I shy away from a 600 gram boot. It’d just be too hot for me. I’d think long and hard about what you plan to wear when it’s 20 degrees outside and not -65 below zero.

    • I had the same problem with the Toundras. I picked up a pair of the Baffin Borealis boots Philip has reviewed.

      https://sectionhiker.com/baffin-borealis-double-insulated-winter-hiking-boot/

      I only have about 10 snowy hiking miles in them (in temps from upper teens to upper 20s) but so far so good. They are a bit less warm than the Toundras but I’m not sure I’d want a warmer boot and slipping off of snow covered bog bridges into snow covered but unfrozen pools of water (more than once) verified they are waterproof.

      I haven’t seen them mentioned lately so am curious if Philip stopped using them for some reason.

      • I use them for winter backpacking but not for day hikes. It’s not really winter yet. All of the boots listed here are for day hikes because they don’t have removable liners like the Borealis.

  3. Grabbed a pair of La Sportiva Makalu mountaineering boots a few years ago when I was planning some winter hikes, also grabbed some full crampons. The boots are extremely stiff, no flex in the sole, and I have found that my homes, a couple jaunts into Carter Notch hut and up the Dome, my Asolo TPS Gore-Tex leather backpacking boots, a good merino wool sock with liner, acomodate both my katoohla spikes and revo snowshoes just fine, I think the La Sportiva are overkill. At least for me they are.

    • Personally, I prefer using a synthetic insulated boot over uninsulated leather because it’s less likely to absorb water and freeze. That can be a real issue on trips that take an unexpectedly long time because someone has an accident and you need to stick around until help comes.

      I hiked for many years in Asolo TPS 520s myself, but never in winter, for just this reason. But to each his own.

      • Good reasoning. I plan to buy one of the Keen models you list, they make good shoes, I have worn their summer shoes. The mountaineering boots I got on a low Ebay bid, never thought I’d win, so I’m not out a $350 closet squatter.. hike on Philip..

      • I also hiked in Scarpa Plastic Mountaineering boots in the Whites for many years with full steel step-in and then aluminum crampons.
        Never again. Mountaineering boots are usually overkill unless you’re climbing vertical ice (in the Whites).
        Those Keens are good boots.

      • Oops, just a quick correction, I see my La Sportiva are actually the Glacier model, not Makalu. Which could have more flex then my Glaciers, which have zero..

  4. Nice selection of warm boots… BUT which boots have REMOVABLE liners?

    “Why”, you ask, “is this important?” Well, dear reader it’s important B/C you need to be able to remove liners to keep them warm inside your sleeping bag when camping.

    Not going to camp in winter? Think winter campers are daft? OK, well wouldn’t be nice to be able to remove them for drying overnight? (Because you didn’t use VBLs like you should have.)

    The best VBLs (Vapor Barrier Liners) are 3 mm cold cell neoprene divers’ sox. I prefer US Divers brand with Right and Left foot shapes and factory sealed seams. VBLs keep sweat inside them, not in your boot’s insulation. Your feet stay warm all day. Wear ’em over thin polyester liners. Put sweaty, stanky liners in a Zip Loc freezer bag and wear a fresh pair each day.

    • As I said in a previous comment, these boots are for day hiking and don’t have removable liners. You want removable liners on overnight trips, so you can sleep with them in a sleeping bag to prevent them from freezing overnight. The fill up with your perspiration during the day and become damp…

      As you’re probably aware, it’s become increasingly difficult to find even mountaineering boots with removable liners.

      So the best way to prevent the accumulation of perspiration in boots without liners, is to cover your socks with oven roasting bags. The nice thing about this solution is that you can fit the over roasting bags into your existing boots without your having to buy ones in a larger size…to fit a 3 mm neoprene sock.

      • Philip,
        I’ve been using 3 mm closed cell neoprene foam diver’s sox for 20 years and they ALL fit in my boots. I wear a thin polyester or polypro sock liner under them and NO OTHER SOCKS. Don’t need ’em.

        These socks are not only VBLs but they are very insulating due to the closed cell nature of the material. Plus they fit well and never slide down. And they last for years.

        “Oven Bag” VBL socks are OK in a pinch but I would not trust them for extended trips.

  5. BTW,
    “KEY WINTER BOOT FEATURES” absolutely should have had a “REMOVABLE LINERS” category. I explained this above.

    And agin, B/C it’s worth repeating, VBLs keep your insulation dry so you don’t have cold feet at the end of the day when your energy is low.

  6. Great Information Phil I do a lot of snowshoeing trying to find a good boot to wear with the snowshoe I find these they are to high on the neck any ideas thanks dave

  7. This is a timely article as winter is coming fast here in Northern Ontario Canada and I need new winter boots for both hiking, snowshoeing as well as snow shovelling and snow blowing on my tractor.

    I have used Sorel Snow Lion pack boots, Sorel Conquest 400 gram insulation boots and Muck Wetland Boots the past few winters and at -25C or colder my feet get cold after an hour outdoors. It was -25C or colder for 7 day straight days here last winter.

    I’m going to buy the recommended Salomon or Columbia 600 grams of insulation boots. I had considered the Arctic Pro Muck boots as I love my Muck boots but the lace up boots will give me better support and functionality for snowshoeing and skiing with the Altai skis I am buying – http://www.altaiskis.com/

    Thanks for the article.

  8. I love the Solomon boots with the aerogel. Super light, incredibly warm even when I’ve hiked in the Whites with -20 temps. But the problem I’ve had has been reiterated through online reviews – that is the boot starts cracking /ripping where the toe box flexes. I didn’t realize they had a 2 year guarantee – otherwise I’d have asked for a replacement. What I have done is to put shoegoo on the crack and that’s generally held for a few months before I have to do it again. I hope they solve the toebox problem and this will become the perfect winter day hiking boot.

  9. Hi Phil, I am in need of some winter day hikers that I would also like to use for winter bicycle commuting and general riding in mn. The Merrell’s look good due to the mid height allowing some ankle flex and nylon shank for some stiffness. Given you are doing some riding too how do you think these would perform? Other recommendations? Thanks.

    • I think they’d be fine. I wear regular insulated boots in winter too.

      • Hi Phil, I thought I would provide a quick update in case it might be helpful for others. My foot size is just beyond medium and the merrell thermofreeze didn’t work well for me. Had to go up in length so much it felt awkward. Otherwise they seemed like a pretty good boot. I typically wear a 9.5. I ended up going with the Oboz Bridger 10” in size 10 and they fit well with medium weight merino wool sock. So far several day hikes and about 250 miles of winter cycling in temps ranging from -10 to 30F. They work really well. The stock in soles are probably the best I’ve tried and do not have a need to use my super feet insoles. Without going into more detail, Overall this boot is really great. Thanks again for your research and insight.

  10. I just grabbed a pair of Vasque Coldspark UltraDry winter hikers on Moosejaw for $100 w/ free shipping.
    All the reviews I read claimed them to be a warm and dry, comfortable out of the box, with good traction.
    I was shopping for the Keen models, but most places had them at 1 1/2 – 2 times the price of the Vasque.
    I got the link to Moosejaw from your blog site awhile ago.
    I find they have great selections and prices, with free shipping over $50.. nice..

    • Moose Jaw is very good for winter gear. Thanks.

    • Follow up on the Vasque Coldsparks I got. They do run a bit tight, I went a 1/2 size up, and they are still snug but not restricting. Thought I would maybe go a full size thinking I would not like them with a heavy weight DarnTough in there, But.. wearing them a few weeks now, on somewhat cold hiking, (less significant snow) I find I them very warm, even too warm, with just a lightweight hiking sock. I think I will go that way, lighter sock, and snug but comfy fit.. Go at least a 1/2 size up, JMO

  11. Anyone happen to know what insulation the Salomon Toundra Pro CS WP uses? I imagine the Aerogel is just to keep the cold coming in from the sole of the boot but I could be wrong. Anyone actually use the boot in cold weather? I am almost always warm but my feet get cold easily. Go figure.

  12. Hi Philip!
    Have you found that a heel kick at the back of a winter hiking boot is necessary to prevent the rear webbing strap on a pair of snowshoes from sliding off the boot? I’m asking because some of the winter boots I’m considering don’t have a heel kick in back to provide support for the snowshoe webbing strap.

    • Great question. You don’t need it. Why, because even if you do get a boot that has one, it will be covered up by a gaiter. Winter Gaiters are quite robust and the heel kick isn’t big enough to create a ledge through the fabric.

      • Thanks for the speedy reply Philip! Are the Salomon X Ultra Winter and the Salomon Toundra Pro (for especially low temps) your “go-to” winter hiking boots for day hikes, or have any of the other winter hiking boots you’ve reviewed recently taken their place (e.g. Keen Durand Polar, Oboz Bridger 10 inch bdry insulated, etc.)?

      • Both of those Salomon’s are my goto boots. I almost always wear the Toundra’s when it gets below freezing and for most of my winter hiking. The X-ultras are really just used during shoulder season. I’ve kept the Oboz Briger 10 inches as I like to wear them too because they’re comfortable for me and fairly stiff, but have given most of the other shoes I reviewed this winter so far to friends or good will.

  13. I bought the Salomon Toundra Pro CS WP based on this review and love them – thanks.

    I have worn them every day for the past 2 months for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing with my Altai Hoks and snow-blowing. They are the most comfortable and easy-to-put-on (long tongue) winter boots I have worn. So far I have worn them down to -20C without getting cold feet. The big toe-box is a good feature for me.

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