Winter boots are a timeless and charming piece of gear. From classic Sorels to light and modern designs, they aim to keep your feet protected and warm from wet snow and frigid temperatures. Whether you live in a cold and snowy climate, like to hit the trail in the winter, or want to keep your feet warm après ski, it's likely you'll need a winter boot. Below we break down the best winter boots for the 2021-2022 season, including our favorite options for everyday use, hiking, and extreme cold. For background information, check out our comparison table and buying advice.
Our Team's Winter Boot Picks
- Best Overall Winter Boot: Merrell Thermo Overlook 2 Mid
- Best Budget Winter Boot: Kamik NationPlus
- Best Everyday Winter Boot: Sorel Caribou
- Best Boot for Winter Hiking: Merrell Thermo Chill
- Best Insulated Chelsea Boot for Casual Use: KEEN Anchorage III
- Best Winter Boot for Outdoor Work: Muck Boot Arctic Ice
- Warmest Winter Boot for Extreme Cold: Baffin Impact
Category: Casual/winter hiking
Insulation: 200g M Select
Shaft height: 6.5 in.
What we like: A good-looking and protective all-rounder.
What we don’t: Low shaft height and too stiff and bulky for particularly long hikes.
Many winter boots are specialized for warmth, mobility, or even style, but the Merrell Thermo Overlook 2 is a true all-rounder. This full-grain leather design features a generous rubber rand, waterproof membrane for sealing out moisture, and Vibram’s Arctic Grip sole for advanced traction in cold conditions and on slippery ground. In terms of insulation, you get 200-gram M Select, which offers good overall warmth without too much bulk, along with a cozy fleece lining for added comfort. Finally, the Thermo Overlook tacks on some nice performance features, including D-ring gaiter attachments and strap ridges to keep your snowshoes or winter traction devices in place. It all adds up to a well-balanced design that’s equally at home shoveling the driveway as it is hiking on slick trails.
But as with any jack-of-all-trades design, the Thermo Overlook does have its fair share of tradeoffs. The relatively low shaft height means you’ll need gaiters in moderately deep snow, and the boot’s lightweight insulation isn’t enough for particularly frigid temperatures (we found it to work well in temperatures ranging from the mid teens to low 30s Fahrenheit). Further, with so much rubber around the top of the foot, you don’t get as much mobility for hiking as you might with a boot like the Thermo Chill below. But for around-town wear and light winter walks in less-than-extreme conditions, the Thermo Overlook offers a hard-to-beat combination of style, durability, and performance, earning it our top spot for this season.
See the Men's Merrell Thermo Overlook 2 Mid See the Women's Merrell Thermo Aurora 2 Mid
Best Budget Winter Boot
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate (inside removable liner)
Shaft height: 10 in.
What we like: Reasonably warm and comfortable at a great price.
What we don’t: Loose fit and some cheaper materials.
Kamik’s NationPlus doesn’t stand out in any particular category, but it checks all the right boxes for a quality budget option. The boot has a traditional construction with a burly leather upper and thick rubber providing waterproof protection for the feet and toes. Insulation comes from the removable liner, which includes 200-gram foam-like Thinsulate, and the tall cut does a good job protecting your feet and lower calves. Pair them with some thick socks, and the NationPlus will keep you comfortable while walking or shoveling snow in temperatures well below freezing.
What do you give up at the NationPlus’s value price? The materials aren’t up to the standards you’ll find on more expensive models, and we’ve experienced occasional long-term durability issues with Kamik boots. Further, the removable liner gives the NationPlus a loose feel that you can’t cinch down as snugly as the Merrell Thermo Outlook above or Thermo Chill below. That said, this isn’t a deal-breaker for everyday tasks and short walks, and the $80 price tag is hard to beat if you plan to stick to casual wear or performing outdoor chores. And take note: the NationPlus only is made in a men’s version, but Kamik’s women’s-specific Momentum offers a similar balance of warmth, build quality, and value.
See the Men's Kamik NationPlus See the Women's Kamik Momentum 2
Best Everyday Winter Boot
Insulation: 9mm felt
Shaft height: 9.25 in.
What we like: Timeless looks and cozy interior.
What we don’t: They are still classically heavy.
It doesn’t get much more classic than this. The Caribou from Sorel seemingly has been around forever, and we love the mix of comfort, style, and performance. First off, this is a very warm boot with a 9-millimeter felt liner, cozy Sherpa pile cuff, stout leather upper, and wraparound rubber lower that provides a nice boost of assurance when walking through slushy puddles. Most manufacturers nowadays turn to synthetic insulation to reduce bulk, but the Caribou’s throwback felt interior is decently warm and adds soft cushioning around your feet. The liner is also removable, which is a nice feature to expedite the drying process should the boot get wet in deep snow.
The Caribou is an undisputed classic for all-around winter use, and the tall, 9.25-inch shaft offers a lot more protection than a mid-height design like the Thermo Overlook (6.5 in.) above. But where the Sorel falls short is for walking long distances: the heavy build will feel much more cumbersome than a lighter and sleeker design like the Merrell offerings, and some might even find it to be too much boot for around-town errands like driving and quick trips to the grocery store. Finally, at $170, it’ll cost you over twice as much as the Kamik NationPlus, although you get what you pay for with Sorel’s attention to quality. All gripes aside, the Caribou (which also comes in a wool-lined version for $190) is a versatile pick for everything from outdoor chores to après ski, and it’s hard to argue with its iconic and timeless style... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Sorel Caribou See the Women's Sorel Caribou
Best Boot for Winter Hiking
Category: Winter hiking/casual
Insulation: 200g M Select WARM
Shaft height: 6 in.
What we like: Light, reasonably nimble, and not overly insulated for active use.
What we don’t: Not the most performance-oriented winter hiker (but plenty of availability).
Merrell specializes in hiking footwear, so it should come as no surprise that their Thermo Chill is one of our favorite boots for winter hiking. The Thermo Chill takes a fairly standard hiking boot design and gives it a cold-weather treatment, with a taller-than-average shaft height (for a hiking design, that is), sturdy leather upper and waterproof lining, and proprietary 200-gram fill that kept us comfortable while hiking in temps ranging from the mid-teens to low 30s Fahrenheit. The roomy toe box pairs well with heavyweight socks (something a surprising number of boots don’t allow), and the boot has a decently light and nimble feel. All told, the Merrell Thermo Chill is a solid pick for long winter walks, hikes, and snowshoeing.
We love the Thermo Chill’s low profile for hiking, but it’s a sizable tradeoff in particularly snowy or cold conditions. The 200-gram insulation nicely balances warmth and ventilation when on the move but will leave you cold on frigid days and while doing low-output activities. Additionally, the low 6-inch shaft height means you’ll need gaiters in moderately deep snow. And it's worth noting that there are more performance-ready options on the market, including Salomon's X Ultra Mid Winter CS and Oboz's Bridger Insulated, although availability has been limited throughout the season thus far. Nevertheless, the Thermo Chill is an excellent performer on the trail and holds its own for around-town use too—and it doesn’t hurt that it’s competitively priced at just $110.
See the Men's Merrell Thermo Chill See the Women's Merrell Thermo Chill
Best Insulated Chelsea Boot for Casual Use
Insulation: 200g KEEN.WARM
What we like: Winter warmth in a stylish and sleek design that can be worn indoors too.
What we don’t: Not our first choice for dedicated outdoor use.
Chelsea boots have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, and insulated varieties provide a nice way to stay stylish in winter conditions. Among the options, the Anchorage III is our favorite design, combining great looks and KEEN's typical attention to detail in an affordably priced package. Performance-wise, you get a really solid KEEN.Freeze rubber outsole—built specifically for traction in cold and slippery conditions—along with a waterproof lining and 200-gram insulation that offers moderate warmth without too much heft. In terms of style, the clean, full-grain leather upper and classic Chelsea-boot stretch panel pair well with everything from jeans to chinos. All in all, it's a great day-in and day-out option that looks the part from the morning commute to wearing around the office and to post-work drinks or errands.
The KEEN Anchorage is a great one-quiver boot when you anticipate spending a lot of time indoors, but it’s not our first choice for dedicated outdoor use. The pull-on style doesn’t form much of a seal at the ankle, and with only a small rubber patch on the toe, you don’t get the same level of water protection as with pac boots like the Caribou above. Compared to the Blundstone Thermal below (another popular insulated Chelsea boot), the $75-cheaper Anchorage offers a lot more bang for your buck, but a final decision will likely come down to which style you prefer. Finally, Keep in mind that the KEEN runs quite large (it’s sized for wearing with heavyweight socks), so be sure to take that into account before making your purchase.
See the Men's KEEN Anchorage III See the Women's KEEN Greta Chelsea
Best Winter Boot for Outdoor Work
Insulation: 8mm neoprene, fleece lining
Shaft height: 16.1 in.
What we like: Fantastic foot protection, traction, and warmth.
What we don’t: Heavy and hard to take on and off.
Insulated rubber boots are a popular choice for working outside and walking through brush while hunting due to their fantastic protection from water, ice, and mud. The Muck Boot brand is a standout in this category, and one of their proven best sellers is the Arctic Ice. This boot features a durable rubber exterior, thick and flexible neoprene bootie, and soft-touch fleece lining that does a great job maximizing comfort and warmth. And like Merrell’s Thermo Overlook above, the “Ice” version here tacks on Vibram’s premium Arctic Grip outsole, which was specifically designed to provide traction on ice.
Mucks Boot and Bogs are long-time rivals in the insulated boot market. The Bogs Classic Insulated below excels for casual wear and is more affordable, but in rough weather and conditions, we give the edge to the Arctic Ice. It has a tougher construction, a taller and warmer neoprene bootie, and better all-around traction. A final alternative to consider in this category is LaCrosse Footwear’s Alpha Thermal ($170), which has a sturdy build like the Arctic Ice but is easier to get on and off with an adjustable cinch at the back of the calf.
See the Men's Muck Boot Arctic Ice See the Women's Muck Boot Arctic Ice
Warmest Winter Boot for Extreme Cold
Insulation: 8-layer lining
Shaft height: 15 in.
What we like: Truly ready for -50-degree temperatures.
What we don’t: Not night-out-on-the-ski-town compatible.
The Baffin Impact is an exercise in excess, but if you’ll be outside in sub-zero temperatures for extended periods of time—think ice fishing or outdoor work in places like the Upper Midwest, Montana, or Alaska—it’s in a class of its own. The boot is insulated with an eight-layer system of foam and polyester, which is encased in a burly nylon and rubber shell. Winter boots are notorious for having ambitious temperature ratings (usually -25°F to -40°F), but the Impact is rated to -148°F. We haven't tested that claim (and don't plan to), but users have reported being comfortable in the Impact in temperatures reaching as low as -50°F. As cold-weather boots go, this is about as good as it gets.
The downside of so much warmth is that it doesn’t handle mild winter conditions well and isn’t breathable. The boot also weighs over 7 pounds for the pair and is pretty bulky and ungainly, so it’s not intended for covering much ground. But for areas of the country where the temperatures consistently dip well below zero, we heartily recommend protecting yourself with the Baffin Impact. For a cheaper but slightly shorter option for extreme cold, take a look at Sorel’s Glacier XT. We’ve worn the Sorel for weeks at a time in Oregon’s Cascade mountains and found it to be reliably durable and warm in temperatures down to around 0˚F.
See the Men's Baffin Impact See the Women's Baffin Impact
Best of the Rest
Insulation: Shearling & 200g PrimaLoft
Shaft height: 6.5 in.
What we like: Premium warmth and a nice mix of casual and performance features.
What we don’t: Pricey and can be tough to nail the fit.
Many boots on this list trend toward the casual or performance sides of the spectrum, but L.L. Bean hits a nice combination of the two with their Bean Boot collection. This lineup is legendary and runs the gamut from standard, uninsulated options to flannel-lined and Gore-Tex-equipped variations, but we like the 8-inch Shearling-Lined version best. On the bottom, you get a waterproof rubber construction for protection from snow and other moisture. On the top, the leather upper is both comfortable and gives the boot a polished look. Throw in a quality build that includes premium shearling along the sides and tongue and 200-gram PrimaLoft underfoot, and you get a luxurious-feeling winter boot that can still hold its own on the trail.
The aforementioned shearling lining makes this one of the priciest options in L.L. Bean’s lineup, but we’ve found it to be supremely comfortable and plush. Surprisingly, our feet have not overheated even on moderate winter days—we’ve hiked in temperatures up to 40 degrees and worked up a sweat shoveling our driveway without issue—and the boots took almost no time at all to break in. It’s worth noting that most of the Bean Boot collection runs notably large, and L.L. Bean recommends going down a full size if you plan to wear lightweight or midweight socks (we did just that, and the fit is perfect). For a similar design at around half the cost, Sperry’s Avenue Duck Boot is an intriguing alternative but comes with notable tradeoffs in overall quality and performance.
See the Men's L.L. Bean 8" Shearling See the Women's L.L. Bean 8" Shearling
Insulation: 400g synthetic
Shaft height: 7 in.
What we like: A lot of warmth with minimal bulk.
What we don’t: Too heavy for hiking; middling protection in deep snow.
Columbia’s Bugaboot has long been a staple in the winter boot category, and the new Celsius Plus packs a true cold-weather punch. Most notably, the 400-gram insulation offers twice as much warmth as much of the competition, and Columbia's Omni-Heat Infinity reflective lining helps trap additional heat. The rest of the boot is nicely styled for the rigors of wintertime use, with a leather/synthetic upper, waterproof membrane, and sturdy outsole designed to grip on cold and slippery ground. From slushy hikes to running errands in the snow, the Bugaboot is fully equipped to tackle most winter conditions with ease.
What are the downsides of the Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus? Given its highly insulated design, this boot wouldn't be our first choice for mild conditions or sustained indoor use. And while Columbia does add a midfoot strap for locking in a good fit, the Celsius Plus is too stiff and heavy to serve as a dedicated hiker (for reference, the Merrell Thermo Chill above is around 8 oz. lighter per pair). Finally, while the mid-height shaft offers a bit more protection than boots like the aforementioned Merrell, we’d prefer a taller cut in deep snow. But for a capable all-rounder that will keep your toes warm without weighing you down too much, we really like the newest Bugaboot.
See the Men's Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus See the Women's Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus
10. UGG Butte ($225)
Insulation: 8 & 17mm wool
Shaft height: 8.5 in.
What we like: Premium materials, versatile cuff design, and a great one-quiver boot.
What we don’t: Expensive.
UGG might not be the first brand that comes to mind when selecting a sturdy winter boot, but their Butte is a fantastic everyday design that goes head-to-head with the Sorel Caribou above. You get great protection from rain, slush, and snow with a premium leather and suede upper backed by a waterproof membrane, and the natural wool liner is plush, warm, and even insulates well when wet. It’s not often that we see wool used in a serious winter boot, but the Butte’s design lends a great deal of versatility: When the cuff is rolled down, you get a casual boot that’s at home with a pair of jeans. Leave it fully extended, and the reasonably tall Butte is a traditional leather model with no-frills warmth and functionality.
Keep in mind that temperature ratings can be misleading: UGG gives the Butte a -25˚F minimum, but don’t go racing to the Arctic in this boot. In our testing, it held up in snow, puddles, and cold temperatures as low as 15˚F. And while the Caribou above wins out in terms of protection with a taller 9.25-inch build and more rubber in the upper, the more streamlined UGG allows greater freedom of movement for activities like shoveling the driveway or walking the dog. You’ll spend up for the premium materials, and the Butte is still $35 more than the wool-lined Caribou ($190), but it's nevertheless a warm and stylish option that’s at home both in town and in the mountains.
See the Men's UGG Butte See the Women's UGG Adirondack III
Category: Winter hiking
Insulation: 200g Thinsulate
What we like: Premium materials in a time-tested design.
What we don’t: Heavier and more expensive than the Thermo Chill above.
The Vasque Breeze WT GTX takes one of our favorite lightweight hiking boots—the popular Breeze LT—and gives it a thorough upgrade for cold-weather use. To increase the boot’s protection from snow, the WT is a few inches taller and features 200-gram 3M Thinsulate insulation, along with a partial-leather upper. You also get generous rubber overlays, which offer great durability in areas where your snowshoes or winter traction devices might cause wear and tear. We were happy to see that Vasque retained most of the flagship Breeze's light and nimble feel, and the lacing system does a great job providing a secure fit.
Compared to the Merrell Thermo Chill above (2 lbs. 8 oz.), the Breeze adds considerable weight at 2 pounds 14 ounces for the pair and is almost double the cost at $200. But you do get a sizable step up in performance: while the Merrell uses in-house materials for waterproofing, insulation, and the outsole, the Vasque features a premium Gore-Tex waterproof membrane along with 200-gram 3M Thinsulate and a Vibram Megagrip sole. Most winter hikers will find the Thermo Chill to be completely serviceable, but if you're serious about mileage or anticipate strapping on snowshoes, crampons, or winter traction devices, the Breeze WT GTX is a more capable all-around choice.
See the Men's Vasque Breeze WT GTX See the Women's Vasque Breeze WT GTX
Insulation: 400g PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Eco
Shaft height: 7.75 in.
What we like: Excellent weatherproofing and comfort at a good price.
What we don’t: Not as warm as some other options on this list; a bit bulky.
For those looking for a versatile winter boot at a good price, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by The North Face Chilkat. The popular 400 model shares a lot in common with the Columbia Bugaboot above: 400-gram synthetic insulation, solid weatherproofing with a large swath of rubber around the bottom half of the boot, and a noticeably comfortable interior that molds nicely around your foot (the cushy footbed feels a lot like memory foam). For a reasonable $149, these boots should have you covered for everything from daily wear around town to snowshoeing and other light outdoor use.
The 400 here is a very capable design for deep winter (and Primaloft’s insulation is known for being top-notch), but the Chilkat also comes in a more streamlined “IV” model. Compared to the 400, the Chilkat IV features 200-gram Heatseeker insulation (TNF’s proprietary blend), drops about 1.5 inches off the height, and retails for $115. We’d recommend sticking with the 400 if you plan on standing still for long periods of time in frigid weather, but the IV is better suited for mild conditions and active days out. It’s worth noting that both Chikat models do feel a little large and burly on the foot compared to more streamlined boots (the 400 clocks in at 3 lbs. 6.4 oz. compared to the Thermo Chill’s 2 lbs. 8 oz.), but the benefit is more protection and warmth.
See the Men's The North Face Chilkat 400 II See the Women's The North Face Chilkat 400
Insulation: Thermal Thinsulate
Shaft height: 4.5 in.
What we like: Classy looks and premium build quality.
What we don’t: Very pricey and decidedly casual.
The KEEN Anchorage is our favorite insulated Chelsea boot of the year, but it doesn’t get more iconic than Blundstone. The Thermal Chelsea Boots listed here reflect the brand’s typical attention to detail and classic styling in a winter-friendly build. Everything about the Thermal Chelsea exudes quality, from the Thinsulate-lined leather upper to the removable sheepskin footbed, durable TPU outsole, and sleek elastic pull tabs at the front and back for easy on and off. The Blundstone falls decidedly toward the casual end of the spectrum, but the polished looks and top-notch craftsmanship make it an excellent choice for chilly commutes, around-town wear, and even indoor work environments.
In addition to their lack of versatility for outdoor pursuits like hiking and snowshoeing, the Blundstone Thermal Chelsea Boots are steeply priced at $230. For $60 less, the Sorel Caribou above is a more functional choice for a variety of winter environments, while the similarly styled Anchorage will save you a considerable $65 and tacks on a slightly more durable and protective build. On the flip side, Blundstone’s elegant and refined construction puts the Thermal Chelsea head and shoulders above the competition in terms of style, and these boots pair well with nearly any outfit.
See the Men's Blundstone Thermal Chelsea See the Women's Blundstone Thermal Chelsea
Insulation: 7mm Neo-Tech
Shaft height: 15 in.
What we like: Simple, warm, and surprisingly good-looking.
What we don’t: Less of a backcountry boot; very heavy.
Bogs' Classic High Insulated takes the signature look of a rain boot and adds a healthy dollop of warmth and protection. A thick 7-millimeter neoprene construction puts this boot on par warmth-wise with the Sorel Caribou, but it does fall a little short of the Muck Boots above. The Bogs’ low profile makes them well-suited for daily wear—as does the flexible neoprene upper material—and it’s a classic choice for running to and from classes in cold places like the Midwest. Predictably, it’s also extremely waterproof and holds up very well in slushy conditions.
Keep in mind that the Bogs Classic High Insulated is best for use around town or for work, as the boot is extremely heavy at 5 pounds 3.8 ounces per pair and lacks the precise fit we look for in a hiking option. Moreover, its traction and warmth falls short of the Muck Boots Arctic Ice. But the Bogs is a good value at $130 and hits a nice middle ground for everyday and occasional rough use.
See the Men's Bogs Classic High Insulated See the Women's Bogs Classic High Insulated
Category: Winter hiking
Insulation: 200g KEEN.WARM
What we like: Sturdy build with a winter-ready tread design.
What we don’t: Pricier than the Merrell Thermo Chill above.
Now in its fourth generation, KEEN’s Revel sits atop the brand’s winter boot collection in both price and protection. Available in both Mid and Tall versions (the latter of which has very limited stock at the time of publishing), you get decent weather protection with a burly leather upper and waterproof lining. For warmth, the Revel IV Polar features KEEN’s in-house 200-gram insulation, which uses recycled plastics and has a competitive rating of -25°F (again, we only use these numbers for comparing models and not as a true indication of insulating abilities). Added up, the Revel is well-equipped for anything from winter work to covering ground on a cold-weather hunting trip.
How does the Revel compare to a boot like the Merrell Thermo Chill above? There isn’t much that differentiates the two in terms of warmth, and both feature durable leather constructions that should stand the test of time. We like that the KEEN’s outsole is specifically designed for slippery and icy conditions, and its generous toe cap and burlier construction make it a more capable pick for outdoor work. On the other hand, the Merrell’s build is significantly lighter and more nimble for covering miles on the trail, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a full $70 less. And as we mentioned in the Anchorage write-up above, KEEN’s winter boots do have a tendency to run large, so you might need to size down.
See the Men's KEEN Revel IV Polar See the Women's KEEN Revel IV Polar
Insulation: 200g synthetic
What we like: Light, flexible, and good-looking.
What we don’t: Thin construction impacts protection and durability.
Columbia’s Bugaboot above excels in cold conditions, but for casual around-town use, their Fairbanks Boot makes a lot of sense. Looking a lot like a pair of sneakers, the Fairbanks is stylish, surprisingly flexible, and extremely light at under 2 pounds for the pair. For the cold and wet, Columbia inserted a waterproofing bootie and the one-two insinuating punch of 200-gram synthetic and reflective Omni-Heat lining. Made in a wide range of colorways and priced right at $130, the Fairbanks is well-suited for quick jaunts in and out of the city.
Understandably, there were some performance sacrifices made in the Fairbanks’ construction. To start, by utilizing a lightweight textile along the majority of the upper, the boot lacks the extra insulation and protection that you get from a standard rubber design. Further, the thin build has us concerned about long-term durability, especially for those that need to wear their boots a lot during the winter months. But if you’re wanting something light and comfortable that is also reasonably warm and protective, the Fairbanks deserves a look.
See the Men's Columbia Fairbanks
Insulation: 200g synthetic
Shaft height: 7 in.
What we like: A more mobile and versatile version of the Sorel Caribou above.
What we don’t: Middling waterproofing and not ideal for hiking.
The Caribou above is a classic do-all choice for deep winter use, but Sorel tones it down a few notches with their stylish Buxton Lace. Combining a 7-inch shaft with a low-bulk design, the Buxton is a sleek winter boot that still packs a fairly decent punch in terms of protection. In fact, you get many features of the aforementioned Caribou, including a suede upper, generous rubber shell that wraps around the foot, and 200-gram synthetic insulation throughout. It all adds up to a nicely streamlined yet functional design that is equally at home paired with jeans as it is with your snow pants for après activities.
That said, we have some hesitations in recommending the Buxton Lace for true performance use. Most boots here keep moisture at bay by way of a waterproof membrane, but the Buxton settles for a leather upper with sealed seams. While leather is naturally water-resistant, you’ll want to be sure to regularly apply a conditioner to keep your feet dry. In addition, the Buxton lacks the support and snug fit of a true hiking design and is not our first choice for covering a lot of ground. But for a good-looking casual boot that offers a step up in performance from designs like the Columbia Fairbanks or UGG Butte, it’s a nice value at $120 (and Sorel also makes the Buxton in a Pull On version).
See the Men's Sorel Buxton Lace
Insulation: 9mm wool liner
Shaft height: 11 in.
What we like: Extremely warm and comfortable.
What we don’t: Lacks stability and traction for winter hiking.
Hiking and pac boots dominate the footwear options for winter, but there’s a time and place for traditional mukluks. These soft-sided boots offer fantastic insulation and comfort at a surprisingly low weight. One of the most respected designs in this category is the Yukon from Steger Mukluks. Handmade in Ely, Minnesota, the boot features a thick 9-millimeter wool liner, moosehide and Cordura nylon upper, and an impressive range of available sizes and widths. The look may be polarizing, but the Yukon provides Antarctic levels of warmth at about 3 pounds for a pair.
What are the downsides of the Yukon? First off, the boot isn’t as stable or grippy on ice and snow as the more hiking-inspired designs above. The flexible construction and single strap that cinches around the ankle just can’t provide as secure of a fit as a typical lacing system. In addition, the Yukon is not waterproof and requires a treatment to keep moisture from absorbing into the leather. But in frigid conditions, nothing out there can deliver this much warmth at such a low weight.
See the Men's Steger Mukluks Yukon See the Women's Steger Mukluks Yukon
|Merrell Thermo Overlook 2 Mid||$160||Casual/winter hiking||6.5 in.||200g synthetic||2 lb. 9 oz.|
|Kamik NationPlus||$80||Casual/work||10 in.||200g synthetic||3 lb. 9.6 oz.|
|Sorel Caribou||$170||Casual/work||9.25 in.||9mm felt||4 lb. 10 oz.|
|Merrell Thermo Chill||$110||Winter hiking/casual||6 in.||200g synthetic||2 lb. 8 oz.|
|KEEN Anchorage III||$165||Casual||Unavail.||200g synthetic||2 lb. 1.2 oz.|
|Muck Boot Arctic Ice||$190||Work||16.1 in.||8mm neoprene||4 lb.|
|Baffin Impact||$250||Work||15 in.||8-layer lining||7 lb. 6.7 oz.|
|L.L. Bean Boots 8” Shearling||$229||Casual||6.5 in.||200g synthetic||Unavailable|
|Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus||$150||Casual/work||7 in.||400g synthetic||2 lb. 15.6 oz.|
|UGG Butte||$225||Casual||8.5 in.||8 & 17mm wool||2 lb. 10 oz.|
|Vasque Breeze WT GTX||$200||Winter hiking||Unavail.||200g Thinsulate||2 lb. 14 oz.|
|The North Face Chilkat 400 II||$149||Casual/work||7.75 in.||400g synthetic||3 lb. 6.4 oz.|
|Blundstone Thermal Chelsea||$230||Casual||4.5 in.||Thinsulate||Unavailable|
|Bogs Classic High Insulated||$130||Work||15 in.||7mm Neo-Tech||5 lb. 3.8 oz.|
|KEEN Revel IV Polar||$180||Winter hiking||Unavail.||200g synthetic||3 lb.|
|Columbia Fairbanks||$130||Casual||Unavail.||200g synthetic||1 lb. 15.4 oz.|
|Sorel Buxton Lace||$120||Casual/work||7 in.||200g synthetic||4 lb.|
|Steger Mukluks Yukon||$200||Work||11 in.||9mm wool lining||3 lb.|
- Winter Boot Categories
- Warmth and Temperature Ratings
- Insulation Types
- Boot Height
- Removable Liners vs. One-Piece Boots
- Boot Outsoles and Grip
- Your Socks Matter
- Fit and Sizing
- Boot Care and Treatment
- Traction Systems for Winter Boots
- Using Regular Waterproof Hiking Boots in Winter
- Women's-Specific Winter Boots
Casual or everyday winter boots are not the absolute warmest or best at resisting the elements, but they offer plenty of both for most winter walking and après-ski activities. The constructions of casual boots tend to have less rubber and more leather and suede, although some models, including the Sorel Caribou, do a great job at incorporating both. Other commonalities include a moderate level of insulation and well-cushioned interiors that will keep most people warm and comfortable while shoveling or on short jaunts out of the house. Insulated Chelsea boots (like the KEEN Anchorage III) also fit into this category—while we don’t recommend these for sustained outdoor use in the snow, they’re perfect for commuting and transition well to indoor environments. Some of our favorite casual boots include the Merrell Thermo Overlook 2 Mid, Sorel Caribou, budget-friendly Kamik NationPlus, and L.L. Bean’s classic duck boots.
Winter Hiking Boots
Looking a lot like beefed-up hiking boots—because they are—winter hikers are a great choice for snowshoeing and other hiking adventures in the cold. These models typically have a lower ankle height and less insulation than other boot types, which allow them to breathe reasonably well when you’re working up a sweat. Further, their more flexible and nimbler designs make it easier to cover serious ground. Traction is another important feature, and it’s here that you’ll see some of the more advanced tread designs with rubber that grips well even on frigid and icy ground. Leading models in this category include the Merrell Thermo Chill, Vasque Breeze WT GTX, and KEEN Revel IV Polar, although it’s worth noting that many of our favorite designs are out of stock at the time of publishing, including the Salomon X Ultra Winter CS 2, Oboz Bridger Insulated, and KEEN Targhee High Lace.
Work/Extreme Cold Winter Boots
Made for the depths of winter and the coldest parts of the world, these boots are big, bulky, warm, and tough. They also take the function over fashion approach with heavy applications of rubber, nylon, and/or thick leather that perform best in frigid temperatures and deep snow. Keep in mind the heavy construction does add weight and bulk and you won’t want to cover major distances with 5+ pound boots like the Baffin Impact. They’re also often too stiff to safely use while driving. Instead, what you get is a super high level of warmth that is great for low-output activities in subzero temperatures.
Some, but not all, brands will include a comfort or temperature rating for their winter boots. And they’re often very impressive numbers, claiming a rating of -25°F or lower. Right off the bat, let’s be clear: there is not a standardized test to rely on for measuring a temperature rating. As such, comfort ranges are not a guarantee that you’ll be warm at the listed temperatures. In fact, we can almost guarantee you will not be—particularly if you’re standing still. As we all know, how well a boot keeps you warm is dependent on a number of individual factors, including age, level of activity, the thickness of your socks, and whether or not you run hot or cold. We recommend using the comfort ranges as basic guidance but stay very conservative with your real-world use.
The most common insulators nowadays are synthetics stuffed between the inner lining and outer shell of the boot. Primaloft and Thinsulate by 3M are popular insulations that have a strong presence in the jacket, glove, and ski boot world, and have equal standing with winter boots. They’re non-bulky and lightweight and continue to insulate even when wet. Proprietary synthetic insulations for The North Face (Heatseeker) and Columbia (Omni-Heat), among others, offer comparable performance to the name brands. For an indicator of warmth, check for the number of grams being used in the boot (measured by weighing a 1 meter by 1 meter section). Light to midweight boots will have 200- to 400-gram fill, while heavy-duty cold-weather boots will have significantly more.
Felt, Sheepskin, and Wool Linings
Some boots eschew modern technology and opt for warmth through a thick lining of felt, sheepskin, or wool, including the classic Sorel Caribou and UGG Butte. While bulky, these insulation types surely can be effective. Unlike synthetic insulation that is encased by the boot, felt, sheepskin, and wool linings can get wet if exposed to the elements, but they will continue to insulate. And the nice part is that many of these linings are removable (these types of boots are often referred to as "pac boots"), so you can set them by the fire to dry in between runs on the sled hill.
Down-insulated boots are not commonplace, and for times when you will be in direct contact with the snow (which can be often in winter), they are not the most secure option. This is because unlike synthetic fills and natural materials like felt, sheepskin, and wool, down loses its ability to insulate when wet. As such, we recommend steering clear unless you’re in the market for a very casual around-town boot or basecamp shoe that is for use exclusively inside your tent (such as the Outdoor Research Tundra). And it’s hard to knock the utility of a good down bootie for indoor use, but in most cases, these are not meant to be taken outdoors.
Winter boots have a fairly wide range of heights from just over the ankles to just below the knees. In general, their various heights fall in line with our categories (to see the specific heights for each model, which is measured from the footbed to the top of the boot, see our comparison table above). At the low end of the spectrum are hiking models and casual Chelsea boots, which measure roughly 5 to 7 inches in height. This makes them lighter and more flexible, but they are more prone to having snow come in over the top of the boot if you’re post-holing in the deep stuff. The good news is that a pair of waterproof gaiters can help resolve this issue (more on gaiters below).
Work boots and full-on extreme weather models sit higher on the leg, including the 15-inch Baffin Impact and Bogs Classic Insulated. It’s worth noting that the extra height does inhibit range of motion, and muck-style boots can be a real struggle to remove at the end of the day. Finally, boots in the casual category fall somewhere in the middle, with a number of options in the 6 to 10-inch range.
As with boot height, the weight of winter boots varies significantly. Unsurprisingly, the heaviest designs are meant for the worst conditions. Work-ready builds from Muck Boots and Bogs can reach over 5 pounds per pair, and the same is true for a burly boot meant for extreme conditions like the Baffin Impact. On the other end of the spectrum is the Merrell Thermo Chill, which weighs about the same as a standard hiking model at just 2 pounds 8 ounces. For the most part, weight goes up as the level of insulation and coverage increases. One notable exception is the Steger Mukluks Yukon, which tips the scales at a very impressive 3 pounds for the pair yet delivers Iditarod-worthy levels of warmth. It does, however, compromise elsewhere—the mukluks aren’t particularly stable or grippy when hiking over difficult terrain.
Traditional winter boots like the Sorel Caribou and Kamik NationPlus are two-piece designs with outer shells protecting insulated, removable liners. The advantages of this construction are that the boots are extremely tough: the rubber and leather exterior materials are very durable and waterproof, and they do a great job isolating you from the cold. Further, the removable liners are cushioned and soft, providing more comfort than a typical one-piece design. But perhaps the most significant feature of a removable liner is their ability to dry out more quickly when wet, a feature that’s especially vital for expedition use. These types of boots can feel a bit sloppy and ungainly when you’re covering long distances, but for short walks, outdoor work, and harsh conditions, a boot with a removable liner is a nice choice.
For active use like hiking or snowshoeing, or if you want to keep weight and bulk to a minimum, it’s better to go with a one-piece boot. These models often resemble a hiking design and offer a more precise fit and nimbler feel for greater control and stability in difficult terrain. They’re also lighter on average, which is a positive for longer walks and snowshoe trips. You do compromise a little protection, but quality one-piece designs like the Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus or The North Face Chilkat 400 are still formidable options in harsh conditions.
Considering that you’ll be spending a good amount of time walking in varying depths of snow, waterproofing matters. The good news is that most designs excel in this respect. Traditional two-piece boots that have a separate shell and liner rely on a burly exterior to keep moisture out. The rubber lowers are fantastic barriers from the wet, shedding anything from falling snow to slushy puddles. Further, treated leather uppers and seam sealing keep you protected when walking through deep snow. On the other hand, one-piece boots have a thin waterproof and breathable membrane sandwiched in between the outer material and lining. In general, this style is a little less waterproof overall and you’ll want to be sure the exterior fabric has a water-resistant treatment to keep it from soaking up moisture (more on this in the boot care section below).
It’s worth noting that a waterproof design doesn’t do much good if snow and moisture come in from around the tongue or top of the boot. If deep puddles are a concern, you’ll want a gusseted tongue that connects to the upper high on the boot. And as we touched on in the boot height section above, a tall design like Sorel’s Caribou can be useful in keeping your legs dry, but it’s often worth adding a pair of waterproof gaiters to truly stay protected in deep snow. Typically made out of durable nylon, gaiters are tough and provide an additional barrier around the top of your boots and lower leg (they’re popular for uses like hiking, snowshoeing, and mountaineering). Models vary significantly by activity and how much protection you need, but for serious winter use, the Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters are the real deal.
In general, winter boots put a premium on warmth and protection, which has a negative impact on breathability. Their substantial, waterproof constructions that do so well at trapping heat inside are equally prone to running hot in mild temperatures and during active use. For many folks, this is a fair tradeoff, and breathability shouldn’t be a top consideration for those planning only quick trips outside or if conditions in your region are truly frigid. But if you live in an area with mild winters or plan to be hiking or snowshoeing for extended stretches, you’ll want a balanced design that has a lighter-weight upper and less insulation (around 200g). Hiking-ready models like the Merrell Thermo Chill and Vasque Breeze WT GTX both perform well in this regard. And if breathability is a top priority and temperatures will be warm (around freezing or above), it may be worth opting for a pair of uninsulated hiking boots instead.
Snow boots have a different lug pattern and rubber compound than their on-dirt hiking boot cousins. The compounds are softer and don’t harden even when temperatures drop, which helps them to grip on snow and ice. In addition, the lug patterns are aimed to prevent snow build up. The outer soles themselves are very thick and absorb energy well to isolate your feet from any jarring impacts while walking. Vibram made some headlines with their Arctic Grip compound that's specifically designed to stick to slippery and icy surfaces, which we see in designs like the Merrell Thermo Overlook and Muck Boot Arctic Ice. In general, hiking-ready models have the best traction, while casual and work boots can be a little cumbersome and prone to slippage. Regardless of the boot, in very icy conditions we’ll still turn to a winter traction system (covered below).
Pairing your winter boots with quality socks helps to maximize warmth and comfort. It’s true that you can get away with just about any design for quick trips outside, but if you’ll be hiking, working, or spending significant stretches of time in harsh weather, it’s worth dialing in your sock selection. Material-wise, the clear leader is wool—and particularly the merino variety—for its high level of warmth, breathability, and stink prevention. Synthetics are a viable alternative, but they’re usually not as warm and will retain smells more than wool. Avoid cotton socks at all costs—they don’t wick away moisture or insulate when wet, which is a bad combination for winter use.
In addition to choosing the right materials, you also need to think through the thickness of your socks. For the most part, the best socks for winter use fall in the mid- and heavyweight categories. Both are fairly thick, which means you’ll likely need to size your boots accordingly (more on this in the fit section below). For everyday use or if you’re not prone to running cold, a midweight sock is a versatile choice. In this category, we love Darn Tough’s classic Hiker Boot, which provides decent warmth to complement your boots but won’t overheat as easily in mild temperatures or when working hard. Heavyweight options like Smartwool’s legendary Trekking model are a whole different breed—they’re thick enough to nearly double as a pair of slippers and provide a noticeable bump in insulation and cushioning underfoot. For subzero temperatures or if you’ll be sedentary outside, it’s worth going with a super thick design.
Fit always is an important consideration with footwear, and the same holds true for winter boots. A properly sized boot should be large enough to accommodate your thickest socks without pinching (a fit that is too snug will inhibit circulation and compromise the warmth the boot provides). It’s also important to consider the type of activity: a boot that will only be worn around town like the Sorel Caribou doesn’t have to fit perfectly to perform well (you can err on the side of going a little loose). But for the more hiking-focused models like the Merrell Thermo Chill, it’s best to get fit dialed in.
Sizing varies widely between brands and individual models, and we provide as many insights as possible in our product write-ups above. In general, be prepared to order a different size than what you normally would for a pair of hiking or trail running shoes. If there aren’t specific recommendations from the manufacturer or you can’t piece together a good idea on fit from reading user reviews, we’ve found the following works pretty well: if you’ll be wearing midweight socks, it’s a good idea to go up a half size. Expedition-level socks are extremely thick, so it’s common to go up a full size in these cases. Again, fit can be tough and it’s always best to try them on if you can before buying. But if you’re shopping online, do your research and be prepared to size up in many cases.
To keep your winter boots lasting as long as possible, it’s worth taking proper care of your investment. For starters, it’s always a good idea to keep them clean to avoid any breakdown in the materials. The grime that you pick up when walking through a slushy parking lot can wreak havoc on a boot if it isn’t cleaned out. Warm water, dish soap, and a simple brush can do the trick in most cases. Further, many of the designs above have leather in the construction, which is a material that benefits from occasional treatment to avoid drying and cracking. A quality sponge-on design like Nikwax’s Conditioner works well on full-grain leather, keeping it in good shape while adding a water-resistant coating to the top. For boots that don’t have a waterproof membrane or coating, you’ll want to treat them from the start (L.L Bean’s Boot Guard works well for their duck boot models). Another benefit of adding a leather dressing right away is that it helps soften the leather and shorten the break-in period.
Winter boots have outsoles designed for walking on snow, but the reality is that even the best rubber compound and tread pattern won’t grip all that well on a sheet of ice. To safely hike or even walk around town if the conditions are really bad, we use an additional traction system (also referred to as a traction device). There are a variety of designs on the market, from chain-style Yaktrax for casual walking to the Kahtoola MICROspikes for heavy-duty ice and backcountry use.
For pairing with winter boots, one of our favorite traction systems is the Kahtoola NANOspikes. Designed for running in winter, we’ve found their minimalist style to work wonderfully on icy sidewalks and trails. The 10 small carbide tips provide excellent grip (we were particularly impressed with their secure traction in freezing rain), and the NANOspikes are lightweight and take up very little space in a bag. The downside with all traction systems is they take a little time to put on and take off and can be overkill for mixed conditions, but they’re the best way to cover ground safely on icy days. For a full breakdown of options, see our article on the best winter traction devices.
Dedicated winter boots offer premium protection and warmth in freezing, snowy conditions, but we often use our regular hiking boots for short and active winter jaunts. For example, if you will be snowshoeing or walking without stopping, uninsulated and waterproof hiking boots with good socks may very well do the trick. One of our favorite models is Salomon’s classic Quest 4, which has a durable, water-shedding exterior and Gore-Tex bootie that offer lightweight warmth. To be clear, this is a good option for trips when you will be on the go the whole time and the weather isn’t particularly frigid. If you’ll be stopping or out for long stretches of time, it’s safest to stick with an insulated winter-specific design.
Our picks above were selected based on the experiences of both male and female testers, and you’ll notice that we link to both the men’s and women’s versions whenever possible. That said, due to noteworthy variations in style within this category, we’ve also put together a separate round-up of the best women’s winter boots. Curated by our female editors, you’ll find many of the same models here (names and colorways often differ) in addition to a number of other women's-specific options for casual use, outdoor work, and winter hiking.
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