There are a few important features to consider when shopping for womens’ winter boots or for mens’ winter boots other than the style and the fashionista factor. Yes, the look of a winter boot will play a large roll in the decision-making process, but the technical features are equally as important. Where and when you plan to wear your winter boots will influence the variety of technical features that may or may not appeal to you. Wouldn’t a winter boot guide be helpful?
As we know, winter is generally colder than the rest of the seasons depending on the climate where you are living so adequate gear is imperative. Due to the more extreme temperatures, proper gear is essential for not only your comfort but for your safety too, (and of course to ensure your experience is exceptional) so make sure you’re picking the right pair of winter boots with the help of this winter boot guide.
Winter Boot Guide – Warmth
Temperature ratings for winter boots are similar to the temperature rating systems for sleeping bags, used more as a guideline to follow. While shopping for winter boots, the temperature ratings are a good comparison if you are struggling to choose between multiple models.
Like sleeping bags, different boots will be more suited to different people and for different activities for a number of factors including health, activity, environment and even as simple as your sock choice.
The boots below have been comfort-tested to -32°C.
Rogue 9 Boots
Tivoli IV Boots
Cheyanne II Boots
Keep in mind the type of usage you wish to get from your winter boot through this winter boot guide. Are you looking for something more stylish just to wear around town or are you looking for something to wear while romping around the woods on snowshoes? If you are choosing a pair of winter boots for activities where your feet may sweat lots, ensure that you are choosing an appropriate winter sock to wear with it. (think wool not cotton; Smartwool, Icebreaker, Wigwam, etc)
Winter Boot Guide – Liners
There are numerous types of liners for snow boots whether they be pac boots (generally removable liners), have a shearling lining (often found in most fashion winter boots) or thermal materials such as Thinsulate. (Thermal materials in winter boots without removable liners.) Outdoor activities such as hiking or snowshoeing in pair of snow boots with a removable liner (pac boots) is ideal. At the end of the day the liner can be removed, dried and reinserted for the following day’s activities.
Winter Boot Guide – Breathable Boots
Breathe-ability is another big factor when shopping for winter boots. If your feet are sweating, they are wet and if that wetness has nowhere to escape to, you will be left with a cold foot. In some environments, the proper sock choice can be the difference between a wet foot and a dry foot and can save you from frostbite which would obviously put a damper on your outdoor activities.
Most boots are made with a combination of materials whether it be leather, nylon or GORE-TEX and with the different materials come different properties.
- GORE-TEX boots are known for their waterproof and breathable features making them a top seller and a good all-around choice.
- Nylon uppers and accents are generally more breathable but may not be as waterproof and might require a waterproof coating (PU, DWR, etc.).
- The opposite is true for all-leather boots; they’re waterproof but not as breathable.
For those who have feet that are more prone to sweating, a GORE-TEX winter boot with adequate breathable features will help keep you stay comfortable and dry for the duration of your activities. Your sock choice will also play a large roll in the environment inside your winter boot.
If you are participating in winter activities in warmer temperatures, a regular wool sock would suffice. If you are someone with sweatier feet and are participating in activities in colder temperatures, a sock liner may be ideal as well as a warm, wool sock. The liner extracts the moisture and perspiration from your foot while the wool sock will keep your foot warm.
Winter Boot Guide – Temperature Ratings
In the Winter Boot Guide, there are five main temperature ratings for winter boots: 5°C to-10°C, 0°C to-20°C, -10°C to -25°C, -20°C to -40°C and -25°C and beyond. The temperature rating is a guideline, so if you know you are going to be in -25°C weather, pay the few extra dollars for the -30°C rating to ensure that you’ll still feel your little toes at the end of your winter adventure.
Milder temperature-rated snow boots will be moderately insulated (less than 400 grams of insulation) making them perfect for winter activities where the wearer will be exercising alot.
Adventurers embarking on multi-day winter expeditions or those living in areas with harsh winter climates should look at boots that are heavily insulated (around 400-600 grams of insulation). These models may also include additional features to protect the wearer from the elements such as taller fits and/or gaiter-like uppers.
For brave souls that tough out the winters in places where all you can do is sit and wait for extreme winter temperatures to wane, a pair of winter boots rated -25 and beyond will be your salvation. These models are packed with insulation as the wearer isn’t moving much, like during ice-fishing (500-800 grams of insulation).
Winter Boot Guide – Sole Traction
Have you ever stepped out of your house on a snowy day and stressed about every step you take wondering if your neighbours are going to get the glory of seeing you slip on the way to the bus once again?
This season, try a winter boot with Vibram Arctic Grip technology. The sole of a shoe equipped with Vibram Arctic Grip technology will have Arctic Grip designated lugs that use the technology to grip wet, icy surfaces. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, these particular lugs can be specified as the ones with the blue or yellow specs.
Below are two Arctic Grip models available for purchase on Altitude Sports:
Most winter boots will have rubber soles such as the Sorel Caribou which has been one of their most popular models for years. Rubber soles are often chosen for winter boots due to the material’s waterproof properties making them ideal for snow, slush, puddles and any other wet winter weather that may come your way.
Winter Boot Guide – Lugs
Lug soles are quite common in trail running shoes like the Salomon Speedcross models because of their traction on rough and slippery terrain. Lugs are useful on winter boots where deep snow and ice are factors.
Chameleon Thermo 8 – Women
Renegade Evo Ice GTX – Men
Winter Boot Guide – Crampons
Traction is always a big concern for those who experience icier conditions where the tackiest rubber isn’t enough to ease their mind on icy sidewalks. In these climates where the amount of sand, salt or other de-icing chemicals aren’t tough enough against the elements, a sturdy pair of winter boots can be paired with a pair of slip-on crampons for ultimate traction. Most winter boots are compatible but it’s always best to do a little research so you don’t purchase something you are not able to even use.
Winter Boot Guide – Comfort and Sizing
A comfortable, winter boot should offer some arch and foot support and promote a proper walking posture. Some winter boots may feel heavier and a bit sluggish so it’s best to check a variety of models to find what works best for you. Some use more lightweight materials so you’re not dragging your feet with every step. If you’re not used to heavy footwear due to wearing sandals or sneakers majority of the time, you may find the heavier winter boots will fatigue your legs while you’re wearing them.
If you can, it is always best to try on winter boots with the winter socks (thin or thick) that you will be wearing most often. It is a common misinterpretation that winter boots should be purchased in a size larger in order to accommodate thicker socks. Always start by trying on your shoe size and work your way up or down from there. Sizes can vary quite substantially within different brands and some styles will have liners that will pack-out over time.
Waterproof and Climate-proof Features
Winter boots are made to not only keep your feet warm but to keep your feet dry too – wet feet are more likely to become cold feet. Most winter boots in this Winter Boot Guide will be made up of a waterproof material like GORE-TEX or a waterproof leather and other models will not. Winter boots that are made of materials such as nylon that isn’t generally waterproof may be treated with a PU coating making them either water resistant or waterproof.
For winter boots that aren’t quite tall enough, gaiters can be purchased separately and are compatible with most footwear. If you own a shorter, ankle-height winter boot but need a little extra height for the rogue snowstorm that makes a surprise appearance every couple of years, you can throw on a pair of gaiters to give yourself that little bit of extra protection.
Pick what works for you. Your winter boot will be your number one accessory for the duration of your winter season so let your personality show!
Beyond the Looks
Finding a pair of winter boots that are both practical and fashionable can be a long, but not impossible process. This Winter Boot Guide should help streamline the process. Several brands work hard to combine the functional aspect with the trendy look – so you can strut downtown or find cozy comfort after a day on the slopes.
Winter is no stranger to extreme temperatures and conditions, so be sure to prioritize your comfort and safety first. Your feet will thank you when they are warm and dry in your new boots. Take your time through the Winter Boot Guide and do not wait for the first snow to start your shopping. Then all you have to do is take full advantage of your next winter activities