How To Choose The Best Winter Hiking Boots

Hiking in the winter is a great way to get fresh air in the cold season and enjoy the magic snow brings to your favourite outdoor spots. Whether you'll be cursing the snow or loving the winter wonderland often comes down to the gear you choose.

Proper winter hiking boots will keep your feet warm and dry no matter what kind of adventure you’re on. From short local hikes to trekking in Lapland, you need reliable boots to keep you safe and comfortable.

The right winter hiking boots will make you eager to get out and enjoy the beauty winter has to offer. Buying winter gear can feel overwhelming with so many factors to consider. We’ve written this guide to help you find the perfect pair for your winter adventures.

Where will you be using your winter hiking boots?

Person wearing winter hiking boots in Canadian mountains.

There is no one boot that will be ideal for everyone. The way people hike in the winter and the conditions they are hiking in are important considerations when deciding on suitable boot styles.

Winter hiking boots are rated for temperature based on the amount of insulation they have. If your winters tend to hover around 0C, avoid going too thick and risking constantly wet feet. If you’ll be facing -20C winters, don’t look for cost-cutting when it comes to insulation. The wrong boots can result in hypothermia and frostbite, definitely not things you want to deal with on the trail.

How much snow does your area usually get? A thin layer of densely packed snow means your boots can go up as high as you’d like. If thick blankets of fresh powder are the norm, you’ll want taller winter hiking boots or pair shorter boots with gaiters.

Of course, you’ll probably find yourself facing a variety of conditions and it’s not unreasonable to expect your boots to do their job through all of them. However, you want to make sure the main features of your boots can handle the most common weather you’ll be facing on the trail.

What to look for in quality winter hiking boots

Person hiking in a national park wearing winter hiking boots.

Quality hiking boots are an investment, so aim for workmanship that will last you through multiple winters. Even stitching, no visible glue, and premium materials are signs the boots will be durable and reliable.

Your boots should be waterproof to help keep your feet dry. Wet feet in cold conditions if you’ll be out for a while can result in a medical emergency. Equally important is how much insulation is in the boot. Thinsulate is one of the most common insulations because of its durability and excellent performance. The amount of insulation is usually listed as grades like 100g, 200g, 300g etc. Winter boots are usually 200g or more, but how much you need depends on what kind of conditions you’ll be hiking in.

The sole of the boot is extremely important, especially if you’ll be hiking on rough and rocky terrain. Thick soles with a lot of grip are usually preferred; they provide a good barrier between you and the ground and improve stability.

Our 2021 top picks for winter hiking boots

Sorel Caribou winter hiking boots.

Sorel Caribou

Sorel is the go-to brand for many people who want a solid everyday winter boot. Available in both women’s and men’s styles, they are attractive enough for city use and durable enough for hiking. They have solid soles and are built with a high-quality construction that will last for multiple seasons. They are rated to -40C and are seam-sealed for waterproofing.

Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated winter hiking boot.

Oboz Bridger 10″ Insulated

These heavy-duty hiking boots, also available in a women’s 9″ version, are designed to handle whatever weather you come across on your hike. The height of the boots provide you with plenty of stability over rough terrain, and the cold-traction rubber sole will let you tackle slippery conditions with ease.

The boots are completely waterproof and insulated with 400g Thinsulate. Additionally, a reflective footbed aids in retaining body heat to keep your feet warm no matter how long you’re out for.

Salomon Toundra Pro

Salomon is known for making rugged winter boots for people who want strong support for their hike. These tend to be over-kill for day-trippers, especially when hiking on groomed trails. However, for rough terrain and long treks, these boots will keep you protected from whatever you face.

They have a temperature rating of -40 and use NASA-developed Aerogel as the insulation. It’s an ultralight insulator that provides a high amount of warmth with very little bulk. The aggressive tread provides impressive traction on icy and slippery ground.

Kamik NationPlus winter hiking boots.

Kamik NationPlus

There is no denying that quality winter hiking gear can be expensive. For people who want to get out on a budget, especially casual hikers, you will find the Kamik NationPlus a solid option. They have similar specs to pricier options including a -40 rating and 100% leather upper but are less than half the cost. They are a very comfortable boot with a removable liner for more versatility. Unsurprisingly however, they don’t have the same quality of construction as higher-end options. The pigment may bleed slightly and some owners have reported water getting in through the tongue.

Blundstone Thermal boots.

Blundstone Thermal

Not everyone needs rugged, heavy-duty boots for hitting the trails in winter. If you tend to hike in areas with shallow snow and minimal water, then Blundstone Thermal boots may be the best option for you. They are stylish and sleek rather than the standard intimidating winter hiking boot, which makes them perfect for city use. The removable sheepskin liner makes them warm, though they won’t compete with the -40 ratings of others. They are lighter and more flexible than most options, but their short height limits their use in high snow or sloppy conditions.

Baffin Impact boot

Baffin Impact

The excessively hardcore Baffin Impact boots are developed with intense winter adventures in mind. These tall waterproof boots can handle deep snow with ease. They have a -100C temperature rating, but hopefully, you’ll never be in a position to test that out. If you’ll be spending long periods in freezing temperatures, such as ice fishing trips or long treks, you’ll probably be thankful you have these. However, they can be problematic in more moderate temperatures. Their heavy weight can be uncomfortable and the high amount of insulation means they don’t breath, so you’ll end up with very sweaty feet.

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