The Best Winter Boots for Women Review
Whether you endure long, frigid winters in the mountains or chilly days with a dusting of snow, we've dedicated the past four winters to testing the industry's top women's winter boots. This year, we look at eight of the top models on the market. We've included everything from stylish wear-around town boots, to those meant specifically for hiking wintery trails. We've tested each product while traipsing through snow drifts and splashing through slush. After evaluating each on warmth, comfort, weather protection, traction, style, and ease of taking on and off, we were able to determine which boots were the best, and which were just so-so. Read on to learn which women's winter boots came out on top!
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
The Sorel Joan of Arctic is a warm, stylish, highly waterproof boot that kept our tester's feet comfortable down into the double negative degrees. This model is ideal for women who live in super cold climates and are looking for footwear that they can wear either for outdoor chores like shoveling snow, or walking around town on frigid days. Although it is super warm, it's very heavy, clunky, and not the most comfortable. It is also the only product in our review with a removable liner, which is a stellar performance feature for those who need to wear this boot day in and day out. Outside its performance, the Joan of Arctic is stylish enough to wear out to dinner with friends and was actually several of our testers' favorite stylish boot. When you leave the restaurant or store, this boot will definitely keep you warm and dry on your walk back to the car, but it is not suitable for activities like hiking, where mobility and light weight are key. Overall, we loved the Joan of Arctic when the conditions called for it, but given how low it scored in our comfort metric, we don't recommend this boot unless you'll be facing frigid temps and severe snowstorms.
One of our favorite boots in this review was the Vasque Pow Pow II Ultradry. This incredibly comfortable and supportive winter hiking boot took us on snowy trails, across frozen creeks, and to work in the snow and slush. Although this boot has a techy look that was voted our least stylish, it truly excels in all other metrics. Most notably, we loved how warm it was given that it's significantly less bulky than the Sorel Joan of Arctic. The Pow Pow II Ultradry has 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation and keep our toes surprisingly warm, especially when we were moving. This contender breathes well, making it a perfect winter hiking compadre. This boot is surprisingly water-resistant, keeping your feet dry in puddles up to eight inches deep. That said, without a nifty set of gaiters, it doesn't provide as much protection from tall snow drifts. So if you're looking for a boot that will move with you while keeping your feet warm and dry - this is the best option!
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Analysis and Test Results
Whether you absolutely love winter or you're already counting down the days to the first day of spring, proper footwear can help you enjoy all the season has to offer. Among our testers at OutdoorGearLab, winter means skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and a host of other cold weather activities but if there's one thing we've learned, it's that purchasing the proper gear that makes all the difference.
While proper footwear is critical for technical activities, it's also just as important for everyday life throughout the winter. We hiked on cold winter days that reached temperatures below zero and walked to work each day on snowy, icy roads. We tested them in winter and rain storms, and we wore them out to dinner on icy evenings. Some of these boots gave us a whole new appreciation for winter, while others left our toes a little numb.
As you read this review, be sure to consider what attributes are most important to you in a winter boot. Our Editors' Choice winner - The North Face Shellista II Mid - offers great performance across the board, but doesn't shine in any one metric. If you need a boot that is really warm or has great traction, zero in on the products that earned the highest scores in that category and realize that you'll probably have to sacrifice somewhere else. And remember! You could always buy two pairs of boots for more specific purposes rather than one all-purpose boot. If that's what will keep your feet happy through the winter months, we think it's certainly a worthy investment.
Types of Women's Winter Boots
Through this review we tested a gauntlet of different winter boots with a variety of different functions. To help you navigate the options out there, we have divided the boots that we've tested into three distinct categories. Each differing a little in design and function. The three categories we cover are the 'Pac boot, the 'hiking boot', and the traditional 'snow boot'. Most of the boots we tested fit under the Pac boot category, so we recommend you start your search there.
These boots are best for those looking for decent traction, warmth, and protection for walking around town. This type of boots offers a little more performance than you'd expect from a traditional snow boot. However, if you plan on playing a little harder than a simple walk around town - say - snowshoeing or hiking, then an active hiker may be what you're looking for. If you're simply just looking for a basic boot that will keep you warm while building snowmen and walking around town, then simply skip the rest and check out 'snow boots'.
If you're not really sure what to get, this category is a good place to start! Of all the boots tested, we learned that Pac boots are more versatile and not as specialized as the other two categories. Pac boots feature a well-defined thick rubber shell and an upper typically constructed of either a waterproof or water-resistant textile. These boots are best for wearing around town, light hiking and walking to work. Most Pac boots that we tested feature decent tread patterns and some level of water and weather resistance. Some may have removable liners while others do not. Many of our testers loved removable liners as we could pull them out and allow the boots to dry faster than those without! In addition, these boots are typically more waterproof than regular snow boots. That said, they are not quite as technical or well fitted as active hiking boots.
The downside of most Pac Boots is the fit and breathability. The fit is typically a little more 'floppier' than you'd find with an active hiker. The lacing systems aren't as technical and are designed to simply be pulled on and kicked off. In addition, they aren't very breathable. When taking a few pairs of Pac boots out on a hike, we learned that our feet sweat much more and the boots kept the moisture in. This resulted in cold toes!! As a result, they are better for wearing for short periods of time whilst not so "active". Feel free to wear them to the store or while walking to work, but don't plan on taking them on any steep hikes. Most boots that we reviewed fit into this category. A few examples include the Sorel Joan or Arctic, Sorel Tofino II, and the Northside Kathmandu Boot.
Active Hiking Boots
If you're in the market for a boot with ankle support and deep tread, then an active winter hiking boot may be what you need! These boots are best for ladies who plan on hiking, walking, or snowshoeing for hours in the snow.
Unlike Pac and snow boots, they feature snug lacing systems, a rigid upper, and a more precise fit which provides more stability. The rigidity of the boots also allows you to kick steps into the snowside if needed. Active winter hiking boots also feature a breathable liner that wicks away moisture that keeps feet warm all day long. In addition, the tread is deep - really deep. So it grips the snow better than most other boots tested. We also noted that the rubber is typically softer, grabbing rocks as well as snow. The only downside is they typically lack style and take more time to get on and off. If you're in the market for an active winter hiker, check out our Top Pick for Winter Hiking - the technical Vasque Pow Pow II Ultradry. Or, if you're in search of a cross between Pac boot that can go off-trail, check out our Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Shellista II Mid.
A snow boot is what most people think of when buying boots for kids. They feature a water-resistant upper and some kind of thinner rubber outsole that may not be as durable or weather-resistant as Pac boots. They are best for just walking around town, but don't offer much in the way of significant weather protection over a long period of time. In addition, the level of traction isn't typically as good as other types of boots. They are also typically lighter. The only snow boot in this review is the Columbia Minx-Mid II. For a snowboot, this is truly top the line, but it doesn't offer nearly as much weather protection as others tested in this review, even though it claims to be waterproof. So if you're in the market for a boot that a little less expensive, and you simply need it to just get around town, with some minor puddle jumping, this may be a great choice!
Features to Consider
There are many features in a winter snow boot to consider! Fur or no fur? Tall or short? Bulky or streamlined? In order to answer these questions, you need to assess what you'll be using your boot for. Are you simply walking around town? Are you sledding and building snowmen with the kids? Or are you a lift operator at a ski resort that is standing outside is all types of weather? To delve into these features a little deeper, take a look at our How to Choose the Best Winter Boots for Women article to help you in your decision making!
Criteria for Evaluation
An awesome pair of winter boots can make shoveling snow less of a chore and it can add style to your cold weather wardrobe. Throughout our testing process, we identified which boots were best solely for around town, like our Top Pick for Severe Weather: the Sorel Joan of Arctic, and which are suitable for exploring the wintery woods, like the Top Pick for Winter Hiking: the Vasque Pow Pow II Ultradry.
We also determined which boots were best for specific activities. We did this by ranking each product in this review according to warmth, weather protection, traction, comfort & coziness, style, and ease to take on and off. Then, we put each boot through a series of tests that objectively tested each metric. Below you'll find each metric with a short description of how we tested and a summary of our results. In addition, we'll provide suggestions to help you in your purchasing decisions along the way!
It's no surprise that warmth was one of the most important criteria in our winter boot evaluation. If you try to get out and enjoy the wintry wilderness and your toes aren't warm, it's just hard to be happy. When taking into account warmth as a metric, we considered two things. The first was the standing warmth of the boot. The second was the active warmth of the boot. Our testing took place in a small valley town called Ridgway, CO.
The cold air from the local reservoir and surrounding mountains settles here in the morning, making it about 20 degrees colder than any other town in the area. Most of our cold-weather testing took place in the early mornings before the sun came up while walking to school. During our testing period, we experienced temperatures that ranged from -15F to 40F. Additionally, we were lucky enough to be testing during the 'Polar Vortex' or 2016, which brought colder temperatures than normal.
To test standing warmth of the boot, we evaluated the thickness of the midsole and outsole, and performed the 'slush test'. During a cold winter day, we filled up a recycling bin with water, ice, and snow, and submerged our feet for seven minutes. We did this with different boots on each foot. This helped us determine the standing warmth of the boot. To evaluate active warmth, we walked to school (about one mile) every chilly morning. During these tests we were able to determine which boot performed better than others.
In the end, we learned a few things about warmth. The boots with the best warmth have a taller shaft, thicker outsole, and a good level of insulation. Our Top Pick for Severe Weather, the Sorel Joan of Arctic is our go-to Pac boot for nasty weather. The tall shaft, coupled with a 6mm felt removable liner and thick outsole, keeps toes warm in cold weather. Though, if you're in need of an active boot that offers a similar level of warmth and more breathability to boot, the Vasque Pow Pow II Ultra Dry is perfect. We wore both boots in temperatures that dropped to -15F, and our feet were fine after walking around for two - three hours.
The Kamik Momentum is an affordable warmth option that also keeps feet warm all day. The super thick sole insulates and keeps feet protected while in dry snow. However, what we weren't too fond of was its lack of water resistance. The upper is nylon that, if in wet snow or slushy conditions, can get saturated easily. That said, this Best Buy award winner is truly best for cold, dry days where you don't plan on hiking or being too active.
Depending on where you live and how you're planning to use your boots, you may have very different warmth requirements. For example, women enduring the long winters of Minnesota should consider super warm models like the Sorel Joan of Arctic, while women who live in regions with milder winters can get away with pieces like the Columbia Minx-Mid II. Additionally, if you plan to only use your boots to dash from the parking lot into your office building, then you may be willing to sacrifice warmth for style on a product like the Sorel Tofino II.
From snow to slush, to the dreaded "wintry mix," winter can bring all sorts of unpleasant precipitation; however, with the proper footwear, you'll be dreaming of snow angels in no time! Its no wonder this was the most important metric in this review. Whether you're walking to work or hiking in the backcountry, it's nice to have a boot that won't leak, keeping your socks (and feet) nice and cozy.
When considering weather protection, we looked at things. First, the boot's shaft height. This helped us determine the highest winter drift a boot could brave. Second, water resistance. Third, the height at which the boot leaked (if at all). We carried out a series of water resistance tests that measured how deep of a puddle each boot could handle. First, we took our boots to the bath tub where we submerged them until they leaked. We noted this point and recorded it as our 'maximum puddle depth'. In addition, we took each boot down to the river to see if this depth was actually true. Lastly, we simply walked around town and stomped around in puddles to truly 'field test' each booth. In the end, we learned that most well constructed boots flooded at the point where the tongue meets the shaft, where-as boots with poor construction quickly flooded at the seams.
Buyer Beware: We were surprised to learn that many products that claimed to be 'waterproof' were only water resistant (at best!). Many of these products are waterproof until the water level rises over the rubber outsole - no higher. So when purchasing, make sure you look at the materials of the uppers. Don't trust company claims, even if 'waterproof' is in the name.
Every product has a distinct "flood level" - whether that's a poorly sealed seam or the top of the tongue - that let water pour into the boot. However, many models also had a "slow leak" level; when we left our feet in the water for several minutes, we noticed spots that slowly let in moisture. Our "Maximum Puddle Depth" measurement reflects the point at which your feet will get wet if you stand in that depth of water for five minutes or less. Keep in mind, however, that water seeps into boots very differently than snow.
In order for your feet to get wet when it's snowy out, you have to be out for a significantly longer period of time, or when it's fairly wet. If the snow in your area is really dry and fluffy, boots that seeped in our tests may not seep at all in your part of the world. Unless you are planning to ford a creek or brave a gushing gutter, the flood level might not be that important to you.
If you're looking for the creme de la creme of winter boots and weather protection, the Sorel Joan of Arctic outcompetes the rest! It features the tallest shaft height, with a tongue that attaches high up on the shaft protecting against tall snow drifts and gushing gutters. It can withstand raging rivers and puddles with depths up to 10 inches and snow drifts up to 13 inches! This was our automatic go-to when we got two feet of powder.
If you're not looking for a super tall boot, but still want great protection, the Sorel Tofino II is next best. It left our feet bone dry after submerging in puddle depths of 8.5 inches and protects against snow drifts of 10.25 inches high. Even though faux fur is great for additional protection against snow, it's not for everybody. The North Face Shellista Mid II (Our Editors' Choice winner) protects in puddles up to 8 inches and snow drifts up to 11 inches, and doesn't have the faux fur collar, but instead features a sleek, mountain-chic look.
On the other end of the spectrum are the boots that didn't perform too well in this metric. The Columbia Minx-Mid II didn't score highly because of its lightweight construction that became easy saturated. Our feet were soaked in just 2.5 inches of water in our water tests, even though Columbia claims the boot to be totally waterproof - it's even written on the side. It did however do well in both dry and wet snowpacks, staying dry and protecting against snowdrifts 11 inches high. The same issue occured for the Northside Kathmandu. While it did well in snow, it leaked readily in just three inches of water, through the poorly crafted seams of the boot. That said, it is a great option for simple snow days - but not icy or slushy conditions.
Comfort & Coziness
Winter boots that are comfy and cozy just make life that much better. Although some might think of coziness as a luxury, when you're investing in new cold weather footwear, coziness starts to seem far more important. We considered how supportive and comfortable each competitor's footbed was and we compared each one's interior lining. To do this, we examined the liners and put our feet into each boot without socks. After driving a car in all the contenders, we also noted which ones were most uncomfortable to drive in (the Sorel Tofino II) and which ones we never even noticed while wearing, The North Face Shellista II Mid, Our Editors' Choice winner.
Another factor that greatly affects comfort is how heavy and bulky the boot is. When you're carrying four extra pounds on your feet, you're going to be much less comfortable than if you're only carrying two extra pounds. Boots like the Sorel Tofino II and Columbia Minx-Mid II are comfortable to wear all day, thanks to their lightweight designs.
We learned that some of the comfiest boots feature a fuzzy and supportive footbed, with a furry or insulated liner. Boots like the Ugg Adirondack II were at the top of the list. We fell in love the with its sheepskin-lined insole that made wearing these boots feel like walking on clouds! So, if you're in the market for the best in cozy comfort, this is a great choice! We also loved the versatility of this boot. It features a cuff that can be flipped up or down to go from a short to tall boot!
Another boot that scored well in this metric is our Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Shellista II Mid. Although it doesn't feature the plush interior like the UGG Adirondack, we were really impressed with its well supported footbed that almost feels like memory foam! We also liked the support it provides throughout the shoe/ Unlike floppier and bulkier boots like the Sorel Joan of Arctic and Kamik Momentum, its fit stands out as streamlined and comfortable. It also features a lightweight design, that makes it feel like you're not wearing it at all! It's a perfect around-town boot that is comfortable while driving, walking, and hanging out at the coffee shop.
While we love the Sorel Tofino II's nifty style, lightweight design, and streamlined fit, we noticed that it has a bit of a design flaw that toppled this shoes comfort rating from the original Tofino. The frame of the boot is rigid and pinches into the back of the leg just above the ankle. While wearing thin socks, many of our testers mentioned this as a big demerit in the design of this past Editors' Choice winner. That said, while wearing thick socks, this wasn't a problem. So if you plan to purchase this boot, make sure you size them appropriately for a thicker sock.
Winter can bring icy sidewalks and snowy trails, so it's important to know that you won't end up wiping out every time you hit a patch of ice. We studied each model's outsole by measuring the depth of the tread and the pattern. In addition, we took to the mountains for an afternoon and carved out a slippery trail along a hillside to test each boot's traction side-by-side. For each test, we wore a different boot on each foot; we then walked, hiked, and ran up the hillside. In addition to these objective tests, we skated around on ice patches, hiked around town, and got out into the nasty stuff to determine while boots stuck, and which ones didn't. After all that, we came to some important conclusions about traction.
Even though all the winter boots tested provided some level of traction on the snow, no winter boot can protect completely against super icy conditions. If you find yourself looking at shiny sidewalks with an icy lustre, reach for a pair of YakTrax. This mini metal harness fits around the boot, providing extra traction and with a non-slip guarantee in icy conditions.
Depending on what you're using your winter boots for, there are different levels of traction requirements. If you plan on winter hiking, check out a boot that features a soft rubber and a deep lug. A boot like the Vasque Pow Pow II Ultradry is our highest traction contender. It features wide, deep lugs, that adhere to both snow and rocky trails. The softer rubber sticks to slippery surfaces, while the deep lugs grip the snow better. Even though the Kamik Momentum is not a winter hiking boot, it features the deepest and most aggressive tread of all the boots tested. That said, the lug rubber isn't that soft, so it slips easily off rocks. As a result, it's not a great hiking boot, but it is a wonderful around-town or work boot for those that need some traction in town.
The North Face Shellista II Mid is another boot with great traction. It features a softer rubber and wider lug pattern that grips to both slippery rocks and deep hill-side snow, and it offers a little style to boot. In comparison to the Columbia Minx-Mid II, The North Face lugs are closer together, with a variety of designs to prevent slippage in many directions. The Columbia Minx-Mid II features a star-shaped lug that is spaced far apart. A nice addition to prevent sticky snow from building up on the bottom of the boot. Both of these boots are great options for wearing around town, and proved to hold up during the '2016 polar vortex' that left streets icy and dangerous.
On the other side of the spectrum are rubber-soled boots that don't feature distinct tread patterns, but 'waves' instead. The Sorels (Arctic and Tofino) and Northside Kathmandu fall into this category. Of the three, the stylish Sorel Tofino II's proved to provide the most traction on our hill-running tests. When comparing the tread designs we noticed that its tread was much deeper than the other two. The Sorel Joan of Arctic was also decent, but we found ourselves slipping around on icy patches more often than not. Of all the contenders, the Northside Kathmandu proved to provide the worst traction of them all. This is due to the 'lugless' design that isn't deep nor sticky. In general, we found ourself slipping and skating on snow-ice patches that all other contenders had no problem sticking too.
We often take style into consideration when rating women's clothing, but in this review, we weighted the style metric a little more heavily than usual. Footwear plays a key role a person's overall look and generally it's not something like a jacket or coat that you take off once you get to your destination. On cold or wet winter days, you may have your boots on all day long, so it's important that they match your personal style. We all know that if you don't like the way your boots look, you probably won't be happy with them, especially if you're wearing them on an everyday basis.
To evaluate our style metric, we designed a social media poll and got more than 50 responses from women ages 18-65!
The winter boots in this review ranged significantly in style from the techy Vasque hiker, to the tall faux fur Northside Kathmandu, to the streamlined, yet floppy, Columbia Minx-Mid II. Our Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Shellista II Mid features a wingtip outsole and a tall knit collar, with a rubber shaft. It's a great option for those looking for a boot that doesn't feature faux fur and looks clean and 'mountain-chic'. According to our survey, this was a top choice, alongside the Sorel Tofino II. If you're into faux fur, this is a great option! It has a conservative faux fur liner and patterned canvas upper, with many great color options. When reading each individual review, be sure to consider whether there are aspects of a certain model that might keep you from wanting to wear it on an everyday basis.
Another aspect to think about is whether you typically tuck your pants into your boots or not. There are some practical reasons to tuck your pants in; for example, if it's snowy or wet out, the bottoms of your jeans will stay dry. It's also currently on trend to tuck your pants in - and it's pretty much your only option if you're wearing skinny jeans. That said, the tucked in look isn't for everyone and it can also be difficult to pull off if you like wearing more flared pants and have a penchant for short boots. It is inherently harder to tuck wider-legged pants into short boots.
Similarly, it is impossible to wear tighter pants over the top of boots with thick fur cuffs. So, be sure to think about what types of pants you own and whether you want to primarily tuck in or not. This was one reason we loved the UGG Adirondack II. This winter boot has a cuffable suede shaft that can be worn up or down, making it a bit more versatile.
Ease to Take On & Off
It's that moment when you're finally out of the cold and you're so ready to be in your house slippers. Your boots are wet and snowy, but you just can't seem to kick them off. The feeling is similar when you're trying to get out the door quickly it's just inconvenient to have shoes that are hard to take on and off. This metric is not weighted very heavily, but there was such a vast difference between how simple it was to take some boots off and how much of a pain others were, that we decided to add in this category.
To evaluate this metric, we looked at a few key factors that contribute to how ease a boot is to take on and off. We looked at the lacing system and whether or not we could simply slide your foot in and out of the boot. To test this, we first loosened the laces of each boot. Then we tried to put the boot on without using our hands. Finally, we tried to take the boots off without using our hands. In these tests we learned that boots with a more rigid shaft and a wider neck are easier to get on and off. In addition, our testers preferred boots with a simple one-pull cinch lacing system. A combination of these two things meant a high score in this metric.
If you're looking for the easiest, kick your boots off at the door boot, the Kamik Momentum wins hands down. It features a quick-pull cord cinch system elastic pull lace system with a wide opening that allows you to slip your boot on and off with ease. The inner liner is slick so it doesn't catch on socks, nor does it bunch up. Similar to the Kamik, both The North Face Shellista II Mid and Sorel Tofino II have a rigid upper that doesn't bend or twist when putting your foot in the boot. However, both have regular lace up systems that take a little more time to put on properly.
The Northside Kathmandu originally scored high in this metric, but after a few tests, we learned that the insole bunched and balled when taking socks in and out of the boot. Even with its rigid upper, wide opening, and simplistic lacing system, it learned a much lower score. In the end, we ended up taking the insoles out completely, and just settling for the boot without the insole. In this set up, we felt like the boot was exceptionally easy to take on and off, but we had to eliminate a component of the boot to get there.
On the other side of things, the Columbia Minx-Mid II scored the lowest in this category. This is because the shaft of the boot is made of a floppy material. Even though this boot has an awesome one-pull cinch system and they're relatively easy to take off, it's not possible to put this boot on without using your hands. The Sorel Joan of Arctic are similar in design, but we found that they were harder to take off then to put on. However, as long as we adjusted the lacing to be pretty loose, we could still take them on and off with relative ease.
Owning a great pair of boots can significantly improve your winter. Proper footwear is important for outdoor activities, as well as everyday life in the sometimes grueling winter season. With factors ranging from warmth, comfort, protection from the elements, and even fashion, we have tested it all in hopes of helping you find the perfect boot for your needs. If you're looking for more insight on how to make a purchase decision, check out buying advice for tips on how to but the best winter boots for women.
— Amanda Fenn and Amber King
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