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 three winters to testing the industry's top women's winter boots, evaluating them side-by-side to help you find the product that's right for you. We wore these products while traipsing through snow drifts and splashing through slush. We hiked in them on cold winter days in the desert 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 us with numb toes. After evaluating each model in categories ranging from weather protection to style, we're ready to give you the results of our head-to-head comparison. 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 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 around town on frigid days. Although it is super warm, it's very heavy, clunky, and not very 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 and have to ensure that it will be dry the next morning. 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. If you don't just love faux fur, the Sorel Joan of Arctic Shearling has all the great qualities of the classic Joan of Arctic, without the fuss of faux.
One of our favorite boots in this review was the Vasque Pow Pow II. This incredibly comfortable and supportive winter hiking boot took us on snowy trails, across frozen creeks, and all around Boulder on our bikes. Although it's not the most stylish, this boot 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 has 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation and keep our toes surprisingly warm, especially when we were moving. This boot will keep your feet dry in puddles up to eight inches deep, but doesn't provide as much protection from tall snow drifts as its taller competitors.
Best for Specific Applications
Best tall winter hiker: Ahnu Northridge
Best après ski boot: Tecnica Moon Boot
Best fall to winter transition boot: Keen Elsa
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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, and a host of other cold weather activities but if there's one thing we've learned, it's that purchasing the proper gear makes all the difference. While proper footwear is critical for technical activities, it's also just as important for everyday life throughout the winter.
An awesome pair of winter boots can make shoveling snow less of a chore and it can add style to your cold weather wardrobe. We ranked the products in this review according to warmth, comfort & coziness, water resistance, style, traction, and ease to take on and off. Throughout our testing process we identified which boots were best solely for around town, like our Top Pick for Warmth: the Sorel Joan of Arctic and which ones are suitable for exploring the outdoor winter wonderland, like our Top Pick for Winter Hiking: the Vasque Pow Pow II.
Need help choosing the boots that will meet your specific needs? Click over to our Buying Advice Guide where we discuss how to find the balance between fashion and function, whether to choose a tall or short boot, and how much performance and comfort you need. If there's one thing we've learned in three years of testing women's winter boots it's that it is very hard to find a boot that will "do it all." A boot that is comfortable enough to walk long distances is not likely to be warm enough for truly frigid days. Or if you do find this combination of comfort and warmth, it may be missing a different element, such as style.
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 Sorel Tofino - offers good performance across the board, but it 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
In this review, we tested a wide range of boots, including models that were on the shorter side, like the Keen Elsa, which has a shaft that measures 8.5 inches from the ground up, and tall boots like the Baffin Loki, which rises more than 14 inches up the calf. Generally speaking, we found shorter boots more comfortable for activities like hiking and even driving; in these scenarios, tall shafts can restrict movement or feel bulky and clunky. However, if you opt for a shorter boot, the inherent trade-off is less protection from tall snow drifts and less warmth around the calf. If you live in an area with lots of snow, you will almost certainly want to opt for a model with a tall shaft.
Outside of the tall vs. short designation, we tested chic, feminine boots with faux fur cuffs - like the Sorel Tofino - and tough, rugged pieces like the Vasque Pow Pow II (our Top Pick for Winter Hiking) that are more performance-oriented. Choosing between fashion and function is fairly critical when purchasing a new pair of winter boots. If you need footwear that you can wear out to happy hour with friends, then a boot like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Titanium - Women's just isn't going to cut it. On the other hand, if you're hoping to head out on winter hikes, the Sorel Conquest Carly will definitely not cross over from fashion to function. Several models we tested do double duty. In fact, our Top Pick for Severe Weather, the Sorel Joan of Arctic will keep your feet super warm (read: functional), but look great with most wintry outfits (read: fashionable).
Throughout this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of each of these products. Our Buying Advice Guide also has lots of helpful information about these different categories of boots and which ones will best suit your climate and needs.
Criteria for Evaluation
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. Before we get too far into talking about warmth, we want to give you full disclosure: our main tester has notoriously cold feet and the boots that didn't keep her feet warm might be fine for you. That said, we were careful to measure all the products relative to each other in a controlled test. (You can learn more about How We Test over here).
The winter boots in this review have vastly different types of insulation, ranging from 17 millimeters of sheepskin (the UGG Adirondack II) to PrimaLoft ECO (The North Face Nuptse Purna). However, we didn't specifically try to measure the effectiveness of the different types of insulation. Instead, we studied how each boot's construction and design contributed to overall warmth. In addition to insulation, characteristics that affect a boot's warmth are the height of the shaft, the thickness of the sole, and the presence or absence of a closure system at the top of the shaft. As you're deciding on which boots will be right for you, be sure to keep these factors in mind.
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 Ahnu Northridge. 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 Conquest Carly.
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 piece's footbed was and we compared each one's interior lining. After driving a car in all the contenders, we also noted which ones were most uncomfortable to drive in (the Sorel Joan of Arctic) and which ones we never even noticed (The North Face Nuptse Purna).
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 and Sorel Tivoli High II are comfortable to wear all day thanks to their relatively lightweight designs.
Overall, our highest scores in this metric went to the Ahnu Northridge and the UGG Adirondack II. The Ahnu has a super comfortable footbed that makes it ideal for hiking. In fact, it was the only tall boot that we thought really worked as a winter hiker. In terms of coziness, we instantly fell in love with the UGGs. Like the company's classic tall suede models, the Adirondack II is lined with plush sheepskin. Slipping on this boot is simply a little slice of heaven. Even one year later, the Adirondack's sheepskin liner is still relatively plush. It could use a new sheepskin-lined insole, but we still love the feeling of comfort and cushioning just as much (if not more!) as when we first tried them on back in 2013.
Another top performer in our comfort metric is our Best Buy Award winner, the Kamik Momentum. This product has a super plush synthetic lining that extends all the way into the bottom of the boot. As with the UGGs, we really enjoyed slipping this boot on while barefoot for quick trips outside. The footbed does a good job hugging the foot and the faux fur cuff only increases its coziness. On the other end of the spectrum, the Sorel Conquest Carly make look super stylish, but it has a design flaw along the back of the heel that left us limping.
From snow to slush to the dreaded "wintry mix," winter can bring all sorts of unpleasant precipitation, but with the proper footwear you'll be dreaming of snow angels in no time! This metric takes into account each boot's water resistance as well as its shaft height. We carried out a series of water resistance tests that measured how deep of a puddle each boot could handle. 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 three 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 and even then if the snow is really dry and fluffy it might not seep in at all. Unless you are planning to ford a creek or brave a gushing gutter, the flood level might not be that important to you.
We were surprised to find that some of the shorter winter boots like the Vasque Pow Pow II actually kept our feet dryer than taller boots like the Ahnu Northridge. We found that these differences stem primarily from design flaws such as non-watertight zippers or seams that aren't entirely sealed. On the other hand, tall boots provide significantly more protection from high snow drifts. For example, the Tecnica Moon Boot won't keep you dry if you try to wade into a creek, but if you're walking through a powdery snow drift, the nylon upper keeps more snow from coating your pants than a short boot would. Additionally, boots like the Sorel Tivoli High II have water resistant uppers that shed snow and rain. The final thing to consider in this metric is how well the shaft adjusts to the width of the calf to seal out snow and rain. Models like the Baffin Loki and Merrell Dewbrook Zip have a wide non-adjustable gap between the shin and the calf that can easily allow snow to fall in if you're not careful. Overall, the Sorel Joan of Arctic far out-performed all the competitors, withstanding puddles up to eight inches deep and snow drifts up to 13 inches deep.
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 funky, retro Moon Boot to the attractive Conquest Carly and the rugged Columbia Bugaboot. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Sorel Tofino, has a fluffy faux fur cuff that many of the women in our social media poll found to be pretty stylish. That said, we know that faux fur is not for everyone. If this is the case for you, consider the more subtle faux fur on the Sorel Tivoli or boots like the Keen Elsa. We loved this short, stylish boot with its patterned upper and hip looks. 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.
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 and then tested each one by hopping across stones in an icy creek, cruising over dry rocky surfaces, and skating around on slick driveways. After hiking and walking around town in each of these winter boots, we came to some important conclusions about traction.
Firstly, the depth of the treads made a big difference in traction, especially on loose terrain. While the Sorels we tested had relatively shallow treads, hikers like the Vasque Pow Pow II and Columbia Bugaboot (which earned our highest traction score) had deep, grippy treads. One of the highest performing products in this metric combined deep treads with a Vibram rubber outsole. When we hiked in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in the Ahnu Northridge, the deep Vibram treads helped us scramble easy over rocky surfaces. Several models, including The North Face Nuptse Purna, were fitted with "lugs" that stick out from the outsole rather than treads that are carved in. We found the traction of this boot to be inferior to that of its competitors.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Keen Elsa, which was one of the highest performers when we skated across icy sidewalks.
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.
The Sorel Joan of Arctic and Vasque Pow Pow II were some of the most difficult winter boots to remove. A lot of times, we actually had to use our hands to pull them off, instead of being able to kick them off. On the other end of the spectrum, the Kamik Momentum was surprisingly simple to take on and off thanks to its slick inner lining, shorter shaft, and quick pull cord cinch system. We had mixed feelings about the side zipper on the Ahnu Northridge, but we loved that the Tecnica Moon Boot was so easy to slip on and off, thanks to its structured polyester walls.
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. Read through our Buying Advice article for more tips on making your purchase.
— Amanda Fenn
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