The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Winter Boots for Women

Monday January 13, 2020

Where We Test


We've worn these boots on steep mountain hikes, across glacial ridges, into alpine lakes, icy streets, and snowy trails. We've tested the older boots in our review through entire winters. With snow coming early in Colorado and late on the west coast, we headed up to volcanic glaciers and frigid snowfields to see how new entries and old favorites held up. Below we outline how we tested each metric specifically, so you know what our objective and subjective testing scheme look like.

We test our boots while hiking over scree  winter trails  and ice. This helps us determine how each performs and which are the best of the best.
We test our boots while hiking over scree, winter trails, and ice. This helps us determine how each performs and which are the best of the best.

Testing Metrics



Warmth


To test for warmth, we submerged each pair of boots in a cooler of ice water and measured the inside temperature of the boots with a laser thermometer at five-minute intervals for 20 minutes. We examined the quality and quantity of insulation and outsole material to evaluate the standing and active warmth of each contender. Finally, we wore the boots in cold temperatures and when splashing around in cold lakes and reported how toasty our feet felt in each pair of boots over time, in action, and while standing around.

Testing interior temps in each winter boot as they sit in ice water.
Testing interior temps in each winter boot as they sit in ice water.

One thing we learned was that while boots lose heat at different rates, this didn't always correlate to our experience wearing the boots. The type and amount of insulation surrounding the foot have a great effect on how we experience cold.

Weather Protection


Weather protection takes both water and snow into account. To test waterproofing, we determined each boot's maximum puddle depth. To do so, we hiked to an alpine lake and stood in 4" of water (simulating a deep puddle). If you're going to stand around in cold water, we figured, let's make sure it's in a beautiful spot. Then we slowly walked in deeper to see where each boot lost its water resistance. Then we measured it with a ruler. For the most part, the depth of waterproofness was determined by the height of the boot, with a couple of exceptions.

The boots we are about to test in water for an update to our Women's Winter Boot review.
The boots we are about to test in water for an update to our Women's Winter Boot review.

We also wore these boots while walking through snowbanks, over trails, and during snowstorms to determine comparative performance. If a boot took an extra-long time to dry out, we noted that, as well.

We stand in water and actually being to march to see if water seeps through unsealed seams. Unfortunately  cold feet tend to be a problem for our testers here. But it's worth it.
We stand in water and actually being to march to see if water seeps through unsealed seams. Unfortunately, cold feet tend to be a problem for our testers here. But it's worth it.

Comfort & Fit


After weighing each boot to determine a baseline, we compared the relative comfort and fit features. We wore each pair with thin socks to compare the stability and footbed support along with the coziness of the liners and collars. We also noted any areas of constriction that would limit the fit of a boot to certain foot shapes. Finally, we perform an online research to determine if the boots needed to be sized up or down. Overall, boots that felt good to wear all day had a fairly versatile fit and had few additional cozy features scored higher.

We hike  go to work  hang out  and wear these boots all day long  noting comfort features that are choice  and which simply can't be worn all day.
We hike, go to work, hang out, and wear these boots all day long, noting comfort features that are choice, and which simply can't be worn all day.

Ease of Use


We took each boot on and off several times with warm hands and with cold hands, and when the boots were warm and cold. We noted how tricky it was to dial in the fit and if the boot stayed snug throughout the test. We also noted which boots took us longer to put on and take off based off the labor of lacing and unlacing.

Here we notice how easy it is to pull a boot on or take it off.
Here we notice how easy it is to pull a boot on or take it off.

Traction


In addition to real-life traction testing on trails and snow, we created a traction test to compare boots in identical circumstances. We created a ramp and walked it while it was dry, wet, and covered in ice. We walked across an icy driveway in each pair of boots. If we encountered a stream while testing the winter hiking boots, we noted if they provided traction on slippery, wet rocks. Finally, we looked at lug depth and type of rubber (soft or hard) to determine which boots were best for travel over snow and which were better for technical winter terrain.