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Best Winter Boots for Women of 2020

Friday July 24, 2020
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We've tested over 40 pairs of the best women's winter boots for the last 7 years. This update features 13 of 2020's top products on the market. To find the best and top picks, we wore each pair for over three months, tromping around in puddles, tackling steep snow slopes, and pulling each on and off hundreds of times. We test each pair in hand and assess each both based on five key metrics. We also wear them to work, on our commutes, and while performing chores around the house. This review offers a comprehensive look at the best women's winter boots on the market, with award winners that'll keep you warm, protected, and having fun in cold conditions.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 13

The Best Winter Boot for Women


UGG Adirondack III


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Weather Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort & Fit - 25% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Traction - 10% 8
Height: 10 inches (8" when rolled down) | Insulation: 100% UGG Wool
Super cute
Great weather protection
Wonderful traction
Versatile functionality
Flexible shaft
Expensive

If you're seeking a warm, stylish boot with technical performance, this model delivers. The updated outsole supplies serious traction and enables both in-town functionality and on-trail superiority. The leather construction is completely waterproof, offering protection from puddles and streams. The collar folds down to offer two stylish looks to wear. This boot is our favorite for its plush comfort and warmth, in addition to its stand-out versatility.

While it has plenty of uses, the Adirondack is not as stable in the shaft as other winter boots that are geared towards hiking or super technical performance. It's also expensive. Given the suede and leather construction, it needs to be treated with a leather seal to maintain its longevity and ensure performance season after season. If cozy warmth and good looks are your jam, however, we think you'll love this boot.

Read review: UGG Adirondack III

Best Bang for the Buck


Kamik Sienna 2


Best Buy Award

$119.95
at Backcountry
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Weather Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort & Fit - 25% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Traction - 10% 6
Height: 11 inches | Insulation: 200g 3M Thinsulate
Comfortable fit and construction
Very warm and protective
Easy to use
Great price
Reliable
Fit runs small
"Heel" pushes the foot forward

This high-value boot performs at an incredible price. The waterproof sole keeps moisture out while the mid-rise construction offers a reprieve from newly fallen snow. The wider collar is not lined with faux-fur (which many appreciate) and the pull tabs on the back of the boot are an easy to use feature. This boot is surprisingly warm, supply adequate warmth when the temperatures drop well into the negatives. Although there are other lower-priced boots out there, this award winner proves to be better crafted with a warmer and more durable construction that'll keep you protected throughout the winter.

The only real beef we have with the Sienna is its fit. It runs a little small, so you'll need to size up a half size, especially if you prefer to wear thicker socks. Plus, the heel of this boot is high, which pushes the front of the foot forward, similar to the feel of wearing a high heel. A few of our testers took issue with this, but for others, it wasn't a problem at all.

Read review: Kamik Sienna 2

Best for Winter Hiking


Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof


Top Pick Award

$137.93
(25% off)
at REI
See It

79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Weather Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort & Fit - 25% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Traction - 10% 7
Height: 7 inches | Insulation: 200g 3M Thinsulate
Excellent traction on winter trails
Supportive footbed
Cozy and protective wool cuff
Weather-proof
Shorter shaft height

In search of a true winter hiking boot that performs well on trails and keeps your toes warm? This boot, with its supportive, stable, and lightweight footbed, is an exceptional choice. It's a favorite for its substantial weather protection, supportive footbed, and super cozy wool collar. Complete with snowshoe and gaiter compatibility, it also features burly traction for any snowy, steep adventures and it earned the warmest rating of any winter hiking boot in the review.

The Bridger 7" may not be ideal for those heading into the deepest snowdrifts due to the short shaft, especially at the back of the boot. Also, it doesn't perform well on ice because the rubber is quite hard, seemingly repelling harder or slippier surfaces rather than gripping them. The smaller fit does warrant sizing up a half size, especially if you like to wear thicker socks. It should also give you more wiggle room in the front of the boot, which usually translates to better circulation and warmth.

Read review: Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof

Best for Protection


The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall - Women's


Top Pick Award

$179.95
(8% off)
at Amazon
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weather Protection - 25% 10
  • Comfort & Fit - 25% 2
  • Ease of Use - 15% 10
  • Traction - 10% 10
Height: 17 inches | Insulation: Fleece & Neoprene
Very protective from water and snow
Super-tall construction protects in tall snowbanks
Easy to slip on and off
Thick sole stays warm in super cold temperatures
Amazing traction on all surfaces
Possible durability issues
Bulky fit
Less stylish

This is one of the highest-scoring products in our review that occupies a niche as the most protective, warm, and easiest to use. The super-tall construction extends 17-inches up the leg and it's built with weatherproof neoprene and fleece to keep toes dry and warm. We love that the rigid, but breathable, shaft of the boot stands on its own to make it easy to slip on and off without even touching its collar. The super beefy sole is thick and protective, while the soft rubber composite underfoot sticks exceptionally well to ice. If you need a super burly boot that can tackle the coldest and wettest days of weather, this workhorse is built to do exactly that.

With such beefy construction, it's not surprising that the heavy Arctic Tall isn't the most comfortable or well-fitting. Also, the cuff of the boot is prone to chafing if you're not wearing pants that are thick enough to protect your leg (especially if you're shorter). Given that this is a neoprene boot, it's not our favorite to wear to work or out to the bar, but it's nice to have when blowing snow off your driveway or chopping wood. Also, some customer reviews complain about durability issues. During our testing period, however, we didn't notice any problems.

Read review: The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall - Women's


Testing the warmth and traction of the Columbia Bugaboot IV on a cold day on the glacier.
Testing the warmth and traction of the Columbia Bugaboot IV on a cold day on the glacier.

Why You Should Trust Us


Our winter boot experts are Amber King and Laural Hunter[. Amber King is a Canadian native that transplanted herself to Colorado. She works in outdoor education and is a full-time tester for OutdoorGearLab. She has spent over 200+ hours testing winter boots, wearing them in everything from warm spring storms to super tall snowdrifts in her home town of Ouray, Colorado. Her home is positioned on the top of the mountain, where snow flys frequently from early fall to late spring. When she's not tromping around the forest in the winter, you can find her snowboarding or ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. Laurel Hunter enjoys the winter weather, but can often be found seeking out warm trails for prime mountain biking terrain. When she's not pushing herself physically, you'll find her designing or playing with her dog.

Our testing process was designed to ensure we don't miss any important details. We hiked on cold winter days with temperatures well below zero and walked the dogs each day on packed snowy roads and trails. We tested boots in snow and rainstorms and wore them out to dinner on chilly evenings. We even walked around in creeks and lakes to assess their performance in the nastiest conditions. Some of these boots gave us a whole new love of winter. Wearing each pair from Colorado to Canada, we tested each with a hands-on approach.

Related: How We Tested Winter Boots for Women

Taking a temperature reading while performing a warmth test with the Bugaboot Plus IV  left  and the North Face Chilkat models.
Take little jaunts through the woods or go on easy winter hikes. They are also comfortable enough to strap on a pair of snowshoes.

Analysis and Test Results


Whether you love the crisp cold days of winter or you're already counting down to spring, proper footwear can help you enjoy everything each season has to offer. For us, winter means walking around town, standing around bonfires, skiing, fat biking, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and a host of other cold-weather activities. It's a time when hot cocoa and bright lights entrance us, and cold weather is a second thought. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that having the right gear for the weather makes all the difference. Our selection includes a wide range of winter boot options, from technical hikers to boots only built for wearing around town. For each, we evaluated the differences in performance and selected award winners based on niche performance and versatility. All of the boots tested do well for winter weather though some stand-out more than others.

Related: Buying Advice for Winter Boots for Women

Cozy and comfortable  this boot boasts fantastic technical performance that functions with style.
Cozy and comfortable, this boot boasts fantastic technical performance that functions with style.

Value


A good performing boot doesn't have to be expensive. We took the time to find well-priced options that'll last you deep into the darkest and coldest parts of winter. The best value might be our the Sienna 2. With an affordable price tag, it is an excellent choice to keep you warm for the winter without breaking the bank. It's not the least expensive option, but it's far more protective than the less expensive Columbia Ice Maiden II. The Sorel Caribou is another model that's similarly priced to the Sienna 2, but with a warmer construction and better traction. However, it has a bulkier fit and isn't quite as stylish.

The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV also provides an excellent value with a totally bomber sole that sticks to both snowy surfaces and icy terrain. When considering value, but sure to note the features you seek and set your budget. Also, be sure you're buying a good quality boot, so you don't find yourself purchasing another pair after just one season of use.


Warmth


We all need a warm boot that'll offer insulation throughout the coldest days of winter. It's not a surprise then that warmth is one of our most important evaluation criteria. Ideally, a winter boot should keep your foot warm whether you're simply standing around in the cold or actively hiking. A few key factors contribute to the overall warmth of a boot. The warmest options have thicker outsoles, taller shafts, and high quality insulation. Your boot should also provide excellent breathability to vent moisture while you're in motion. Another important piece of gear is a solid pair of winter socks that can insulate even when wet, such as those made from wool or synthetic fibers.


To objectively measure the insulation of these boots, we settled each model into an ice bath and tracked how much their inside temperature dropped over 20 minutes. This helped us compare the relative amount of thermal insulation. We also hiked in each pair and stood around on icy surfaces while sipping hot chocolate on cold nights in the winter and noticed which kept our feet the warmest. We even stomped around in cold water. All these tests helped us determine which boots are constructed for arctic conditions and which should only be worn during the warmer shoulder seasons.

We take some time to measure insulative warmth during tests where we dunk boots in snowy-water bins to look at how temperature changes over 20 minutes. This helps us measure overall warmth  which is dependent on a variety of factors  not just insulation.
We take some time to measure insulative warmth during tests where we dunk boots in snowy-water bins to look at how temperature changes over 20 minutes. This helps us measure overall warmth, which is dependent on a variety of factors, not just insulation.

Many winter boots are rated to a specific temperature. While these numbers offer a potential point of comparison, it's hard to take this estimate at face value. The warmth you experience will vary depending on the socks you wear, your metabolism, and your perception of the cold. So take these numbers with a grain of salt, but they should still be useful to figure out which boots will be warmer than others. More importantly, pay attention to the construction of the boot, while you try to evaluate warmth.

The Muck Boot Arctic Ice is warm and perfect for protecting you while you blow snow on those super cold days.
The Muck Boot Arctic Ice is warm and perfect for protecting you while you blow snow on those super cold days.

The warmest boots we tested offer serious underfoot insulation and insulate well up the calf. The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall is a prime example. They are super warm with a 17-inch shaft that insulates throughout the calf and at the sole. They kept our feet warm in negative double digits while supplying unbeatable protection. The Sorel Caribou has the thickest sole of all our tested models, and is one of the warmest boots for just standing around in the cold. It's loaded with 9-mm of felt lining that didn't seem to compact or lose warmth, even after years of wear. Both of these boots are perfect for standing around in the cold or doing chores at the house. However, the Arctic Tall is more protective from the cold with its tall height that insulates the calf. The Caribou is about 11-inches tall, 5 inches lower than the Arctic.

The Sorel Joan of Arctic is another fantastically warm option with 13.5 inches of protection and a faux fur collar. Boots with this kind of collar offer more protection and warmth from the snow because they prevent it from coming into the top. Some people, however, don't like the bulk and messiness of that fake fur. Both the Caribou and Arctic Ice lack this feature. The Joan of Arctic isn't as warm as the Caribou — the underfoot insulation isn't as thick, and it only has 6-mm of felt insulation (in comparison to the Caribou's 9-mm). That said, it's not as bulky and is more comfortable for everyday wear.

The Sorel Caribou (far left) sports the thickest sole of the PacBoot options. This sole insulates against cold weather and kept us warm in super cold weather that dropped to the double negative digits. The Joan of Arctic also does a great job (middle) while the Tofino II is cute  but not very warm (right).
The Sorel Caribou (far left) sports the thickest sole of the PacBoot options. This sole insulates against cold weather and kept us warm in super cold weather that dropped to the double negative digits. The Joan of Arctic also does a great job (middle) while the Tofino II is cute, but not very warm (right).

Other warm boots may not have the thickest sole but still provide quality insulation. For example, the 10-inch tall UGG Adirondack is filled with lofty, warm sheep's wool — an organic, natural fiber that offers fantastic breathability and overall warmth. The sole of the boot isn't as thick as the Caribou or Arctic Ice but is similar in thickness to the 11.5-inch tall North Face Shellista III which earns a similar score. The Shellista has 200-grams of PrimaLoft Silver insulation, one of the most durable and high-quality synthetic insulation types out there. Both the Adirondack and Shellista have thinner soles underfoot, so they're not as warm as the top scorers mentioned above. They are ideal for everyday wear and are suitable for simple hiking trails or when the weather dips into the negatives.

The Oboz Bridger Insulated boot is our favorite winter hiking boot for its exceptional warmth and breathability. Here we test it on a glacier in a snowstorm.
The Oboz Bridger Insulated boot is our favorite winter hiking boot for its exceptional warmth and breathability. Here we test it on a glacier in a snowstorm.

Of the hiking-focused boots, the Bridger 7" and Bugaboot IV stand out as the best. The Bridger is a bit shorter (7 inches tall) than the Bugaboot (7.5 inches), but the insulation and construction make it a warmer boot overall. Even though both boast 200-grams of synthetic insulation, the Bridger is far more breathable. This means that, during active use, it can vent moisture from inside of the boot. The Bugaboot IV is decent, but the OmniHeat liner locks in heat very effectively (as it's meant to). It also holds in moisture, so our feet felt much swampier than in the Bridger. As a result, it is warmer and can keep you toasty during activities when temperatures fall into the negatives. Both have a very thick sole, so they both offer great stand-around warmth as well.

The protective outer and warm wool liner of the Adirondack offers fantastic performance through slush and water.
The protective outer and warm wool liner of the Adirondack offers fantastic performance through slush and water.

Depending on where you live and how you're planning to use your boots, you may have very different warmth requirements. For example, folks enduring the long winters of Minnesota should consider super warm models like the Joan of Arctic, Caribou, or Bridger. If you encounter deep puddles or wet weather, you may want a tall, waterproof boot like the Arctic Ice. And those who live in regions with milder winters can get away with models like the Ice Maiden II, Tofino II, or Heavenly Omni-Heat. These are boots that'll offer sufficient warmth to about zero degrees before they start to be overwhelmed by the cold. They are quite breathable with thinner soles and much more comfortable. Additionally, if you'll only use your boots to dash from the parking lot into your office building, then you may be willing to sacrifice warmth for style in a product like the Blundstone Thermal or Sorel Explorer Joan.

Boots come in all shapes and sizes. More insulation on a breathable design is typically the best. Those with faux fur keep in warmth better while also keeping out pesky rogue snowflakes.
Boots come in all shapes and sizes. More insulation on a breathable design is typically the best. Those with faux fur keep in warmth better while also keeping out pesky rogue snowflakes.

Weather Protection


Winter can bring the dreaded wintery mix of snow, slush, and ice. With the proper footwear, your feet (and pants) can stay protected when you're out in that nasty weather. To test this, we hiked through slushy puddles, tall snowbanks, rivers, and streams, all while evaluating the materials of the boot. Those that scored the best offered the best protection from all of these challenges.


We found that the most weatherproof boots are those built from rubber, neoprene, and/or leather. Look for boots with taped seams that are double stitched and reinforced to keep water out. Keep in mind that most products have a distinct flood level where water can pour quickly into the boot. This is sometimes a poorly sealed seam or the joint where the tongue meets the shaft. We tested and noted the flood level for each boot.

Be sure to evaluate the type of material used in the upper to determine if it is truly waterproof. Some products in this review claim their materials are waterproof when they are actually only snow-proof at best. Additionally, any product made from leather probably needs to be treated with a snow sealant at least twice per season to maintain protection.

Here we measure the relative waterproofness of the Kamik Sienna 2 in comparison to the rest. It does okay  but not nearly as well as the tallest and completely water sealed competitors.
Here we measure the relative waterproofness of the Kamik Sienna 2 in comparison to the rest. It does okay, but not nearly as well as the tallest and completely water sealed competitors.

If water and snow protection is your priority, the Muck Arctic Ice Tall is our favorite for weather protection. Whether you're blowing snow off your driveway, trudging through wet and soggy fields, or tackling tall snowbanks, this 17-inch boot, is your best bet. Unlike the Sorel Joan of Arctic, another bad weather beast with 13.5 inches of snow protection, it does not have a faux fur collar to keep out the snow. It is, however, the tallest option out there, built of neoprene and rubber. It's our favorite because it's easy to slip on, it's warm, and its tall flood level extends all the way to the top of the boot — the highest of all boots tested.

The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall offers the best protection overall. Made with Neoprene and rubber  and insulated with polyester fleece  they are tall  waterproof  and offer a durable construction that'll last a long time.
The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Tall offers the best protection overall. Made with Neoprene and rubber, and insulated with polyester fleece, they are tall, waterproof, and offer a durable construction that'll last a long time.

Another very protective Pac boot (meaning a boot with a removable lining) is the Sorel Caribou. It offers beefy insulation to keep out snowy weather. The Caribou's overlays ensure that it's waterproof all the way to the collar of the boot, at about 10.5-inches. In comparison, the Joan of Arctic delivers water protection up to just 10 inches of the 13.5-inch boot height. All are excellent choices for the nastiest weather. The most significant difference is that the Joan of Arctic is lighter, taller, and cuter than the Caribou. Of them all, the Arctic Ice provides by far the most protection in poor weather.

If you seek a highly protective winter hiking boot, the Bridger 7" Insulated offers bomber weather protection. It features leather overlays with a breathable waterproof membrane. This is a great option for hiking in wet and snowy weather. The Bugaboot IV is another with a taller puddle height to protect from water (6 inches vs. 5 inches). Both of these boots fit nicely underneath a pair of snow pants or hikers, offering a similar level of overall protection, and both kept our feet dry in super wet weather.

Different heights offer different levels of protection. The Muck Boot (tallest here) is the best  followed by the Oboz Bridger (totally waterproof for its size)  the Kamik Sienna (right)  then the Shellista III (left).
Different heights offer different levels of protection. The Muck Boot (tallest here) is the best, followed by the Oboz Bridger (totally waterproof for its size), the Kamik Sienna (right), then the Shellista III (left).

The Adirondack III is another all-around awesome winter boot that's made completely from leather and offers amazing protection from both water and snow. Like the super cute Tofino II, it left our feet bone dry, all the way up to the top of the tongue, even when wearing just a pair of leggings. The Tofino protects from puddles 8.5 inches in depth, while the Adirondack protects up to 9 inches. The Kamik Sienna offers great weather protection too with a waterproof sole that didn't leak until it was agitated for about 30 seconds. It doesn't have a faux fur cuff like the Adirondack or the fluffier Tofino, but it fits nicely over or under a pair of pants.

The Adirondack is very protective and stylish. Wear the cuff up to keep out snow on trails or wear it down for a shorter look around town. The leather construction is both waterproof and keeps the snow out.
The Adirondack is very protective and stylish. Wear the cuff up to keep out snow on trails or wear it down for a shorter look around town. The leather construction is both waterproof and keeps the snow out.

If your winters are cold and wet but not deep, we highly recommend the excellent Blundstone Thermal, which is waterproof up to the top of its 7-inch cuff. This might not be high enough for everyone, but it will handle slushy curb puddles like a champ. A stylish option for tackling nasty, urban weather where snowplows are plentiful.

The North Face Shellista III offers great protection with its knit cuff that grabs snow and keeps it out of the boot. Here  we break trail around our property while going for an evening stroll in the mountains.
The North Face Shellista III offers great protection with its knit cuff that grabs snow and keeps it out of the boot. Here, we break trail around our property while going for an evening stroll in the mountains.

Comfort & Fit


While cold weather can be brutal on your feet, a comfy winter boot can make your day. To evaluate comfort, we examined each boot's liner, footbed, and weight and judged how cozy the interior materials are to wear all day. To judge fit, we determined how precisely we could snug it down around our feet and ankles. We also considered whether most folks would need to size up or down for each boot. Then we went online and compared our findings to what other wearers experience, to recommend whether the boot is true to fit, or if you should size up (or down). We also consider the stability and support of the shoe and offer insights into its relative toe box width and arch support.


Comfort


The most comfortable options are those that aren't bulky and offer a sensitive but protective fit, with touchable materials that feel good to wear all day long. It's not surprising that boots with plush liners and comfortable insulation take the cake here. Of the more stylish and more versatile boot options, the Shellista III and Adirondack take the biggest pieces of the pie.

The Adirondack III is a less stable boot  but its super cozy liner and flexible shaft make it a shoe-in (haha) for everything from winter hiking  to chores around the property  to strolling around town.
The Adirondack III is a less stable boot, but its super cozy liner and flexible shaft make it a shoe-in (haha) for everything from winter hiking, to chores around the property, to strolling around town.

The Shellista III has a more stable footbed and shaft, giving more support around the ankle and the calf. We also appreciate the soft liners that feel good to wear all day. The Adirondack is built with super soft wool insulation right in the liner. This material is quite soft, but the shaft of the boot isn't nearly as supportive as the Shellista. The footbed for both is comfortable and supportive, with the Shellista offering more arch support and a wider toe box.

The North Face Shellista has a more rigid construction than the UGG Adirondack and is gifted with a super soft lining that is comfortable for all-day wear.
The North Face Shellista has a more rigid construction than the UGG Adirondack and is gifted with a super soft lining that is comfortable for all-day wear.

Of the winter hiking boots we tested, the Oboz Bridger is the most comfortable by far. The Bridger features a wool topped collar and a sculpted footbed for excellent arch support. There are no pressure points anywhere, and there's plenty of room for the toes to move. The Bugaboot IV is also a great hiking option that offers a supportive footbed, though the fit isn't as supportive through the arches as the Bridger. The Bridger stands out as one of the most supportive we've ever tested, offering quite a specific fit that we love!

The interior and stable fit of the Oboz Bridger makes it the most comfortable hiking shoe. It is stable on uneven terrain  with arch support   and is ridiculously comfortable.
The interior and stable fit of the Oboz Bridger makes it the most comfortable hiking shoe. It is stable on uneven terrain, with arch support, and is ridiculously comfortable.

Alternatively, more protective boots like the Caribou, Arctic Ice, and Joan of Arctic have a much bulkier fit and heavier weight — the Arctic Ice is the heaviest and bulkiest of this trio. If you're seeking a nice balance between weather protection and comfort, the Joan of Arctic is your best bet. While it's not as warm as the other two, it is a more comfortable boot to wear all day because of its thinner outsole, which offers more sensitivity and coordination in bad weather.

Fit


Fit is a subjective metric. But, after wearing the boots and handing them off to friends, as well as reading other online user reviews, we have some well-rounded thoughts on the subject. The most significant differences arise from a given boot's intended use. Active winter boots will provide a more supportive fit than bigger and burlier boots, which are comparatively loose and a little sloppy. Many winter boots are on the bulkier side.

The Oboz Bridger is our favorite winter hiker for its precise and comfortable fit that makes you feel supported and stable.
The Oboz Bridger is our favorite winter hiker for its precise and comfortable fit that makes you feel supported and stable.

Winter Hiking Boots

The fit of an active winter hiking boot is more important than casual winter boot categories. While you can lace all the hikers we tested tight enough to get a precision fit, there are differences. Our testers with wider or higher-volume feet, or those looking for wiggle room, opted for either the Bridger Insulated or Bugaboot IV, both of which have more space in the forefoot. If you need arch support and a wider toe box, the Bridger has you covered.

These boots have a snug heel that didn't slip while on the trail. The Bugaboot IV provides the most versatile fit, with a roomy toe box and less sculpted footbed. The Bridger delivers a little less space but will work for those looking for a medium or narrower fit. In general, the fit on both of these is precise and offers optimal stability for travel over winter trails.

Winter Boots All-Around Use
Narrow Fit: While most boots can be made to work with a narrow foot, these are our top recommendations. They provide a precise fit and allow you to cinch down the boot.

Our Recommendations: Ice Maiden II (needs a half size up), Heavenly Omni-Heat (needs a half size up), Adirondack III, Tofino II, Joan Explorer (a sneaker-like boot)

Roomy Fit: A boot with a roomy fit is best for those with medium to wide feet, or for those looking to wear thicker socks.

Our recommendations: Shellista III, Sienna 2 (has a heel)

Sloppy or Big Fit: These boots have a bulky or sloppy fit that will do well with any size foot if you aren't planning to walk too much. They also work well with thicker socks if you think you need 'em.

Our recommendations: Joan of Arctic, Caribou, Arctic Ice Tall

The Muck Boot isn't the most comfortable with its larger fit and heavier construction  but the footbed is nicely cushioned for all-day wear
The Muck Boot isn't the most comfortable with its larger fit and heavier construction, but the footbed is nicely cushioned for all-day wear

Ease of Use


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, your hands are cold, but you 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 some boots are so simple to slip out of, and others are such a pain, that we wanted to tell you about it.


First, we looked at each lacing system and tested whether you need to spend extra minutes lacing and unlacing the boot. (An important factor is whether or not you can lace up a boot with a simple pull, or if you have to tighten the laces up the shaft manually.) Then we practiced pulling each boot on and taking it off again. Boots with a rigid shaft and wider neck are easier to wrangle. Boots that scored the highest are easy to take on and off and featured either no laces or a single-pull lacing system.

Look ma  no hands! The Arctic Ice boot is the easiest to slip on and off.
Look ma, no hands! The Arctic Ice boot is the easiest to slip on and off.

Hands-down the Muck Arctic Ice is the easiest boot to slip into and kick-off. It has no laces, and a rigid shaft with a large area around the cuff allows you to easily slip your foot in and out. If you feel like using it, it also has a nifty pull tab that makes it easier to grab the boot to get your foot in and out. The Blundstone Thermal is also a laceless design, but the boots do not have a ridge on the back of the heel to aid in removal, so they require hands to get them off rather than a kick.

The Ice Maiden makes for a really comfortable shoe that's super easy to get a specific fit. One pull  and you're done!
The Ice Maiden makes for a really comfortable shoe that's super easy to get a specific fit. One pull, and you're done!

Boots with a lacing system that tightens up with a single pull are also quite easy to use. Both the Omni Heat Heavenly and Ice Maiden II have this feature. Neither of these boots is rigid enough to stand up on their own, so you do need two hands to get into them, but a single pull of the laces means that, from top to bottom, the entire lacing pattern tightens, offering a specific and easy fit. To get them off, simply unlace and kick the boot off…it's that easy.

The Sorel Caribou, Joan of Arctic,, and Tofino II all have a rigid upper that doesn't bend or twist when you step into the boot and are quite easy to use as well. While their laces are more labor-intensive than a slip-on option would be, they still tighten easily. There is enough room in all of these boots to simply slip your foot in without lacing them up, with the Tofino II being the easiest. The Joan of Arctic has nifty pull tabs on the side that add to its ease while the Caribou has a shaft that's not as rigid and requires a little more work.

These metal eyelets makes it a cinch to lace up and tie the Bugaboot Plus IV.
These metal eyelets makes it a cinch to lace up and tie the Bugaboot Plus IV.

Of the hiking boots tested, the Bugaboot Plus IV is the easiest to use. Its wide collar opening makes it easy to slide your foot in and out. Plus, all of the eyelets are closed loops, so no need to unhook the laces. The Bridger is okay to use, but you need to unlace and loosen to get them on and off. The smaller fit of the boot doesn't allow you to simply slide it on either.

Which ones are easy to put on? These boots don't require too much effort  but you do need two hands to pull them on. Thank goodness the laces move easily through the eyelets with just a single pull.
Which ones are easy to put on? These boots don't require too much effort, but you do need two hands to pull them on. Thank goodness the laces move easily through the eyelets with just a single pull.

Boots with lots of eyelets and laces take a little more time to work with. The Adirondack III and the Shellista III fall into this category. The Adirondack doesn't have any many eyelets as the Shellista, but still takes a little more effort to get a precise fit. When you pull its laces, they bunch at the top, but not at the bottom. The Shellista does this too, however, the newest update has two eyelets on each side at the top. This new design allows you to pull the laces (at the bottom of the boot), and simply lace up the top. Once you find a fit you like (and you can set it for slide-in action), all you need to do is slip your foot in and do up the eyelets. The Adirondack doesn't have this feature, and only has one pull tab at the back of the boot, while the Shellista has two along the sides, making it easier to get on.

Here we use the pull tabs of the Shellista III to get our foot into the boot. The new and updated design is much easier to use than it's ever been.
Here we use the pull tabs of the Shellista III to get our foot into the boot. The new and updated design is much easier to use than it's ever been.

The Sienna 2 also requires manual lacing action. The eyelets on this boot are quite large, and while we find it easy to slip our foot in and out, the laces fall out of the eyelets easily — this happens with the Tofino II as well but, despite this, it's far easier to get on and off.

Traction


If you want to stay on your feet through winter, a bomber outsole is key. We studied each model's outsole by measuring the depth of the tread and noting the pattern. We also created an icy ramp and walked up and down it and did some slip-sliding across an icy driveway. In addition to these objective tests, we skated around on ice patches, hiked around town, and got out into nasty stuff to determine which boots stuck, and which ones didn't. In the end, we learned that those with the largest lugs and surface area did best on technical terrain while flatter soles work best on deep snow. Boots with temperature-sensitive rubber that is softer and more pliable perform better in colder temps and over icy surfaces.


A look at the outsoles of several boots tested. We find that those with a wider lug pattern with lots of surface area and a softer rubber composite does better than the others.
A look at the outsoles of several boots tested. We find that those with a wider lug pattern with lots of surface area and a softer rubber composite does better than the others.

While all the boots tested provide traction, some are better than others. If you plan on being out in deep snow throughout the winter, a sole with a lot of surface area like the Joan of Arctic or Tofino II is a great option. Similar to a snowshoe, it floats a bit on top of the surface, without the necessity for deep lugs. The outsole has a wave pattern that provides some traction, but the lug-less design is not ideal for steep snow slopes. The Sienna 2 has a similar lug-less design that floats well on snow, but it slipperier on steeper, hard-packed trails.

A look at the "wavy traction" patterns of the Sorel Tofino II (top) and Sorel Caribou (middle). The Sorel Caribou (lowest) features a different outsole providing better traction on more technical terrain.
A look at the "wavy traction" patterns of the Sorel Tofino II (top) and Sorel Caribou (middle). The Sorel Caribou (lowest) features a different outsole providing better traction on more technical terrain.

If you plan to get on steep trails this winter, we highly recommend a hiking boot with lugs. For that, an active winter hiking boot is your best bet, and the Bugaboot IV provides some of the best traction in the test. Its lugs are wide, and the Michelin Winter Compound rubber stays soft and grippy in cold conditions.

The Queen of Traction  the new Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV boots have massive lugs that grip like crazy.
The Queen of Traction, the new Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV boots have massive lugs that grip like crazy.

Both the Bugaboot and the Arctic Ice stuck to icy surfaces the best. The Arctic Ice does a little better than the Bugaboot IV with its super-wide lugs, interlaced with a softer rubber compound on the center, that grips to the tiniest patch of friction. We were slipping less in this boot, making it and the Bugaboot IV our prime choices for icy activities like ice fishing or navigating sidewalks after an ice storm.

The UGG Adirondack III (left) and Arctic Ice Tall (right) both offer great traction. Both have a super soft rubber composite. While the Adirondack's is soft throughout  the Arctic Ice has it in the center of the lug  with deeper lugs for better traction overall.
The UGG Adirondack III (left) and Arctic Ice Tall (right) both offer great traction. Both have a super soft rubber composite. While the Adirondack's is soft throughout, the Arctic Ice has it in the center of the lug, with deeper lugs for better traction overall.

The Bridger is another great hiking boot that offers a burly traction pattern to combat steep snow trails. However, we found that the rubber is a much harder compound than both the Bugaboot and Arctic Ice, so it can be treacherous tackling super icy terrain with this boot. That said, on trails interlaced with dirt and ice, it did just fine. The Adirondack scores higher than the Bridger because it can tackle the same types of trails, but with its softer rubber compounds, it does much better on ice. The lugs aren't as deep either, so it floats better over deeper snow.

If you simply need a more stylish boot that'll get you around town and on simple, easy trails for the winter, check out the Shellista III and Ice Maiden II. Both feature a softer rubber and wider lug pattern that grips to slippery rocks and packed snow. Both are great options for winter chores, wearing around town, and light hiking.

Taken to the freezing temperatures of Ontario Canada  we test winter boots in the cold and snow. What do you need your boots to do this winter season?
Taken to the freezing temperatures of Ontario Canada, we test winter boots in the cold and snow. What do you need your boots to do this winter season?

Conclusion


Is there a cold winter storm threatening on the horizon? A high-performing winter boot can keep you warm and protected from whatever weather it might bring. You should be sure the boot you settle on is warm, breathable, and offers decent traction and weather protection to get you through the worst days of winter. Although there are many choices on the market, the selection presented here represents the best products on the market, with choices ranging from winter hikers to stylish around-town choices. Be sure to identify what you need from your winter boot before making your choice so you can be fully ready for skiing, winter hiking, or strolling to the cafe.

Amber King and Laurel Hunter