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The Best Winter Boots of 2019

Testing winter boots on the shore of Donner Lake in Truckee  CA.
Tuesday November 26, 2019
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Gearing up for winter and looking for the best pair of boots that you can buy? We have thoroughly tested and reviewed 14 of the best and most popular winter boots for 2019, after researching all of the top models. When the temperatures drop, you need a boot that will keep your feet warm, and we can tell you which one is best. For shoveling the walk, running errands around town, performing outdoor chores, or simply taking the kids sledding, you also need a boot that is comfortable and water-resistant with good traction, all of which we have tested for in our comparative review. For those who like winter hiking and snowshoeing adventures, only the best combination of all these attributes will work. Regardless of your winter boot needs, we can help you find the best boot, or simply the best value, so read on!

Related: The Best Women's Winter Boots of 2019


Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
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Awards  Best Buy Award    
Price $224.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$68.26 at Amazon$109.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$109.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$109.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score
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71
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76
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81
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71
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69
Star Rating
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Pros Plush sheepskin comfort, good fit for a slip on, decent tractionWarm, comfortable, affordable, great tractionSupportive, good traction, very warmReasonably priced, warm, comfortable, good traction, versatileVery light, affordable, easy to lace, comfortable
Cons Low flood height, limited usefulness for hikingNot completely waterproof, more labor intensive to put on than othersMore difficult to pull on and off, relatively complicated lacing system, break-in periodBasic footbed, not completely waterproof, bulkyNot 100% waterproof, not super warm
Bottom Line The Thermal 566 is a comfortable slip-on boot that is easy to use and stylish.A very comfortable boot at the most affordable price.A high quality boot that is a warm and comfortable choice for winter hiking and snowshoeing.The North Face Chilkat III is a comfortable, warm, and versatile winter boot at a reasonable price.An affordable and comfortable winter boot solid enough for milder winters.
Rating Categories Blundstone Thermal 566 Kamik NationPlus Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry The North Face Chilkat III Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP
Warmth (25%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
Water Resistance (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
5
Fit And Comfort (25%)  
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
Traction (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Specs Blundstone Thermal... Kamik NationPlus Vasque Snowburban... The North Face... Merrell Thermo...
Maximum puddle depth before major leaking 3.25 in 4.5 in 7.25 in 3 in 5.75 in
Appropriate Activity Town All activities, from chores to hiking All activities, from chores to hiking All activities, from chores to hiking All activities, from chores to hiking
Width Options Regular Regular, Wide version available Regular Regular Regular
Fit Details True to size True to size True to size True to size True to size
Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft, Size 10) 7 in 11 in 8.5 in 8.5 in 8 in
Weight (Per Pair, size 11) 2.9 lbs 3.6 lbs 3.4 lbs 3.4 lbs 2.6 lbs
Lining/Insulation Full Thinsulate liner Removable 200B 3M Thinsulate 400g 3M Thinsulate Ultra Insulation 200g Heatseeker Insulation 200g M Select Warm
Upper Material Waterproof leather Waterproof suede and ballistic nylon 1.8mm Waterproof Leather Leather Leather, mesh
Toe Box Ergonomically engineered toe spring Rubber Durable rubber toe rand Rubber Rubber
Outsole Dual density TPU SNOWTREAD Synthetic Rubber Vasque Nordic Rover outsole with ColdHold Technology Durable TNF Winter Grip with IcePick temperature-sensitive lugs for increased traction Merrell Select Grip
Company-claimed cold-weather rating Not listed -40 F Not listed Not listed Not listed
Animal products used? Yes Yes Yes Yes - Leather Yes - Leather
Sizes Available 7 - 12 7 - 14 7 - 14 7 - 14 7 - 14

Best Overall for Men


Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 10
  • Water Resistance - 25% 10
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Traction - 10% 9
Lining: 400g Thinsulate | Shaft Height: 10 inches
Very warm
Completely waterproof
Comfortable
Good traction
Supportive uppers
Expensive
Sizing runs a bit small

The Oboz Bridger 10 is not only the best overall winter boot according to our wide variety of performance tests, but is also the best choice for winter hiking. All of our testers who have worn this boot have really taken a liking to the comfortable and secure fit that starts with an excellent O-fit insole. The uppers are moderately stiff, providing excellent support when hiking or snowshoeing, with a lace system that is user-friendly and secure. The Bridger passed our warmth tests with flying colors, as the 400g Thinsulate insulation and heat-reflective insole are the warmest in this review. In addition to their impressive warmth, they are also completely water resistant, and the B-dry waterproof membrane kept our tester's feet completely dry for a 10-minute submersion test. Traction is also a strong suit with an aggressively lugged outsole, a winter rubber compound, and sharp edges that provide good bite on most surfaces.

While testers loved the precise fit of the Bridger 10, they run a little bit on the small side. They do break in and loosen up slightly with use, but if you're interested in a roomier fit or prefer to wear thick socks, you may want to order a half size up. They are also on the pricier end of the spectrum, so may not appeal to those on the tightest of budgets. However, if you want the best winter boot, and the best boot for hiking, then we highly recommend this versatile, warm, comfortable, and waterproof boot.

Read review: Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated

Best Bang for the Buck


Kamik NationPlus


Best Buy Award

$68.26
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Water Resistance - 25% 5
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Traction - 10% 9
Lining: Removable 200B 3M Thinsulate | Shaft height: 11 inches
Warm
Comfortable
Very affordable
Great traction
Leaks and leaches pigment
More labor intensive to put on

The Kamik NationPlus Pac-Style boot easily took home the award for the most budget-friendly boot. This tall, lace-up boot is easy to fall in love with, for its competitive performance in our warmth, water resistance, traction, and comfort tests. Featuring a removable Thinsulate liner and a high traction sole, the NationPlus continues to impress our testers with its excellent price to performance ratio. With their Pac-Style design, meaning they have a separate removable liner boot stuffed inside of the outer shell, these boots are very similar to the exceedingly popular Sorel models, but are more comfortable, have far better traction, and cost about half the price!

On the downside, it leaks a bit at the base of the tongue and leaches pigment from the leather when wet, so don't wear your favorite socks. It's also a little harder to pull on than some options. Still, at half the price of some of the other boots in this review, it's easy to choose the Kamik NationPlus as our Best Bang for the Buck award winner. For those with higher volume feet, we encourage you to check out the Kamik NationWide, a wide-bodied version of this boot.

Read review: Kamik NationPlus

Best Slip-on Winter Boot


Kamik Greenbay 4


Top Pick Award

$70.80
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Water Resistance - 25% 6
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 10
  • Traction - 10% 8
Lining: Removable 8mm Thermal Guard | Shaft height: 14.5 inches
Inexpensive
Warm
Super user-friendly
Good traction
Clunky, loose fit
Not for hiking
Water leakage at the seam

The Kamik Greenbay 4 earns a Top Pick for being the best slip-on winter boot in the review. This affordable Pac style boot impresses our testers with its incredible user-friendliness. It's as easy to pull on and off as they come. This utilitarian boot is ideal for stashing by the door to shovel snow, walk the dog, or run errands around town. The slip-on design provides a roomy and comfortable fit. The Greenbay is also toasty with an 8mm removable thermal liner. The liner is surrounded by a molded rubber lower and tall waterproof nylon upper with a 14.5-inch total shaft height. Both the uppers and lowers are waterproof and will keep your feet dry in most situations. The aggressive tread on the thick rubber soles provides good grip in snow and icy conditions.

However, these boots aren't fully waterproof, and our submersion test revealed that they leak at the seam attaching the lower boot to the upper shaft if submerged in water for an extended period. And, because these boots have a loose fit that lacks support, they aren't ideal for winter hiking or snowshoeing. That said, if you're looking for a simple, easy to use boot, then the Greenbay 4 is an excellent choice.

Read review: Kamik Greenbay 4

Top Pick for Traction


Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat


Top Pick Award

$133.38
(8% off)
at Backcountry
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Water Resistance - 25% 7
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Traction - 10% 10
Lining: 200g Omni-heat reflective lining | Shaft height: 8.5 inches
Best traction in test
Lightweight
High warmth to weight ratio
Versatile
Basic footbed
Not completely waterproof

The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is a versatile winter boot that scored relatively well across our tests but truly impressed us with its traction. With a unique sole design and tread reminiscent of a snow tire, these boots grip where others slip. They provide predictable and confidence-inspiring traction on firm snow and icy conditions. Columbia's Omni-heat thermal reflective lining helps make these boots feel warmer than their 200g of insulation might suggest. It also helps them boast a high warmth-to-weight ratio. They are one of the most user-friendly lace-up boots in our test, with a less complicated system than most of the competition. The fit is generally good. It's slightly roomier than similar boots with a supportive upper and soft insulated lining.

On the downside, the Bugaboot Plus IV is fairly water resistant, but not completely waterproof. We are also disappointed by the minimalist, unsupportive insole, which inspired us to simply swap them out for a better version of our own choosing. Overall, though, these boots are versatile and well suited for activities ranging from chores around the house to full-on winter hiking and snowshoeing. Their outstanding traction earned them our Top Pick for Traction Award.

Read review: Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV

Top Pick for Wearing Around Town


Timberland Chillberg Insulated


Top Pick Award

$150 List
List Price
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Water Resistance - 25% 8
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Traction - 10% 8
Lining: Primaloft Eco, PET fleece | Shaft height: 9 inches
Warm considering their thinness
Waterproof
Good traction
Stylish
Sloppy fit
Laces don't tighten well

Let's be honest — most of the boots in this review look no more interesting or stylish than a pair of snowboard boots, and for many, such a high priced investment should come with a little more style. If you want a new pair of boots that are actually comfortable and waterproof, but don't want to look like you just walked out of an REI store, then we recommend the Timberland Chillberg Insulated, our Top Pick for Wearing Around Town. Lumberjacks would look at home wearing this boot, but so would East Coast urbanites, who will receive all the comfort, warmth, and waterproof protection they need on their 15 block trudge through slush puddles en route to the subway. With their light yellow or black color schemes, these boots look and feel a lot like your standard Timberlands, but made for winter. We also appreciate their efforts to incorporate as many recycled materials as possible.

Our only gripe about these boots is their decidedly loose fit, which also became a positive the more we wore them. The looseness just makes them feel a bit clunky and imprecise, but also ensures their adaptable comfort. We took them on a long hike in the woods and actually thought they handled pretty well, convincing us that they would be fine for trudging all over town. Cinching the laces up tight doesn't really solve the fit issue, and the truth is these boots should be worn loose. Size down half a size if you prefer a snug fit.

Read review: Timberland Chillberg Insulated

Notable for Comfort


Blundstone Thermal 566


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Water Resistance - 25% 5
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 10
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9
  • Traction - 10% 5
Lining: Full Thinsulate liner | Shaft height: 7 inches
Easy to slip on
Comfy
Good style
Not the best traction
Low puddle immersion height
The Blundstone Thermal 566 boot is a pretty unique model in our

test. A few weeks into our testing, we were in love. These are slip on boots that provide simple, rugged durability and excellent water resistance, thanks to their full leather upper. The fit is snug even though there are no laces, and the traction is reasonable in snowy and icy conditions thanks to a slip-resistant outsole. What sets the 566 apart though is their removable sheepskin liner, which works with the supportive footbed to provide unparalleled comfort for the foot.

The Blundstone boots are a little harder to pull on and off than the Bogs or Kamik Greenbay 4 boots. Still, soft and cushioned, the Blundstones make stepping out to shovel the walkway on a frosty February morning an appealing task.

Read review: Blundstone Thermal 566

Notable for Convenience


Bogs Classic Ultra Mid


Bogs Ultra Mid

$129.95
at Amazon
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 5
  • Water Resistance - 25% 10
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 5
  • Ease of Use - 15% 10
  • Traction - 10% 6
Lining: 7mm waterproof Neo-Tech | Shaft height: 9.5 inches
Simply the easiest to slide on and off
Waterproof
Roomy, relaxed fit
Not as warm as advertised
Not exactly stylish
Don't do half sizes, so fit may be wonky

We've been backcountry skiing and living in small mountain towns for the past 13 winters, and one thing we've noticed over that time is that virtually every skier we know has a pair of Bogs waiting for them in the car. The relief of sliding the feet out of tight, constricting ski boots is matched only by the ease of sliding on a pair of simple, loose, and comfortable Bogs afterwards. They're like house-slippers, except for outside in the winter. With their two giant handles carved out of the neoprene shaft material, wide foot opening, and lack of any laces at all that need to be tightened, loosened, or adjusted, these boots are just as easy as they come. They are also completely waterproof, so no more worrying about wet socks or tip-toeing around in the snow in shoes.

There are a lot of reasons why Bogs are not one of the highest scorers in our testing, such as the fact that they aren't nearly as warm as advertised. They also don't have much in the way of aggressive outsole traction, and look rather ridiculous. Frankly, these are muck boots designed for dairy farmers, so fashion probably wasn't a top concern in their design decisions. Because of these flaws, we don't really ask all that much of them, and don't even consider them for hiking or snowshoeing. But every time we need to step outside into the snow to walk the dog for the fifth time that day, or just walk down to the mailbox or run to the store, we can't help but smile at how much we love the simple convenience of these boots.

Read review: Bogs Classic Ultra Mid


Stomping through Soda Creek in the Oregon Cascades  something we enjoyed doing in this supremely waterproof leather boot.
Stomping through Soda Creek in the Oregon Cascades, something we enjoyed doing in this supremely waterproof leather boot.

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by a talented and diverse trio of gear testers, composed of OutdoorGearLab contributors Jeremy Benson, Ryan Heutter, and Andy Wellman. Andy has been a senior gear reviewer at OutdoorGearLab for the past seven years. He is a climber and adventurer of over 20 years who has spent five expeditions exploring the Himalaya, has written and published climbing and bouldering guidebooks to the Southeast, and has climbed, skied, and run in mountain ranges all over the planet. He is currently based in the Cascades of Central Oregon.

Joining him is Jeremy Benson, a north Tahoe-based freelance writer, former professional skier, and a mountain bike racer. He is the author of two books on these pursuits, published by Mountaineers Books - Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: California, and Mountain Bike Tahoe. Full-time mountain guide Ryan Heutter finishes the team. Ryan holds a degree in Outdoor Adventure Management from Western Washington University and is currently pursuing IFMGA guiding certification. He has many climbing ascents all over the world, including over 20 big wall routes in Yosemite and Fitz Roy in Patagonia.

No boot does especially well gripping on ice  and neither does this one. However  it grips very well on all other surfaces that we tested it on  and with a modified gait  sliding the feet along  we were able to stay on our feet just fine.

As a collaborative effort compiled by many different testers, based in different locations, and tested over the course of multiple winters, this winter boot review brings you a wide variety of perspective to aid with your purchase. For 2019 we decided to expand the selection, adding in four pairs that are new to our review, thereby expanding it up to 14 different models. These boots have been tested in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada of California, and Colorado's San Juan Mountains, to ensure that they live up to their billing. Beyond simply using them during the course of our everyday lives and jobs, we took them on many long winter hikes, and also conducted a number of controlled side-by-side tests to further expand our understanding of how they perform in all conditions. These tests include standing in frozen lakes to test water resistance, and measuring internal air temperatures while the boots are soaking in an ice bath to help understand which boots keep feet the warmest. You can rest assured that the information published in this review doesn't simply pay lip service to manufacturers marketing jargon, but is the product of hard won knowledge by actual use and testing.

Related: How We Tested Winter Boots

Analysis and Test Results


Despite their seeming simplicity, winter boots actually come in a number of different styles, and are designed for different purposes. The majority of the boots tested here are designed for winter hiking, which can be done with or without snowshoes, but are not crampon compatible. These boots have great outsoles for traction, compact but warm insulation, and a high ankle cuff to keep out the snow and water. These boots are laced up, and can also be used for any other type of winter activity, whether that's performing outdoor chores such as shoveling the walk, running errands in the snow, building snow men or sledding with the kids, or simply walking about town. Pac Boots are another type, which feature a separate and removable interior liner, best exemplified by the popular brands Sorel and Kamik. These boots are best used for general winter use in very cold temperatures and deep snow, are also good for activities like snow machining, but wouldn't be our first choices for hiking or snowshoeing. Finally, there are a few slip-on models, which as the name suggests, lack laces but emphasize convenience by simply being able to pull them on and off quickly without hassle.

While they aren't as waterproof or as warm as some of the other competitors  the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP are super comfortable and very affordable  making them in ideal choice if you need winter boots only occasionally  or live in a relatively mild winter location.
While they aren't as waterproof or as warm as some of the other competitors, the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP are super comfortable and very affordable, making them in ideal choice if you need winter boots only occasionally, or live in a relatively mild winter location.

We tested each of these 14 winter boots based upon five critical performance metrics: warmth, water resistance, fit and comfort, ease of use, and traction. How we tested them, the critical things to consider for each metric, and the top performers, are all described below. Since there are different types of winter boots that each have different advantages and disadvantages, we encourage you to carefully consider your own needs, which will help you narrow down the selection of which boots are the best choice for you.

Related: Buying Advice for Winter Boots


Value


Are you searching for the best value? You'll notice that our Best Buy Award winner, the Kamik Nationplus is one of the least expensive models we tested, but it still scores well from a performance standpoint. Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Oboz Bridger 10, is our highest rated boot for performance, and also one of the most expensive models we tested. When considering how much you need to spend, consider what you need your boots to do for you. If you're just shoveling the walk a few times a winter, you can go budget. If you want functional walking and hiking boots to wear nearly every day of winter, then spending more may make more sense.

The Sorel Caribou boots are easy to step into and will keep your feet warm and dry during your daily winter chores.
The Sorel Caribou boots are easy to step into and will keep your feet warm and dry during your daily winter chores.

Warmth


We typically wear winter boots in the least hospitable weather conditions, so we expect them to insulate our feet and keep them toasty and warm. Therefore, we feel a boot's warmth is one of the most important aspects of its overall performance. Each model in this review has insulation to keep the cold at bay, but different brands use different materials, such as Thinsulate, Primaloft, or perhaps something proprietary. The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat takes the unique approach of combining Columbia's Omni-Heat reflective lining with a lighter insulating layer to keep your feet warm with less bulk and weight. Warmth accounts for 25% of a boot's overall score.

Columbia's Omni-Heat heat reflective liner does its job well  reflecting heat and reducing the amount of insulation needed.
Columbia's Omni-Heat heat reflective liner does its job well, reflecting heat and reducing the amount of insulation needed.

Always take a manufacturer's warmth or temperature comfort rating with a grain of salt, as they don't always correlate to real-world findings.


Of course, we test the warmth of these boots outside in the field, but we also test them in the lab for direct head-to-head comparisons. The most objective warmth test we perform is to place the boots in an ice bath and take temperature measurements with a laser thermometer every three minutes for 12 minutes total. The Oboz Bridger 10 won this test, losing only 13.6 degrees of internal temperature after the full twelve minutes, while also finishing with the highest internal temperature. Other top performers for this test were the Keen Targhee Lace High, which lost a mere 15.6 degrees, and the Kamik Greenbay 4, which lost only 17.4 degrees. Boots with less insulation, like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, and the North Face Chilkat III, lost heat more quickly than boots with double the insulation.

We put the Bugaboot Plus IV  left  and the two North Face Chilkat boots in an ice bath to see which held warmth the longest.
We put the Bugaboot Plus IV, left, and the two North Face Chilkat boots in an ice bath to see which held warmth the longest.

To further test each boot's warmth, we wore each pair with a light merino wool sock in a slushy ice bath for eight minutes at a time (letting our toes warm back up in between). This test helped us determine how well each competitor insulates with a foot inside. In some cases, we even tested boots side by side for a more direct comparison. While manufacturers rate them many of these boots to temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, we never encounter temperatures that cold in southern Colorado or the mountains of California, so we can't verify those temperature ratings with real-world findings.


The warmest boot we tested is the Oboz Bridger 10, which has 400g of synthetic insulation, a thermal reflective insole, and a snug and comfortable fit. In general, we found the boots with 400g of insulation to be warmer than boots with less, retaining heat for longer.

You can see the inside of the liner  made with Keen.Warm  and also the removable insole that is also insulated to keep the bottom of the foot protected against heat loss. This is a very warm boot.
You can see the inside of the liner, made with Keen.Warm, and also the removable insole that is also insulated to keep the bottom of the foot protected against heat loss. This is a very warm boot.

We're also quite impressed with the warmth provided by all of the Pac boots we tested, such as the Sorel Caribou, Kamik Greenbay 4, and the Kamik Nationplus. Pac boots have an insulating inner liner and a water-resistant or waterproof exterior. Their removable liners do a great job of keeping your feet warm. On the other hand, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid's neoprene insulation does not trap heat as well. Its large, loose opening also allows heat to escape, making it the least warm boot in our review.

A Proper Fit Equals Warm Feet
Insulation can only trap or reflect the heat your foot creates, so a proper fit is essential to maintain adequate circulation. A winter boot can have all the insulation in the world, but if it constricts blood flow, your feet may still feel cold. Conversely, if your boots are too big, they are harder to walk in and take longer for your feet to heat. This is why fit and comfort, discussed below, are just as important as warmth when selecting a boot.

The warmth in the Chillberg is provided by 400g Primaloft insulation  which is lined with the soft black and grey felt shown here. We aren't in love with the liner because it pills up  but for such a thinly insulated boot  it sure is warm.
The warmth in the Chillberg is provided by 400g Primaloft insulation, which is lined with the soft black and grey felt shown here. We aren't in love with the liner because it pills up, but for such a thinly insulated boot, it sure is warm.

Water Resistance


Since we wear them in cold and often wet or snowy winter conditions, the second most important criteria when selecting a winter boot is how water resistant it is. Water resistance is important because not only are wet feet uncomfortable — they are more prone to getting and staying cold than dry feet. All of the boots we tested feature some waterproofing, either a durable molded rubber outer, treated leather or Nubuck material, a waterproof breathable membrane, or all of the above. But how well do they work? To find out, we walked out into a very, very cold lake and stood there. This submersion test is the ultimate way to find any weaknesses in a boot's water resistance. Water resistance is worth 25% of a boot's overall score.

Don't forget to consider how tall a boot is. Stepping in water deeper than the top of the boot or the low point of the tongue's gusset allows water in from the top and results in cold and wet feet. Boots like the Sorel Caribou are tall and have a high maximum puddle depth before allowing water inside, while the short Blundstone Thermal requires that you step carefully in snow or slush even a few inches deep to ensure that slush or puddles don't overtop them.


Many boots passed our submersion test with flying colors, allowing absolutely no water to leak into the boot after being submerged five inches deep, even after 10 minutes. While it is unlikely that you'll ever just be standing in deep puddles for extended periods while wearing any of these boots, it's comforting to know they can handle it. Since many boots were completely water proof up to a certain depth, the tie-breaker for the purpose of scoring then became how deep the water can be before leaking or over-topping takes place. At 10.5 inches of waterproof stack height, the Sorel Caribou is the most waterproof boot we tested, followed very closely by the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid and the Oboz Bridger 10".

Performing the water test  in which we stood in this half-frozen lake for over ten minutes to test the waterproofness of these boots. The Chillberg performed great  and also have a decent 5.75 inch flood height.
Performing the water test, in which we stood in this half-frozen lake for over ten minutes to test the waterproofness of these boots. The Chillberg performed great, and also have a decent 5.75 inch flood height.

Some boots claim to be waterproof and work very well to keep out momentary splashes but let water in if they get submerged for an extended period. A good example is the 14.5" tall Kamik Greenbay 4, which began to leak at the 3-inch mark during our submersion test. It lets water in through the seam where the upper and lower portions meet. We also noticed leaking at the base of the tongue with the Best Buy Kamik NationPlus boot, making its puddle depth only 4.5 inches due to its low tongue attachment point. The NationPlus is reasonably waterproof but, annoyingly, leaches pigment when wet. The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV, Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP, and the North Face Chilkat III also have this problem, leaking water in at the bottom of the tongue during our submersion testing.

There was a thin skin of ice on the lake when we stood in it for 10 minutes to test the waterproofness of the Bridger 10. Thankfully  they are completely waterproof.
There was a thin skin of ice on the lake when we stood in it for 10 minutes to test the waterproofness of the Bridger 10. Thankfully, they are completely waterproof.

Fit and Comfort


How your winter boots fit affects their comfort and performance. Too tight of a fit can lead to decreased circulation and colder feet, while too loose of a fit may leave you stumbling. Comfort is also a key consideration, and we tend to prefer boots that offer a more cushioned, soft feel that also offer proper support. A few models come with a quality supportive insole, while others will readily accept an aftermarket insole for those who like extra arch support or who need to use custom orthotics in their footwear.

The Blundstone Thermal boot is among the most comfortable tested and fits fairly securely for a slip-on option.
The Blundstone Thermal boot is among the most comfortable tested and fits fairly securely for a slip-on option.

How you need or want your boots to fit depends mostly on your preference and how you intend to use them. A looser fit is ok unless you want great winter hiking and snowshoeing performance. Pac style and slip-on boots generally have a looser fit when compared to a lace-up, single layer insulated boot, so we avoided comparing apples to oranges in that regard. Fit and comfort are subjective. That said, we evaluated the various models based on average foot width and shape. Fit and Comfort also accounts for 25% of a product's final score.


Our top-performing models in this metric are the Blundstone Thermals and the Kamik NationPlus. These models were loose and comfortable, very cozy, and were simply a joy to have our feet in. However, both of them are most appropriate for work, chores, or running errands around town, and didn't give the tighter and more precise fits that serve one better while hiking.

Among the selections that are designed primarily for hiking, we found the most comfortable to be the Vasque Snowburban Ultra Dry, Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP, and The North Face Chilkat III. These boots were form-fitting enough to be precise but maintained excellent flexibility for hiking long distances. Our Editors' Choice award-winning Oboz Bridger 10" were quite comfortable for hiking if you purchase them a half size larger than normal, and after they have broken in a bit and become more flexible in the shaft. These necessities are no big deal to some, but precluded them from taking home top ratings in the comfort department.

The Kamik NationPlus boots are cozy and warm  partially thanks to an overlapping liner that blocks drafts.
The Kamik NationPlus boots are cozy and warm, partially thanks to an overlapping liner that blocks drafts.

Even the low scoring boots are still quite comfortable. They're just looser fitting and somewhat clunky. The Sorel Caribou's roomy fit is comfy and cozy but not well suited for taking a hike. That's okay, as we find these boots best for winter chores and running errands anyway. The same goes for the Bogs Classic and the Kamik Greenbay; the beauty of these boots is in their simplicity and convenience, they are comfortable but lack the fit characteristics that would make them suitable for hiking. The Keen Summit County boots are the widest fitting boot in our test, which is ideal for some. But, for people with low to medium volume feet, they are impossibly loose fitting.

Look at the laces, or lack thereof. The lacing system will have an impact on how tightly the boots will fit. The review fleet employs a wide variety of lacing systems, from the more traditional laces used on Vasque Snowburban II to no laces at all on the slip-on models. We discuss laces, or lack thereof, further in the Ease of Use metric below.

Ease of Use


Many people only use their winter boots for short periods. Typical uses include heading outside to shovel the walkway, running errands around town, or walking from the bus to the ski resort's lodge. For quick use and simple tasks, we prefer the convenience of boots that are easy to slip on and off. Many of the lace-up models in this review employ speed lacing eyelets and hooks that allow for quick and secure lacing, and some of the laced Pac boots, like the Sorel Caribou, are simple to slip on and walk short distances in with the laces left very loose or completely undone. Features like glove-friendly pull tabs are also appreciated, especially for boots without wide openings that a little harder to pull onto your foot.


We love how easy it is to pull off your ski boots  pull on the Bogs  and jump into the car.
We love how easy it is to pull off your ski boots, pull on the Bogs, and jump into the car.

Slip-on boots dominate this category because they don't slow you down with laces. With its large handles and foot opening, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid is one of the fastest boots to pull on, and its ease of use is so supreme that we know many people that swear by them simply for this reason. Another user-friendly favorite is the Kamik Greenbay 4, which is just as easy to get in and out of as the Bogs Classic but has a higher cuff, warmer insulation, and better traction.

For a lace up  the Merrell Thermo Chill are among the easiest to use. Simply pull the ends of the laces once  and the whole boot tightens up as desired. This is far easier than boots where you must loop the laces through hooks  but not as easy as slip-on models.
For a lace up, the Merrell Thermo Chill are among the easiest to use. Simply pull the ends of the laces once, and the whole boot tightens up as desired. This is far easier than boots where you must loop the laces through hooks, but not as easy as slip-on models.

Some of our favorite models don't perform as well in this metric. But while lacing systems like those on the Oboz Bridger 10 or Timberland Chillberg take a little more time, they reward you with a more supportive fit. Better support keeps them comfortable longer and more suitable for a broader range of activities. There are slight differences between the user-friendliness of the lace-up models. Some are more time consuming than others.

An excellent example of this is the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry. They have a snug fit that requires you to loosen them fully to pull them on. The upper portion of the lacing system also has eyelets that you have to feed the laces through every time you lace them up. In contrast, the Oboz Bridger 10 has a similar fit but a more convenient lacing system. It's metal speed lacing hooks require far less time and effort to secure. The Merrell Thermo Chill Mid WP are even easier, with pre-threaded laces that simply need a stout tug to effectively tighten the whole upper part of the boot.


Don't forget to consider weight. If you want an all-day hiking boot, lugging around one of the heftier models could get old in a hurry.

Traction


Dependable traction is important. It doesn't matter if you are going to the grocery store on a snowy day, walking out in the woods to cut down a Christmas tree, or heading down a trail to gain some winter solitude, you need to be confident that your boot can handle the slippery conditions you may encounter. Traction is weighted as 10% of a boot's final score.


In general, boots with aggressive tread patterns and softer rubber perform best. This is precisely how tire manufacturers design their snow tires. And just like snow tires need chains or spikes in severely icy conditions, boots require additional traction for safe travel over sheer ice. Consider an aftermarket crampon such as YakTrax or MICROspikes to slip on over your boot's sole if you are walking on very icy surfaces with any regularity.

The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV boots offer the unparalleled traction of your most trustworthy snow tires.
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV boots offer the unparalleled traction of your most trustworthy snow tires.

To test the boots' traction head-to-head, we trudged up steep snowy (and often icy) slopes at least a dozen times. We also took the boots to old firm snow patches high in the mountains and found icy walkways. The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is the clear winner of our traction testing. It has a unique and innovative tread design that looks just like a snow tire. The soft rubber lugs have sharp edges and generous siping cuts that allow these boots to grip on firm snow and ice better than any other model in our test.

The Kamik NationPlus and Oboz Bridger 10 also have some of the highest scores for traction in our tests. With aggressive tread patterns and softer rubber that provided a solid grip and kept us confident in a wide range of conditions and surfaces.

Snowshoes pair well with winter hiking boots to keep you active in the winter months.
Snowshoes pair well with winter hiking boots to keep you active in the winter months.

Conclusion


Searching for the best pair of winter boots can be overwhelming. Do you prefer a casual model or a pair of boots designed for a more active lifestyle? After identifying the type of boot that best suits your needs, consider warmth, comfort, traction, and weather protection. We hope that this review will help when making these choices.


Jeremy Benson, Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman