Hiking in the summer is a whole different ball game than hitting the trails in winter.
The very best winter hiking boots, like the Oboz Bridger 8” Insulated BDry, provide exceptional support, warmth, durability, and waterproofing. While these boots are our clear winner, we selected 10 winter hiking boots to give you the protection you need.
Hiking boots are much more durable and rugged than their smaller brothers, the regular working boots. They have to be: They’re designed to tackle rough, mountainous terrain that’s often slippery, steeply inclined, and uneven. But not only do hiking boots differ to regular boots, there’s also a distinction between summer and winter hiking footwear.
As you shop for winter hiking boots, your winter footwear checklist will share some similarities with warm weather trail footwear. Ankle support, for example, and good traction on the sole are still both essential traits that make a winning boot. But winter boots demand greater insulation for warmth, waterproofing, and traction on snowy or icy ground.
So, how do you navigate an industry that’s saturated with footwear of both bad and good quality? We tracked genuine customer feedback and cross-referenced the most popular winter hiking boots across numerous online sources. From there, we narrowed down the results to the 10 best winter hiking boots, including real consumer pros and cons.
The Winter Hiking Boots We RAVE About
Types of winter hiking boots
There are three main types of hiking boots: You’ve got slip-on hiking boots, like the Bogs Classic Rain Boots, insulated hiking boots, and something called the pac boot. Though different designs exist within each category, most boots fall into one of these types.
Slip-on boots, as the name suggests, don’t use a lacing system and are simply pulled on with pull tabs or handles. You may not achieve the same level of fit and comfort with them, but they’re more convenient. They may come in a range of materials such as neoprene, leather, rubber, or varying textiles.
Pac boots use a flexible boot liner to provide insulation and warmth, but the liner is removable. This liner acts like a sock that is tailored to the shape of the boot’s interior, but these boots often don’t provide a secure fit.
For a more secure fit, regular insulated winter hiking boots have a liner you cannot remove. With a traditional lacing system, they are the true hiking boots for long-distance trails, with a snug fit that won’t rub and cause discomfort or instability.
Waterproofing is important for hiking in wet terrain, but it’s even more important for winter hiking. You probably won’t traipse through water that often in the summer, but winter poses a bigger risk. In addition to more frequent rainfall, you’ll likely navigate deep snowfall from time to time.
It’s easier to determine your boots’ limitations in water, but with snow, you could easily find yourself suddenly wandering into deep patches of snow or ice. If your waterproofing isn’t up to scratch, or your ankle support too low, your boots could get soaked through in no time.
Hiking boots, both winter and summer types, normally utilize a waterproof lining like GORE-TEX to keep moisture out and your feet toasty. But quality and water resistance can vary between lower to higher price points. Remember, though you need to keep water out, breathability is important; your feet will sweat if moisture can’t escape.
Insulation for warmth
When you’re hiking in snow, ice, or frigid winter temperatures, insulation is more important than ever. If your regular boots take on water, they can soon freeze, which is not only uncomfortable, it can lead to frostbite. Winter hiking boots have removable liners that can be stored in your sleeping bag to fend off the freezing air.
If you’ve been reading up on winter hiking boots, you may have seen a material called Thinsulate. One of the most common materials used for insulation, it’s used in one of our winners, the Sorel Caribou. Thinsulate provides warmth exceptionally, without adding too much weight or bulk to the boot.
Other materials like Zylex, polypropylene, and wool are also strong insulators that provide warmth in cold climates. Whichever material you choose, aim for a rating of around 400-800 grams of insulation per boot. And for frozen tundras, look for boots with double-layer insulation, which truly seals in extra warmth.
Chances are that when you shop for a new product, you compare reviews from more than one source. We know that some reviewers have their own bias toward a particular product, or might just have a different opinion. That’s why we aggregated data from multiple sources to determine the products everybody’s raving about.
Our starting point was a long list of the bestselling products on sites like Amazon, and frequent winners of best-of lists. After collecting this data from authority websites and real customer reviews, we narrowed it down to the best 10 products. We also used the below criteria of our own to score and rank each product:
- Comfort: Degree of support offered and whether they remain comfortable over time.
- Sizing and fit: How true to size the boots are, and whether they’re roomy or narrow.
- Lacing: How secure and easily tightened or loosened the lacing system is.
- Insulation: The insulation rating and how warm the boots keep your feet in cold weather.
- Water resistance: The level of water resistance and how breathable the boots are.
- Traction: How well the boots grip on wet ground, as well as on snow and ice.
The Best Winter Hiking Boots
Oboz Bridger 8” Insulated BDry Winter Boots
The Oboz Bridger Insulated BDry is both aesthetically pleasing and robust across varying, harsh terrains. Featuring 200 grams Thinsulate insulation, these boots strike the perfect balance between warmth and breathability. You can easily tread through water, ice, and snow, without compromising the tough outer membrane.
In terms of quality, we saw one report of peeling rubber on the outsole, but it was tricky to verify. According to consumer reports, users love the design of these boots. The insoles are sturdy and durable, while the boots are well-insulated, with excellent support around the ankles.
Though the best products aren’t always the priciest, having the very best winter hiking boots won’t come cheap. Also, there is a smaller range of sizes than you’d normally expect from a hiking boot, locking some people out. Overall, it’s hard to find many negatives to pick at with these boots, making them our overall best winter hiking boots.
- Long-lasting insole
- Exceptional, breathable warmth
- Strong ankle and foot support
- Premium price tag
- One report of peeling rubber
- Small range of sizes
Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry
Believe it or not, the Snowburban II has double the insulation of our best winter hiking boots. You might want to opt for these in harsher climates, especially if you tend to get cold feet. When coupled with thick socks, you won’t find much better boots in the way of insulation and warmth.
Despite having such padded insulation, these boots are surprisingly lightweight and won’t slow you down on your hikes. Many consumers and reviewers also praise the waterproofing, with strong traction on wet ground, too. It’s also worth mentioning that these boots are highly attractive, according to numerous sources.
Unfortunately, these boots miss out on the top spot in our ranking due to two reported drawbacks: Many wearers found that these boots are narrow, making them uncomfortable for anybody with wide feet. Also, though the lacing system in general works well, the upper eyelets are less convenient to lace up.
- Exceptional waterproofing
- Run true to size
- Inconvenient upper eyelets
- Laces reportedly fray quickly
- Narrow fit
KEEN Durand Polar Waterproof Winter Hiking Boot
The KEEN Durand Polar Waterproof Winter Hiking Boots feature the KEEN standard 400 grams of insulation for toasty warm feet. Waterproof leather and textile combine to ensure that no water ingress ruins your hike from rain or snow. These boots also use Cleansport NXT, which helps keep odors under control when perspiration accumulates.
Many reviewers praise the Durand Polar boots’ grip on both wet and dry terrain: Even on sheet ice, some customers found the grip to be highly capable compared to other hiking boots. However, these boots lose some traction in our ranking for the women’s counterpart, which received some negative feedback.
The women’s Durand Polar has been criticized for having notoriously short laces. Female users also negatively reviewed the toe box sizing, finding things a little too cramped. Additionally, a small subset of women also reportedly disliked that the furry collar tends to absorb moisture.
- Fleece lining provides warmth
- Flexible over rough terrain
- Exceptional traction on ice
- Runs a half-size small
- Short laces
- Narrow toe box
Many winter hiking boots double-up on the inner layers that help to guard against water and cold air. But the Sorel Caribou goes further, employing four-layer, 9 millimeter ThermoPlus felt liners that provide insulation to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, waterproof leather uppers are stitched to waterproof rubber outsoles to provide secure protection against water ingress.
Though the lugged rubber affords strong grip in slush and snow, supposedly traction on ice is lacking. According to customer feedback, these design choices make the boots feel heavy and inflexible at times. These boots also suffer from the common problem of running around a half to a full size too large.
Still, there’s plenty to like about the Sorel Caribou II boots, which is why they come in fourth place. Those toasty boot liners are removable so you can freshen them up in the washer. The boots are also roomy enough that you can further bolster your warmth with thick socks.
- Warm, soft fur liner
- Removable inner liner
- Roomy enough for thick socks
- Heavy and slightly inflexible
- Lack traction on icy ground
- Sizing runs large
KEEN Summit County
The trademarked waterproof KEEN.DRY membrane effectively allows perspiration to escape. Like our second-place KEEN boots, the KEEN Summit County III boots feature 400 grams of insulation, combining bamboo charcoal and polyester. Neither waterproofing nor insulation quality were a concern for a large number of reviewers and consumers.
Based on consumer feedback, we were most concerned with the lacing system on the KEEN Summit County III. Some purchasers mentioned that the lacing loops have snapped on occasion, becoming useless. Also, one professional source found the lacing system overly complex compared to others.
However, when the laces are properly strapped and secured, this boot is sturdy without being overly heavy. These boots are relatively bulky, but the ankle support is generous, and the materials remain flexible. We found no complaints about traction on both wet and dry surfaces, though the boots may be too warm for summer.
- Well-insulated and waterproof
- Great deal of ankle support
- Good traction on ice
- Laces challenging to configure
- Lace loops not very durable
- Fit may be too wide
Kamik Nationplus Boot
Combining a waterproof outer with an insulated inner liner, the Kamik Nationplus is a traditional pac boot. And at about 4 pounds, it’s considerably lighter than many other competitor pac boots. Yet you won’t find yourself with an empty wallet — these boots are some of the least expensive around.
They lost points for insulation, as it’s reportedly less adept at retaining heat than some other brands. However, it’s not a huge issue and you’ll likely not even notice it at very low temperatures. Thankfully, consumers generally had little negative to say about the waterproofing protection on the Nationplus.
Deep grooves on the outsole afford good traction over a range of surfaces according to most consumers, and the boot’s sturdy outer fits snugly and doesn’t cause any uncomfortable rubbing or chafing. That said, a few users commented that the ankle support could do with being bolstered.
- Not very expensive
- Sturdy with a snug fit
- Deep grooves for good traction
- Insulation is lacking
- Ankle support could be better
- Can run large
Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni
The Bugaboot Plus III Omni has been around for a long time, and consumers attest to its superior durability. Yet despite the burly looking design, this boot’s durability isn’t borne out of rigid and inflexible materials. It has a minimal break-in period, so you won’t have to wait around before you hit the trails.
Despite the many positive factors, these boots have some negatives that drag them down to sixth place in our ranking. Some consumers found that the ankle padding doesn’t have enough give to traverse sloped terrain. More importantly, some reviewers reported finding the outer sole slippery on ice.
Though it didn’t win our award for the best slip-on boot, it came close. Unfortunately, these boots missed out due consumer criticism of the laces and one particular eyelet. Still, they’re easy-on, comfortable with socks of varying thickness, and have a secure fit that won’t lead to chafing.
- Minimal break-in period
- Easy to slip on and off
- Comfortable with socks
- Sizing runs small
- Ankle padding can be too stiff
- Can be slippery on solid ice
Thursday Boot Co. ‘Commander’
The Thursday Boot Co. Commander looks entirely different from most other winter hiking boots. Produced by a relatively new startup brand, this boot’s design breaks the mold with a fresh, professional look. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not functional for colder environments and terrains.
The Goodyear welted soles are water-resistant, so you can still hike in those wet climates and terrains. However, we’ll admit that these boots aren’t designed for the harshest winter weather like heavy snow and ice. The insulation is lacking for very cold temperatures, even when paired with thicker socks.
If you need your boots to protect you against extreme cold, consider a pair of KEENs. But we simply had to include these boots for their aesthetics, and for the love of small brands. If you need a pair of winter boots that won’t see thick snow and ice, the Commanders are stunning.
- Unique and stunning design
- Stand out from the crowd
- May be difficult to obtain
- Variations in quality
- Doesn’t wear gracefully
Merrell Moab Polar
The Merrell Moab Polar is a winter redesign of a boot that is much-loved by the hiking community. This winter iteration is boosted by extra insulation to keep your feet warm in colder climates. However, a handful of critics pointed out that the footwear doesn’t suffer breathability issues as a result.
The traction is also reportedly good on both wet and dry surfaces. However, if these are so adaptable, what should you do with your old Moab boots? If you already own the original model, you might feel like you are paying for something you already own.
Though the ankle support is robust, some users reported uncomfortable rubbing after long periods of time. Additionally, the boot’s design is reasonably bulky and heavy, possibly making longer hikes a struggle. We also saw reports of poor breathability, something else that could rear its head on long treks.
- Wide toe box
- Strong grip on all surfaces
- Above-average insulation
- Similar to original Moab
- Fairly bulky and heavy
- High ankle support can rub
Bogs Classic Ultra High Rain Boots
Most hiking boots have laces, but sometimes you just want the convenience of slip-on boots. When you’re in and out of a tent, you don’t want to have to repeatedly lace up your muddy footwear. The Bogs Classic Ultra High Rain Boots feature easy-on pull handles built into the sides, making them easy to slip on quickly.
Another major plus, these boots’ waterproofing extend halfway up your legs; for snowy tundra or shallow rivers, they do offer some of the highest-reaching water protection available. However, certain movements do cause these boots to gape widely around your calves.
Also, with a relatively long break-in period, you might find them less comfortable than securely laced boots. Plus, there’s little in the way of customization here — the boots come in a single block color design. That said, these drawbacks are the price you pay for a less expensive alternative to laced boots.
- Convenient slip-on design
- Waterproofing extends to calves
- Less expensive alternative
- Basic block color design
- Break-in period can be long
- Gape around the calves
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Do I need winter hiking boots?
For winter weather hiking, a specialized pair of winter hiking boots is essential for comfort, support, and protection from the elements. Sneakers don’t offer the same comfort and support, while summer-appropriate hiking boots aren’t sufficiently insulated.
When it comes to comfort and support, we don’t simply mean that your shoes should be the right size. Consider the amount of space in the toe box, ankle support, insole cushioning, and much more. Your mileage on the trail depends heavily on how long your feet can stand to be inside those boots.
When it comes to protection from the elements, your winter hiking boots should resist both moisture and frigid temperatures. Combine water ingress with freezing air, and you could soon find yourself developing frostbite in the most extreme cases. Winter hiking boots use waterproof membranes and specialized liners to trap warmth in and keep water out.
When should I use winter hiking boots?
The differences in winter hiking boot designs will guide you on when you should consider lacing them up. Take insulation for example: Manufacturers advise on the temperature extremes their boots can handle. Check out the weather forecast before you set off on your hike to ensure you’re wearing the right pair of boots.
Are you going to be wading through still or moving water on your planned route? If so, look at the height at which your boots protect you from water. Winter boots often come in low-, mid-, and high-rise variations for different levels of water protection and ankle support.
Finally, make sure your boots have sufficient traction for the type of ground you’ll be traversing. Customer feedback is invaluable here, so you can see what ground types other hikers have tried and tested. Don’t take a pair of boots that have been slated for their grip on ice over wet terrain when it’s freezing.
How should winter hiking boots fit?
When you put your boots on and lace them up, they should fit snugly. When we say snug, we don’t mean tight — there should be no tightness or pinching, with enough room to wiggle your toes. Also, bear in mind that a snug fit includes the thickness of the insulated socks you intend on wearing.
In an ideal scenario, you’d measure your feet length, arch, and width before going out to buy your new boots. But that’s not always practical, especially when you buy online, so pay attention to customer feedback on the accuracy of sizing. Also, look out for any reviews that mention whether the boots run large or small.
Try your boots on at the end of the day, as your feet tend to swell throughout the day. If you can try them on first, walk around and try some gentle inclines to check the ankle support, if possible. Your boots should grip your ankles snugly, offering support without rubbing.
How do I tie winter hiking boots?
If you’re reading this, we’re going to assume that you know how to tie a pair of shoelaces. However, some special lacing techniques can help improve comfort and support, such as the surgeon’s knot, toe relief lacing, and heel lock lacing.
The toe relief and heel lock lacing are designed to alleviate pressure points and improve support. Toe relief lacing skips the first eyelet, relieving pressure on your toes, and heel lock lacing creates a firm grip around your heel to prevent movement that could lead to blisters.
These lacing techniques aren’t intended to offset the effects of boots that don’t fit properly. But they can help when your feet are swollen after a long hike, or if you’re constantly hiking up and down steep inclines. To properly understand the step-by-step process, we recommend hitting up YouTube for tutorials.
What are the best winter hiking boots?
Hopefully you now know the importance of having a separate, dedicated pair of hiking boots for colder climates. You don’t want to skimp on quality in this area, lest you risk cutting your hike short. That’s why we picked out the best winter hiking boots for you. Here are our top three winners.
The Oboz Bridger 8” Insulated BDry are our best overall winter hiking boots, with very few negatives to speak of. They check all the right boxes for waterproofing, insulation, and support while staying mobile. According to customer feedback, the traction on all types of ground is also nothing to complain about.
Alternatively, to break away from the crowd, you could opt for a startup brand with a unique look. The Thursday Boot Co. Commander boots may not beat our other selections in insulation, but they look stunning, making them our best new brand boots.
If you’re just looking for something that slips on easily, check out our best slip-on winter hiking boots: The Bogs Classic Ultra High Rain Boots look more like wellingtons, but they’re built to last. The exceptionally high sides of these boots will protect you against far deeper waters than many of our other picks.
The trails are unforgiving if you aren’t properly prepared, and hiking boots are just the beginning. This is especially true in winter, where getting caught out in the elements is riskier when temperatures plummet. Here’s a list of other recommendations that will give you a leg up in winter hiking.
- AIvada 80% Merino Wool Hiking Socks: Don’t buy a quality pair of winter hiking boots only to cheap out on your socks. Avoid flimsy bargain aisle socks and opt for something thick and thermal like these 80% Merino wool socks.
- HotHands Hand Warmers: The cold slows everything down and makes every movement feel like a chore. These hand warmers will help keep you going in a pinch.
- Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips: Winter hiking can involve anything from heavy rain to thick snow and ice. If the going gets tough, these cleats can help boost traction on the trickiest, slippiest ground.
- Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets: If you’re heading out into the coldest weather your local trails have to offer, be prepared for the worst. Though you might never need these thermal blankets, you never know who you might meet out on the trail.
- Waterproof Mens Ski Gloves with Thinsulate: Give your hands the same treatment as your feet with these winter gloves. Designed for skiers, these gloves use a waterproof membrane and Thinsulate lining for warmth.