We spent 60 hours over a 10-day period researching and testing over 20 different styles and brands of winter boots for men, women, and kids and found that warmth, comfort and fit, and traction were the most important factors consumers looked for when shopping for winter boots. Columbia Women’s Ice Maiden Ii Snow Boot scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. This lightweight insulated winter boot features waterproof construction, plenty of traction and it looks fantastic and stylish too. This attractive and functional winter boot is made from a combination of leather and man-made materials that will last through even the coldest winters.
Winter Boots Buying Guide
Types of Winter Boots
There are several different styles of winter boots on the market to choose from. We have listed these different styles below along with some information about each type. This information will enable you to select the type of winter boot that meets your needs the best.
Pac Boots – Pac boots are winter boots that have a rubber shell on the lower part of the boot that is super thick. The upper of the majority of pac boots is made from heavy-duty nylon, leather or another type of durable material. The bottom rubber shell of pac boots is always waterproof but the upper will either be water resistant or waterproof depending on what it is made of and the construction. The description of that particular pac boot will tell you which it is so you know. The thick lining of pac boots is insulated and in some styles is removable. These popular boots are designed to keep your feet dry, comfortable, and warm in even harsh weather conditions.
Snow Boots – A snow boot is any kind of winter boot that is insulated and that provides a degree of protection from cold temperatures and snow. The majority of snow boots do not have a rubber bottom the way pac boots do so they are not as heavy as pac boots are. Without this durable rubber shell winter boots are not as durable and long lasting as pac boots so this is something to keep in mind when you are purchasing winter boots that you want to last. Some styles offer fashion features like faux fur lining and cuffs, decorative buckles, and shearling lining as well. While a good winter boot can keep your feet warm, they don’t always have the durability or construction to keep your feet dry in the snow or icy rain.
Winter Hunting Boots – If you do a lot of hunting during the winter you may want to consider purchasing a pair of winter hunting boots. This style of boot is less bulky and weighs less than pac and snow boots. A lot of winter hunting boots feature Gore-Tex; a waterproof protection that helps to keep your feet dry and warm. The lighter weight and bulkiness of winter hunting boots are much better suited to the hiking that hunting sometimes involves. The downside to winter hunting boots is that they usually are less insulated than pac boots and will not be as warm. If you are going to be doing a lot of standing in hunting blinds on your hunting trips you may be better off with a pair of pac boots which will ensure the warmth you need.
Winter Work Boots – Winter work boots are a lot like other types of winter boots except they are constructed of much thicker, more durable leather to withstand the demands of working outdoors in the cold, snow, and potentially, rain. The winter work boots you select should have plenty of insulation along the footbed area to protect your feet from the cold ground. Some styles may have a steel toe or composite safety toe for added protection. If you can avoid steel toe work boots in the winter it may be more beneficial to you since the steel toe has a habit of attracting cold to your feet. If you need the extra safety protection, look for winter work boots that have composite safety toes which are much better in cold weather.
Parts of a Winter Boot
A winter boot is made up of many different parts, all of which are important to the quality of the boot. We have listed these parts below along with information on their construction and purpose.
Upper – Most of the uppers on winter boots are made from heavy-duty nylon or leather. Both of these materials are resistant to wind, abrasions, and punctures so they will last a long time. You want the upper to extend above the ankle so you have maximum protection during snowy, icy weather. Many winter boots have a durable water repellent or DWR that provides even more protection. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter you may want to consider spending the extra money for Gore-Tex which is a breathable waterproof membrane that offers total waterproof capabilities.
Lower – If you have chosen pac winter boots, the lower is a rubber shell that is welded to and forms the lower part of the boot. This shell is waterproof and keeps the snow and rain out of your boots. Winter boots that you walk around a lot in typically don’t have the lower shell made of rubber. Although the rubber shell is great for keeping rain and snow out they are not very comfortable for walking. Winter boots designed for walking will be lighter in weight and not as bulky or cumbersome. Keep in mind that if you are wearing pac boots, your feet will heat up and moisture can be present from the inside. Wear thick socks made of polyester, merino wool, or regular wool that offers moisture-wicking capabilities.
Insulation – The insulation of a winter boot will be in the form of a removable liner or be built-in to the upper directly. Synthetic fill is usually used to make built-in insulation. You may find some higher end styles that feature down as an insulation. Insulation can also be sheepskin. The purpose of insulation is to keep your feet warm in cold temperatures so if you spend extended time outdoors, you will definitely want to pay attention to the insulation the winter boots have that you are considering. Each pair of winter boots is given a temperature rating that determines how warm the boots will be in different temperatures. If you are in a cold region look for boots that have a temperature rating that works well with the area you live in.
Cuffs – Many winter boots offer a stylish cuff made of acrylic, fleece, or wool that is located above the upper. Many of these cuffs are decorative but still provide a level of warmth especially if they contain a drawstring closure that will keep the snow out.
Types of Lacing – There are many different types of lacing systems that are used for winter boots. We’ve listed the most common lacing systems below along with a description of each.
1. D-Rings – These hinged metal rings are not attached to the upper
2. Eyelets – Lacing holes that are metal reinforced for the laces
3. Webbing Loops – These loops are usually made of nylon that are sewn to the upper and work like D-rings
4. Hooks – Hooks are designed to keep the laces in the right place once you have applied tension to the laces. These hooks are usually made from metal.
5. Combo Lacing – This type combines at least two of the lacing systems above.
Outsoles – The bottom of the winter boot, or the outsole as it is also called, should be made of durable rubber or another material that is similar. Lugged treads will give you plenty of traction on snowy, icy, and slick surfaces. Some treat patterns are actually self-cleaning because they don’t trap as much snow between the treads. Snow and ice building up in the treads can reduce your traction making the possibility of slipping much higher.
If you live in a region that has cold winters you will benefit from a great pair of winter boots to keep your feet dry and warm. There are tons of winter boots on the market in a variety of styles and brands. Reading the information in the buying guide above and reading the three reviews we included on three top-rated winter boots gives you the information you need to sort through all those choices and find one that is perfect for your needs.
The these three top-rated choices are high quality winter boots that offer premium construction and a variety of features that keep your feet warm in all kinds of temperatures and weather conditions. Not all winter boots are created from quality materials so using this information will ensure that you don’t waste your money on boots that will fall apart in a month or two and not perform the way you want them to.
Taking the time to read this guide, check customer comments and do your homework before you purchase will prevent you from ending up with a pair of winter boots that will be a disappointment as well a waste of your money.