Winter can be a cold and wet season and we're here to make it warmer. Our experts analyzed 60+ models before purchasing the best 10. Having a warm pair of boots on your feet can make all the difference in your comfort. Treat your feet to a quality pair of winter boots and your commute or winter hike will be much more enjoyable. We walked miles in each boot, through slush and snow, to determine which ones gave the best performance. Then we scored every boot according to set criteria and gave out awards after lots of real-world testing. Read on to find out which boots earned our top awards, and to learn about how we scored them.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated December 2017
Winter is on its way, and we keep this review up to date so you can keep your feet happy all season long. The only major update to this category is the release of the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry, the second iteration of the runner-up product to our Editors' Choice winner. New models from Keen, Blundstone and Timberland are also featured, and we put all of them through the same rigorous testing process.
Best Overall for Men
The North Face Chilkat 400
Last year we chose to replace a consistently low-performing offering by The North Face with the Chilkat 400. It shot to the top of virtually all of our testing metrics, outscoring the competition and quickly becoming our reviewers favorite. This year we added new models to give the Chilkat a run for its money, but again it offered consistent performance with top-tier water resistance, incredible warmth thanks to the 400 grams of insulation that snugly wraps around the foot keeping you warm and dry while trudging through winter weather. With good looks, comfortable fit, and great traction, the Chilkat 400 is the total package that we look for in the best winter boot, and we recommend it again as our Editors' Choice.
Totally water resistant
Fit is short (order a full size up)
Mildly laborious to tie up
Read review: The North Face Chilkat 400
Best Bang for the Buck
The Kamik NationPlus Pac-Style boot easily took home the award for the most budget-friendly boot for the fourth year running. This high-top boot is easy to fall in love with, for its competitive performance in the warmth, water resistance, and comfort metrics. Featuring a removable Thinsulate liner and a high traction sole, the NationPlus again wowed reviewers not only with its abilities but with its price. At half the price of some of the other boots in this review, it was 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.
The best traction
Leaks and leaches pigment
More labor intensive to put on than others
Read review: Kamik NationPlus
Top Pick for Ease of Use
Bogs Classic Ultra Mid
The Bogs Classic Ultra Mid has long been an award-winning pick in the winter boot category. Reviewers have loved its simple, durable design that keeps water at bay and is incredibly easy to use. With large pull handles that are easy to use with heavy gloves, this boot is by far the most friendly to put on and take off when in a hurry to get out the door when the snowplow arrives. This year's reviewers tested the Bogs boots at length to see if they could confirm other user's reports of leaky seams, but could not. Through rainstorms and slushy puddles, these boots kept our feet 100% dry and surprisingly warm even with the thin neoprene insulation. This is a niche boot, not meant for hiking any distances due to poor support, but commuting through wet weather and running errands around town, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid remains a great choice.
Very easy to use
Super spacious fit
Not as warm as other boots
Not the best traction
Some quality control issues
Read review: Bogs Classic Ultra Mid
Notable for Comfort
Blundstone Thermal 566
The Blundstone Thermal 566 boot is a new model in this year's test. A few weeks into our testing, it was love at first sight. Blundstone boots are Romeo-style 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 above average in snowy and icy conditions thanks to a slip-resistant outsole. We love the Bogs boots for their ease of use, and while the Blundstone works in the same manner, it is not quite as easy to take off. What sets the 566 apart is their removable sheepskin liner which works in coordination with the footbed to provide unparalleled comfort for the foot. Soft and cushioned, it makes stepping into these boots to go outside and shovel the walkway on a frigid February morning an appealing task!
Easy to slip on
Not the best traction
Some quality control issues
Read review: Blundstone Thermal 566
Analysis and Test Results
To present our test findings in the most thorough way possible, we rated every boot based on five separate criteria, giving them a score from 1 (terrible) to 10 (perfect). As this is a comparison review, the scores were decided upon by comparing each boot to all of the others. With that thought in mind, just because a boot receives a low score for Warmth, does not necessarily mean that it is not warm, but instead that it is less warm than the other boots in the review. Below we have described our criteria for evaluating each category, as well as what boots performed the best and worst in these categories, and finally, the weight that each category had in determining a product's final score.
We looked at the warmth of the boot as the most critical factor in determining its overall performance. These are meant to be worn in the most inhospitable weather conditions, so it is important that they keep our feet toasty and warm. Each one of these models use a material to insulate the foot from the cold outside, whether it be made of neoprene or synthetic insulation such as Thinsulate or Primaloft. A unique standout was the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat, as it uses the Omni-Heat reflective material to achieve a warm boot without the heavy loft of bulky insulation.
All insulation materials simply trap and reflect the heat created by the foot, so proper fit is also required to maintain adequate circulation. A boot can have plenty of insulation, but if it constricts the blood flow to your foot, the boot will feel cold. Boots that are oversized will require a more extended period to heat the boots up, and a tight-fitting model can constrict blood flow, making your feet feel colder. Initially, testing The North Face Chilkat 400 in our regular street shoe size caused cold feet; when we sized them up, they became the warmest in our review. This is why fit and comfort, discussed below, are just as important as warmth when selecting a boot, as the wrong fit will quickly lead to cold feet.
The two warmest boots in our review this year were the two that upped the insulation a notch to include 400 grams, rather than the more ubiquitous 200 grams used by many boots. These were The North Face Chilkat 400 and the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry. On the other hand, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, with its neoprene insulation, did not do as good of a job at trapping the heat, and its large opening let heat slip out making it the least warm boot of our review.
While we tested the warmth of every contender out in the field, we also wanted to provide a more accurate head-to-head comparison. To get an real feel of how warm each model is, we wore each one with a light sock in a slushy ice bath for eight minutes at a time. This also helped us determine how much cold each competitor let in. The results of this test were relatively easy to quantify. We must point out that while many of the boots are rated by their manufacturers to temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, we never encountered temperatures nearly that cold in southern Colorado or the mountains of California while testing. Warmth accounted for 25% of a product's final score.
Always take a manufacturer's warmth or comfort rating with a grain of salt, as they don't always correlate to real-world findings.
When considering winter boots the second most important criterion is how well it resists water coming in. Depending on the region you live, winter precipitation might fall as snow, or mostly as rain. Wet and slushy conditions are perfect for finding any weakness in a boot's waterproofing, so we set up an ice bath test that would see which boots showed signs of leaking. All of our test boots feature some inherent waterproofing, whether it be a durable molded rubber outer, or treated Nubuck material.
The reason behind such attention to waterproofing is that water conducts heat (or cold) far more efficiently than air does alone, and so cold water will freeze a foot much faster than cold air. We also have to remember that winter is a time when the ground, where we walk, is most often covered in snow, ice, or slush, which are all forms of frozen water. Moisture also can build up on the inside of the boots and will cause coldness just the same as if the boot had sprung a leak.
Pac boots and full grain leather boots experienced these symptoms the most in our review, as they did not provide the same breathability that a waterproof-breathable membrane does. Consider this as you shop for a boot that you will exert yourself in, like in winter sports; if there might be a lot of time spent standing around, a boot with less insulation may not make your foot sweat as much but will cool off and cause cold feet faster.
We must remember that all of these boots are waterproof except for the large hole in the top of them, meaning that they are only as waterproof as they are tall. Boots like the Sorel Caribou and The North Face Chilkat 400 are quite tall and have high maximum puddle depths before allowing water inside, while the stylish Timberland Shazzberg Mid has such a low cuff that care must be taken with snow or slush even a few inches deep.
Also, while all the boots included an attached tongue to keep out water that should end up on top of the foot, the tongue height varies in different models, and this effectively becomes their maximum puddle depth. The Sorel Caribou, a very tall boot with a wholly attached leather tongue, was the most water resistant boot in our test. On the other end of the spectrum, the low gusset of the Kamik NationPlus had relatively low water entry point. Water Resistance accounted for 25% of a product's final score.
Fit and Comfort
Boot fit is important because a tight fit will lead to decreased circulation and colder feet, while a loose fit will leave you stumbling around feeling like you are wearing a pair of clown shoes. Everyone has a different application for their winter boots, so consider fit and function when sizing them. A sloppy fit is not inherently bad unless you need your boot to perform well in winter hiking and snowshoeing situations. Comfort is also a key consideration, and we tend to like boots that offer a more cushioned, soft feel. You already have to go out and brave the elements, why not treat yourself to the boot that offers the best comfort as well?
Pac style boots will have a loose and somewhat sloppy fit when compared to a single layer hiking boot, so we have tried not to compare apples to oranges in that regard. Some models will readily accept an aftermarket insole for those who like extra arch support or who need to use custom orthotics in their footwear, while others, like The North Face Chilkat 400, do not have the extra room for one.
Each of our award-winning boots had excellent fit and comfort. The Editors Choice winning North Face Chilkat 400 has a cozy inner lining and soft material that cradles the foot, although users will want to be sure to order this model one full size up from their normal street show to get the proper fit. Boots designed for more hiking purposes ranged in fit quality from the snugly fitted Salomon to the bulkier Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry. Getting to know your foot shape will also help direct you toward the best fitting boot for you. We were also surprised at how well the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid fit, considering it is molded out of rubber and does not come in half sizes.
The most mediocre fitting boots tended to still be quite comfortable, although a bit sloppy. The Sorel Caribou left plenty of extra room for the foot, ensuring comfort, but didn't inspire us to go for a hike in them. That's okay, as we found these boots best for winter chores, anyway. The Keen Summit County was the broadest fitting boot in our test, which is ideal for those who continuously find their boot options limiting, but for most with low to medium volume feet, these are impossibly loose. Fit and Comfort also accounted for 25% of a product's final score.
A final note on fit is the lacing system used (or lack thereof). This will have an impact on how tight you can get your boots laced up, and our review fleet used a wide variety of lacing systems, from the more traditional laces used on Vasque Snowburban to no laces at all on the slip-on models. Laces, or lack thereof, are discussed more in the Ease of Use metric below.
Ease of Use
Many people only use their winter boots for a short duration. Typical uses might include going out to shovel the car out or walking from the bus to the ski resort's lodge. For these brief uses, we prefer boots that are easy to slip on and off. Many of the lace-up models in this review use speed lacing eyelets 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 undone. Features like glove-friendly pull tabs were well regarded, especially for boots without wide openings that required a little more cramming the foot into.
The slip-on boots dominated this category because there was no tying or laces to be dealt with. With its large handles on each side of the upper shaft and large foot opening, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid was the smooth as butter winner in this category. We liked this feature so much that we gave it a Top Pick award, as we have been using Bogs for snow shoveling for years and love how easy they are. On the other end of the spectrum was Salomon X Ultra Winter CS WP. Don't get us wrong, these boots aren't that hard to put on, but in this case, they do have the most elaborate lacing system. Ease of use was weighted as 15% of a product's final score.
Dependable traction is an important quality to consider when choosing a winter boot. It doesn't really 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 strapping on snowshoes to gain some winter solitude, you need to be confident that your boot can handle the slippery conditions you will inevitably encounter.
Specifically, boots with deep lugs with large surface areas featuring the softest and stickiest rubber performed best. This surprised us until we considered that this is precisely how tire manufacturers design their snow tires. Regardless, when encountering severely icy conditions, every boot will require additional traction for safe travel. Consider an aftermarket strap-on crampon such as YakTrax or MICROspikes to slip on over your boot's sole if you will be hiking an icy trail.
To test out these boots' traction head-to-head, we trudged dozens of times up the steep snowy (and often icy) slope leading up to the ski lodge near our home. Featuring a combination of the exact characteristics that we described as performing best, the Kamik NationPlus had the highest score for traction in our tests. A close second was our Editors' Choice award-winning The North Face Chilkat 400. On the other end of the spectrum were two boots whose results surprised us because they looked to have deep, aggressive lugs. The Salomon X Ultra Winter CS may have had deep lugs, but they also had a relatively small amount of surface area and very hard, not sticky rubber. We awarded traction as 10% of a product's final score.
We found that although very easy to pull out, the inner boot liners found in the Sorel and Kamik boots were difficult to put back into the boot, and recommend a boot dryer to aid in this process like the DryGuy Force Dry DX. When coming home from a day on the slopes, it is nice to throw the boots and gloves on the drying stand and turn the knob rather than the old trick of stuffing crumpled newspaper into wet boots that many of us grew up with.
If you are going out on winter hikes, you may want extra flotation to keep you from sinking too deep. Our Snowshoe Review highlights the models we liked the most and why. And if icy conditions are a concern, then check out products like YakTrax and Kahtoola MICROspikes to aid in traction.
Searching for the best pair of boots for the winter season 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, other factors ranging from warmth, comfort, and protection from the elements still need to be considered. We hope that this review will help when making these choices.
— Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.