Who This Is For
We researched and tested designs meant for light outdoor activity in places that are cold enough to see snow. That means shoveling the driveway, walking an outdoor mall in the winter, or getting from your car to the office. We tested for functionality, not style. Hopefully youll find something you like here, and if you dont, we aim to show you what to look for when you shop.
What does this guide not cover?
How We Picked And Tested
We began our research by seeing what other review sites had to say. Some of our best sources include GearLab, SectionHiker, and customer reviews from outdoor retailers like REI. We decided we were looking for a classic pair of winter pac boots, a term that broadly refers to a style of winter boot with a big, waterproof rubber base that encases most of the exterior foot. These are the features we focused on:
Waterproofing: A waterproof sole is a good, obvious place to start. But the shaft height of the boot, as well as how snugly it fits around the leg, also makes a difference. We chose boots that had tall shafts, about 8 to 10 inches. They keep snow out! We also looked for boots with snow collars, which line the opening of the boot and keep snow from falling in or clinging to your leg.
Warmth: We chose to test boots that use 200-gram insulation in their design. That means one square meter of insulating material weighs 200 grams. This is the weight commonly used in boots designed to keep you warm while youre active outside for short periods of time . Warmer boots, meant for standing still in the cold, often have heavier insulation400 grams, 600 grams, or more.
We also sought out boots with reflective layers, which send body heat back to the wearer. Columbia aggressively markets its reflection tech as Omni Heat, but a lot of brands do this, including Baffin, Kamik, and others. This design increases warmth without adding bulk.
Why You Should Trust Me
Ive been researching and wearing boots for Wirecutter for almost six years. In that time, Ive tested footwear in two regional floods , during the fourth-largest snowfall since record keeping began in the Lake Tahoe basin, and in spring in the Teton Valley of Idaho, a place where mud has its own season. I have a deep affinity for dramatic weather, a knack for getting stuck in it, and more than a few interests that have me wearing boots almost every day of the year.
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Also Great: Sorel Caribou Boot Mens And Womens
Get this if: You want a snow boot with an impervious rubber base that also lifts you out of slushy, snowy muck. This boot is great for warmer winters that go through a lot of freeze and thaw cycles.
Why its great: The Sorel Caribou, which comes in mens and womens sizes, feels impenetrable. When we tested it against eight other options, it fit better and felt warmer, and its wide base and nubby rubber kept our feet steady on different winter surfaces.
The rubber sole lifts you almost an inch and a half above the ground, which keeps feet warm and dry by physically removing you from the slush. The tongue is gusseted all the way to the top of the snow collar, a rarity . The shaft laces high and tight, and the Caribou has its own sort of speed lacing, composed of four sets of fat, exterior D-rings that allow laces to slide with little friction this will help you get the boot on and off your foot with less effort. Finally, the snow collar prevents flakes from entering.
The boot has three features that provide traction similar to the Kamik Nation Plus: a wide surface area underfoot, a nubby lug pattern that grabs onto chunky ice, and a proper fit. Though the sole can feel clunky, the boot still fits well. Several other boots we tried didnt: Either the heel lifted or the ankle had no support, and both of those issues can cause a foot to slide while youre walking on snow.
A Lighter Boot For Easy Walking In Snow: Columbia Heavenly Omni
Get this if: You want a boot thats light and particularly good for walking over snow drifts. This is a great option for driving and running errands around townnot so much for extended time outside or in icy conditions
Why its great: The snug, form-fitting foot of the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat makes this boot wear almost like a slipper, and the tall, tightly laced shaft and faux fur snow collar keep fluffy stuff out. Plus, these boots are much easier to drive in than boots with a stiff leather exterior.
The Heavenly is a perfect example of how a good fit can create more traction. A nearly identical boot, the North Face Shellista II, didnt grip as well because the foot was looser. This boot has a tread pattern thats more pronounced than others , and the Heavenly had better stability on every surface we walked on, other than ice.
We tried the Kamik Sienna 2, but it doesnt have a tread pattern that provides any help on slick surfaces. And we also tried the GlobalWin Waterproof Winter Boot, but the flaws were many, including a sole so slippery that no tester would set foot on ice without holding onto something. Overall, the majority of winter boots, even most of our picks here, have only average traction on ice. Rubber is just not the solution if you need to stay completely sure-footed on frozen water. But with that in mind, the GlobalWin felt particularly treacherous.
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Also Consider: Bogs Arcata Knit Boot
*At the time of publishing, the price was $128.
Get this if: You prefer a cozier slip-on that will still keep you stable and dry while you are shoveling and running errands. What you gain in convenience with rubber, slip-on snow boots you sometimes lose in ankle stability . In the case of the Bogs Arcata, the faux fur lining helps address that issue.
Why its great: All of that faux fur makes the Bogs Arcata warm, cozy, and a better fit than any other slip-on boot we tried.
Faux fur is sometimes ridiculed among my friends as being the new pink, in terms of womens fashion. But in the case of winter boots, faux fur is a big advantage! The original native mukluks used fur for warmth, and in this case, the faux fur lining goes all the way over the toes. It makes an all-rubber boot, which can feel loose around the feet, fit more snugly and therefore behave more stably on loose snow, packed snow, and chunky ice.
These boots feel warm, and they should, since theyre rated to -58° F/-50° C, the warmest of our picks. Most of our choices in this guide arent made for such cold temperatures.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: As with every slip-on boot, the top is open, and snow can get in. Snow can also get in through the cut-out handles. But you may not notice or care if you dont regularly deal with large drifts of fresh snow, and the faux fur offers at least a small amount of protection.
A Boot That Fits Like A Shoe: Ugg Adirondack Iii & Ugg Butte
Get this if: Youre willing to pay a lot for a boot. In return, youll get something lighter and cozier than anything we tested. Plus, these boots are steadier on snow, and easier to walk and drive in.
Why its great: When a boot fits like a worn-in leather shoeas the Ugg Adirondack III and its counterpart the Ugg Butte both doit moves easier. When a snow boot has this additional flexibility, walking and driving are simpler. The boots also feel less heavy and obtrusive on your feet. If the Sorel Caribou is the F-150 of winter boots, these are the Land Rover.
The Adirondack III and the Butte both come with the wool lining rolled down, but you can roll it upup to 11 inchesto create the tall shaft we required of all our snow boots. Uggs trademark wool lining is a major reason this boot is so functional. The non-synthetic lining means youll get years of wear without experiencing any sign of odor. Notably, on the womens boot, the upper part of the liner is a synthetic material, but the lining around the foot is wool.
This fluffy liner provides warmth and a luxurious feel. These boots are rated down to only -32 °C , yet testers reported having toasty, happy feet.
The mens Butte has a different rubber and tread pattern than the womens Adirondack. That said, the lugs on the womens boot are almost better, able to bite into and around ice that has a lot of texture. A tall version of the Adirondack III is also available.
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Best Snow Slipper: Ugg Classic Short Boot
*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.
Get this if: Youre getting on a plane and traveling to winter weather or going skiing.
Why its great: The Ugg Classic Short Boot and the Ugg Classic Short II Boot is a functional winter shoe thats easy to drive in, cozy and warm, treated to be weather-resistant, and lined with real wool that will not stink after a few uses.
Thats the perfect combination of features for après-ski, when you need to change out of hard boots, get damp feet warm, then probably drive somewhere. Its also a perfect solution for winter travel, acting as travel shoe, warm slipper, and winter boot at your final destination.
Its hard to separate the Ugg brand from its reputation as a polarizing year-round fashion choice. But this wasnt always the case. These boots are a legitimate piece of outdoor gear, originally invented to keep surfers feet warm after getting out of cold water. And we think they still do the job better than any other similar option.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: There is no traction advantage. These boots wont give you any special grip on snow or ice. That said, if you wear them mostly on pavement, in cars, around airports, or indoors, its less of an issue.