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Best Winter Boots for Men of 2021

Taking the Thermal's out for a snowy early winter hike in the Sangre d...
Photo: Andy Wellman
Wednesday January 27, 2021
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Looking for the best winter boots? We've tested close to 40 different pairs in the last 7 years, and our 2021 review features the 14 best and most popular options available today. Regardless of where you live, what sort of winters you face, or what specific purposes you need boots for, we've tested great options and have solid recommendations. Whether you're walking through the cold slushy streets of the big city, shoveling snow off the driveway before taking the kids to school, chopping wood at the cabin in the middle of the big storm, or commuting to and from the ski lodge, we'll give you the lowdown on which are the best options.

Related: Best Winter Boots for Women of 2021

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award   
Price $179.99 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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81
78
78
73
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Pros Super traction, very convenient, fully waterproof to 16 inchesWarm, completely waterproof, comfortable, good traction, supportiveConvenient slip on design, waterproof to 11.5 inches, more affordable than competitors, customizable fitSupportive, good traction, very warmWaterproof, warm, easy to put on, removable liner
Cons Slightly sloppy fit, sorta heavy, fairly priceySizing runs a bit small, expensiveHandles let in water or debris, only come in single whole sizes, not as warm as some competitorsMore difficult to pull on and off, relatively complicated lacing system, break-in periodVery heavy, large, sloppy fit, potential durability issues
Bottom Line With the best traction and water proofing, and an easy slip-on design, these boots can’t be beatThis model boasts a winning combination of comfort, warmth, water resistance, and tractionThe most convenient slip-on model because of easy to grip handles makes these the go to for everyday use and workingA well made boot that is at home walking on snowy trails or out on a snowshoe hikeWith its proven track record as a popular Pac boot, the Caribou continues to be a favorite for use around town
Rating Categories Arctic Ice Tall Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated Bogs Bozeman Tall Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry Sorel Caribou
Warmth (25%)
7
10
7
9
9
Water Resistance (25%)
10
9
9
8
9
Fit And Comfort (25%)
7
6
6
8
5
Ease Of Use (15%)
9
6
10
5
7
Traction (10%)
9
9
8
8
5
Specs Arctic Ice Tall Oboz Bridger 10"... Bogs Bozeman Tall Vasque Snowburban... Sorel Caribou
Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking 16 in 8.5 in 11.5 in 7.25 in 10.5 in
Appropriate Activity Town, chores All activities, from chores to hiking Town, chores All activities, from chores to hiking Chores, errands
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Fit Details Roomy Runs 1/2 size small True to size True to size Roomy
Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft) 16 in 10 in 13 in 8.5 in 11 in
Weight (per pair, size 11) 5.4 lbs 3.6 lbs 4.4 lbs 3.4 lbs 5.3 lbs
Lining/Insulation 5 mm CR Flex-Foam Neoprene w/ Fleece Lining 400g 3M Thinsulate synthetic fibers 7mm Neo-Tech Neoprene 400g 3M Thinsulate Ultra Insulation Removable/washable 9mm recycled felt inner boot with Sherpa Pile snow cuff
Upper Material 5 mm CR Flex-Foam Neoprene Waterproof nubuck leather Rubber 1.8mm Waterproof Leather Waterproof nubuck leather
Toe Box Spandura rubber Rubber Rubber Durable rubber toe rand Rubber
Outsole Vibram Arctic Grip Winterized Rubber BioGrip Vasque Nordic Rover outsole with ColdHold Technology Handcrafted waterproof vulcanized rubber shell with Sorel aero-trac non loading outsole
Company-claimed cold-weather rating Not listed Not listed -72 F Not listed -40 F
Animal products used? No Yes, leather No Yes Yes
Sizes Available 7 - 15 8 - 14 7 - 14 7 - 14 7 - 17

Best Overall Winter Boot for Men


The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall


The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall
Editors' Choice Award

$179.99
(8% off)
at Amazon
See It

83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Water Resistance - 25% 10
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9
  • Traction - 10% 9
Lining: 5 mm CR Flex-Foam Neoprene w/ Fleece Lining | Shaft Height: 16 inches
Awesome grip on slippery surfaces
Super-tall to keep snow out
Very convenient to slip on
Excellent water-resistance
Heavy
Pricey
Could be warmer

The Arctic Ice Tall is the Muck Boot Company's burliest winter boot and is easily the best option if you need the best protection from deep snow, severe cold, and slippery surfaces. These boots have a super tall neoprene shaft, which offers the best protection for wading through truly deep snowdrifts without getting snow in your boots. They are also rubber coated and totally waterproof up to an amazing 16 inches. The outsole grips ice better than any other, with deep and aggressive lugs made with two different types of rubber — one for gripping wet ice and the other, Vibram Arctic Grip, for gripping dry ice. We love how convenient these are to slip on without needing to lace them up every time you need to go outside.

On the downside, we have found that Neoprene isn't the best insulator when compared to Thinsulate or other synthetic options, so while these stay dry no matter what, it's best to pair them with some super thick wool socks for optimal warmth on truly frigid days. They are also large and thus pretty heavy, and come in at a higher end of the price point spectrum. These are boots meant for working, and anyone who has to deal with deep snow daily all winter will love the protection they offer. They aren't the best hiking boots, but can't be beat for doing winter chores.

Read review: The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Ice Tall

Best Bang for the Buck


Kamik NationPlus


Kamik NationPlus
Best Buy Award

$84.99
(32% off)
at Amazon
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Water Resistance - 25% 4
  • 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
Leak at base of tongue
Pigment leaches
More labor-intensive to put on

The Kamik NationPlus Pac-Style boot is a truly budget-friendly winter option. 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 with its excellent price to performance ratio. The Pac-Style design means they have a separate removable liner boot stuffed inside of the outer shell, 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, these boots leak a bit at the base of the tongue, and the leather pigment can bleed a little when wet. They're also a little harder to pull on than some competitor options. Still, at half the price of some of the other boots in this review, it's easy to choose the NationPlus if you don't feel like breaking the bank this winter. For those with higher volume feet, we encourage you to check out the Kamik Nation Wide, a wide-bodied version of this boot.

Read review: Kamik NationPlus

Best Winter Boot for Hiking


Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 10
  • Water Resistance - 25% 9
  • 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 one of the best winter boots according to our wide variety of performance tests, but it is also the best choice for winter hiking. Every tester who has worn this boot has 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 totally water-resistant — the B-dry waterproof membrane kept our tester's feet completely dry for a 10-minute submersion test. Traction is also excellent 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, so if you're interested in a roomier fit or prefer to wear thick socks, you may want to order a half size up. Made of leather, they feel pretty stiff straight out of the box, but loosen up the more often you wear them. They're also on the pricier end of the spectrum, so they may not appeal to those on the tightest of budgets. However, if you want the best winter boot for hiking or snowshoeing, then we highly recommend this versatile, warm, comfortable, and waterproof option.

Read review: Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated

Most Convenient On and Off


Bogs Bozeman Tall


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Water Resistance - 25% 9
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 10
  • Traction - 10% 8
Lining: 7mm Neo-Tech Neoprene | Shaft Height: 13 inches
Super easy to slip on and off
Rubberized on the outside for excellent water resistance
Tall shaft height to keep snow out
Not the warmest
Tighter fit around ankle feels a bit funky
Traction is decent but not amazing

If you live someplace where you are dealing with snow all winter long, you know that convenience is perhaps the most important factor in selecting a pair of winter boots. Even as we test many pairs of boots and have them lined up side-by-side next to the door, we notice that we most frequently go for the Bogs simply because they are the easiest to slip our feet into quickly. They have tall shafts with wide openings at the top, and conveniently cut out holes to serve as handles for the quick pull on. While we've tested numerous pairs of Bogs over the years, the Bozeman Tall is a clear notch above the rest. They have a far more precise fit that isn't so sloppy, and the rubber coating effectively seals the entire boot and outsole for total waterproofness.

These boots only come in single whole sizes, though, without half sizes in between, so may not fit your foot perfectly. They also have a fat pad on the inside that wraps around the ankle and heel to hold the boot more securely in place. While this does work, it also feels really weird, unlike any other boot or shoe we've ever worn, and might be annoying for some. Additionally, we've found that Neoprene, which these boots are made of, is not the best insulator compared to Thinsulate, although these boots are still plenty warm for Colorado winters. We like these best for daily chores and activities, like getting wood from the pile, taking the dog for a walk, hitting up the town for groceries, and of course, for slipping our sore feet into after a day of skiing.

Read review: Bogs Bozeman Tall

Most Comfortable and Stylish


Blundstone Thermal - Men's


Blundstone Thermal - Men's
Top Pick Award

$224.90
at Amazon
See It

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 boot is a pretty unique model in our test. These are slip-on Chelsea-style 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 this boot apart, though, is their removable sheepskin liner, which works with the supportive footbed to provide unparalleled comfort. They also look great, in stark contrast to the very techy look of most winter boots.

These boots are a little harder to pull on and off than the Bogs or Muck boots. You will also want to steer clear of super deep snowdrifts or puddles, as the short stature can't handle it. And, despite the sheepskin liner, these aren't nearly as warm as the bigger and burlier models in this review. Still, soft and cushioned, Blundstones make stepping out to shovel the walkway on a frosty February morning an appealing task. They are also ideal for wearing around town when you need to look your best.

Read review: Blundstone Thermal


Testing winter boots on the shore of Donner Lake in Truckee, CA.
Testing winter boots on the shore of Donner Lake in Truckee, CA.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

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 eight years. He has been a climber, skier, runner, and adventurer his whole life, has spent five expeditions exploring the Himalayas, and has written and published climbing and bouldering guidebooks to the Southeast. He also has raced ultra distances on four continents and spent 100-plus days teaching skiing in Colorado. He currently lives in the mountains of southern Colorado.

Joining him is Jeremy Benson, a 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 an internationally-licensed IFMGA mountain guide. He has many climbing ascents all over the world, including over 20 big wall routes in Yosemite and Fitz Roy in Patagonia.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

As a collaborative effort compiled by multiple testers in different locations and throughout numerous winters, this review brings you a wide variety of experiences to aid your purchase. These winter boots have been tested in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada of California, and the mountains of Colorado. Beyond using them during our everyday lives and jobs, we took them on several long winter hikes and conducted controlled side-by-side tests to expand our understanding of how they perform in different conditions. Some of 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 check the insulation. You can rest assured that the information published in this review doesn't merely pay lip service to manufacturers marketing jargon, but is the product of hard-earned knowledge obtained through exhaustive use and testing.

Related: How We Tested Winter Boots

Wearing the Bozeman Tall while chopping up rounds during the start...
Wearing the Bozeman Tall while chopping up rounds during the start of the first winter snowfall, nothing like putting it off till the last minute! These are great warm work boots for all sorts of outdoor activities.
Photo: Andy Wellman

Analysis and Test Results


Despite their seemingly simple design, winter boots come in many different styles and have many different purposes. The majority of the boots in our lineup are designed for winter hiking, which can be done with or without snowshoes, but they are not crampon compatible. The best winter hiking boots have aggressive outsoles for reliable traction, compact but warm insulation, and a high ankle cuff to keep out moisture and snow. These boots can also be used for almost any other type of winter activity, whether that's performing outdoor chores like shoveling the driveway, running errands in nasty weather, building a snowman, sledding with the kids, or simply walking around town. Pac Boots are another type we've tested, and they feature a separate and removable interior liner, best exemplified by the popular brands Sorel and Kamik. These boots are best for general winter use in frigid temperatures and deep snow and are also useful for activities like snow machining or sledding, but wouldn't be our first choice for hiking or snowshoeing. Finally, there are a few slip-on models which, as the name suggests, lack laces but emphasize convenience by allowing you to pull them on and off quickly and without hassle.

Shoveling during the first winter storm of the season, getting solid...
Shoveling during the first winter storm of the season, getting solid grip on the slippery paving stones, and enjoying the crisp silence of the cold white snow.
Photo: Andy Wellman

We ranked each of the 14 winter boots in our review across five critical performance metrics: warmth, water resistance, fit and comfort, ease of use, and traction. Since there are different types of winter boots with distinct advantages and disadvantages, we encourage you to carefully consider your own needs, which will help you narrow down which boots will be the best choice for you.

Related: Buying Advice for Winter Boots

Value


Are you searching for the best value? You'll notice that our outstanding value award winner, the Kamik NationPlus, is one of the least expensive models of the group, but it still scores well from a performance standpoint. The Muck Boots Arctic Ice Tall and Oboz Bridger 10, on the other hand, are our highest rated boots but are also some of the most expensive models in our lineup. 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 year, you can likely afford to save a few bucks. If you want functional walking and hiking boots to wear nearly every day of winter, then spending a bit more may make sense.


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

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, a boot's warmth is one of the most critical 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.

Columbia&#039;s Omni-Heat heat reflective liner does its job well...
Columbia's Omni-Heat heat reflective liner does its job well, reflecting heat and reducing the amount of insulation needed.
Photo: Elizabeth Riley

Always take a manufacturer's warmth or temperature comfort rating with a grain of salt. They usually aren't confirmed by an independent agency and don't always correlate to real-world findings.


Of course, we evaluate the warmth of these boots outside in the field, but we also test them in the lab for more controlled 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. This test provides us with an objective analysis of how quickly cold can permeate a boot, beyond our subjective analysis. The 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 Greenbay 4 which lost only 17.4 degrees. Boots with less insulation, like the Bugaboot Plus IV, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid lost heat more quickly than boots with double the insulation.f

We put the Bugaboot Plus IV, left, and the two North Face Chilkat...
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.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

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, with different boots on each foot, for a more direct comparison. While manufacturers rate some of these boots to temperatures as low as -72 degrees Fahrenheit (!), we never encounter temperatures that cold in southern Colorado or the mountains of the West Coast. Because of that, unfortunately, we can't verify those temperature ratings with real-world findings.


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

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

We're also quite impressed with the warmth provided by all of the Pac boots in our test group, such as the Sorel Caribou, and the Kamik Greenbay 4 and 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 neoprene insulation found on the multiple slip-on models does not trap heat as effectively. Their large, loose openings also allow heat to escape, making them among the least warm boots in our review.

A Proper Fit Equals Warm Feet
The purpose of a boot's insulation is to trap or reflect the heat your foot creates, so a proper fit is essential to maintain adequate blood 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 will be harder to walk in and could experience cold spots. This is why a comfortable fit is just as important as warmth when selecting a boot.

The warmth in the Chillberg is provided by 400g Primaloft...
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.
Photo: Andy Wellman

Water Resistance


Wet feet are not happy feet, especially when the water making them wet is barely above freezing temperature. Because our feet need to stay dry to stay warm, water resistance is the second most important attribute of a winter boot. All winter boots feature some form of 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.

Tromping through snow, standing in slush puddles, nothing could make...
Tromping through snow, standing in slush puddles, nothing could make our feet cold while wearing these boots, at least in the 10F temperatures where we live.
Photo: Andy Wellman

The height of a boot is also significant when it comes to water resistance, as perhaps the easiest way for a foot to get wet is from snow pouring in over the top opening. The shaft height, which you can find in our specs table, aims to inform how tall each boot is. Also important is where the low point of a tongue's gusset is, as this is the depth of water you might be able to stand in without leaks pouring in. Boots like the Muck Arctic Ice are tall and have a high maximum puddle depth before allowing water inside. In contrast, a short boot like the Blundstone Thermal requires that you step carefully in snow or slush that's even a few inches deep.


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's 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 are completely waterproof up to a certain depth, the tie-breaker for scoring then became how deep the water could be before leaking or over-topping takes place. At 16 inches of waterproof stack height, the Muck Boots Arctic Ice Tall is the most waterproof boot in the lineup, followed very closely by the Bogs Bozeman Tall and the Sorel Caribou.

Performing the water test, in which we stood in this half-frozen...
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.
Photo: Andy Wellman

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

There was a thin skin of ice on the lake when we stood in it for 10...
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.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

Fit and Comfort


Comfort is King, especially when it comes to footwear. We recommend that you make comfort your primary consideration when selecting a winter boot, and if something we've suggested doesn't feel perfect on your feet, toss out our advice and listen to your own body. For this reason, it's wise to make online boot purchases from a retailer that will take returns for items that don't fit right or just aren't comfortable. On the other hand, we also recognize that comfort is an extremely subjective assessment. Simply put, what we think is the most comfortable design may not feel good on your foot at all.

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

How you need your boots to fit depends mostly on your preference and how you intend to use them. A looser fit is okay unless you want excellent 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. A winter hiking boot needs to fit a bit snugger, as looseness and a sloppy fit will lead to blisters and frustration over time. We've done our best to mention how each tested model fits, as in loose, large, tight, short, narrow, etc. in the review for each boot, so be sure to consult there to make sure it's likely to work out for your foot shape.


The most comfortable models, according to our testers, are the Blundstone Thermal and the Kamik NationPlus. These models are loose, very cozy, and are simply a joy to wear. However, both of them are most appropriate for work, chores, or running errands around town and don't give the tighter and more precise fit that serves one better while hiking.

Among the selections that are designed primarily for hiking, we find the most comfortable to be the Vasque Snowburban, and the Xero Shoes Alpine, which is a zero-drop winter hiking boot. These boots are form-fitting enough to be precise but also maintain excellent flexibility for hiking long distances. The Bridger 10 is also quite comfortable for hiking if you purchase them a half size larger than usual, and after they have broken in a bit and become more flexible in the shaft.

The NationPlus boots are cozy and warm, partially thanks to an...
The NationPlus boots are cozy and warm, partially thanks to an overlapping liner that blocks drafts.
Photo: Elizabeth Riley

Even the low scoring boots in our review are still quite comfortable. They're just looser fitting and somewhat clunky. The roomy fit of the Caribou is comfy and cozy but not well suited for taking a hike. That's okay, as these boots are best for winter chores and running errands anyway. The same goes for the Bogs, Muck, 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.

Look at the laces, or lack thereof.
The lacing system will have an impact on how tightly the boots will fit. Our fleet employs a wide variety of lacing systems, from the more traditional laces used on the Snowburban II to no laces at all on the slip-on models.

Ease of Use


Cold, darkness, snow — winter can be a challenging time of the year to deal with. Your boots shouldn't add to that challenge. Considering most people won't want to wear their wet, snowy, mud-covered boots inside the house, putting them on and taking them off frequently can become a part of life. Testing boots in the winter in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, we've found that we really appreciate a boot that is convenient, eliminating much of the hassle from this often repeated process.


Slip-on boots are, without a doubt, the most convenient and easy to use because they don't require tying or untying. With a wide opening at the top and handles or pull tabs for easier grip, one simply slides the foot into the boot and pulls it on. Likewise, slip-ons don't need to be untied when you step back into the house and can often simply be kicked off. If you live in the snow for months on end every winter, like we do, it's hard to imagine not having a solid pair of slip-on boots sitting by the front door, as convenience quickly jumps to the top of the list of most important attributes. Slip-on boots are ideal for shoveling snow, performing outdoor tasks, or running errands. The most convenient options are the Bogs Bozeman Tall and the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, both of which have large cut out handles at the top of the boot for easy gripping and pulling, and a large opening to slide the foot into. Boots like the Blundstone Thermal and Muck Arctic Ice Tall don't offer such easy to grab handles but are also quick and easy to slip on and off.

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

Pretty much any boot with laces is going to score a bit lower for this metric. While many of these boots are easy to slip on the foot, you then have to choose to either take the time to lace them up fully or lazily stuff the laces inside and hope they don't dangle in your way. We rated the lace-up options based on how many times you have to cross the laces and loop them through metal hooks or grommets before tying them. Some of the easier-to-use options among these are the Kamik Greenbay and the Sorel Caribou.

As slip-on boots, these are quick and easy to get on the feet...
As slip-on boots, these are quick and easy to get on the feet, although without handles, one must grab the neoprene top to pull them on. A bigger issue is the tall stack is relatively tight and so there is often a fair bit of lower pant leg adjustment needed in the form of stuffing and straightening.
Photo: Andy Wellman

While they may not be as convenient, lace-up boots do have some solid advantages, especially when it comes to winter hiking, as they can offer a far more fine-tuned fit. When considering a hiking boot, also be aware of how much a boot weighs. Walking long distances with very heavy boots on can take waaay more energy than with lightweight boots, and the range between the lightest and heaviest boots featured in this review is over three pounds — a big difference.


Traction


Dependable traction is essential. Whether you are going to the grocery store on a snowy day, walking through 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 whatever conditions you may encounter.


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 Bugaboot Plus IV boot offers the unparalleled traction of your...
The Bugaboot Plus IV boot offers the unparalleled traction of your most trustworthy snow tires.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

To test traction head-to-head, we trudged up steep snowy and often icy slopes at least a dozen times. We also took our boots to old firm snow patches high in the mountains and across icy walkways down in town. The Muck Arctic Ice Tall and the Bugaboot Plus IV are the clear winners of our traction testing. The Bugaboot has a unique and innovative tread design that looks just like a vehicle's 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 Arctic Ice Tall, on the other hand, features two different rubber compounds that do an excellent job of gripping wet and dry ice.

The NationPlus and Bridger 10 also have some of the highest scores for traction in our tests. With aggressive tread patterns and softer rubber that provides a solid grip, we stayed confident over a wide range of conditions and slippery surfaces.

Snowshoes pair well with winter hiking boots to keep you active in...
Snowshoes pair well with winter hiking boots to keep you active in the winter months.
Photo: Briana Valorosi

Conclusion


Choosing the best winter boot can be difficult, especially with the wide range of choices and potential tradeoffs with different designs. Once you determine your boots' intended use, you can begin to narrow down which features to prioritize to get the best comfort and performance for your needs. Deciding whether you would need a hiking-oriented boot, a Pac Boot, or a slip-on model will help rule out many options and point you in the right direction. We hope that this review helps you make a great selection to prepare for warm and comfortable winter adventures.

Jeremy Benson, Ryan Huetter, and Andy Wellman