The Best Winter Boots of 2019
|Price||$149.25 at MooseJaw|
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|$150 List||$95.97 at Backcountry|
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|$49.95 at Amazon|
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|$59.46 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Warm, completely waterproof, comfortable, good traction, supportive||Comfortable, very warm, totally waterproof, great traction||Supportive, good traction, very warm||Warm, comfortable, affordable, great traction||Inexpensive, warm, super user-friendly, good traction, made in USA|
|Cons||Sizing runs a bit small, expensive||Fit isn't very precise, mildly laborious to tie||More difficult to pull on and off, relatively complicated lacing system, break-in period||Not completely waterproof, more labor intensive to put on than others||Clunky loose fit, not for hiking, leaking seam between upper and lower|
|Bottom Line||Oboz combined comfort, warmth, waterproofness, and traction, making the Bridger 10 our new Editor's Choice Award winner.||Our previous Editors' Choice Award winner was narrowly beaten out, but remains one of our favorites.||A high quality boot that is a warm and comfortable choice for winter hiking and snowshoeing.||A very comfortable boot at the most affordable price.||The Greenbay 4 is an incredibly user-friendly and utilitarian winter boot.|
|Rating Categories||Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated||The North Face Chilkat 400||Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry||Kamik NationPlus||Kamik Greenbay 4|
|Water Resistance (25%)|
|Fit And Comfort (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated||The North Face Chilkat 400||Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry||Kamik NationPlus||Kamik Greenbay 4|
|Maximum puddle depth before major leaking||8 in||8.5 in||7.25 in||4.5 in||3 in|
|Appropriate Activity||All activities, from chores to hiking||All activities, from chores to hiking||All activities, from chores to hiking||All activities, from chores to hiking||Chores, errands|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular, Wide version available||Regular, Wide version available|
Best Overall for Men
Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated
A newcomer to our winter boot test, we weren't quite sure what to expect from the Oboz Bridger 10. It didn't take long for our testers to take a liking to the new kid on the block with a comfortable and secure fit that starts with an excellent O-fit insole. The uppers are also 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, the 400g Thinsulate insulation and heat reflective insole are the warmest in this review. In addition to their impressive warmth, they are also completely water resistant, and the B-dry waterproof membrane kept our tester's feet completely dry for a 10-minute submersion test. Traction is also a strong suit 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. They do break in and loosen up slightly with use, but if you're interested in a roomier fit or prefer to wear thick socks, you may want to order a half size up. Beyond that, there was little we didn't like about this versatile, warm, comfortable, and waterproof boot.
Read review: Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated
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 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 our testers with its excellent price to performance ratio.
On the downside, it leaks a bit at the base of the tongue and leaches pigment from the leather when wet, so don't wear your favorite socks. It's also a little harder to pull on than some options. Still, at half the price of some of the other boots in this review, it's 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.
Read review: Kamik NationPlus
Best Slip-on Winter Boot
Kamik Greenbay 4
The Kamik Greenbay 4 earns a Top Pick for being the best slip-on winter boot in the review. This affordable Pac style boot impresses our testers with its incredible user-friendliness. It's as easy to pull on and off as they come. This utilitarian boot is ideal for stashing by the door to shovel snow, walk the dog, or run errands around town. The slip-on design provides a roomy and comfortable fit. The Greenbay is also toasty with an 8mm removable thermal liner. The liner is surrounded by a molded rubber lower and tall waterproof nylon upper with a 14.5-inch total shaft height. Both the uppers and lowers are waterproof and will keep your feet dry in most situations. The aggressive tread on the thick rubber soles provides good grip in snow and icy conditions.
These boots aren't fully waterproof, and our submersion test revealed that they leak at the seam attaching the lower boot to the upper shaft if submerged in water for an extended period. And, because these boots have a loose fit that lacks support, they aren't ideal for winter hiking or snowshoeing. That said, if you're looking for a simple, easy to use boot, then the Greenbay 4 is an excellent choice.
Read review: Kamik Greenbay 4
Top Pick for Traction
Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is a versatile winter boot that scored relatively well across our tests but truly impressed us with their traction. With a unique sole design and tread reminiscent of a snow tire, these boots grip where others slip. They provide predictable and confidence inspiring traction on firm snow and icy conditions. Columbia's Omni-heat thermal reflective lining helps make these boots feel warmer than their 200g of insulation might suggest. It also helps them boast a high warmth to weight ratio. They are one of the most user-friendly lace-up boots in our test, with a less complicated system than most of the competition. The fit is generally good. It's slightly roomier than similar boots with a supportive upper and soft insulated lining.
The Bugaboot Plus IV is very water resistant, but not completely waterproof. We are also disappointed by the minimalist, unsupportive insole. Overall, though, these boots are versatile and well suited for activities ranging from chores around the house to full-on winter hiking and snowshoeing. Their outstanding traction earned them our Top Pick for Traction Award.
Read review: Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV
Notable for Comfort
Blundstone Thermal 566
Test. A few weeks into our testing, we were in love. These are 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 reasonable in snowy and icy conditions thanks to a slip-resistant outsole. What sets the 566 apart though is their removable sheepskin liner, which works with the supportive footbed to provide unparalleled comfort for the foot.
The Blundstone boots are a little harder to pull on and off than the Bogs or Kamik Greenbay 4 boots. Still, soft and cushioned, the Blundstones make stepping out to shovel the walkway on a frosty February morning an appealing task.
Read review: Blundstone Thermal 566
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. Jeremy is a north Tahoe-based freelance writer, a 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 joins Jeremy, also Sierra-based. Ryan holds a degree in Outdoor Adventure Management from Western Washington University and is currently pursuing IFMGA guiding certification. He has many climbing ascents all over the world, including over 20 big wall routes in Yosemite and Fitz Roy in Patagonia. Rounding out the group is Andy Wellman, based in Colorado. A climber for more than two decades and Senior Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab for the last five years, Andy has many accomplishments, including published climbing and bouldering guides to the southwest and climbing long mixed routes in Peru.
Since we've tested winter boots in the past, this year's review builds upon our growing body of experience with this category. We looked at the current options in the market, retaining the strongest ones, and adding new ones to the mix that looked competitive with known high-performers, ending up with 11 of the best winter boots available. We purchased and field-tested these 11 pairs in a variety of locations, including mid-winter in Washington state, Idaho, and the San Juans of Colorado, as well as California's Sierra Nevada. We identified several key performance metrics and used a combination of field use and standardized testing to compare performance among the different models. For example, warmth was tested by monitoring temperature change within the boots while they were submerged in containers of ice water, while fit and comfort was evaluated by use by several testers with different foot shapes and sizes.
Related: How We Tested Winter Boots
Analysis and Test Results
After thoroughly testing each boot, we rated each model on their fit and comfort, warmth, water resistance, traction and how easy they are to get them on and off the feet, giving them a score from 1 (terrible) to 10 (perfect). Due to the comparative nature of this review, if a boot receives a lower score for warmth, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't warm, just that it's not as warm as the other boots it's competing against. Below we describe our criteria for evaluating each rating metric, as well as which boots perform the best and worst in these categories.
Related: Buying Advice for Winter Boots
Are you searching for the best value? You'll notice that our Best Buy Award winner, the Kamik Nationplus is one of the least expensive models we tested, but it still scores well from a performance standpoint. Our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Oboz Bridger 10, is our highest rated boot for performance, and also one of the most expensive models we tested. 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 winter, you can go budget. If you want functional walking and hiking boots to wear nearly every day of winter then spending more may make more sense.
Of course, the higher priced Bridger 10 also seems more durable than the Nationplus. If a product lasts several years longer, you may get a better deal in the long run. Unfortunately, we haven't tested all of these boots to failure.
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, we feel a boot's warmth is one of the most important 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. Warmth accounts for 25% of a boot's overall score.
Of course, we test the warmth of these boots outside in the field, but we also test them in the lab for direct 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 3 minutes for 12 minutes total. The Oboz Bridger 10 won this test, losing only 14.1 degrees of internal temperature after the full twelve minutes. The Kamik Greenbay also impressed us by losing only 17.4 degrees, while the North Face Chilkat 400 decreased in internal temperature by 22.1 degrees. Boots with less insulation, like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV and the North Face Chilkat III, lost heat more quickly than boots with double the insulation.
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 for a more direct comparison. While manufacturers rate them many of these boots to temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, we never encounter temperatures that cold in southern Colorado or the mountains of California so we can't verify those temperature ratings with real-world findings.
The warmest boot we tested is the Oboz Bridger 10, which has 400g of synthetic insulation, a thermal reflective insole, and a snug and comfortable fit. In general, we found the boots with 400g of insulation to be warmer than boots with less, retaining heat for longer.
We're also quite impressed with the warmth provided by all of the Pac boots we tested, the Sorel Caribou, Kamik Greenbay, and the Kamik 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 Bogs Classic Ultra Mid's neoprene insulation does not trap heat as well. It's large loose opening also allows heat to escape, making it the least warm boot in our review.
Insulation can only trap or reflect the heat your foot creates, so a proper fit is essential to maintain adequate 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 are harder to walk in and take longer for your feet to heat. This is why fit and comfort, discussed below, are just as important as warmth when selecting a boot.
Since we wear them in cold and often wet or snowy winter conditions, the second most important criterion when selecting a winter boot is how water resistant it is. Water resistance is important because not only are wet feet uncomfortable — they are more prone to getting and staying cold than dry feet. All of the boots we tested feature some 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. Water resistance is worth 25% of a boot's overall score.
Don't forget to consider how tall a boot is. Stepping in water deeper than the top of the boot or the low point of the tongue's gusset allows water in from the top and results in cold and wet feet. Boots like the Sorel Caribou and The North Face Chilkat 400 are tall and have a high maximum puddle depth before allowing water inside, while the short Blundstone Thermal requires that you step carefully in snow or slush even a few inches deep.￼
In our submersion test, the Chilkat 400s and the Oboz Bridger 10 proved to be the most waterproof boots we tested. Their waterproof membranes are breathable and completely waterproof for a full ten minutes while standing in water 5 inches deep. While it is unlikely that you'll ever just be standing in deep puddles for extended periods while wearing either of these boots, it's comforting to know they can handle it. These are both excellent choices for all-around use and active winter pursuits like hiking, no matter the conditions.
The Bogs Classic Ultra Mid and Sorel Caribou boots are also truly waterproof and easy to pull on. Between the two, we prefer the Sorels though for their superior warmth. Cozy, waterproof, and easy to put on, the Caribou boots are an excellent choice for shoveling snow or performing other outdoor winter chores.
Some boots claim to be waterproof and work very well to keep out momentary splashes but let water in if they get submerged for an extended period. A good example is the 14.5" tall Kamik Greenbay 4, which began to leak at the 3-inch mark during our submersion test. It lets water in through the seam where the upper and lower portions meet. We also noticed leaking at the base of the tongue with the Best Buy Kamik NationPlus boot, making its puddle depth only 4.5 inches due to its low tongue attachment point. The NationPlus is reasonably waterproof but, annoyingly, leaches pigment when wet. Both the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV and the North Face Chilkat III also had this problem, leaking water in at the bottom of the tongue during our submersion testing.
Depending on where you live, winter precipitation might fall primarily as snow, rain, or a combination of the two. Folks walking through wetter weather need a more water resistant or a waterproof boot. If you mostly deal with heaps of cold, dry snow, you may not need the most waterproof boot there is. Those who are more active in the winter months may also be more concerned with breathability.
Let us explain: Water conducts heat (or cold) far more efficiently than air does alone. If a boot doesn't breathe at all, moisture can build up on the inside and chill your feet just the same as if the boot had sprung a leak.
Pac boots and full grain leather boots, like the Sorel Caribou, tend to build-up more moisture than any of the other models we tested. They don't provide the same level of breathability that a boot with a waterproof-breathable membrane can. This is important to consider if you're buying a boot for athletic activities, like winter hiking. A breathable waterproof membrane, like that found on the Oboz Bridger 10, the Keen Summit County, Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry, or the North Face Chilkat 400, will likely serve you better.
Fit and Comfort
How your winter boots fit affects their comfort and performance. Too tight of a fit can lead to decreased circulation and colder feet, while too loose of a fit may leave you stumbling. Comfort is also a key consideration, and we tend to prefer boots that offer a more cushioned, soft feel that also offer proper support. A few models come with a quality supportive insole, while others will readily accept an aftermarket insole for those who like extra arch support or who need to use custom orthotics in their footwear.
How you need or want your boots to fit depends mostly on your preference and how you intend to use them. A looser fit is ok unless you want great 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, so we avoided comparing apples to oranges in that regard. Fit and comfort are subjective. That said, we evaluated the various models based on average foot width and shape. Fit and Comfort also accounts for 25% of a product's final score.
Our top performing models in this metric are the Oboz Bridger 10, the North Face Chilkat 400, and the Kamik Nationplus. These models quickly molded to our feet and provided a precise and supportive fit appropriate for active pursuits like hiking. All three give the type of all-day comfort that your feet will appreciate.
Our Editors' Choice Award winner is the Oboz Bridger 10 due to their snug performance fit, supportive upper cuff, waterproof breathable membrane, quality insole, and excellent traction. They are an excellent option for serious winter hiking. Both the Nationplus and the Chilkat 400 fit more closely than roomy slip-on models but are less snug and precise than the Bridger 10. The Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry is another performance oriented boot that has a somewhat tighter fit and stiffer shaft that is well suited to winter hiking adventures.
Even the low scoring boots are still quite comfortable. They're just looser fitting and somewhat clunky. The Sorel Caribou's roomy fit is comfy and cozy but not well suited for taking a hike. That's okay, as we find these boots best for winter chores and running errands anyway. The same goes for the Bogs Classic 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. The Keen Summit County boots are the widest fitting boot in our test, which is ideal for some. But, for people with low to medium volume feet, they are impossibly loose fitting.
Ease of Use
Many people only use their winter boots for short periods. Typical uses include heading outside to shovel the walkway, running errands around town, or walking from the bus to the ski resort's lodge. For quick use and simple tasks, we prefer the convenience of boots that are easy to slip on and off. Many of the lace-up models in this review employ speed lacing eyelets and hooks 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 very loose or completely undone. Features like glove-friendly pull tabs are also appreciated, especially for boots without wide openings that a little harder to pull onto your foot.
Slip-on boots dominate this category because they don't slow you down with laces. With its large handles and foot opening, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid is one of the fastest boots to pull on. Our other most user-friendly favorite is the Kamik Greenbay 4, which is just as easy to get in and out of as the Bogs Classic but has a higher cuff, warmer insulation, and better traction.
Some of our favorite models don't perform as well in this metric. But while lacing systems like those on the Oboz Bridger 10 and Chilkat 400 take a little more time, they reward you with a more supportive fit. Better support keeps them comfortable longer and more suitable for a broader range of activities. There are slight differences between the user-friendliness of the lace-up models. Some are more time consuming than others.
An excellent example of this is the Vasque Snoburban II UltraDry. They have a snug fit that requires you to loosen them fully to pull them on. The upper portion of the lacing system also has eyelets that you have to feed the laces through every time you lace them up. In contrast, the Oboz Bridger 10 has a similar fit but a more convenient lacing system. It's metal speed lacing hooks require far less time and effort to secure.
Don't forget to consider weight. If you want an all-day boot, lugging around one of the heftier models could get old in a hurry.
Dependable traction is important. It doesn't 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 heading down a trail to gain some winter solitude, you need to be confident that your boot can handle the slippery conditions you may encounter. Traction is weighted as 10% of a boot's final score.
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.
To test the boots' traction head-to-head, we trudged up steep snowy (and often icy) slopes at least a dozen times. We also took the boots to old firm snow patches high in the mountains and found icy walkways. The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is the clear winner of our traction testing. It has a unique and innovative tread design that looks just like a 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 Kamik NationPlus, Oboz Bridger 10, and North Face Chilkat 400 also had some of the highest scores for traction in our tests. With aggressive tread patterns and softer rubber that provided a solid grip and kept us confident in a wide range of conditions and surfaces.
Despite all their waterproofing and breathability efforts, sometimes your feet, and boots, get wet. It's easier to dry boots with removable liners. But we find that, although they are straightforward to extract, the inner liners of the Sorels and Kamiks are difficult to shove back in the boot. For these reasons, we recommend a boot dryer like the DryGuy Force Dry DX to aid in the drying process. When coming home from a day on the slopes, it's nice to throw the boots and gloves on the drying stand and know they'll be ready to go in the morning.
If you're going out on winter hikes, you may want extra flotation to keep you from sinking into the snow. Our Snowshoe Review highlights the models we liked the most and explains why. 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 winter boots 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, consider warmth, comfort, traction, and weather protection. We hope that this review will help when making these choices.
— Jeremy Benson, Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman