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Looking for the best winter boots? We've tested over 40 different pairs in the last 8 years, and our updated review features the 10 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.
Chilkat Updates — October 2022
Since our last test period, The North Face released a newer version of this boot, the Chilkat V 400. It features D ring lacing and 400 grams of TNF's proprietary insulation, Heatseeker Eco. We're now linking to the updated boot in our review.
The North Face Chilkat 400 II took us by surprise with its excellent warmth and comfort, earning our top honor for winter boots. It has tons of high-quality synthetic insulation with a cozy and comfortable lining, which creates an environment of luxury. The boot is very light, making it comfortable to walk long distances, and the excellent tread pattern ensures good grip on both paved and rough surfaces, dry or slick. It also has plenty of weather resistance for stormy weather and enough durability to last a long time.
The tongue meets the boot at a lower height than other burly winter boots on the market, meaning that you won't be able to submerge these in the deepest waterways. But barring that flaw, these boots are excellent and relatively affordable compared to other similar options. In short, the Chilkat outperforms the rest and, for most winter users who have to deal with snowy and cold weather, these are the boots we recommend.
Shaft Height: 7.5 inches | Insulation: 200g M Select
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable for walking and hiking
REASONS TO AVOID
Lower puddle depth
Minor durability concerns
The Merrell Thermo Chill Mid is a winter hiking boot that performs well enough to be used in most winter climates as an all-around winter boot. It is also very affordable, earning our nod for the best boot for users on a budget. It is supremely comfortable, thanks to a great footbed and cozy insulation, and also packs enough warmth and weather resistance for most days of the winter. Light and easy to wear, the low price tag is delightful considering the performance this boot delivers.
Still, the Thermo Chill isn't tall enough or warm enough for some winter snowstorms or submersion in deep water. They are made for hiking and do this well, but they won't be a useful boot for those who need to trudge through deep snow to chop wood or shovel the driveway. And, we have concerns about the fabric eyelets that seem likely to break over time from cinching the laces down tight. But for winter hikers and others in temperate climates who want a good boot on a tight budget, these are what we recommend.
The Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid is a convenient slip-on work boot that provides a great fit, plenty of weather protection, and good durability, making it the best boot for working outdoors and doing quick chores. It easily slides on and off and has enough warmth and weather resistance to use for quick tasks without using socks, making it very convenient for winter housework like chopping wood and shoveling. And when paired with thick socks, this boot is well-fitting and warm enough to use for all-day outdoor work. A thick rubber shell ensures a long lifespan — these boots can take a beating.
Slip-on work boots are the most convenient boots in our review, but this convenience also prevents them from achieving a perfect fit. Indeed, the Arctic Ice feels a bit loose and sloppy, but it has the best fit in this sub-category. Thick socks help take up some of this room. These also aren't as warm as Pac boots, so for seriously cold winter climates, users might want to look elsewhere if they will be spending hours at a time in below-freezing temperatures regularly. But if you want a convenient slip-on boot for odd jobs and chores that will also be adequate for the occasional long and cold outdoor workday, these are a great choice.
The UGG Butte is a stylish leather winter boot with wool insulation that feels great against the feet. Comfort is prioritized, as the boot is light and doesn't feel as bulky and cumbersome to wear as heavier Pac boots. The leather exterior looks great, and the cuff can be rolled down to show off the wool lining or kept up for an all-leather look. The lower section of the boot is completely waterproof, meaning the boot can trudge through puddles and shallow snowdrifts without getting wet.
The lightweight nature of the Butte means it isn't as warm as others, but it is still warm enough for winter days in most places. And although water begins to seep into the boot at a submersion depth of 6.5 inches, we rarely found puddles that deep in real life. Overall, these boots perform well and will be suitable for most users, and the style is some of the best on the market. Only users with specific needs for extreme cold or water resistance will need to look elsewhere.
The Baffin Impact is a huge, heavy boot with extreme warmth. We cannot imagine ever having cold feet in these boots. They have a removable synthetic liner for insulation, and they also have a thin layer of fixed insulation on the inside of the shell. The sole is thick, and the footbed has a honeycomb pattern to add height and trap warm air beneath the foot. Every aspect of this boot is geared towards providing warmth, and for that, we have to respect it as the warmest winter boot on the market.
However, the same features that provide so much warmth make the Impact unsuitable for use by anyone who doesn't spend a lot of time standing around in below-zero temperatures. This boot is thick, bulky, and extremely heavy, making it a chore to walk in for even short distances. It has so much insulation that it made our feet float when walking through a creek to check for water resistance. In the same creek, we immediately noticed that the seams were not waterproof as the liquid poured inside. These boots will keep your feet warm, period. But beyond that, they aren't super versatile.
Over the years, we've tested almost 200 winter boots for men and women. Our testing methodology puts each pair through multiple tests to rate warmth, protection, comfort, and more. We've logged hundreds of hours in the cold and snow in five different states wearing these boots for our analysis.
Winter boots were subjected to more than 14 individual tests to rate their winter performance. The most important ratings are the warmth tests and the weather protection tests, which correspond to 25% each of the overall score. These tests included standing in cold creeks to test water resistance and measuring internal air temperatures while the boots were 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.
The breakdown of our five rating metrics for men's winter boots is as follows:
Warmth (25% of overall score weighting)
Weather Protection (25% weighting)
Comfort and Fit (20% weighting)
Traction (15% weighting)
Durability (15% weighting)
Longtime OutdoorGearLab tester Jeff Dobronyi brings you this review. Jeff is an IFMGA-licensed Mountain Guide based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the coldest winter climates in the lower 48. He regularly spends his day shoveling feet of snow out of the driveway, slipping on boots to drive to work as a backcountry ski guide, and then chopping wood as soon as he gets home, sometimes running errands on the way. He demands a lot from his winter footwear and knows which boots stand up to winter and which can't. Over the years, we've tested various kinds of footwear for every activity under the sun.
Jeff combined his research and test notes with those of past testers in different locations and throughout numerous winters to bring 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, the mountains of Colorado, and the cold valley of Jackson Hole. We took them on several long winter hikes beyond using them during our everyday lives and jobs. We conducted controlled side-by-side tests to expand our understanding of how they perform in different conditions.
Analysis and Test Results
Despite their seemingly simple design, winter boots come in many different styles and have many different purposes (for women too!). Our selection runs the gamut of designs from large Pac boots with tons of insulation and weather resistance to small, stylish Chelsea boots. Our test details can help you find the right winter boots for your needs and budget.
We ranked each of the winter boots in our review across five critical performance metrics: warmth, weather protection, comfort and fit, traction, and durability. 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.
Winter boots range from dirt cheap to crazy expensive. The good news is that the most expensive boots aren't necessarily the best. In fact, we found many worthy boot models that are notably cheaper than less impressive but more expensive options.
The best overall winter boot in our lineup, The North Face Chilkat 400, is a great option for anyone looking for a versatile winter boot at a great price. Our outstanding value award winner, the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid, is a winter hiking boot that provides enough versatility for most cold-weather activities and uses. The Bogs Bozeman Tall is a very weather protective and durable slip-on boot that also comes at a reasonable price. Generally, the most stylish models are some of the most expensive, as is the warmest model in our test, the Baffin Impact. While this boot will set you back big time, it's worth the money if you need a ton of warmth.
We typically wear winter boots during the coldest season of the year, 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 the amount of insulation varies tremendously.
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 an objective analysis of how quickly cold can permeate a boot.
The warmest boot we tested is the Baffin Impact, which has tons of synthetic insulation in both the removable liner and the boot's shell. These boots kept our feet warm and even hoton the coldest days of testing. However, keep in mind that these boots will be overkill for anyone who lives in a temperate climate and are designed for use in arctic conditions.
The North Face Chilkat 400 II also delivered plenty of warmth for most days and situations. It has 400g of synthetic insulation and a fleece liner, and the shaft extends up high enough to help protect the feet on all but the most extreme days. The classic Sorel Caribou, typical for a Pac boot, also delivers as much warmth as most people need, thanks to a 9mm felt inner liner and robust outer materials. The stylish UGG Butte also provides good warmth with a thick wool lining that keeps the feet cozy while remaining light and comfortable to wear.
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. Similarly, the Chelsea boots have leather uppers and thinly lined footbeds that aren't warm enough for temperatures below freezing. Of the Chelsea boots, the Blundstone Thermal is warmest, with a fuzzy wool sheepskin footbed.
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 a combo of the above. But how well do they work? To find out, we walked out into a very, very cold creek and stood there. This submersion test is the ultimate way to find weaknesses in a boot's water resistance.
The height of a boot is also significant for water resistance, as perhaps the easiest way for your foot to get wet is from snow pouring in over the top opening. 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 Mid and Bogs Bozeman Tall 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 13.5 inches of waterproof height, the Arctic Ice Mid is the most waterproof boot in the lineup, followed very closely by the Bogs Bozeman Tall and the Sorel Caribou.
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 15-inch tall Baffin Impact, 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. The Chelsea boots let water in through the elastic panel, the component that allows this style of leather boot to be flexible.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort is important, especially when it comes to footwear. We recommend that you make comfort a 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 aren't comfortable. On the other hand, we also recognize that comfort is a highly subjective assessment, and what we consider the most comfortable design may not feel good on your foot.
According to our testers, the most comfortable model is the Blundstone Thermal, followed closely by the Chilkat 400 II and UGG Butte. The Blundstone has a perfectly-tailored leather boot fit, with a soft sheepskin footbed lining that feels heavenly when you slip it on. The Chilkat has soft and compressible insulation and a fleece lining, a fit that also feels perfectly tailored, and a lacing system that allows the boot to be cinched tighter than other Pac-style boots. The Butte is lined with thick wool insulation, creating a cozy nook for the feet, and as the leather breaks in over time, the boot gets progressively more comfortable.
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 Sorel Caribou is comfy and cozy but not well suited for activities like hiking. That's okay, as these boots are best for winter chores and running errands anyway. The same goes for the Bogs Bozeman and Muck Arctic Ice. 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.
Dependable traction is essential. Whether 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 Kahtoola MICROspikes to slip on over your boot's sole if you are walking on very icy surfaces with any regularity.
Winter hiking boots generally provide great traction, though we found the tread of the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid to drastically outperform the Keen Revel IV Polar. The Thermo Chill has deep, angular lugs with plenty of negative space to absorb surface irregularities and soft rubber that grips on dry rock and pavement.
Winter boots are expensive, and we rely on them to keep our feet protected during the coldest and stormiest months of the year. They need to hold up to repeated use and abuse doing chores, winter hiking, and trudging around in wet conditions. If they fall apart, they expose our feet to the elements, which can be debilitating. And, a boot that falls apart easily is a wasted investment.
Slip-on work boots are the most durable winter boots out there. Both the Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid and the Bogs Bozeman Tall have lots of rubber around the boot's lining, no stitched seams exposed to the outside, and rubber that won't wear out quickly. These boots fend off sharp objects and don't have any moving parts like lace eyelets that can fall apart.
Other than the slip-ons, we weren't overly impressed by the durability of any other boots in the review. The Baffin Impact is built to last, but it has plastic clips that are likely to break when made brittle by the cold these boots are designed for. Most winter boots suffer from insulation that will pack out over time and linings that might develop holes in the heel. Our testers have worn out many winter boots over the years, but with few exceptions, all winter boots in this review should last at least a couple of seasons.
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 boot's 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 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.
We put in the cold hours and the nitty-gritty research to...
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.