Winter. Your favourite season of the year. You love to go outside and watch the flakes descend lazily from the grey sky. As you lay on your back and make snow angels. As you walk, the crisp crunch of the snow underfoot is like music to your ears. When you decide to enjoy going for a hike somewhere but realise that you don’t have any boots. We have great news for you! Winter isn’t over yet and we can help you find the right shoes for winter hiking. Let’s take a hike through the winter wonderland
The best winter boots have to be insulated to keep your feet warm as you trek through sub-zero temperatures. They should fit well and be comfortable while allowing you to add the proper equipment underfoot, such as snowshoes, so you can hike across the more demanding terrains.
Here are tips on winter hiking boots as well as the recommendations of the best boots you can slip your feet into.
Why do I need winter hiking boots?
You may look at the standard boots you have lying in your closet and think that they will do the trick when you are out winter hiking. Yet, you will find that they won’t offer you the protection you need and your feet, as well as your pinkies, will be cursing you. Winter hiking boots are specifically designed to keep you insulated and safe through the demanding and challenging environments you will explore as you are hiking.
Things you should look for in winter hiking boots
When selecting a pair of winter hiking boots, it’s not simply a matter of choosing the boots that look the nicest. It’s all about practicality and there are a number of factors you need to look at when picking out the best boots that will serve you well throughout your journey.
You want to keep your feet nice and toasty while you are making your way through the ice and snow and proper insulation makes the difference between a fantastic trip and one that ends up being a nightmare. There are a variety of materials available that provide you with the insulation you need such as Thinsulate, Zylex, woollen liners, or fleece. Whichever lining is in your hiking boot is a matter of the brand of the boot. Also, the functionality of the material in providing water-removal as well as warmth and cost matter. You will also find boots will offer either a single layer or double layer of protection with the former being great for a day hike and the latter the best choice for longer trips. You should aim for 400 to 800 grams of insulation to ensure you are getting the best warmth for your feet.
Ability to add on extra traction
Though the outsoles of your boots will provide you with adequate grip while hiking, there are times when the terrain will require a bit more traction. Winter boots should allow you to be able to add crampons, microspikes or snowshoes without any difficulty.
Let your feet breathe
You are going to be wearing thick socks and with the insulation material, your feet are going to get warm and stuffy. That’s not ideal. You have to let your feet breathe and allow for air circulation. If you want a material that is lightweight and breathable, then split-grain leather is the way to go. However, this type of leather isn’t as durable as or waterproof as other types of leather. Nylon is also a popular material with similar characteristics as split-grain leather, yet lacks hardiness which can be a major problem if you are on a more challenging hike. One of the more popular materials in shoes, as well as clothing, is Gore-Tex. It extracts the moisture from out of your boots as well as providing waterproofing and breathability for your feet. Also, it’s the main material utilised by a majority of outdoor clothing manufacturers such as The North Face and Patagonia.
A strong toe cap
As you hike your foot will strike against some hard surfaces. Boots with strengthened toe-caps will stop you from cursing and jumping around holding your foot when you accidentally kick against that rock. Also, they offer support to the front of your boot when you have to attach microspikes or crampons.
How can I tell if the boots are going fit?
Now, you are armed with the knowledge of what makes a great winter hiking boot but before you run off and get yourself a pair, how do you know if they are going to be too big or too small? Ah…good question and here is how you can make sure that the boots you buy will fit you like a glove while giving your feet the support they need so that you reduce the chances of hurting yourself.
Boots that are too loose won’t give you the ankle support that you need. They will only make your footfalls clumsy and insecure which heightens the risk of you having an injury. Boots that are too tight will affect the flow of blood to your feet and that means your tootsies will lose warmth even though they are insulated. Also, you need to have enough room for your toes to move freely.
The ideal boot is one that feels snug while supporting your feet and ankles without restricting your flexion. When trying on the boots, make sure you are wearing the socks you will be using on the hike as the thickness of the sock can make all the difference between a boot that fits just right to one that you will have to return.
The best winter hiking shoes
Okay, you know what makes an amazing pair of winter boots as well as how to check if the boots will be the right fit. It’s time to raise the curtain and reveal our pick of the best winter hiking boots on the market. Grab yourself another cocoa, chuck in some marshmallows, settle back and check out these boots …
Best winter hiking boots for men
Designed with your foot in mind, Keen’s Summit boot will definitely warm, not only the cockles of your heart but your feet too, thanks to the 450-grams of insulation in the toes. Sure-footedness is guaranteed through an outsole that is made to harden as the weather gets colder. If you have wider feet, these could be the boots for you.
Alaskan winters can be brutal and so can these shoes. With few seams make these boots a comfort to wear while ensuring excellent waterproofing. The lacing system allows you to feel a firmness at the heel and the front of your feet is protected by a toe cap. If you feel the 400-grams of insulation isn’t enough to keep your feet warm you can slip in the thermo-footbed for additional warmth. Travelling through deep-snow? The IceGrip sole will give you the kind of traction you need so that you feel like you’re a Yeti bounding through the icy wilderness.
Lowa has been a respected name in the world of outdoor boots for the past 90 years and so you can have great confidence that your boots are going to handle the rigorous task of winter hiking. The Hunter EVO has a leather upper that is durable with a tongue that fits naturally around the contour of your upper foot and leg for security and comfort. The Gore-Tex and Primaloft liner allow for insulation and water-proofing while allowing your feet to breathe YoU7ll go far with a pair of Hunter EVOs on!
Planning on hiking through polar temperatures? These boots will keep you nice and comfortable as the mercury drops to 10°F with 400 grams of Thinsulate lining insulating you against the freezing air. The razor siping in the outsole will give you the traction you need as you cut your way across the icy terrain while Vasque’s own Ultradry system will keep your feet nice and dry.
Fed up with stuff making its way into your boots when hiking? Time to get some Merrel Chill Shell sneakers. The tongue is designed to keep debris out and your foot in. That’s reason enough to get these puppies but there is more…the 200-gram lining will give you the insulation you need while the insole hugs your feet offering you the mobility and support that allows you to hike like a trooper. Water is kept out through the water-repellent upper with generous-sized lugs on the outsole providing you traction so that your feet stay firmly planted no matter how slushy it gets underfoot.
Best winter hiking boots for women
These boots are great if you are only out for a basic hike in less trying conditions. The 100-gram insulation isn’t the thickest but will still keep your tootsies warm while out hiking in the snow. The toe cap is strengthened to keep your pinkies safe and sound with grip and stability offered through the 5mm lugs. Your feet are protected from shocks thanks to cushioning in the heel that makes for a more comfortable trek cross-country over the wintery wilderness.
The North Face has become a brand synonymous with the outdoors and the Chilkat Boots will certainly keep you feeling like they were designed with you in mind. The wind, chill and water are kept outside thanks to the seam-sealed construction of the boots while the lace-up closure keeps them hugging comfortably and securely against you. With additional comfort provided underfoot with the cushioning pads at the heel and forefront of the shoe. Traction is offered by the IcePick lugs that are designed to harden as the temperature drops and can punch through the snowy and icy ground to give you the support you need underfoot. If you are a serious winter-hiker these boots are a must-have.
Looking for a splash of colour against all the whiteness that surrounds you while hiking? These boots from Oboz may be just the ticket for you with their subtle touch of burgundy red. Insulation is provided through a double sheeting system. The sheet at the top of the boot offers warmth for the top of your feet while a sheet at the base of the shoe reflects back the heat. The chassis is solid and offers all-round protection while the EVA footbed offers comfort from within.
Fed up with boots that are so heavy that they feel like you have anchors attached to your feet? Throw them away and get yourself a pair of Bugboots. Coming in at just over under 2lb it will feel like you are hardly wearing boots at all! Yet, the lightweight design isn’t the only thing to get excited about. These boots are going to keep your feet warm and comfortable as the temperature drops to an insane level of cold (like -65°F) thanks to the 600-gram insulation as well as OmniHeat lining that reflects back your body heat. The EVA midsole ensures that your feet will feel the love even during those extra-long hikes while the Michelin Winter. Compound outsole keeps your feet firmly on the ground. The Bugaboot is a winter hiking boot made to handle extremes.
The Toundra is another serious contender for the avid winter hiker. Made to withstand temperatures of up to -40° F you know that you are going to feel warm and snug in these boots. Traction underfoot is produced through Salomon’s proprietary Winter Contagrip where the lugs are made to stay soft even in the coldest of temperatures so that they maintain their grip. Insulation is offered through Aerogel technology which will keep your feet nice and cosy.
Best winter hiking boots for children
Though we don’t encourage parents to take their kids on an epic, challenging winter hike a basic or mild trek could be just the family outing that you are all longing for. Here are some of the best boots that you can get for your young adventurer.
200-grams of insulation will make your kids feet feel so warm while the leather upper is waterproof. If your kid thinks putting shoes on is hard, these boots are a cinch thanks to the hook and loop system which not only makes slipping these on a breeze but also keeps the boot fixed nice and securely against your child’s feet. Available in a couple of colours means that girls and boys are both catered for.
Always tell your kids to wrap up warm because it’s cold outside? Well, maybe you need to get them a pair of Baker Waterproof boots so that you know your kids’ feet won’t feel the icy sting of winter. Designed to insulate against -35° F the tootsies of your precious one are going to be cosy warm while the seam-sealed upper keeps water and other nasties out. The outsole is made to keep your child’s feet fixed firmly on the snowy surface. We can be confident that as they run and jump and in the snow, they aren’t going to slip over. This will prevent them from getting a boo-boo that you’ll need to kiss better.
Made for outdoor play, your kids can explore in comfort. Adidas’ Climaproof technology allows for moisture release while offering insulation so your kid’s feet stay nice and dry. Primaloft insulation provides warmth. The strapping around the ankle, as well as the shaft, secures your child’s feet without affecting freedom of movement. Time to let the kids out to play and hike.
Rated for temperatures of -35° F your kid’s feet will truly feel pleasant in these boots. 200 grams of insulation and reflective lining will make it feel like your children have heaters hugging their legs. If your kids are wanting a little more wriggle room for within the boots you can take out the footbed. The sealed-seam construct helps keep the water out.
Time to head out…
You’re an avid hiker who loves to go outdoors in the summer and winter. Yet your summer hiking boots won’t give you the protection you need against the harsh winter environment. Proper insulation and compatibility with external traction devices such as microspikes or crampons are a must for any serious hiker. The degree and complexity of the hike determine which boots will be the best for you. A boot that fits snugly but isn’t too tight that it affects the circulation of the blood to your foot. The best way to find the ideal fitting shoe is to try on them on while wearing the socks you will have on when out on your winter hike.
Ready to go? Let’s head out for those mountains over there…