Best Winter Hiking Boots
Few things in life are as wonderful and as relaxing as a long hike in the woods. While some of you will probably debate the relaxing part, it goes without saying that it is an activity that many people love. However, there are some of you out there who are willing to brave the cold and do so in the winter. If you are one of these crazy individuals, then you are going to need a high-quality pair of winter hiking boots to enhance the overall experience. Because you will need the extra element of sufficient insulation, normal models are just not going to cut it most of the time. And, although this footwear can be a pricy investment, it will be worth it for most of you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 2.75 hrs of research
It is lined with Gore-Tex
Sports a Thermo nine-millimeter insole
Designed with EZ-Roller hardware
- LA SPORTIVA NEPAL EVO GTX
- OBOZ BRIDGER
- THE NORTH FACE CHILKAT III
- ZAMBERLAN 996 VIOZ GT
- THE NORTH FACE CHILKAT II
- SALOMON TOUNDRA PRO
- DANNER GTX
- VASQUE SNOWBURBAN II
- COLUMBIA BUGABOOT PLUS III
- KAMIK NATIONPLUS
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST WINTER HIKING BOOTS
1. LA SPORTIVA NEPAL EVO GTX
It is lined with Gore-Tex
Sports a Thermo nine-millimeter insole
Designed with EZ-Roller hardware
It takes a while to break in
After you take the time to break this bad boy in, you will be relishing in its design. Not too many of you will be willing to spend this much money on a hiking boot, however.Read more
The combination of the Gore-Tex lining and the Thermo nine-millimeter insole provide exceptional warmth and insulation.
One user went out of their way to proclaim the Nepal EVO GTX the best fitting boot they had ever tried. That is pretty high praise and, of course, the adjustable tongue makes achieving the perfect fit much easier.
To say that this model is expertly crafted is an understatement. The EZ-Roller hardware and silicone impregnated leather are just two examples of why.
Integrated into this model is a Vibram sole and this provides an incredibly durable and slip-resistant bottom.
While it is going to take some time to break this in, the SBR Aircushion provides superb shock absorption. Additionally, the superb fit also does enhance the overall comfort.
Yes, this is going to break your bank a little but it is hard not to marvel at the quality. Once again, if you are serious about this, here is your top contender.
2. OBOZ BRIDGER
Sports a medium-density EVA midsole
The top layer wicks away moisture from your skin
Keeps your toes warm with thermal insulation
Many users claim the fit runs small
When it comes to keeping your feet warm, let’s just say that this designer knows a thing or two. Above all else, that is what this next option is going to perform arguably better than any other.Read more
Outside of the breathable and waterproof membrane that is integrated here, this is also designed with 400 grams of premium 3M Thinsulate insulation.
What you will often see with these types of boots is they will run small and that is exactly the case with this option. Ordering a size up may be in your best interest.
Other than one user who reported that one of the lace eyelets broke off, this appears to be an extremely well-made and long-lasting boot.
A lot of thought was put into the design of the outsole. First off, it sports winterized rubber that is specially formulated to grip harder in snowy conditions. Secondly, the map that is molded into the bottom of the outsole features Granite Peak.
Granted you achieve the right fit, everything else plays out for itself in regard to the comfort. This includes the dual-density EVA midsole, TPU chassis for protection and nylon shank for enhanced support.
In many ways, this is the best and most practical option on this entire list. That is, granted you can buy a size that fits you correctly as this has been a bit of a pain for other buyers.
3. THE NORTH FACE CHILKAT III
Sports a gaiter-compatible D-ring
Features a waterproof TPR shell
The insulated lining adds plenty of warmth
Tends to run small and narrow
The removable footbed is not very beefy
The North Face has made a killing with their Chilkat line of hiking boots and their third one is arguably their best one yet. Part of the reason why is thanks to its superb insulation.Read more
If one thing is for sure; your toes will not get cold in the Chilkat III. This is thanks to the 200 grams of Heatseeker insulation and the injection-molded, waterproof TPR shell.
Due to the thickness of the insulation, it may be in your best interest to size up with this model. Of course, due to the circumstances, this is not a bad compromise.
Now, one buyer did report that they experienced busting at the seam within a month’s use. Overall, the rustproof hardware and other top-end materials, however, do make for a fairly durable boot.
In addition to the fact that a TNF Winter Grip rubber sole is implemented here, the sole itself sports rubber lugs that are temperature-resistant (and these will enhance the overall traction).
EVA is one of the most popular foams when it comes to footwear manufacturing. The North Face is fully knowledgeable of that and designed their model with a compression-molded EVA midsole.
Did The North Face ever hit the nail on the head of the hammer here? The design of the Chilkat III speaks for itself, really, and offers superb insulation and excellent waterproofness.
4. ZAMBERLAN 996 VIOZ GT
The Vibram 3D sole can be restored if damaged
Implements high-quality materials
Includes a full-grain leather upper
It is a heavy and stiff boot
You will slip on smooth, wet terrain
This is yet another model that is designed with Gore-Tex and that makes it both waterproof and breathable. It is also handcrafted in Italy, so there is that.Read more
As mentioned, this is another model with Gore-Tex. Now, the thing about the Vioz GT is the membrane is made of the premium fabric. Also, the Microtex wicking nylon collar lining helps to control the moisture.
While one buyer did claim that this model fit them well, they made mention of the fact that a size smaller (one-half) would have done them better. This is a bit unique seeing as most winter hiking boots will run small.
Due to the lone fact that this was handcrafted in Italy, you know that the quality is going to be high. In addition, the integrated outsole is also extremely durable.
Part of the reason the sole is so durable is that it is Vibram. Now, the aggressive tread pattern that is implemented is terrific but it does have its downsides. One, in particular, is that your traction on slippery, smooth surfaces is going to be dreadful.
As with some of other winter hiking boots, this is quite heavy and stiff. However, the Zamberlan Flex System does allow for proper foot flex without compromising support.
Even as a top two model, this does have some minor hiccups. But, what product out there does not? Easily, these slight flaws can be overlooked thanks to the overall design.
5. THE NORTH FACE CHILKAT II
Most users laud the durability
Designed with thick padding that enhances the warmth
Features waterproof leather and a waterproof shell
This is another model that runs small
This is a prime example of a product that has been overshadowed by its successor. Yet, does that mean that the Chilkat II is obsolete? No, and it is still one of the better options out there.Read more
The Chilkat II is advertised to handle temperatures down to -25 degrees. Now, whether or not this is accurate is up in the air. But, it is built with PrimaLoft Eco insulation and a waterproof shell.
It is one thing when a few buyers complain about a particular feature but it is another when several do. The general consensus is that the Chilkat II runs small (with some even saying very small).
For the most part, the quality of this boot has been lauded by previous users. One tester did note, however, that one of the metal lace holders did rip out.
Thanks to the implementation of the Icepick snow traction sole, you will be able to achieve an optimal grip on frozen and slippery terrains.
Not only does the natural warmth provided from this boot enhance the comfortability but so does the built-in Dri-Lex fleece collar.
You see, the Chilkat II is still worth talking about. Perhaps The North Face will completely outdo themselves to put this one to rest but, until then, this will remain a top choice.
6. SALOMON TOUNDRA PRO
The toe box is extremely wide
Insulation is not an issue
It comes with a waterproof bootie
One user documented durability concerns
It is a pretty stiff boot
If you are beginning to notice a theme it is that most of the top-end winter hiking boots on the market offer remarkable insulation and warmth. As you guessed, that is present with this next model yet again.Read more
This is ready for the frozen tundra that much is for sure. With NASA technology and a full waterproof bootie, this is claimed to keep your toes warm to -40 degrees.
Here is what is interesting; the toe box of this boot is actually really wide. But, as multiple buyers have documented, it still tends to run on the small side.
A downside might be this model’s durability, according to one user who experienced tearing at the seams. That is only one instance, though.
If you are worried about slipping on slick terrains when you are hiking, then this is a sole that you will utterly love. It sports aggressive treads that allow you to trudge through snow and ice with ease.
Per the words of a previous buyer, these are a little stiff. If you (or whoever you are buying winter hiking boots for) need to crouch down a lot with these on, you will feel the stiffness often.
The Toundra Pro is a lot like other top-end models in that it features excellent insulation with questionable sizing and a bit of stiffness. That is about the standard it seems.
7. DANNER GTX
Features a waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex membrane
Sports D-ring lacing
The attention to detail is sensational
It is not very supportive
The breaking-in phase can be quite brutal
It is worth noting that this model from Danner is actually not insulated. However, it is built with a Gore-Tex membrane making it fully waterproof. With thermal socks, this still should be a suitable model for average winter days.Read more
Again, this is technically not an insulated model. It makes an appearance on this list mainly due to its Gore-Tex membrane. This will prevent any snow or moisture from seeping through and when paired with thermal socks, can do a pretty good job providing warmth.
The fit of the GTX boot may be the best feature, honestly. It provides a snug fit but there is also enough room in the toe box to prevent cramping.
To say the attention to detail here is exquisite is putting it lightly. In addition to the all-leather construction, this is also outfitted with a fiberglass support shank with an abrasion-resistant rand.
The deep, multi-directional lug pattern of the rugged Vibram sole does wonders to enhance the traction you receive on various terrains.
Now, the collar is padded and the footbed does provide solid cushioning. However, virtually no support is provided and this can be hard to break in.
A lot of you will scoff at this appearing on this list. Sure, it may not be the best option for brutal temperatures but various features make it ideal for average winter hikes.
8. VASQUE SNOWBURBAN II
Warmth is not an issue with the Thinsulate insulation
An UltraDry waterproofing system has been implemented
Designed with a molded rubber heel kick
Takes a while to break in
Another model that runs small
Hey, would you look at that? The Snowburban II is another top choice that runs small. With that aside, it really is perfect for winter use thanks to its 400 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation.Read more
In addition to the aforementioned 400 grams of insulation, the Snowburban II is also outfitted with terry loop wool collar lining which also enhances the warmth. Oh yeah, this is also designed with an UltraDry waterproofing system.
Yep, the beans were spilled earlier so you are already aware that this tends to run small. Do yourself a favor and order a size larger than you normally would.
Sometimes, it is actually a good sign when something is not discussed. Very rarely do previous buyers have any disparaging remarks in regard to the durability of this model.
The Nordic Rover sole that has been implemented is also designed with Vasque ColdHold Compound. This is going to help provide you with optimal traction.
Though the hard lower section can be difficult to break-in, the dual-density EVA footbed does wonders to improve the overall comfortability here.
What more is there really to say here? In a way, this is a cliché winter hiking boot as it sports incredible insulation with a fit that is smaller than what you will be accustomed to.
9. COLUMBIA BUGABOOT PLUS III
Includes a non-marking traction rubber outsole
Designed with a Techlite midsole for superior cushioning
Features 200 grams of insulation
The top hook tends to catch onto objects too easily
One user did have longevity issues
Yep, this is most certainly is a cold-weather boot. In addition to the 200 grams of insulation and the Omni-Heat reflective lining, this is also outfitted with seam sealing to ensure waterproofness.
To nobody’s surprise, really, the Bugaboot Plus III is another model that tends to run small. It is a broken record at this point, is it not?
The combination of the leather, nylon and metal hardware make for the high-quality design. In spite of this, one buyer did make mention of the fact that an abrasion developed on the side of theirs.
An Omni-Grip, non-marking traction rubber outsole has been designed into the Bugaboot Plus III. This will indeed enhance your traction.
Once you get past the break-in phase, you can then start to relish in the comfort of this boot. It sports a lightweight midsole with superior cushioning and a high-energy return.
When you take into consideration this design as a whole and then when you factor in that Columbia engineered it, it makes you realize just how great it truly is.
10. KAMIK NATIONPLUS
The moisture-wicking lining is nice
Includes suitable insulation
A rustproof speed lacing system has been integrated
Ankle support is nearly non-existent
Not suitable for users with wide feet
Kamik designed a winter hiking boot that does its job perfectly. Yet, it would not have hurt for them to optimize it a bit more for ankle support. Granted, that is not the main purpose of this type of footwear.Read more
Very few users will have any issues with the insulation of this last boot. Past the 200B Thinsulate insulation, additionally, is seam-sealed waterproof construction.
The rustproof speed lacing system is a nice touch as it allows for a custom fit while also not succumbing to rust. However, once again, this does tend to run small.
For the record, this has been engineered with a synthetic rubber shell. In another direction, one buyer did note that the sole seems to be a little too thin.
Again, the sole of this boot is a little thin. Also, it flexes very easily which equates to little to no ankle support or toe protection.
In addition to the lack of ankle support, this can also be very stiff much like most hiking boots. Of course, the comfort antimicrobial footbed does help with the overall comfort.
Considering there are nine models out there that are better than this one, the quality is pretty impressive. In fact, this is a nice option if you do not want to break the bank.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
What winter hiking boots do best is keep your feet warm that much is for sure.
What good is a pair of hiking boots in the winter if they can’t keep your feet warm? They are just a normal pair of warm-weather hiking boots that is what they are. Clearly, that is not what you are looking for and if it is, then you have come to the wrong guide. For cold-weather models, though, you will want to look for some key features that will enhance the overall warmth. Of course, this all starts with the insulation. Some sellers will indicate just how much insulation their model sports, typically in grams. And, they will also list the type of insulation they used with an extremely popular one being Thinsulate insulation. The thicker the insulation, the warmer your feet are going to be.
However, most models are also going to be waterproof. This is huge because if you plan to hike in the winter, chances are snow is going to be on the ground. With a waterproof shell (with Gore-Tex being a common, albeit expensive, option) and a gusseted tongue (which will have the tongue sewn into the sides of the interior), your feet are much more likely to stay dry. Oh, and in regard to warmth ratings, understand that there is no standard way of measuring warmth. This is more of an estimate rather than an actual accurate proclamation.
No matter the footwear you buy, they need to fit your feet correctly.
Unless some miraculous technology is created that eliminates the need for you to find footwear that fits your feet properly, this will always be a top priority no matter what. A common theme with most winter hiking boots, however, is that they tend to run small. A lot of times, reviewers will advise you to order a size larger than you normally would. And, if the general consensus is that a specific model runs small, it is recommended to adhere to the advice of the general public.
Now, in regard to how a winter hiking boot should fit, in the first place, it is much the same as a normal shoe. You want to minimize the heel lift (which means the heel should be snug) but you also want to have some wiggle room in the toe box. The last thing you want is for the boot to be too loose or too tight that is for sure. The best advice, really, is to see what other buyers have said about the sizing and fitting.
Come on now, do you really want to buy hiking boots that will need to be replaced within a few months?
If the last thing you want is a boot that does not fit you correctly, then the second thing is a model that is not going to last. Here is the good news; winter hiking boots will not undergo the normal wear and tear of your regular pair of boots. The main reason is when used in colder weather, you will avoid the abrasive effects that dirt and gravel can have. However, you still need to look for a model that is expertly crafted with high-quality materials.
Some main areas you can assess are the sole and the upper. These are generally heavier wear areas of footwear and ensuring both are made of high-quality materials (such as leather and nylon for the upper and rubber for the sole) is optimal. Much like with the fitting, you can also conduct some research of your own to see what previous buyers have to say. Generally, the most common durability concern is going to be tearing of the seams. Thankfully, this is a repairable issue with the use of some heavy-duty seam sealer.
Chances are, you are going to encounter some slick terrains and that means you will need to place an emphasis on the outsole.
With winter conditions comes slick and slippery terrains and this is something that you are fully aware of. Anyone who has ever slipped and fallen right onto their face on ice can attest to this. To combat this, you will need to look for winter hiking boots that implement proper outsoles (also known as soles). In addition to having deep tread, an ideal outsole will also sport rugged lugs. These will help to provide even more traction when you walk on loose snow. And, when you think of this kind of sole, Vibram comes to mind first.
All around the world, various consumers have raved about Vibram soles claiming them to be highly durable, slip-resistant, and efficiently stable. Of course, if you are worried that this is not going to be enough, you can always add additional accessories such as microspikes to your boots. Microspikes will work with practically any hiking boot and they are pointed pieces of metal that are connected to short chains. They wrap around your footwear and provide even more traction.
Much like with achieving a proper fit, you want boots that will be comfortable to wear.
Even though this type of footwear has a reputation for being stiff, there are actually some vital features that you need to look out for in regard to the comfort. For starters, how about the midsole? In any shoe or boot, this is the area that is going to deliver cushioning and shock absorption. While you will probably not be running with hiking boots, having ample cushioning is ideal and an EVA midsole will accomplish just that. In addition, analyze the design of the cuff. Not only can a well-designed cuff trap in heat but it can also add comfort if it is soft to the touch.
Oh yeah, and even a minor feature such as a removable inner liner can be beneficial. If you plan to hike for a weekend trip, for example, you could remove this liner to allow it to dry (to avoid excess moisture). Lastly, a reinforced toe cap should also be in order as this will not collapse the front of the boot (which can result in blisters otherwise).
Expert Interviews & Opinions
For those of you who do not know, winter brings with it frigid temperatures (depending on where you are on the globe). Though this is a sarcastic claim, it goes without saying that warmth is going to be needed if you plan to hike in the winter. So, that makes the provided insulation and waterproofness of any model your top priorities. How else do you expect your feet to stay warm?
Okay, so you could make the argument that this right here is the most important feature of this and any type of footwear on the market. Well, not too many experts will argue with you if this is your belief. Thus, ensure that the way the model fits you is a top consideration. When ordering online, though, this can be a lot tougher. So, you need to rely on consumer feedback to see what previous buyers have had to say.
When you buy any product, really, you want it to last long. In the situation you need to buy footwear, much like this, it becomes amplified, however. The good news, and this is documented in this guide, is winter hiking boots will probably not wear down as quickly as other types of footwear (such as normal boots or road running shoes). Of course, a lot of this is dictated by the model you buy and the money you are willing to spend.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why can’t you use regular hiking boots?
This one is really easy and it is an answer that you should already know. In spite of this, it is an appropriate question to answer because it is one that a lot of you probably have. Really, it comes down to the waterproofness and insulation that winter models offer. In theory, you could hike in the winter with your normal pair. But, the heat is not going to be retained and if they are not waterproof, your feet will get wet walking through snow.
q: How to avoid getting blisters?
Even though the process can be annoying, it may be in your best interest to break-in your pair before you hike with them. It is not really practical to walk around in your home with this footwear on but you can go on normal hikes in the spring or summer (as this should soften them up a bit). Additionally, ensure that you lace them properly to avoid any heel lift or pressure on the top of your feet.
q: Is there a difference between these and Pac boots?
Yes, the quick answer is yes. But, do not get it twisted; Pac boots are suitable for winter use as they too will keep your feet warm in harsh conditions. Although, they are not ideal for this particular activity as they offer poor ankle support and are extremely heavy. Instead, you should leave this footwear to other activities such as ice fishing and snowmobiling. For hiking, though, it is advised to stay far away from them.
q: Will they be too warm for the summertime?
It has been said quite a few times that normal models will not be suitable for winter hikes but what about the other way around? Well, this actually goes back to a feature that you can look out for and it is known as breathability. This is not the most important aspect of a winter hiking boot but it can still be present. Most specifically, it is present with models that sport Gore-Tex fabric (as this is known for its waterproofness and breathability). So, while this footwear still may not be ideal for summertime use, it can still provide breathability for your feet.
q: Can the soles be replaced?
When it comes down to it, this is going to depend on the seller and the specific model you are looking into. Some of them will be come equipped with soles that can be replaced. To find out, the best thing you can do is visit the seller’s main webpage. If you can, reach out to them to ask them about this specific feature (if you are at all interested).
q: What is the shank?
Very briefly, let’s talk about what the shank of a boot is. This is a supportive structure that is located between the outsole and the insole. Essentially, a shank is there to diminish the load that is incurred by your feet and also your calves. It is pretty much there, also, to protect the underside of the boot and to ensure that it retains its shape. So, look for shanks that are high in quality. The last thing you want is a cheap one that is not going to last.