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When it comes to cross-country trekking across snowy landscapes, snowshoes are the way to go. Once upon a time, of course, it wasn’t just a wintertime hobby but often the only way of getting around the backcountry. As such, it’s evolved over the years, with gear getting better as technological advances yield lighter, stronger materials, and shoes that have evolved to make the hard work of ‘shoeing a little easier.
Unlike most winter sports, you don’t need a dedicated shoe for snowshoeing — a pair of hiking boots will do just fine. But you’re going to want to keep an eye out for a few features when you go boot-shopping. First, the boots need to be waterproof — you’re going to be navigating a lot of snow, and if that seeps into the boot, that sets you up for a miserable experience. They also need to be insulated, which rules out more standard hiking boots; your feet are unlikely to be warm enough otherwise. You’ll also want a boot that delivers a good, stiff, secure fit with a non-compressible upper: Although your snowshoe bindings will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to keeping your feet from moving around, all that pressure means that the toe circulation can get cut off. Finally, the heavier the boots are, the more energy you’ll spend lifting them every step of the way.
With that said, we've searched high and low for the best snowshoe boots out there — read on for our findings.
Best Overall: Solomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot
Although the name implies these are more hiking boot than snowshoeing boot, these get the job done incredibly well — after all, Solomon is known for making great ski and snowboarding boots, too. This aggressive shoe comes with heel straps for easy binding, and miles of snowfields won’t bother your feet in these boots, which have layered, dynamic cushioning on the interior and Gore-Tex lining the interior to take care of any moisture issues. The boot’s great insulation comes courtesy of a molded EVA footbed that you can remove and replace after a few seasons of use. Although there are some exposed seams, there’s protective caps and a mud guard that keeps feet protected. The Contagrip sole gives you plenty of grip and traction as well. The downside is that the upper has a bit more flexibility than it should for the stiff, rigid boots you usually want for the sport, but it’s still supportive and stable enough for hours on the trail.
Best Budget: Columbia Bugaboot II Snow Boot
With versions for both men and women, this boot is a longtime favorite for budget-minded snowshoers — as well as pretty much anyone who needs a pair of warm boots for winter recreation. Weighing about 4 pounds, the Bugaboot IIs deliver with 200g insulation, a waterproof leather upper and waterproof seam-sealed construction at the right price. They also have great cushioning, a techlite midsole that adds comfort without excess weight, as well as a pretty good return on energy. Rated down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, these are great for lowkey snowshoeing in relatively flat backcountry conditions — say for a winter’s walk or for commuting into town. The rubber traction sole is also great once you take these boots off at the end of the trek — Columbia’s actually built its Omni-Grip traction into the rubber used on the sole. Just know that these run true to size — a lot of people size up with winter boots, but that’s not necessary for these.
Best for Women: Sorel Women’s Glacy Explorer Snow Boot
Who said snowshoeing boots all had to look like you were about to head out on a survival expedition? Sorel’s Glacy Explorers are one of the most stylish winter boots we’ve seen, but if you think they’re all looks — think again. They’re actually really great for snowshoeing, hitting full marks when it comes to the attributes a good pair of boots for the sport should have. The knee-height rise means that snow won’t fall into the uppers, and they’re completely waterproof, down to the seams. We also love the removable EVA foam footbeds, which offer warmth that’s easy to replace after a few seasons. Plus, this means you won’t have to spend time looking for two different pairs of boots to take you from the office to restaurants to the backcountry, and that’s something we can all get behind. That being said, these likely won’t do the job for expedition-style snowshoeing, but for use in light or mild conditions, these will do the job nicely.
Best for Men: Merrell Moab Polar Waterproof Winter Boots
These heavy-duty boots are ready to go for winter adventures, beginning with 6.5-inch shaft from cow suede and mesh that will keep all but super-deep snow from falling into your boots. These also boast M-Select DRY treatment for premium waterproofing. They’re also really lightweight, at about 1.5 pounds each, which makes them great for a day of ‘shoeing around in the snow — and 400g will keep feet dry while tromping around, too. We especially love the nylon shank ankle support: Boots this study should keep ankles from wobbling around with each step, even in slippery conditions. Keep in mind these won’t do as well in extreme weather and intense terrain — flat backcountry is where these really shine. One of the nice perks? Treatment on the interior of the boot helps to control odor after a long day of adventures. Keep in mind that these run a bit narrow, so size up for some wiggle room.
Best for Snowshoeing as a Sport: Baffin Snosport Hiking/Snowshoeing Boot
If you treat snowshoeing as a sport rather than, say, a relaxing afternoon activity on a crisp winter day, then you’re going to want to go for these aggressive performance boots. Rated down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re not going to keep you warm in the most arctic of conditions, but for mild-to-cold winter temperatures, these will be great. They’re designed specifically for snowshoes, with a molded tendon guard and raised ankle ledge. The rest of the boot ticks all the other boxes as well, from the EVA midsole to a stabilizing ankle shaft, to a multi-density insole that you can take out and replace as needed. Getting these on is quick and easy, too, thanks to the single-pull lace system, with a lock that keeps it from coming loose at a critical time. Another plus? Baffin’s B-Tek hollow fiber insulation that keeps feet warm while keeping the boot extremely lightweight at 1.3 pounds.
Best Lightweight: Keen Revel III Cold Weather Hiking Boot
The Keen Revel III is an upgraded version of the popular Revel IIs, and each stands out from the pack when it comes to superior cushioning (something the brand is famous for) — as well as for two other well-engineered attributes: weight and warmth. They have 200g KEEN.WARM insulation, which goes a long way. Bonus warmth comes from the EVA foam insulates; Keen Trapolator insulation, which uses bamboo charcoal material to give full-circle warm around feet on the move; and the midsole has three different extra-warm layers to round it off. All this results in feet that feel almost room temperature — not too hot, not too cold. Laces are secured by speed-hook eyelets, which makes getting these on (and off) quick and easy. The outsole is made of Climate Rubber, which means traction with these boots is absolutely spot-on. Best of all? They’re just two pounds, which makes lifting snowshoes again and again less of a chore and more of a breeze. (Women say they’re great for wide feet as well.)
Best for Extreme Conditions: Baffin Impact
When the weather’s so cold that even hell’s frozen over, you want boots that are rated to equally extreme temperatures, perform well in deep snow — and are as comfortable as they can be in these conditions. Baffin is almost legendary for boots like this, and the Impacts are among the most heavy-duty in their line. They’ve been rated all the way down to -148 degrees Fahrenheit, so these boots will keep toes cold in almost any imaginable conditions. The key? The Termaplush insulation, which hugs feet and makes sure they stay comfortable in almost any weather. Boots are also outfitted with Arctic Flex rubber, an underfoot air bubble and a reflective waffle footbed, which helps keep feet ventilated as well as warm — and despite all these features, they still weigh about two pounds. a boot. The deep traction on the boots’ soles is great too, able to grip anything but glare ice. Plus, the boots’ liners are easily removable and replaceable, so you can wear these boots for treks to come — just replace the liners when they start to wear out. (The boot runs very small, so order at least a whole size up.)
Best for Snowshoeing and Then Some: Merrell Polarand 8 Waterproof Winter Boot
The Merrell Polarand 8 boots are well-loved among outdoor hikers and recreationalists, thanks to their waterproof outer and 7.25-inch shaft to keep the snow out. The uppers are non-compressing, so your feet won’t get their circulation cut off from overly tight bindings, and we love the air-cushioned heel that soaks up shock, keeping you more stable in sometimes slippery conditions. These are cozy in cold conditions, too, with heavy-duty 400g Thinsulate insulation designed to provide warmth where your foot sees the most exposure, and the brand’s proprietary ActiveHeat EVA footbeds that include silver reflective film for warmth. All this makes these boots great for winter conditions that head into the extremes: take these hiking, snowmobiling or even hunting. Plus, the heel is designed specifically for snowshoe straps, too. A last fantastic feature? The Polarand 8s also have a great rubber sole, so once you’re out of the snowshoes, you won’t have to worry about slipping.