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Cold-weather boots might be one of the most important purchases you make all year. Although putting a pair of thick, woolen socks on under your leather fall boots might do the trick when temperatures get brisk, that’s not a great strategy for when the weather turns rainy, slushy and snowy. After all, cold and wet feet are pretty much a quick ticket to misery (especially for little ones).
It’s important to keep in mind a few things when it comes to winter boots: A thick, well-grooved rubber sole is flexible and essential for stability in slick conditions. Waterproof materials won’t let the snow and slush sink in for people living in wet climates, and those in very cold ones should look for insulation like Thinsulate to keep toes extra cozy. Also, it’s important to think about the weight of the boot: Picking your way through a snowbank is hard enough without extra ounces weighing you down.
Whatever your plans for cold weather are — whether it’s hiking, hunting, making snowmen or just shoveling the car out — we’ve handpicked the best cold-weather to buy this year. Scroll through to find your new favorite pair.
Best Overall: Keen Durand Polar Hiking Boot
If you’re going to buy one pair this winter, get the pair that does it all — and comfort-footwear favorite Keen’s Durand Poland Hiking Boot is just that. Both the women’s and men’s versions feature great 400g bamboo-based insulation and a thermal heat shield footbed that prevent toes from getting chilly and warms feet from the ground up. We love the compound-grip rubber outsoles that result in incredible grip on everything but black ice, while company’s proprietary Keen Dry waterproof membrane does a great job of keeping slush and snow out. For those heading out on a wintry trek, the lacing system is strong and secure, though some might not love the medium height for keeping the tallest drifts out. These aren’t the most stylish boots on the list, but the Durands can go from city commutes to hiking trails without issue, making them an excellent all-rounder. (Keep in mind for women’s that the boots tend to run half a size small.)
Best Budget: Kamik Snow Boot
Kamik boots give you a lot of bang for your buck — easily outpacing winter-favorite Sorels for comfort and warmth — and for busy winter warriors, they’re easily orderable from Amazon. Although there’s not an exactly identical model for men and women, two similar standouts both deliver incredible quality. The women’s Momentum snow boot is rated to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, with convenient bungee lacing, a grippy rubber sole, well-sealed seams and a high, fur-topped shaft to keep snow out (we also love the highly breathable lining that wicks away moisture). The men’s Nationplus model is rated to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, with a leather upper and 200B Thinsulate insulation — just keep an eye out for deep puddles, as water can enter through gaps at the base of the boot’s tongue. Although they might not be what you’d choose for an extended expedition, Kamiks make a great option for those who are either vacationing to cold climes or need this kind of protection only occasionally.
Best for Women: Columbia Women's Heavenly Omni-Heat Mid Calf Boot
The last thing you want in winter is boots weighing you down, and these surprisingly stylish ones deliver, feeling so light you might think you’re wearing slippers — even right out of the box. However, they’re just as warm as Columbia’s more rugged, chunkier options (so warm, in fact, that they’re rated down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit), and easily go from the trail to a night out. The mid-calf height is great for areas with a lot of snow — or just navigating snow drifts on your way to your car — and the Omni-Tech waterproof membrane does a great job of keeping moisture out. They do run small and a bit narrow, so if you’re on the cusp of a size, or likely to wear thick socks underneath, consider going half a size up. A comparable take on the original Heavenly model, the Heavenly Organza II version of this boot features a shiny panel behind the laces, if you’re so inclined.
Best for Men: Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry Insulated Boot
Vasque’s Snowburban UltraDry boots have long been a favorite for men looking for great cold-weather protection, but the new model incorporates a proprietary Nordic Rover sole design with the company’s proprietary ColdHold Compound, resulting in soles that boast more traction and warmth than ever without being overly clompy. The 400g Thinsulate waterproofing insulation does the job well without overheating feet, and the leather uppers are well-made enough that they won’t show damage, even after years (yes, years) of use. They’re also relatively lightweight, at one pound, 13 ounces per boot. One slight sticking point is the lacing system (the laces can be a bit slick), but once you get them tied, customers swear they never come undone — and in the cold, where good dexterity might involve taking off your gloves, that’s a major plus. Thanks to their comfort and versatility, these are just as great for the trails as they are for chasing the kids around the yard.
Best for Extreme Cold: Baffin Impact Insulated Boots
Coming in both women’s and men’s versions, the Impact is what gave Baffin its name as a maker of boots for the most extreme conditions the planet can throw at intrepid explorers. Tested down to -148 degrees Fahrenheit, people have used these boots dogsledding in Alaska and adventuring across the North Pole. (The boot runs very small, so order at least a whole size up.) Each boot weighs about two pounds, but they’re designed to be comfortable, with Arctic Flex rubber, an underfoot air bubble and a reflective waffle footbed that keeps feet ventilated and warm. Needless to say, the deep traction outsole gets full marks, too, holding its own in all but glare ice. Although liners might get worn out over time, they’re easily removable and replaceable, meaning these boots will last you for winters to come (people also love wearing the liners separately as “tent slippers” on chilly mornings).
Best for Hunting: MuckBoots Arctic Pro
A lot of hunters rely on MuckBoots for waterproof, high-quality footwear, and this knee-high, cold-weather take from the company definitely holds up. Good traction and the thick neoprene waterproof shaft are essential for the occasional river crossing and patch of ice, and these boots deliver on both fronts — thanks in part to reinforced areas on critical parts of the foot (instep, heel and achilles area). Meanwhile, the design, which includes fleece linings, stretch topline bindings that hug calves and the 2mm thermal foam underlay ensures that heat is trapped in right where it should be. (Hint: Tuck pants into socks before sticking them into the boot to avoid getting them stuck on the way in.) Besides, you know a boot’s good when it’s been tested at research stations in Antarctica: These boots are rated down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit, making them a great choice for all but the most extreme hunting expeditions.
Best for Hiking: La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boot
Available in women’s and in men’s, these boots don’t come cheap, but they perform incredibly well on the trail — including steep mountain ones — and they’re built to last a lifetime if they’re taken care of. Nepal Evos boots are made of heavy-duty leather and boast Gore-Tex membranes that keep the moisture out and the air moving. But don’t be fooled by the stiffness of these: That’s how they keep you steady and supported, which — though these are always a joy to wear — is especially great for hikers who either have a larger frame or are carrying a heavier pack. The inner workings of these mountain machines have an impact brake system for when footing gets rocky and a Vibram outsole, which together provide both top-of-the-line traction and cushioning. The very adventurous love that they’re compatible with step-on crampons. For such a hardy boot, they also break in extremely well — and no one wants to be changing blisters on the trail.
Best for Kids: Sorel Yoot Pac Nylon Cold Weather Boot
It doesn’t get more classic than Sorels for winter play — whether it’s for big kids or little ones — and the Yoot Pacs are great for kids ages 1 to 12 needing something warm and cozy to sled and build snowmen in. Parents are constantly surprised by just how light and not-clunky these boots are, despite their heavy-duty looks, even for the littlest of kids. The drawstring closure is easy for all but the smallest mittened hands to fasten, and the traction is great in slippery conditions. Best of all, they’re beyond waterproof, which means kids head home with dry, happy feet after a day of sledding, snowman-building and snowball fights — no matter how deep the snow. Sizing hint: They tend to fit true to size, which makes ordering for busy parents a breeze. Or, go a size up for a pair that will last two seasons (just add some thick socks the first winter.).