Expert Tips for Snow Boot Shopping


Many people probably don’t think much about their snow boots—until suddenly, they’re stuck trudging through a snowstorm, their socks soggy and toes frozen.

Don’t let that be you.

We can help. For starters, the picks in our guide to the best winter boots will keep you warm, dry, and on your feet as you brave slick sidewalks and ankle-deep snowdrifts. What else should you keep in mind while snow boot shopping? Here’s some advice.

Choose a pair of tall boots

A waterproof sole can be pivotal to keeping your feet dry, but the height of your winter boots is just as important. Boots with tall shafts, measuring about 8 to 10 inches, keep snow from falling in—and it’s even better if you can find a design like our top pick, the Kamik Nation Plus (men’s sizes), that has a snow collar, which lines the opening of the boot. Also make sure that your tall boots fit snugly, or snow still might find its way down to your feet.

Closeup of the tall shaft with snow collar on a winter boot.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Look for a winter boot with reflective layers

Designed to increase warmth without adding bulk, reflective layers send body heat back to the wearer. Columbia calls its thermal reflective tech Omni-Heat—you can find that tech in boots such as the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat (women’s sizes)—but plenty of other brands, including Baffin and Kamik, have these layers in their winter boot designs, too.

Avoid boots with smooth or wavy treads

Instead, check the bottom of the boot for nubby, widely spaced lugs—these little rubber teeth help the boots grip onto uneven ice, providing the traction you need to stay upright in treacherous weather. Our testers also found that those types of treads, such as on our top pick, the Ugg Adirondack III (women’s sizes), and its counterpart, the Ugg Butte (men’s sizes), stop side-to-side sliding quite well, whereas smooth and wavy treads can be very slippery.

The sole of a winter boot showing the widely spaced lugs.

Photo: Rozette Rago

For optimal stability, make sure your boots really, truly fit well

After going through 125 hours of in-the-snow winter boot testing, we’ve learned that fit has the biggest effect on traction and stability. Find a boot that fits snugly around your ankle and keeps your foot in place, which is better for walking on slick ice—note, too, that lace-up boots are superior to slip-ons in this regard. A boot with a wide surface area on the bottom can also provide extra stability. Our current also-great pick, the Sorel Caribou, which comes in women’s and men’s sizes, is excellent for tight, quick lacing.

Wirecutter-tested winter boots to consider

Kamik Nation Plus (men’s sizes)

The Kamik Nation Plus offers the best combination of performance on the most types of cold-weather surfaces—from icy driveways to snow-packed fields—that we’ve found.

Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat (women’s sizes)

Think of this as a modern moccasin—the snug foot and flexible ankle make walking through snow, and walking in general, light and easy. However, this boot is not as warm as our other picks.

Ugg Adirondack III (women’s sizes)

Ugg can be a polarizing brand, but testing doesn’t lie: This boot was more functional and comfortable in winter weather than anything else we tried. The main drawback is the price.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $250.

Ugg Butte (men’s sizes)

Ugg can be a polarizing brand, but testing doesn’t lie: This boot was more functional and comfortable in winter weather than anything else we tried. The main drawback is the price.

Sorel Caribou Boot (men’s sizes)

Sorel’s original design, the Caribou, is a better snow boot than most, and it excels in wetter, slushier weather.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

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