What Winter Boots Should I Get

Choosing the right winter boots is all about finding a comfortable pair that works for your climate, daily activities and personal style. This article looks at the key factors to consider when shopping for new winter shoes or boots.

how to choose winter boots


Features To Look for in Winter Shoes


One of the main factors that differentiates winter shoes from normal shoes is added insulation that keeps your feet warm on cold, wet, snowy, and icy surfaces. In most winter boots you’ll find insulation on the interior lining, usually in the form of pressed wool, sherpa, or synthetic materials. Even a thin layer of interior insulation can keep your feet much warmer than with regular shoes.

insulated winter shoes

Most winter shoes also have extra insulation in the sole. Wool lined insoles work great, especially when combined with foil strobels – the layer between the insole and rubber outsole. A foil strobel helps retain heat by reflecting it back up the foot. A shoe with a wool insole and foil strobel provides even more heat retention, which is particularly useful if you are standing or walking on cold and icy surfaces. By reducing the heat loss through the bottom of the shoe, you can maintain a more consistent and comfortable temperature throughout the day.


Most winter boots are made out of water resistant materials like leather, waxed canvas or Cordura®. These materials don’t make the shoes 100% waterproof, but they do help keep the upper dry by repelling moisture. If you live in a rainy or snowy climate, gusseted tongues – tongues that are connected at the bottom and sides – are worth their weight in gold. They keep moisture out of the shoe and help keep your socks dry.

water resistant winter shoes


Winter shoes often have exaggerated tread patterns to provide extra grip on various surfaces. Thick rubber outsoles with lugged treads dig deeper into snow and increase stability in heavier conditions.

winter shoes with good soles


The good thing about winter boots is that they generally have sturdier, longer-lasting construction. Whether it be in double-stitched seams or reinforced outsoles, the individual elements in a winter boot are stronger than your everyday shoes. That being said, when you’re dealing with wet conditions and harsher weather, your winter boots will endure more wear and tear.

winter shoes durable


While you want to be sure that your winter boots will keep you warm and dry, you should also make sure they’re just as comfortable as your normal shoes. With reinforced construction and thicker materials, winter shoes can be stiff and take longer to break in. If you’re testing out a new pair at a store, you might want to test them out for a few extra minutes before making a decision. Even if you find the warmest boots on the planet, they’ll be no good to you if you don’t wear them because they’re uncomfortable.


Winter shoes come in a range of different styles. You can find winterized shoes that are essentially just high-top skate or basketball shoes with a little extra insulation. Workwear-style winter boots are also popular and usually warmer and more durable, but can be stiffer and harder to break in.

mens winter shoes

Taller winter boots with removable linings are necessary for people who have to deal with deep snow on a regular basis. Because of their bulkiness, they might not be your everyday boots, but they are must-haves when it comes to walking through deep snow.

Casual slip-on winter boots or booties can be great for staying warm after hitting the slopes. They have plenty of warm sherpa lining, but their one piece design and loose fit means they aren’t the most water resistant or performance focused.


Choosing the Right Winter Shoes for Your Needs

When shopping for winter boots, you need to consider where, when and how you’ll wear them.

Climate Considerations

Choosing the right boot is all about finding a style that works in your climate. If you’re not going to be walking in the snow, you don’t need calf-height snow boots. Most likely, if you live in a climate where you have to deal with freezing conditions and snow or icy roads, you’ll need a few different pairs of winter boots and shoes to deal with various conditions.

It might be necessary to wear your tallest, most water resistant boots on days when it is actively snowing, but if you’re walking on icy sidewalks on a clear day, you want to make sure you’ve got your grippiest boots on.

Activity Level

The trickiest factor in choosing winter boots is finding the right pair for your daily activities. If you work indoors, you might only need your boots to keep your feet warm and dry as you walk to and from the car or from building to building. If you spend most of your time in temperature controlled places, your insulated boots can quickly become way too hot. It’s all about finding the balance and being realistic about your activity levels. If you’re only going to wear your winterized shoes outside, you can get something heavy duty, but, if you’re mainly commuting and spending your days indoors, a moderate winter shoe might be more practical.

winter shoes for men

Boot Weight

As mentioned, winter boots are heavier than normal shoes and this can be tiring if you have to walk long distances. Make sure you choose a boot that isn’t too heavy if you’re doing a lot of walking.

One-Piece vs. Two-Piece Design

Most winter shoes have a one-piece design, but some heavier duty winter boots have a two-piece design. This means that the inner lining is removable. Having a removable lining is convenient after a long day in the snow. Pull them out and let them dry overnight to be ready for another snow day. That being said, the two-piece design also means you’re dealing with a heavier and bulkier boot, but it may be worth it if you live somewhere really cold and you work outside for extended periods.

choosing winter shoes

Tips for Trying on Winter Shoes

There are few things you should know before you try on and test out a pair of winter shoes.

Time of Day

You should try on your boots in the middle of the day when your feet are more swollen. This will prevent you from buying boots that are too small.


Make sure you are wearing the same type of socks you plan on wearing with your boots. This is the best way to understand how your feet will fit and feel inside the boot.


Winter boots should fit snug so you can walk safely, but not so tight that they restrict blood circulation. If your boots are too tight, you won’t get adequate blood flow to your toes which can cause discomfort.

Test Walking

When testing out winter boots, it is important to try on and fully lace up both boots. Spend a little extra time walking around. Make sure they feel comfortable and monitor your foot temperature. If your feet are getting too warm after walking around the store for a few minutes, they could end up being too warm for your daily needs. On the other hand, if you don’t feel the extra insulation kicking in, you may want to test out a warmer pair. Just remember, because winter shoes are more structured, they take more time to break in.


Winter Boot FAQs

What are the Different Types of Winter Shoes?

  • Winter Boots
  • Winter Shoes
  • Winterized Work Boots
  • Wellington Boots
  • Two-Piece Snow Boots
  • Insulate Booties
  • Winterized Hiking Boots
  • Alpine/Mountaineering Boots
  • Ski Boots
  • Snowboard Boots

For a detailed look at the difference between each type of winter shoe, check out our dedicated guide on “Types of Winter Shoes”.

winter shoe types

How Many Grams of Insulation for Winter Boots?

Many boots display their insulation rating. You can usually find it on the box, but some also have the number somewhere on the boot. Insulation ratings are given in grams ranging from 100 to over 1,000. A light boot can have 100 – 400 grams of insulation while a heavier boot can have up to 1,200 grams of insulation.

Do Steel Toe Boots Get Cold in Winter?

The toe area on steel toe boots can certainly get cold in the winter. Luckily, many modern “steel” toe-style boots actually use plastic instead of steel, so it’s not a common issue. If you do want actual steel toe boots, just make sure you find a winterized style where the toe piece is lined with insulation to increase heat retention.

Are Leather Boots Good for Winter?

Leather is great material for winter boots because it offers natural insulation with decent breathability. To get the most out of leather boots, you should condition them every year or two with waterproofing spray or wax.

How To Clean Winter Boots?

Winter boots might need more maintenance than normal shoes. Snow and salt can cause stains, but most stains are easy to clean. There are footwear-specific cleaning solutions that can remove tough stains along with treatments that can be used to add waterproofing and stain protection to just about any boot material.


In the end, choosing the right winter boots or shoes comes down to your climate, daily activities and personal style. When you consider all these things, you can find the perfect pair (or pairs) to get you through the winter.

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