How do you choose the best winter boots for your cold-weather outings, from warmth and traction to style preferences? While winter boots are primarily concerned with “warmth,” they must also be concerned with “fit.” It is critical to have feet that are both warm and comfortable, so make sure your winter boots fit properly while providing the necessary support.
A good pair of winter boots is essential for Canadians who live in cold climates. As you navigate months of snowy and icy conditions, they help keep your feet warm, dry, and planted on the ground. Warmth, height, waterproofing, weight, fit, and other factors are discussed in detail below to help you choose the best winter boot for you.
Use: Thinking about your intended uses is the first step in selecting a winter boot. For the most part, there are two camps: casual winter boots that are great for everyday wear, commuting, and light outdoor use, and more formal winter boots. Second, there are more backcountry-oriented models that resemble hiking boots but feature additional insulation and winter-specific traction. Winter sports such as winter hiking and snowshoeing benefit from lightweight backcountry models, while thicker and warmer versions are ideal for outdoor work and more sedentary activities in the cold.
Insulation: Warmth is a must for a great winter boot, and there is a lot of variety. Although you may see impressive ratings like -25°F or lower, there is no standardized rating system for measuring the warmth of footwear, unlike sleeping bags. Many factors play a role here, including your level of activity, circulation, sock type and thickness, and even the boot’s fit. In terms of insulation, winter boots come in a variety of styles. Synthetic fill is the most common, with names like PrimaLoft and Thinsulate and a gramme rating to indicate thickness. We prefer synthetics for footwear because, unlike down, it resists water and continues to insulate even when wet, which is important if water gets into your boot or your feet sweat.
Size: Cold feet may result from a boot that is too tight or too short. Don’t be surprised if you’re fitted for a half-size larger winter boot than your regular footwear after consulting a footwear expert like a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Because of the larger size, a layer of warm air can surround your foot inside the boot, keeping you warm. Make sure to try on your boots with the same sock thickness that you intend to wear in them. Socks should ideally be made of a moisture-wicking material such as polypropylene, acrylic, or wool, which creates a dry layer against your skin. Cotton socks should be avoided because they trap moisture against the skin, resulting in cold feet and potential frostbite.
Height: Your winter boot is designed to keep snow and ice out as well as keep you warm. Height matters a lot, especially if you aren’t wearing snow pants or gaiters over top. It also has an impact on the design. We use shaft height as our basis for comparison, which is a measurement taken from the footbed to the top of the boot. A number of hiking-centric models at the low end of the spectrum are around 6 to 7 inches tall, which is adequate unless the snow is deep.
Removable Insoles – Allows you to properly remove and dry insoles in between uses, or completely remove insoles to accommodate a custom-made orthotic.
Lace: For walking and overall comfort, laces provide the most adjustability and support in boots. Velcro straps provide moderate support, while pull-on styles provide significantly less. The best support and comfort will come from an athletic, lace-up winter hiker style.
Rubber Soles – help prevent slips and falls by providing secure traction and stability in cold temperatures. The broadest base of support and maximum stability is provided by a lower heel and wider outsole.
Keeping the above tips in mind can help you find the right winter boot for your feet this season! For additional help, reach out to your Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Find one at https://www.pedorthic.ca/.
Written by Reza Sands, C. Ped (C)