No matter the activity, comfort and warmth in your winter boots are essential. To achieve this, they need to fit and feel like your most comfortable lace-up footwear. If you are able to find and purchase lace-up boots, they provide you with a secure fit and stability for safety. The higher the boot goes up the leg the more warmth it will usually provide as it keeps the leg above the foot warm too. High boots are typically used for snowshoeing and deeper snow conditions. Additional hardware may be fastened on the boot at the front and the back for snowshoeing and similar activities in deep snow conditions. In this situation it is best to match the boot to the snow shoes you would like to purchase.
The more active we are outside and the faster we move (running vs. walking) in winter the less insulation is required as we provide our own warmth during vigorous activity. A trail running shoe or a low cut above the ankle boot with no insulation with a waterproof feature may be all that’s needed. In this case wearing wool socks combined with a sock liner as a first layer can help provide the comfort to keep you warm. Our hands and fingers are similar to our feet and toes. As an extremity and farthest away from her heart, the faster we move the warmer our extremities will get. When we wear natural fibre like wool and silk, it provides the same thermal properties dry, damp or wet. We can always take a sock or glove layer off when we become too hot or add a dry thicker layer for additional warmth.
In an opposite situation when we stand or move slowly for long periods of time in cold weather a greater degree of insulation in the boots is required. Full length felted wool liners may be featured in certain boots. These would include pull on rubber safety boots with or without steel toe caps that go halfway up the leg to just below the knee. These are used for farming, construction, electrical and general labour outdoor work. Lace up insulated safety boots are also available for winter conditions. The colder the temperatures you work in dictate the higher amount of insulation you require.
Another type of winter boots is over the shoe boots. This allows you to pull the boots over top of your existing shoes that you wear. These are available as an insulated version (for standing/little movement) to uninsulated used for gardening and walking in warmer wet mild conditions.
Northern areas and extreme cold locations mean warmth in boots is essential. For this lace up, below the knee boots typically have a higher degree of insulation sewn into the lining. Although the cost might be higher, the warmth and the tread on the outsole can certainly be worth it for colder temperatures than -20 degrees Celsius. The outsole and tread design may incorporate some of the same rubber compound as in winter tires to provide you with better grip for extreme ice and snow conditions. When winter conditions vary where you live between extreme cold and rainy mild weather having multiple pairs of footwear for each seasonal situation would be recommended.
Outdoor leather dress and formal boots may feature shearling or an alternative to wool as insulation for warmth. The outsole may not provide the best grip for traction so caution is advised. This type would be best to be worn for little to no activity and restricted to formal, dress occasions. Try and select a lace up over pull on or side zip boot.
For the ultimate comfort inside most winter boots, your Canadian Certified Pedorthist can create custom foot orthotics specific to your feet. Orthotics will help support the bottom and sides of your feet to help maintain your circulation and warmth.
To summarize, try to be sensible and realistic about current and upcoming weather conditions. The better prepared we are with what we wear the more comfortable and safer we will be. If your current winter footwear isn’t warm enough or suitable for your activities maybe it’s time for an upgrade – it will be worth the cost.
Written by Richard May, C. Ped (C)