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Snow flurries. Slush piles. Ice patches. Freezing cold puddles that extend to infinity. The only thing scarier than winter weather itself is not having the right gear to tackle the constant onslaught of cold and moisture. Fortunately the best winter boots are designed to fend off the nastiest parts of the season while keeping your feet comfortable and planted firmly on the ground.
While there is an endless array of options to choose from, the best winter boots will all feature some combination of water resistance, traction, and warmth.
Your boots need to defend against water in all of its different iterations so that your feet stay dry and toasty. This can be achieved through many different ways, but the focus should first be on construction, materials, and design details.
The best construction methods are those that are highly water resistant or waterproof - like Goodyear welt construction or cement construction - because they will prevent water penetration at the base of your boots. By contrast, construction methods like Blake/Rapid make for good summer shoes, but are not suited for fighting off moisture because water will seep through the stitching.
Materials also impact water resistance, since you want something that will keep water out, while still being breathable enough for sweat to evaporate so that your feet stay dry. A high quality oiled leather works incredibly well among natural materials to keep water out (and can be further enhanced with the application of natural protectants ranging from beeswax to linseed oil). Gore-Tex is the gold standard for synthetic fibers and creates a more technical look.
Though it may seem obvious, boots with design details like higher shafts allow you to safely walk through deeper snowbanks and puddles without water coming in over the top. While it’s possible to take this to extremes, any shaft 6” or higher will cover you in most normal situations. A gusseted tongue can marginally deflect water from reaching your foot through the tongue, but in reality, this enhancement is pretty minor. It also comes with the disadvantage of making the boots hotter and harder to put on, meaning it is more of a personal preference than a definitive improvement.
Water resistance is created through the thoughtful combination of the right construction, materials and design details. Done properly, water resistance means your boots will withstand whatever winter throws your way, while keeping your feet dry and comfortable.
While you’ll always need to be careful on any wet surfaces like snow or ice, the right types of outsoles can make a major difference in traction. Vulcanized rubber outsoles provide the best overall grip on a variety of terrains and are naturally waterproof as well. Rubber outsoles can also be fabricated into different patterns ranging from aggressively grooved patterns meant to tackle mountains to subtle studded rubber lugs more appropriate for a city environment. Rubber outsoles work by providing greater grip at the micro level and by channeling water away from the outsole to maximize contact area with the ground.
Warmth makes up the final ingredient of any great winter boot. As with water resistance, the key here is to find something that will shield you from the cold without generating too much moisture inside the boot. Leather shines as a great material because it’s a natural insulator with high breathability that enhances the warmth of whatever socks you wear with it. Woven materials and synthetics are generally not as good at capturing heat, which is why filler is usually added to bulk them up - just take care in these instances to make sure that the boot still breathes enough to keep moisture in control.
If you’re really looking to ruggedize your winter boots for the season ahead, a few wax-based treatments are great when applied to leather, making it even harder for water to gain a foothold. It’s always best to test any application in small quantities before applying to the whole shoe, but beeswax tends to not darken leather too much while providing great protection. Synthetics are harder to treat effectively because they have more seams in the material itself, but particle-based sprays can provide at least a partial defense.
Key Features: Tobacco Rugged & Resilient Leather, Goodyear Welt Construction for Longevity, Poron® Antimicrobial Shock Absorbing Insole, Kevlar Blend Laces, Thursday Lugged Outsole for Traction
Why we love it: The President perfectly combines good looks with hard wear for a winter boot you can wear all year. The rugged and resilient matte leather upper, sourced exclusively from Tier 1 USA cattle hides, was custom created to look great with years of hard wear and minimal care. From the Kevlar® blend laces to the durable steel shank, every material was carefully created so that you can go the extra mile with confidence.
What others say: “Everything about the boot screams quality.” - Paul W.Shop Now
Key Features: Arizona Adobe Rugged & Resilient Leather, Goodyear Welt Construction for Longevity, Fully Lined Supple Glove Leather Interior, Poron® Antimicrobial Shock Absorbing Insole, Kevlar® Blend Laces
Why we love it: Handcrafted with Goodyear Welt Construction, featuring long-lasting matte leather uppers sourced exclusively from Tier 1 USA cattle hides, custom-created to look great with years of hard wear and minimal care. From the Kevlar® blend laces to the Cork-Bed Midsole, every material was carefully created so you can go the extra mile with confidence.
What others say: “Insanely comfortable right out of the box.” - Katherine H.Shop Now
The best winter boots must meet many functional requirements in order to earn that title. They need to keep you warm, dry, and securely anchored in snow, ice and water. Understanding the nuances behind the technical elements of the best winter boots helps you find the best pair for your adventures out there. Good luck!