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5 Best Winter Hiking Boots

There are many reasons that hiking is such a fulfilling pastime. First, there are the positives of getting in touch with nature. Then, there are additional health benefits that come with the physical demands and exercise of hiking. Given how demanding hiking can be, it’s essential to have the right winter hiking boots – especially if trekking on the snow.

Winter conditions mean research is integral to purchasing decisions, ensuring that a hiker’s footwear meets their needs. 

Read about the best winter hiking footwear below. And if you like to take pictures during your hikes, check out some of the best hiking camera backpacks.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Winter Hiking Boots

Do regular hiking boots work in the snow?

For lighter winter conditions, as long as regular hiking boots are waterproofed, they’re useable. However, when the snow starts piling up, standard hiking boots aren’t up to the task. They fall apart and fill up with snow when faced with the harsher terrains of the winter season. Furthermore, regular hiking boots lack insulation. Even if the weather is moderate, stepping into icy snow without insulation promises for an uncomfortably chilly hiking experience.

Why do I need special boots for hiking in cold/snow? What is unique about them?

Winter hiking boots are built for the colder, more extreme winter conditions – as they’re better insulated (with materials such as Gore-Tex) and sturdier than regular hiking boots. They’re also designed with a mid-high cut, which supports the ankle in the slippery, treacherous conditions. Also, many winter hiking boots are compatible with traction aids like micro-spikes, snowshoes, and crampons.

How should winter hiking boots fit?

The fit of a winter hiking boot requires the perfect balance – one reason why it may take a while to find the ideal pair. It should feel snug all over, but never tight, while still offering the necessary wiggle room for toes. When trying on a pair, make sure to do so at the end of the day because that’s when feet are swelled and at their biggest. Also, try boots on with socks that’ll be worn during hikes to ensure an optimal fit.

Other Items You May Need When Hiking in the Winter

  • Footwear: Sock liners and warm/thick socks add another layer of protection from the cold. Also, look for high gaiters with waterproof, breathable fabric to keep moisture out of hiking boots.
  • Headwear: Choose either lightweight or heavyweight fleece hats – depending on the temperature.
  • Gloves: In extreme conditions, consider waterproof shell mitts or gloves, with insulated liners.
  • Insulation: Base-layer insulation (e.g., long sleeve shirts and long underwear) and mid-layer insulation (e.g., fleece jacket and insulated vest) are a must.
  • Jacket: Look for something waterproof, winterproof, insulated, and with an attached hood.
  • Pants: Hardshell pants that are waterproof and windproof with full-length zippers along the sides are most suitable for winter hiking.

Men’s Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot

The most appealing feature of the Columbia New Ridge Plus II Waterproof Winter Hiking Boots is the cushy comfort and protection offered by full grain leather. 

Another benefit of the Newton Ridge is the addition of suede materials – meaning better maneuverability in rugged conditions along with superior style. The grippy outsoles cling well to wet rocks and other tricky surfaces.

This Columbia boot is best for hiking in relatively tough conditions but nothing too extreme.

Several buyers have claimed that the sole came off after wearing the Newtons a few times and that the waterproofing was substandard.

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Sorel Women’s Glacier XT Boot

The Sorel Women’s Glacier XT Boot is built tough for treacherous, snowy conditions. What keeps feet toasty when temperatures are at their most frigid, is this Sorel’s 13mm ThermoPlus felt inner boot with an Omni-Heatâ„¢ reflective insulating lining.

Mud, snow, and ice are no match for the Glacier’s waterproof vulcanized rubber shell – while the PU coated synthetic textile upper prevents snow from penetrating the tops of the boot.

One downside is the lack of room in the calf area. Plus, the Glacier’s bulkiness means it’s not built for regular walking and is best reserved for the most brutal of winter circumstances.

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Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

Merrell’s Moab 2’s Gore-Tex lining – which fits like a sock – provides high-performing protection in wet environments. The boot is built durable and offers fantastic grip on rougher terrain, while the waterproofing is the best of any Merrell footwear.

The Moab 2 is also highly breathable, stylish, and visually appealing (due to its eye-catching design), blending function and form. As such, the boot is ideal for everyday use but not necessarily for the severe weather. Still, avid hikers looking for a challenge will enjoy these versatile boots.

There have been consumer complaints about a lack of half-sizes, as well as poor underfoot support.

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Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Boot

This medium height, lightweight, and insulated winter boot is known most for its fantastic traction – helped by a Michelin sole that uses a softer rubber compound. With Omni-Heat lining, the Bugaboot reflects body heat and dissipates moisture for optimal warmth while maintaining its light weight and high maneuverability.

The Bugaboot Plus IV is best for those less likely to experience extraordinarily wet or soggy winter conditions.

Midsole cushioning means the boot is quite comfortable – despite the stiffness in the upper. It’s also extremely water-resistant. Some consumers may find the footbed is relatively flat and basic, which is a mark against the boot.

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La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX

As a mountaineering boot, the Nepal Evo GTX is one of the most popular products of its kind on the market.

The versatile boot is ideal for alpine routes, mixed climbs, and ice climbs, with a durable 3.2mm Perwanger leather and rigid sole that offer support. Insulated Gore-Tex keeps mountaineers and hiking enthusiasts warm and dry, especially during climbs. The Nepal’s stiffness makes it ideal for bigger-framed hikers and climbers looking for stability.

A setback of the Nepal is that there’s an uncomfortable bite point on the top of the foot.

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