Best Winter Shoes Reviewed & Rated
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Many users believe that protection is limited to the shoe materials against physical elements that might hurt our feet. In reality, though, shoes have a wide variety of protective measures that involve much more than just physical contact with external things. When we’re talking about a specific time of the year, such as winter, the climatic conditions become a paramount factor in the design of a shoe. Just as a bulky, sealed shoe might be a terrible decision for summer footwear; likewise, a thin and open shoe is not your best friend during winter, either.
Outfits, in general, start to change when winter is nearby; people start wearing jackets, jeans or pants, thicker headgear, gloves, scarfs, and so on. Your shoes should be part of this outfit change, as your feet need protection against the weather conditions, just as much as any other part of your body. Going out in harsh winters with regular shoes is the equivalent of wearing shorts; except, it’s your feet that are affected. You might wear the thickest jacket possible, but your legs would still be exposed while wearing shorts. This is, exactly, what happens to your feet when the footwear is inadequate for the actual season.
So, what exactly is protection against winter weather? What does a shoe require, in order to be adequate for winter or similar climatic conditions? Here’s where innovation comes in. There’s a large list of technologies that can, considerably, improve the footwear experience during winter. Heat-retaining designs, for example, make a massive difference throughout the day, especially if you’re constantly exposed directly to cold weather.
Certain regions have a severe climate during winter, which calls for thick and heavy winter boots. On the other hand, there are other regions in which such boots are neither comfortable nor practical. Instead, winter sneaker-like styles are a much more suitable choice. Winter sneakers, as it were, aren’t nearly as protective as a full-size boot, as the shaft height is much lower. This, however, doesn’t mean you’re on your own if you don’t own a pair of snow boots in winter. Sneaker-style winter shoes can, also, deliver the same warmth and winter features required to optimize your seasonal footwear. They just don’t have the length associated with a full-length winter boot.
Heat retention is something you, definitely, want to consider during winter weather. Seams of shoes have a big role in the accumulation and retention of heat. Ordinary sewing is neither really effective nor efficient for winter, as it often leaves a considerable amount of spaces and openings. This not only allows air to flow freely within the shoe (which is a great feature in summer shoes) but it, also, can allow water and other elements to get in the shoe, as well. Because of this, bonded seams are by far the most practical choice for winter. Sealed seams consist of two joint fabrics leaving no space, literally sealing the shoe. This method guarantees a waterproof method of approach, rather than using waterproof materials and sewing them together, which may result in gaps, as previously explained.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the quality of a shoe can be directly judged based on the quality of its materials. It’s as simple as that. Low-quality materials not only degrade quicker, but they’re much easier to totally break or rip apart. During winter, as you can probably guess, the materials of a shoe should deliver greater protection than that of regular sneakers and/or summer footwear.
The most optimal design for a winter shoe consists of an equal balance between efficient materials and a protective frame. The standard qualities of shoe materials, such as flexibility, durability, and physical protection must be present in materials that, at the same time, provide protection against the weather. However, it all comes down to the type of footwear you need. For instance, an indoor house slipper may have a winter design and made with materials that provide warmth, but it lacks the adequate features for outdoor usage (i.e. lack of protection, etc.).
Performance shoes, on the other hand, involve a completely different approach. A performance shoe, regardless of the season, must have certain features associated with a specific event. Basic and standard midsoles are often not suitable for running footwear, for example. A running shoe is not only more flexible, but the frame and base of the shoe behave in a completely different manner. In fewer words, it’s a very different shoe anatomy (with shock-absorbent midsoles specific to runners as part of that mix). Because of this, performance shoes shouldn’t really have a thick design, as it would affect the flexibility, weight, and efficiency of the shoe. Regardless of the season, however, some sports shoes will always be lighter and slimmer than an average sneaker. This is the case for most aerobic sports shoes, whereas, mountain and extreme sports are an entirely different story and anatomy.
Typically, winter shoes consist of stiff, thick, and bulky materials that keep your feet warm at all cost. But, protection at all costs means sacrificing performance qualities. While those shoes offer winter protection, aspects such as the weight and flexibility fall behind; thereby, making it impractical when it comes to performance. Yet, this doesn’t mean sports shoes must give up on protection, in order to deliver performance qualities. The evolution of synthesized materials allows shoes to offer the qualities of different types of materials at the same time. For instance, certain synthetic leathers provide both physical and weather protection, while still being smooth within flexibility.
Most shoe manufacturers, nowadays, have adopted synthetic approaches over the natural materials, as synthesizing allows combining the qualities of multiple materials into just one. This makes manufacturers able to choose the most optimal combination of materials for a certain activity. Keep in mind that performance doesn’t, necessarily, involve sports; performance may be something as simple as walking. Unless we’re talking, specifically, about sports shoes, by the performance, we may refer to the natural elements of the shoes that are engaged with each motion. In other words, we’re talking about the quality of the movement in relation to a specific event (e.g. running shoes are for running).
The outsoles of shoes are, possibly, the most important element, although this may depend on the specialization of the shoe. Regardless, as seasons change, your shoes should change, too, especially, if we’re talking about winter. Now, winter doesn’t, necessarily, involve loads of snow, even though it does happen in multiple regions. In most cases, you most likely won’t need thick snow outsoles or deep lugs, with the exception of regions that experience considerable snow, of course. If that’s your case, you’ll need a completely different footwear, far better equipped than sneaker-style winter shoes.
As for winter sneakers, per se, the outsoles don’t need to be too extreme. They should, however, support the changes that come with the winter season such as humidity, wet surfaces, slippery areas, and some snow. Keep in mind that this guide targets shoes that are adequate for winter in terms of comfort, performance, and efficiency; not all of these are, necessarily, adequate for constant use in snow. That being said, the outsole will depend on your style of shoe. In the case of running shoes, you want to make sure the outsole has everything a regular running sneaker has but, additionally, anti-slipping and anti-sliding properties are of utmost importance, as well. Ice grippers are a great alternative. Even if it’s not snowing or raining, the climatic changes that come with winter, such as the humidity can affect most surfaces.
In the case of runners, it’d be wise to, carefully, select an adequate surface for running. Anti-slippage technology reduces your chances of slipping or sliding, but slippery surfaces still pose a threat. However, it’s not just runners who slip. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time, especially during winter. Even casual wear footwear isn’t an exception to this rule of thumb, and they should be equipped with an adequate outsole.
The ideal winter outsole delivers a mixed balance of short lugs and a rubber compound, preferably, vulcanized rubber or other derivate compounds that are stickier than traditional rubber. Additionally, the outsole materials should be able to insulate heat, as traditional outsole materials, most likely, won’t stop cold from entering.
For those of you who didn’t know, cold weather will affect your feet through the outsole if it’s not adequately designed, especially if walking on snow. Keep in mind, there’s a chance a shoe with lugs may become impractical once winter is over, as well. Depending on the thickness and height of the lugs, they simply won’t be suitable for summer use or any other season, for that matter. We kept this in consideration while reviewing and rating the products of our list.
In general, winter not always requires a completely different outsole approach. If you’re not under extreme weather conditions, you may get away with using your traditional footwear. In terms of performance, however, it’s always best to be suitably adapted to the environment. In casual shoes, weather adaptation may not be necessary; as long as, you have a good outsole. If you’re going for performance shoes, however, you should consider each of the points mentioned before, as they are what, ultimately, allows you to reach your top performance.
Winter footwear is similar to snow footwear, but there are some subtle differentiations which can make the difference between dry feet or wet feet. Generally speaking, the two main concepts to consider are waterproofing and the ability of snow to find its way inside of your shoes. Obviously, few of us ever desire snow and sludge inside of our shoes, especially, in wintery conditions. Here are few of the more common differences between winter and snow footwear:
Snow Gaiter – is in place for snow footwear; whereas, winter footwear is, usually, absent in this area. A snow gaiter closes the gap at the top of the shoe, allowing no snow to drop in from the topside. Specific to snow boots, snow gaiters are the norm for snow footwear.
Warmth Rating – both winter and snow footwear will have some sort of warmth rating associated with them. The rating is in direct correlation with how much heat retention is held within a set of degrees. For instance, a pair of winter shoes having a Thinsulate rating of 200 grams is rated at -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Waterproofing – snow footwear is 100% waterproof and without the need for treatments in doing so. If it isn’t, then it is not snow footwear. Winter footwear; on the other hand, is not always 100% waterproof. There is, usually, a water-resistant property associated with them; thereby, making them repellant to light, watery conditions.
Specialty – snow footwear is a ‘specialty’ construction; that is, it is specific to providing the correct amount of protection for a given event. In this case, it is snow and an ideal choice for snow-related conditions, especially, heavy snow. Winter footwear, however, is not a ‘specialty’ construction but a ‘general’ construction. This means that the winter footwear is an ideal choice for lighter conditions while having the ability to keep your feet warmer than a regular pair of the same type of shoe (e.g. winter slippers versus summer slippers).
In a generalized overview, ‘heat retention’ is the trapping of air molecules between an outside material and your body. Radiant heat reflects back to your body from the air molecules; thereby, ‘trapping’ the warmth inside.
Weights in Thinsulate technology, measure within the amounts of insulation per square meter. So, a rating of 200 grams of Thinsulate is equal to 200 grams per square meter. This rating gives you -25 degrees Fahrenheit protection and figures in with an active motion. In other words, if you were to lounge around outside, then, you would need to do so at a warmer temperature than -25 degrees Fahrenheit, especially, if you like your feet to remain healthy and intact.
Thinsulate is a set of microfibers which hold their shape better than other generalized fibers such as pure cotton. Thinsulate does not bunch-up, clump, or gather from one place to the other.
3M, the company behind Thinsulate, reports that the ‘Clo’ rating remains unchanging during repetitive washing (Yavorski, 2018). “The unit of the Clo is slightly subjective, but a Clo value of 1.0 is defined as the amount of clothing needed by an inactive person to feel comfortable at a room temperature of 71F (21C) in a light breeze (having a 20 ft/min or 10 cm/sec air flow rate) with a relative humidity <50%” (2017). With that being stated, the general idea here is the minimizing and compression of air molecules trapped within fibers, as air molecules are responsible for radiant heat bounce back. In essence, the bigger the gap between fibers, the more loss of heat you will have (e.g. cotton is breathable, whereas, rubber is not). Microfibers, such as those found within Thinsulate technology, reduce this ‘gap’ as much as ten times that of other fibers. This, in turn, creates an environment conducive to higher heat retention. In other words, your feet are much warmer with insulation technology than without it, because of this.
1. Timberland White Ledge
This list wouldn’t be complete without a pair of trusty Timberlands. The White Ledge is a hiking design, but one that you can easily wear in cold weather as well, thanks to its waterproof, rustproof construction and plenty of cushioning inside to keep you comfortable as you traverse all sorts of terrains and temperature ranges.
The White Ledge has a full-grain leather upper that is long-lasting and water-resistant thanks to its seam-sealed construction. Come rain or snow, your feet will be dry in these rugged shoes! The footbed of the design is made from dual-density EVA for shock absorption, and it can easily be removed should you require more space for your feet. The outsole comes with multi-directional lugs that provide solid traction on all types of surfaces.
The Timberland White Ledge may not be your go-to choice for cold weather, but it is definitely one that has a lot of promise. It keeps moisture out and the heat in, and it provides more than enough cushioning as you take on the challenges of your day. A great deal overall!
2. UGG Dakota
UGG is one of the top brands when we think of warmth, comfort, and style for our cold weather needs for quality made footwear. The UGG Dakota keeps a moccasin design packed full of UGGpure wool inside to keep your feet happy and warm during the winter months. Its exterior allows for outdoor use to some extent, and the suede uppers are water resistant, so you’ll be able to get out and get to the store before the next storm, without getting your feet wet!
The moccasin-inspired design makes the Dakota casual, but quite appealing for curling up by the fire during a storm. UGGpure wool lines the inside of the footbed, wrapping your feet in soft, insulated warmth. Accented with a leather strap along the upper which ends in a bow on the front, it keeps casual looking good, even when out and about. The Silkee suede uppers of the Dakota are water resistant, which allows them to be worn in damper weather, including small amounts of snow, slush or ice. Traction is found in the molded rubber outsole, so you’ll keep a firm grip on the ground. The Dakota can be worn outside but is best for lounging about with friends and family in front of the fire.
From its UGGpure wool warmth and comfort to its weather-resistant suede uppers, the Dakota packs functionality into a cozy pair of moccasins. If you’ve yet to try a pair of UGGs, consider this your invitation to invest in a pair for this winter!
3. Sanuk Vagabond Chill
If you’re looking for a pair of warm, soft, and good-looking shoes, the Sanuk Vagabond Chill is your solution. The upper build material of this pair consists of canvas and is warm on the inside. The outsole consists of a rubber and sponge-like material which is flexible and comfortable. An EVA midsole with antibacterial technology provides further comfort and protection.
The Happy U rubber/sponge on the Vagabond Chill outsole is ideal for long days of walking. The outsole is also suitable for environments such as the beach and even ideal for indoor wear. An EVA footbed is molded by the pressure of your feet; resembling the specific shape of your feet. This enhances posture and provides greater comfort. Additionally, AEGIS antimicrobial additive protects the footbed.
Sanuk’s Vagabond Chill is not only an affordable choice but also a durable one. Its price is budget-friendly and the quality is there; meaning you are getting a great design for a reasonable cost.
4. Merrell Encore Q2 Ice
While the Merrell Encore Q2 Ice may not be the most fashionable option out there, it is certainly one of the coziest, and most comfortable. This slide is perfect for when you’re on the go and either can’t or don’t want to fuss with complicated closures - simply slip it on, and you’re out the door! It comes with a plush lining for heat retention, and a special midsole for alignment corrections.
The Encore Q2 Ice has an upper made from pig suede for that plush comfort, as well as lining made of faux shearling to provide luxuriously soft comfort. The footbed is a blend of EVA foam that supports all three arches of the foot, and there is a Q FORM 2 midsole which delivers alignment that is gender specific and has heel-centering technology. Comfort features don’t stop here, however, as there is also cushioning in the back which provides stability and impact absorption, and a nylon arch shank that gives plenty of support.
If you expect to spend a lot of time on your feet, or if it is crucial for you to get all the support that you need, then the Merrell Encore Q2 Ice is a perfect choice. It is simple and fuzzy, but it also comes with outstanding comfort features that you just have to experience to believe.
5. Crocs Blitzen III
Another slide option that is cozy and can be worn both indoor and outdoor, the Crocs Blitzen III is an improvement on its predecessor. It is sleeker, plusher and more insulating than ever before, and it is all geared solely towards your comfort. You can now enjoy the legendary Crocs comfort and support all throughout the year, thanks to these cozy, roomy slides.
The Blitzen III is made out of Croslite, the famous Crocs resin material which provides superior shock absorption and anti-microbial properties. It has a fuzzy lining to keep your feet nice and warm, and these are also removable and easy to wash by hand. The fit of the Blitzen feels secure on your foot but still leaves a little bit of room. The interior comes with the Dual Crocs Comfort which provides support in all the right places as well as that all-day wearability.
The Crocs Blitzen III is not a fashion-forward option, but it is one that will keep you toasty and feeling like you are treading on clouds. Thanks to its versatile style you can wear it both inside and outside the house, and you will love how easy it is to simply slip it on and be on your way! Make your life easier with the Blitzen III as soon as today!
6. Keen Brixen
Low profiling doesn’t mean KEEN doesn’t pack a punch to old man winter with the Brixen. Quality leather uppers combined with a reinforced toe give ample protection against the elements, while warmth is found in KEEN’s technology. A slip-on design makes these easy to slip into and kick off once inside from the snow. Waterproofing helps to make these great for snow days, so you can tackle that driveway shoveling no problem!
Don’t let the Brixen fool you to thinking it lacks warmth, simply because it’s a low-profile slip-on! KEEN added 200g of KEEN Warm insulation, along with wool felt lining to keep it feeling soft and comfortable as well as warm. The footbed was designed with a thermal heat shield, so you can retain all the body heat you make instead of losing it to the cold outside. You’ll stay toasty and warm whenever KEEN is on your feet! The waterproof design makes these resistant to harsh unexpected elements. A grippy rubber sole keeps you upright even on the ice, and added protection is found with the toe guard, giving a bit more weatherproofing as well. Leather uppers keep you weather guarded even more so, so you needn’t fear the next time a storm rolls through!
The Keen Brixen is a quality pair of footwear for colder months, especially if you encounter more snow and slush than other areas of the world or country. Grippy traction helps you stay afoot, and its heat insulation features will keep you warm during wear. The toe guard adds further protection, so you can get out there for the next snowball fight!
7. Columbia Minx Shorty III
The Columbia Shorty's build is an ideal choice for those who prefer high ankle footwear without riding too far up the calf. They have a rubber outsole, a leather/textile upper, a removable insole, and a 6.25-inch shaft height. This makes them perfect for environments with snow, light sludge, and/or messy conditions; not to mention, they look good, too.
The Omni-Grip outsole on the Minx Shorty III provides great traction in slushy conditions. Furthermore, the tread is made of rubber and is easy to clean with the lug spacing. A removable insole allows you to replace the factory version with an orthotic, as necessary. This is perfect for both of those in need of such devices and/or those who would like to add a little more cushioning.
These range from lower-mid-to-upper in cost association. They have great construction and are ready for cold weather. Moreover, they look good and keep your feet warm.
8. Globalwin Classic
Who doesn’t love the feel of a fur lining against the skin when the weather turns chilly? The Globalwin Classic has a classic low boot style paired with all the warmth and coziness of a well-insulated design. Fur lining and synthetic leather keep heat in where you want it most, while sturdy cement construction and water resistant seam-seals prevent any moisture from getting inside.
A chukka boot is a low ankle-high boot and is quite versatile in terms of pairing with different ensembles. The Globalwin option takes this classic style and adds all the plush winter comforts you’d expect from a winter design. Insulated by fur lining, keeping a soft foot-feel and warmth, a biker toe design allows for a roomier fit, while heel pull tabs make them easy to pull on for your next shift shoveling snow. At the base of the Globalwin Classic is a contrasting sole that adds some stylish flair to the design. The cement weld construction and water resistant seam seals keep water out, as well as add to the durability of the boot. A lace-up vamp allows for a snug proper fit, customized to your comfort. Grippy lugs give added traction to the sole, so you can be confident in each step you take.
Quite budget friendly, the Globalwin Classic is especially a great purchase considering its chukka styling and weatherproof construction. Fur lining helps insulate the feet for warmth, while the grip is maintained with its rugged lugs on the sole. Great for braving the elements in the snow, it's a smart purchase to consider.
9. Keen Kaci
With this option, you have comfort at the lead. In addition, there is the choice to remove the insole in exchange for more cushioning and/or an orthotic. The rubber outsole on the Keen Kaci has a decent tread with a good design; allowing you to traverse nicely from dry to semi-wet surfaces. Furthermore, these shoes are slip-on, making them effortlessly easy to put on and take off.
The outsole on the Kaci has a design to keep your feet dry in low-level water conditions. Furthermore, the tread is decent in providing an anti-slip solution when traversing surfaces from dry to wet. These are easy on and off with an elastic gore at the sides. A pull tab at the rear improves usability; making them an ideal choice for around the house. Furthermore, the comfort factor with the Keen Kaci enables you to wear them at a job where walking and/or standing prevails.
With the ability to remove the insole for replacement of an orthotic and/or more cushioning, the slightly higher cost of the Keen Kaci is well worth the investment, as these are amazingly comfortable to wear all day long.
10. Skechers D’Lites Chateau
The Skechers line of D’Lites footwear keeps an air-cooled memory foam in the footbed to cushion and give a pillow-like feel to your steps. The Chateau is a mid-length boot, and it’s packed full of insulation and a soft foot feel for winter wear, with soft fur lining. Its rugged rubber sole is perfect for braving the snow to get supplies for making hot chocolate. No more need to fear storms or weather with this cozy pair on your feet!
The Skechers D’Lites Chateau is a mid-length boot and it keeps a sporty look about it with nylon fabric uppers which keep wet snow out and your feet dry. D-ring hardware creates a comfortable and secure lace-up closure for the perfect fit, and Skechers D’Lite midsoles absorb shock to give you a comfortable ride. Soft fabric lines the boot, helping to wick away moisture. A soft faux fur tongue and collar pad the ankle and leg in warmth and comfort and keep out any snow from coming in. The flexible outsole is constructed from durable rubber, which has a lug pattern at the base for grip and traction. This rubber outsole wraps around the outside of the boot and toes for protection from any abrasions or wear and tear.
With its faux fur lined collar, rugged traction, and nylon uppers for insulated warmth and grip when walking, the Skechers D’Lites Chateau is worth considering if you’re in the market for a mid-length pair of boots. With a couple of color options to choose from, you can easily find one that works with your outdoor gear!
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