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Best Winter Shoes Reviewed & Rated

last updated Apr 22, 2019

For some people, winter is an extreme situation that requires heavy snow boots, a shovel, and a lot of protection from the elements. On the other hand, winter can also be a casual season for some regions; while it does get colder, super-thick shoes are not always necessary. If you have to tuck your favorite pair of kicks in the closet for this season, don’t worry, as we’ll help you pick a pair to get you through the winter.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research

icon
Timberland White Ledge
94.2/100 our score
Protection
99
Materials
98
Outsole
99
Features
90
Insulation
85
Timberland White Ledge
Why is it better?

Premium Leather Upper

Seam-Sealed Waterproof Construction

Dual-Density EVA Footbed

Rustproof Hardware

Multi-Directional Lugs for Traction

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Timberland White Ledge
Test Winner: Timberland White Ledge
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
10
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
11,201
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
6
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
10
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Milica Radovanovic
By Milica Radovanovic:

For the latest update, we replaced three items on the list with brand new ones, which perform better and offer even more coziness and warmth as you brave the cold weather and piles of snow!

Sorting Options
Protection Materials Outsole Features Insulation By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.2
Protection
99 %
Materials
98 %
Outsole
99 %
Features
90 %
Insulation
85 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$99.00
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Protection
95 %
Materials
95 %
Outsole
95 %
Features
90 %
Insulation
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$99.95
Backcountry Link
$99.95
See Deal
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Protection
90 %
Materials
90 %
Outsole
90 %
Features
90 %
Insulation
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$64.95
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Protection
83 %
Materials
94 %
Outsole
80 %
Features
91 %
Insulation
93 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$84.99
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.2
Protection
84 %
Materials
90 %
Outsole
82 %
Features
83 %
Insulation
92 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$64.10
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Protection
93 %
Materials
86 %
Outsole
80 %
Features
80 %
Insulation
80 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$120.00
Backcountry Link
$129.95
See Deal
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82
Protection
80 %
Materials
80 %
Outsole
80 %
Features
80 %
Insulation
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$64.99
Backcountry Link
$64.99
See Deal
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80.8
Protection
87 %
Materials
82 %
Outsole
80 %
Features
79 %
Insulation
76 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$39.99
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78
Protection
80 %
Materials
80 %
Outsole
80 %
Features
80 %
Insulation
70 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Backcountry Link
$54.98
See Deal
Amazon Link
$120.00
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
75
Protection
75 %
Materials
75 %
Outsole
75 %
Features
75 %
Insulation
75 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$49.95
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Timberland White Ledge Timberland White Ledge
  • UGG Dakota UGG Dakota
  • Sanuk Vagabond Chill Sanuk Vagabond Chill
  • Merrell Encore Q2 Ice Merrell Encore Q2 Ice
  • Crocs Blitzen III Crocs Blitzen III
  • Keen Brixen Keen Brixen
  • Columbia Minx Shorty III Columbia Minx Shorty III
  • Globalwin Classic Globalwin Classic
  • Keen Kaci Keen Kaci
  • Skechers D’Lites Chateau Skechers D’Lites Chateau
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Expert Interviews & Opinions
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Our Favorites

1. Timberland White Ledge

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.2
Timberland White Ledge
Amazon Link
Protection
99
Materials
98
Outsole
99
Features
90
Insulation
85
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$99.00
Pros:

Premium Leather Upper

Seam-Sealed Waterproof Construction

Dual-Density EVA Footbed

Rustproof Hardware

Multi-Directional Lugs for Traction

Cons:

Heavy

Questionable Durability

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
UGG Dakota
Amazon Link
Protection
95
Materials
95
Outsole
95
Features
90
Insulation
90
best offer for today
more shops
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$99.95
Backcountry Link
$99.95
See Deal
Pros:

Moccasin Style

UGGpure Wool Insole

Water Resistant

Plush Suede Upper

Grippy Outsole

Cons:

Questionable Durability

High Price

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!

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Sanuk Vagabond Chill
Amazon Link
Protection
90
Materials
90
Outsole
90
Features
90
Insulation
90
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$64.95
Pros:
  • Rubber/Sponge Outsole
  • Canvas Upper
  • EVA Footbed
  • Faux Sherling Lining
Cons:
  • Minimal Color Variety
  • Size Runs Small

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Merrell Encore Q2 Ice
Amazon Link
Protection
83
Materials
94
Outsole
80
Features
91
Insulation
93
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$84.99
Pros:

Faux Shearling Lining

Easy Slide Design

Heel-Centering Technology

Gender-Specific Alignment

Superior Arch Support

Cons:

Scuffs Easily

Tight Fit from Thick Lining

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.2
Crocs Blitzen III
Amazon Link
Protection
84
Materials
90
Outsole
82
Features
83
Insulation
92
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$64.10
Pros:

Antimicrobial Properties

Dual Crocs Comfort

Plush Fuzzy Lining

Lining Removable and Washable

For Indoor and Outdoor Use

Cons:

Lining Comes Out Often

Bulky Looking

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Keen Brixen
Amazon Link
Protection
93
Materials
86
Outsole
80
Features
80
Insulation
80
best offer for today
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$120.00
Backcountry Link
$129.95
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Pros:

Water Resistant

Easy Slip-On

Solid Grip on Ice

Thermal Heat Shield

200g Warm Insulation

Cons:

Requires Breaking In

Runs Wide

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!

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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 rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82
Columbia Minx Shorty III
Amazon Link
Protection
80
Materials
80
Outsole
80
Features
80
Insulation
90
best offer for today
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$64.99
Backcountry Link
$64.99
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Pros:
  • Leather/Textile Upper
  • 6.25-inch Shaft Height
  • 0.5-inch Platform Height
  • Omni-Grip Outsole
  • Removable Insole
Cons:
  • Minimal Color Variety
  • Size Runs Small

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80.8
Globalwin Classic
Amazon Link
Protection
87
Materials
82
Outsole
80
Features
79
Insulation
76
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$39.99
Pros:

Chukka Boot Style

Plush Interior

Adjustable Lace-up Closure

Sleek and Fashion-Forward

Cons:

Not For Extreme Cold

Questionable Durability

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.

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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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78
Keen Kaci
Amazon Link
Protection
80
Materials
80
Outsole
80
Features
80
Insulation
70
best offer for today
more shops
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$120.00
Backcountry Link
$54.98
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Pros:
  • Genuine Leather Upper
  • Grippy Rubber Outsole
  • Slip-On Design
  • Removable Insole
Cons:
  • Minimal Color Variety
  • Size Runs Big

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.

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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 rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
75
Skechers D’Lites Chateau
Amazon Link
Protection
75
Materials
75
Outsole
75
Features
75
Insulation
75
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$49.95
Pros:

Mid-Length Boot

Air Cooled Foam

Solid Traction

Durable Nylon Uppers

Fur Lined Collar

Cons:

Snug Fit

Not for Extreme Cold

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!

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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!

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Protection

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.

Materials

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).

Outsole

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.

Features

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).

Insulation

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.

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expert tips icon
Winter Warming Tips

Aside from your footwear, there are plenty of ways to keep warm in the winter cold! Wool socks, and even foot warmers can help keep your feet happy in extreme cold temperatures. Adding layers to your outfit helps retain heat, and hand warmers for gloves can add a bit more protection against cold fingers.

Insulation Explained

There are several kinds of insulation used to help keep your footwear warmer in cold weather. Primaloft and Thinsulate help trap warm air to keep your feet warmer using thin compressible threads of insulation, while other technologies like Ominheat utilize reflective patterns to reflect heat back to the body. Zylex is composed of layers which help trap heat but also help remove moisture from the boot when wearing.

Other Factors to Consider

Bottom Line

Keep in mind that winter is different for each region; for some, it’s just a chill climate. On the other hand, some people experience a concerning amount of snow. For this guide, we’re covering the casual aspect of winter and, thus, some of the products in this list are not necessarily appropriate for heavy, snowy environments.

Winter brings much more than just cold with it. Rains, an increase in humidity, and icy surfaces start to appear, too. Regardless of how casual shoes are, they’re of little use if they’re not properly prepared for in these circumstances. While you might get away with wearing an off-season shoe, it’s not ideal; nor, is it adequate for a changing external environment.

People active in winter, however, will find that weather adaption is everything. Once again, you can get away with using normal shoes. The only difference is that this time, the lack of winter features not only affects your comfort but your performance, as well. Runners, athletes, and people from all sorts of walks of life, in general, will find a big improvement in their activities if their shoes are fitting to the season.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How many pairs should I have for winter?

a:

Usually, a single pair or two is enough. You can keep wearing your normal shoes for brief tasks or certain activities, and then hop into your winter shoes when you might become more exposed to the weather.

q: How do I choose the right pair for me?

a:

Depending on the usage you’ll give them, you might want a casual shoe or a performance one. Our evaluation criterion above provides further insight on each one of these; refer to the section above for more information.

q: What are the differences in all of these options?

a:

Winter shoes are varied; you can get from super-thick protection to casual reinforcement against cold. The shoes on this guide, mostly, feature warming materials; as well as, non-breathable designs.

q: Are fuzzy slippers suitable for outdoor wear?

a:

Although it depends on the slipper, they’re not suitable for any outdoor activity in general. Their lack of cushioning and support isn’t efficient outside of the house. However, some slippers like the Woolrich Lewisburg have an outsole suitable for other activities.

q: Are these options breathable?

a:

Most of them aren’t, as their design is meant to stop cold from getting to your feet. Performance shoes are, usually, breathable and regardless of the season. If sealed, the weather won’t stop your feet from sweating or becoming irritated. On the other hand, wet feet from sludge can be bad, as well. For winter, Gore-Tex uppers are helpful.