If you live in an area with cold winters and plenty of snow, you know how valuable a good pair of winter boots can be. Whether you need to shovel the driveway, walk to school, or take the train to work, good boots will get you there warm, dry, and in style.
To find the best winter boots for men, we tested twelve of the most popular winter boots around. After weeks of shovelling out of 20-inch snowstorms, long walks in frigid weather, and a punishing dunk in ice water, the Sorel Caribou Pac Men’s Boot(available at Amazon) came out on top. Stylish, durable, warm, waterproof—it’s everything a winter boot should be.
Here are the best men’s winter boots we tested, ranked in order:
Sorel Caribou Men's Boot
Sorel 1964 Pac Boot
Ugg Butte Waterproof Boot
Columbia Bugaboot II Omni Heat
Merrell Men’s Thermo Chill Mid Waterproof
The North Face Chilkat Nylon
Ugg Seton Men's Chukka Boot
Timberland Premium 400g Boots
Sorel Men's Caribou
The Sorel Caribou is a Pac (a boot that includes a waterproof leather upper and throat, rubber soles, and a separate insulated liner) winter boot. It’s rated for use in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In our wear tests, the Caribou proved true to size, with a heel that felt secure on my narrow feet and a roomy toebox that left plenty of room to wiggle my toes, even while wearing bulkier socks. Unlike the other leather boots I tested, the Caribou were comfortable and required no breaking in. I walked nearly three miles in them, out of the box and I didn’t have any complaints.
The Caribou got top marks during our waterproofing and temperature tests. They stayed dry even after marching in a 4-inch deep bucket of ice water and salt, for five minutes. While wearing them to shovel out of multiple snowstorms, including a 20-inch nor’easter, my feet stayed warm. While running around in the snow with my kids, my feet never felt overly sweaty.
The Caribou’s laces are easy to grab, even with gloves on, and stretchy enough to slide through the boot’s large metal eyelets, staying firmly tightened without needing to double loop. This makes unlacing them, when the time comes, a breeze.
All in all, the Sorel Caribou is a nearly perfect winter boot for anyone that lives in a cold, snowy climate. The only points that might put you off are the fact that it is too big for boot-cut jeans to go over the throat of the boot. I also suspect that the leather components of these boots will pick up salt stains, quickly, if they’re not treated with a product like mink oil, on a regular basis.
Finally, the boot liners’ fuzzy “sherpa” cuff helps to keep snow out of the boot, but its look might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
I’m TJ Donegan, the Executive Editor for Core Content at Reviewed. I’ve worked for Reviewed, for close to a decade and have reviewed a lot of products in that time. Living where I do, a good pair of winter boots is a must, as eight months of the year, you may have to deal with a sudden snowstorm.
To find the best winter boots for men, we called in 12 of the most promising models, based on their features, materials, and temperature ratings, to submit to a full suite of tests.
For each pair of the boots, we made notes on how well they fit and, how easy each was to take on and off. In particular, we noted boots that required you to size up or size down to get a good fit, which are difficult to break in, and which come pre-broken.
The most time-consuming process was breaking in each of the boots. I spent hours wearing each pair around town running errands, running after my kids, or in the yard. Once I felt that the boots were as comfortable as I could reasonably make them, I tested them on multiple three-mile walks on pavement, snow, and ice. While testing each pair, I noted issues with comfort, fit in the ankle and toe box, any areas that caused hotspots or blisters, and which pairs were easy to take on and off (both with and without gloves on).
Next, we moved the tests indoors to Reviewed’s labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To ascertain how well the boots were able to keep out water, we left each pair to sit in a brew of water ice and rock salt—a simulation of the icy slush that you might step in, during the wintertime–for 15 minutes. At the end of each test, we took note of whether or not any moisture managed to seep into the boots.
However, most people don’t stand in a puddle for a quarter of an hour. As you walk around in a pair of boots, their materials and stitching flex and move. This provides an opportunity for water to get in. In order to test whether or not each of our pairs of boots would let water in while the wearer is on the move, we donned each pair of boots and marched in place, in four inches of our homemade slush, for 15 minutes.
Finally, using temperature logging i-Button devices, we tested the temperature retention of each boot by first testing its internal temperature and then tracking how quickly the internal temperature of the boots dropped, over time, when they were placed in various depths of ice water.
What You Should Know About Buying Winter Boots
A great pair of insulated boots should be versatile, capable of helping you track through deep snow on a hike through the backwoods, or of keeping your feet warm as you walk your dog around the sidewalks of your neighbourhood.
You’ll want to match the temperature range of the boots you pick with how cold it gets where you live. If the boots you wear are too warm, your feet will sweat. This can lead to them feeling cold and getting blisters. If they’re not warm enough, your feet will, not surprisingly, be cold.
You should know that there’s no oversight for measuring the temperature rating of boots: every manufacturer uses their own means of testing temperature range. A large part of this is due to the fact that there are so many different types of boot insulation materials out there:
Synthetic Insulation: some synthetic insulations, like 3M’s Thinsulate, are practically household words. Others, such as Primaloft, Optiwarm, Heatseeker, and Zylet, not to mention the proprietary insulation used by outdoor brands like Keen and Columbia, might not be known as well. However, they're all designed to do the same job: keeping your feet warm. No matter the kind of synthetic insulation in your boots, most work in fundamentally the same manner. The insulation, made up of artificial fibres, creates an insulative layer, designed to trap your body heat inside of the boot.
Natural Insulation: Natural insulative materials such as felt, shearling (the tanned hide wool of a yearling sheep), and wool (the fibrous layer of hair shorn from a sheep) work in much the same manner as synthetic insulators do. When used to line a boot, will help you to retain your body heat and keep your feet warm.
Breathability and Waterproofing
Breathability and waterproofing play just as important a role in keeping your feet warm as a boot’s temperature range does. If your boots aren’t able to get rid of the moisture inside of your boot, such as sweat, the boot’s insulation will become damp and, in some cases won’t be able to keep you as warm as it would if it was dry. The same goes for keeping water out: if your boots aren’t waterproof or at least water-resistant, water from puddles, slush, and melting snow will get into the boot, lowering the temperature inside of it, making you feel uncomfortable.
Materials such as Gore-Tex and other membrane fabrics allow water vapour from inside of your boot to escape, but won’t all liquids to get in. Rubber has been used to waterproof boots for years. It may not allow water vapour to escape a boot, but there are few materials better for keeping the elements out.
If you decide to buy boots other than the ones we recommend, take the time to research the materials used in them to keep your feet dry before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
No matter how warm or waterproof a pair of boots may be in theory, they won’t do their job well unless they’re properly fit to the individual wearing them.
A well-fitted pair of winter boots should be tight at the heel, to keep the boot from moving around as you walk. If the boot has laces, they should be able to be tied tightly enough to provide additional support to your ankle, but not so tightly that it cuts off blood circulation to your feet. A loose boot provides no ankle support on uneven or slippery terrain, which can lead to injuries. That the boot is too loose can also lead to the person wearing it developing hotspots or blisters.
You’ll want the boot’s toebox to provide an air gap between the boot’s interior and your toes, allowing for blood circulation. As you walk, the air gap will warm, thanks to the body heat you generate, adding to the boot’s overall insulation.
Finding a pair of winter boots that fit well can be difficult. As such, you may have to try on multiple pairs to find a boot that works for you. This is easy to do if you plan on buying them from a brick-and-mortar store. If you’re shopping online, it can be a lot more difficult. Many retailers, including Amazon, let you try on boots and return them as long as you haven’t worn them outside. When taking a new pair of winter boots for a spin, be sure to wear the sort of socks that you plan on using them with, as the thickness of the sock can have a significant impact on their fit. A thick pair of rag wool socks, for example, will take up nearly a half-size in your boot.
Other Winter Boots We Tested
Sorel Men's 1964 Pac
Though not as attractive as the standard Sorel Caribou, the Sorel 1964 Pac Boot are almost as fine a winter boot as our Best Overall pick proved to be.
At 1.6lbs per boot, the 1964s are significantly lighter than the standard Sorel Caribou Pac Boots. This weight loss is due to the fact that the 1964’s upper and shaft are made of nylon, instead of leather. What’s more, their nylon construction makes them less likely to stain and easier to clean than our Best Overall pick—though in my opinion it also makes them uglier, but to each their own.
Like Sorel’s standard Caribou boots, the 1964s use a removable felt liner as an insulative layer which, in this case, employs a black-on-black colour scheme.
Unfortunately, because the 1964s employ nylon as an outer material, they don’t have the longevity or durability that the leather upper of Sorel’s Caribou boots. Additionally, just like the Caribous, the bulky design and weight might be overkill if you don’t live in an extremely cold, snowy climate.
The Merrell Men’s Thermo Chill Mid Waterproof have a rubber outsole, moulded foam midsole, with a leather/polyurethane mesh upper.
During our marching test, water entered one of the boots, due to a design flaw: the Thermo Chill Mids have a gusseted tongue (joined to the sides of the boot), but the gusset only reaches halfway up the shaft. This allowed water to splash into the boot. However, when laced tightly, they should keep snow out without a problem.
If you need something to keep you warm and provide plenty of traction while walking or hiking, these will do an excellent job. You should know, however, that we found that our feet quickly began to feel cold while standing still in them. Additionally, we were unable to find a temperature rating for these boots.
The Ugg Seton Chukka Boot looks like your standard leather dress boot. It boasts a thick rubber sole and a removable wool lining that Ugg claims is meant to resemble “authentic” shearling.
Even though it’s quite a bit different from the other boots on our list, it held up fine in our tests. The boots are warm, though they’re not particularly waterproof. Water splashed in and past the tongue fairly easily in our 4-inch marching test, though these would handle light snow and rain just fine.
Comfort-wise, the boots were a bit stiff even after several miles of walking. They should break in slightly better over time (though Chukka-style boots don’t always loosen up), but lacing them up to get them on and off was more of a chore than with the other boots and they still felt fairly clunky to walk around in.
In our tests, the Ugg Butte Waterproof Boots didn’t show any major weak spots. Designed for temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the boots kept our feet warm and held up in our waterproofing tests.
The main issue is the boots just don’t seem as nice or “premium” as some of the other boots we tested—most of which are actually cheaper than the Ugg Butte Boots. The materials don’t feel as nice, the stitching isn’t as uniform and is a bit looser in places, and the overall quality is just lacking.
The Columbia Bugaboo II Boots are a great mid-range pick for anyone that wants a hiking-style boot, at a reasonable price.
They provide excellent ankle support and stability when walking on slippery surfaces and technical terrain on your way to work or in the backcountry, respectively. The outer shell of the Bugaboo II Boots is comprised primarily of waterproof leather and nylon. A chunky rubberized sole provides the boots with a sure-footed grip.
The Bugaboo II Boots are insulated with Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat insulation. The insulation employs a reflective, silver surface designed to help keep the wearer’s body heat inside of the boots, where it belongs. It works well enough. However, despite their being temperature rated for -25 degrees Fahrenheit, we found that even wearing them on a hike, producing plenty of body heat, they couldn’t keep our feet as warm as other options in this guide.
Unfortunately, they proved uncomfortable to wear. Even after walking 10 miles in them, the Bugaboo II Boots upper remained stiff. While this will protect your ankle It’s one thing to have a stable design that doesn’t flex to help to protect your ankle from sprains and breaks, it’s some may find their lack of comfort to be a dealbreaker. Additionally, the boots’ thick insulation provided a minimal amount of airflow. This can lead to sweaty feet, which will leave anyone wearing them feeling cold.
The North Face Chilkat Nylon series has been around for years, and for good reason: it’s affordable and durable. As the name suggests, the upper is primarily made up of nylon, with a waterproof membrane, thick rubber soles, and a fleece inner lining. In our tests, the Chilkat proved particularly adept at keeping out mud, water, snow, and everything in between.
If you live somewhere that winter means rain and slush and some frigid temperature, this is a solid boot. It’s particularly good if you prefer a boot that your jeans will come down over—as opposed to tucking them into the tops of the boots. But if you need something to handle more extreme snow, ice, and frigid cold, our top picks will handle the cold, snow, and rain better than these.
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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