There’s no better feeling than having warm, dry feet in cold, miserable weather. That’s why having a capable pair of winter boots is so important. The best winter boots should keep you just as warm and dry commuting in the city as they do on rugged terrain during a snow-filled hike in the woods.
After spending nearly three weeks bundled up in a warm winter coat to test 10 pairs of winter boots, we can tell you that the Sorel Women’s Caribou Boot(available at Sorel) are the ones to buy. With superior waterproofing, warmth and traction on slippery surfaces, these are the best winter boots for women we tested.
However, if you spend a lot of time walking in winter conditions, the Muck Boots Arctic Ice Mid-Height (available at Amazon) are also a fine choice. While not as warm as our Best Overall pick, they are not as bulky and still manage to provide great traction and exceptional waterproofing.
Here are the best winter boots for women we tested ranked, in order:
Columbia Women’s Bugaboot Celsius Plus Omni-Heat Infinity
Sorel Women’s Tivoli IV Tall Boot
Danner Women’s Mountain Pass Insulated
Timberland Heritage 6-Inch Waterproof Boots
KEEN Women’s Revel IV Polar Boot
Hunter Women’s Insulated Tall Snow Boots
UGG Women’s Adirondack III Boots
Sorel Women's Caribou Boots
With their superior insulation, a leather upper, sturdy vulcanized rubber lower and sole, the Sorel Women’s Caribou boots proved instantly comfortable and required no breaking in.
According to Sorel, these boots can heat your feet in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. During our heat retention test, they lost 2.04 degrees Fahrenheit of warmth over a 20 minute period, making them the warmest pair of boots we’ve tested. What’s more, while I wore them during our waterproof test in four inches of ice water and slush, my feet stayed as dry as a bone. That said, if you somehow manage to get your feet wet, The Caribou’s removable felt liners can be swapped for a dry set. Finally, while testing the Sorels on our ice rink, I found that they provided great traction.
These boots are ideal for trudging through heavy snow and their iconic style make them a win for wearing on your daily commute to work. Featuring a fun, synthetic fleece-trimmed cuff that looks great and works to prevent snow from getting in through the throat of the boot, the Caribou are available in black, tan, and grey. We found that these boots were true to size.
The only downside to the Sorel Caribous is that they’re a bit bulk, which could make taking the stairs or driving while wearing them difficult.
The Muck Boots Muck Arctic Ice Mid boots were the most comfortable boots we tested.
Thanks to the Arctic Ice Mid’s lower made from rubber and a flexible fabric called Spandura, these boots required next to no break-in time. I was happy to find that they provide good arch support, thanks to their comfortable insoles. That said, it’s also possible to add your own insole or orthotic to them. At 11.35 inches tall, the Arctic Ice Mid boots are well suited for stomping around in mud, puddles, or snow. A shaft circumference of 14.5-inches allowed these boots to glide down my legs, and I have thick calves!
Inside of the boot, you’ll find a neoprene and synthetic fleece lining designed to keep feet warm in temperatures ranging between -58 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In our heat retention tests, the Arctic Ice Mid boots lost 3.38 degrees Fahrenheit over 20 minutes: not the coldest boots we’ve tested, but not as warm as our Best Overall pick. The boots did not leak during our waterproof test and provided adequate traction on ice.
If you plan on investing in a pair of sure to size down if you’re interested in a pair of the Arctic Ice Mid as they only come in whole sizes. If I had sized up, the boots would have been too loose. Last year, we tested the full-length version of these boots: the Arctic Ice Tall Boots. As with their mid-length counterparts, which we can confidently recommend them for their excellent ice traction, waterproofing, and comfort.
I’m Cailey Lindberg, I’m the Updates Staff Writer for Reviewed’s Best Right Now team. I’m also a lifelong New Englander who has owned many pairs of winter boots. I decided to use my decades of cold weather experience to help keep your feet protected from the elements.
In order to figure out which boots deserve a place on your feet, I put each pair in our test group through a variety of tests.
First, I traveled to my childhood home in New Hampshire. It’s in a remote area, with dirt roads, ample ice, snow, and rocky footpaths. Once I settled in, I went for an hour-long hike in each pair of boots to test their comfort and break-in time, in temperatures of twenty degrees Fahrenheit and below.
Once these subjective tests were complete, I brought the boots to Reviewed’s test lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts for objective testing. Under controlled conditions, I donned each pair of boots and walked, in place, in four inches of ice water mixed with Blue Heat rock salt and ice cubes--an analog for the type of slushy puddle you might have to step in while walking down the street--for five minutes. If water seeped into the boots during this test, I noted how far into the test they failed and gave them a failing grade.
Next, to test how well each boot performed on a slippery surface, I walked across an ice rink our test lab team built in the Reviewed parking lot and rated their traction on a scale of 1 to 5.
To gauge the heat retention of each boot, the lab used a heating pad heated to 80 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic a human foot and placed it inside of each set of boots. An iButton temperature sensor was then inserted into each boot to track the rate of heat loss. The boots and their contents were then in four inches of water, cooled to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Using data supplied by the iButtons, we were able to track the amount of heat lost inside of the boots, per minute, over a 20 minutes period. We then crunched these numbers to uncover the total amount of heat loss for each set of boots.
What You Should Know About 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 your neighborhood.
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 the 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, are 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 fibers, creates an insulative layer, designed to trap your body heat inside of the boot.
Natural Insulation: materials such as felt, shearling (the tanned skin of a yearling sheep that was sheared of its wool, just before its life was ended), and wool (the fibrous layer of hair shorn from a sheep) work in much the same manner as synthetic insulators do. They’re natural insulators that, when used to line a boot, will help you to retain your body heat and keep your feet warm.
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 vapor from inside of your boot to escape, but won’t allow liquids to get in. Rubber has been used to waterproof boots for years. It may not allow water vapor 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.
The Merrell Women’s Thermo Aurora 2 Mid Shell Waterproof Snow Boots kept my feet warm and dry during my hike. They also provided great traction on the Reviewed ice rink, thanks to their Vibram Arctic Grip All Terrain outsole. I found that they required no breaking in and fit true to size. Those with wide feet will be happy to know that these boots have a generously-sized toe box.
The Thermo Aurora 2 Mid Shell fared decently during our heat retention tests, losing 3.26 degrees Fahrenheit over 20 minutes. Unfortunately, 38 seconds into our waterproof test, water began seeping into both boots. While this alone is enough to keep us from recommending them. We were also disappointed to find that, despite their being a hiking boot, the shaft of the Thermo Aurora 2 Mid Shell couldn’t provide much ankle support.
Columbia Women's Bugaboot Celsius Omni-Heat Infinity Boot
The Columbia Women’s Bugaboot Celsius Plus Omni-Heat Infinity were designed for snowsports. As such, they’re stiffer than boots designed for general use. This stiffness provides more ankle support on technical terrain. So, it’ll take some time to break them in, but we feel that their testing scores make them worth it. In addition to providing great ankle support and stability on my hike, they kept my feet warm. During heat retention testing, with 2.38 degrees Fahrenheit lost over 20 minutes, they were among the warmest boots we tested.
The soles of the Bugaboots offered middling performance on ice but, as advertised, they didn’t let a drop of moisture in during our waterproof test. Their shaft height of 16.6 inches likely helped as it kept the opening of the boots high above the slush in our testing trough.
KEEN’s Revel IV Polar Boot are odor-resistant, have stellar ankle and arch support and, during testing, broke in quickly. These boots run true to size and feature a larger toe box than many other brands. Rated for use in temperatures as low as -25 degrees fahrenheit, they fared very well during our heat retention tests with a heat loss of 2.34 degrees fahrenheit over 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, during waterproof testing, I was only able to keep my feet in the water for 15 seconds before they leaked.
Despite the fact that Sorel's Women’s Tivoli IV Tall Boots are fashionable and waterproof, we can’t recommend them.
I found that they run at least one size too small and, even after ordering a larger size than I would normally wear, I still found them to be too narrow and uncomfortable to walk in. During heat retention testing our iButtons registered a heat loss of 3.38 degrees fahrenheit over 20 minutes. Finally, they did terribly during our traction test, leaving me to slip and slide on our lab’s ice rink..
The Danner Women’s Mountain Pass Insulated leather boots are stylish, functional, and made of high-quality materials, including a full-grain leather upper. Their Gore-Tex and Thinsulate lining are quite breathable and their Vibram Arctic Grip soles performed exceedingly well on varied terrain. During our ice test, the Mountain Pass boots made it seem like it’d be almost impossible to slip while wearing them.
However, they disappointed us, on multiple fronts. During heat retention testing, they lost 19.36 degrees Fahrenheit of warmth over 20 minutes. This makes them the worst boots for heat retention, out of any of the products in our test group. Worse still, it took a little over one second for ice water to seep through their Gore-Tex lining when we put their waterproofing to the test.
The Timberland Heritage 6-Inch Waterproof Boots broke in quickly on my hike with them in New Hampshire and offered good traction on ice and snow as I walked around through the wilds of New Hampshire. We found that their heat retention capabilities came in around the middle of the pack for this guide.
Unfortunately, while trudging through four-inch high slush and ice water during our waterproof tests, it took about just over two seconds for liquid to splash into the top of these boots. As such, these kicks might be suitable for use in urban areas, if you’re willing to navigate around puddles. We can’t, however, recommend them for use in deep snow.
I found the Hunter Women’s Insulated Tall Snow Boots are cushy on your feet while standing still. However, while hiking, I found that their flimsy shaft made them uncomfortable to walk in: my foot was driven forward into the toe box with each step, uncomfortably pinching my toes. Additionally, they offered poor traction on ice and snow during my hike. Their traction proved even worse when worn while treading on our lab’s ice rink.
These are not boots designed for use during severe New England winters. Hunter rates them for temperatures no lower than minus seven degrees Fahrenheit. During heat retention testing, they lost 4.94 degrees fahrenheit of warmth over 20 minutes.
Worse still, they proved to be far less than waterproof.
We used more stringent testing methodology this year than we did last year, when we put the UGG Adirondack III Waterproof boots through their paces. However, these boots are just too popular to be left out of this year’s guide.
Featuring a real sheepskin lining and a high quality leather shell, these boots broke in quickly and are rated for use in temperatures as low -25.6 degrees Fahrenheit. They run a half size small and are made for narrow feet.
Like a depressingly large number of the other boots featured in this guide, the Adirondack III are not waterproof.
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