Winter hiking shoes are among the most essential things you need when exploring the great outdoors in freezing temps. With so many options available, you'll likely find the shoe that will keep you feeling warm, comfortable, and protected.
But the question is - which hiking shoe fits you best? What are the most important features do you look for when buying one? And what brands make the best winter hiking shoes?
It's time to find out the answers.
Winter hiking shoes for men and women: features to look for
Winter hiking shoes vary in styles, colors, upper construction, lacing system, and so on. Some also come with additional features that you may or may not need. Whatever style of shoes you pick, make sure it has the following important functionalities:
The last thing you want to experience when hiking in winter is to have your feet soaked in cold water. Whether you're walking on wet trails, packed snow, or slush, you will surely get your feet wet unless your shoe has waterproofing. Different brands use different waterproofing methods, such as seam-sealing or adding a waterproof membrane (such as Gore-Tex hiking shoes).
Depending on where you live or where you plan to hike, you may or may not need a shoe that has insulation. In regions with mild weather conditions, wearing warm socks (such as wool socks) might suffice. However, when snowshoeing in really cold, almost freezing terrains, you will need a pair of winter hiking shoes that have insulation.
Note, however, that winter hiking shoes use different types of insulation. Some hiking shoes make use of synthetic insulations such as Primaloft. Others use wool, fleece, and sheepskin. There are hiking footwear that uses thermal technology, including heat-reflective linings. Check with the manufacturer if the shoes you're buying will provide enough warmth in specific terrains you will use them for. Here's a rundown of the insulation levels of hiking footwear and what to expect from them:
- 200 grams or less - ideal for cool conditions and when you will be highly active.
- 400 grams - suits cold conditions when you have moderate activity levels.
- 600-800 grams - ideal for very cold temperatures.
- 1,000 grams or more - best for extreme cold weathers with minimal activity levels.
Support and protection
Hiking in the snow presents unique challenges that avid hikers can relish if they're wearing the right gear. Frozen rivers, cliffs, and avalanches are just among the trail hazards you can expect. Thus, you need winter hiking shoes that are very protective, sturdy enough to resist damage and abrasion, and rugged enough to keep you from slipping and suffering from a serious injury.
Best brands of winter hiking shoes
Altra winter hiking shoes are great for snowy, icy, muddy, and slippery trails. They have hiking shoes specifically developed for technical terrains, deep snow, snowy roads, etc. These shoes feature grippy outsoles and waterproof, durable uppers.
This brand is known for its low drop hiking shoes, this brand appeal to minimalist hikers. While barefoot shoes might sound "less suitable" for winter hiking, Xero Shoes hiking footwear comes with fleece lining and heat-reflecting warming insole to keep your feet warm in cold weather.