5 Best Winter Hiking Shoes

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
5 Best Winter Hiking Shoes
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Whether you’re off to the icy trails or just need to protect your feet from the frigid winter weather, we’ve got great picks that will keep your toes warm, cozy, and protected. Built for the winter season, these properly insulated, cold-ready hikers will keep your footing secured on the trails.

After testing each shoe in the field, slipping and sliding on off-road paths and snowy trails, we have selected our best models that will keep you upright and comfortable all winter long. 

To get you started in your search for the right fit, we’ve rounded up the best winter hiking shoes available out there based on our meticulous testing and investigation. Take a quick look at our top highlights below with their comprehensive reviews.

How we test hiking shoes

To make this recommendation, we’ve thoroughly tested all models in actual winter hiking jaunts, covering 30+ miles for each pair of shoes. We’ve also checked and analyzed the footwear inside our RunRepeat shoe lab to determine the quality of the materials and technologies used.

Our selection process involves doing these steps:

  • We invest our time, energy, and our own resources to procure winter hiking shoes. This allows us to remain 100% independent and objective when giving our assessments.
  • We take each model on real-life winter hiking excursions to personally assess its actual fit, insulation, traction, stability, durability, and support, among others. We test the models further to determine if they can handle moderate to extreme winter conditions.
  • We collect more information from the test results inside our lab. We even reach a point where we dissect the shoes just so no part is hidden from our scrutiny. 

Best winter hiking shoes overall

What makes it the best?

In a combination of our extensive lab investigations and test hikes, we found the Salomon X Ultra 4 is the clear choice for the best overall winter hiking shoe. It keeps our feet toasty and dry in all weather, the cushioning is perfect and the enhanced stability keeps us confident on all terrain.

The Gore-Tex lining of this shoe is spot-on, as we found when we stood in a stream to test the waterproofing. Not even a drop of water entered the shoe in shallow water. In the lab, we pumped smoke into the shoe to test for breathability. No smoke passed through the upper at all, so we awarded it the least breathable score of 1/5. We found it great for winter hiking, as it prevented heat escaping too, and kept our feet cozy!

This shoe has found the sweet spot between underfoot protection and ground feel. We measured the softness of the midsole with a durometer, finding it to measure the average of 32.5 HA. Keeping us insulated from the cold ground, we found it was responsive and still comfortable.

We experienced a stable ride in this shoe, and we found we could confidently rock hop and skip over roots. We awarded the heel counter a 5/5 for stiffness (5 being the stiffest), and it keeps our heel snugly supported without feeling too much. Salomon’s Active Support System, with its combination of quick laces and a shank in the midsole, gives incredible lockdown and a whole load of confidence on rough trails.

When we tested the shoe for flexibility, we bent it to 90° with a force gauge. We found it to be 31% more flexible than the average for hiking shoes. It is definitely a matter of taste, but we don’t recommend it to hikers who prefer a stiffer hiking shoe for their winter adventures.


  • Instant comfort
  • Impeccable waterproofing
  • Very lightweight
  • Exceptional grip
  • Excellent support and lockdown
  • Stable platform
  • Roomy toebox


  • Quicklace is not for everyone
  • Too-high collar
Full review of Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX

Winter hiking shoes with the best comfort

What makes it the best?

After vigorous testing in both our lab and out hiking, we voted the Merrell Moab 3 GTX as the most comfortable winter hiking shoes. These classic Merrells are superbly comfortable from the get-go, waterproof, and grippy on all terrain, making them the perfect choice for a winter hike.

We have come to expect day-one comfort from the Moab range, and the Moab 3 GTX didn’t let us down. Straight out of the box, they enveloped our feet like a hug. In the lab, we measured the generous tongue to be 14.6 mm, far more cushier than the average of 9.6 mm! Altogether, we enjoyed comfortable hikes with no rubbing or blisters, no break-in needed.

The Merrell Moab 3 GTX takes winter hiking seriously, and it shows up in a slew of features. The watertight upper passed our water test with flying colors, handling submersion in a stream with ease. Our feet were completely dry, helped out by the fully gusseted tongue, which stops water seeping in around the instep. The sticky 4.8 mm lugs shed mud easily and we felt confident hiking on muddy, snowy, or rocky trails.

The Merrell Moab 3 GTX has one obvious disadvantage when hiking in snowy winter conditions. The low collar won’t keep the snow out, for all the waterproofing in the world. 


  • Superb day-one comfort
  • Brilliant surface adhesion
  • Supportive like a work shoe
  • Fantastic cushioning underfoot
  • Remarkably durable
  • A-grade waterproofing
  • Sheds mud quite well
  • Protective toe box
  • Incredible overall quality


  • Heavy for a low-top
  • Subpar breathability
  • Its shoelaces unravel often
Full review of Merrell Moab 3 GTX

Best winter hiking shoes with a wide toebox

What makes it the best?

A versatile hiking shoe for winter adventures, the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof is our pick for the best winter hiking shoe with a wide toe box. This shoe has plenty of space for our toes to splay, and it’s a consistent shoe in cold weather. Add to that it’s waterproof and even a bit breathable and we have ourselves a near-perfect winter companion!

KEEN has a reputation for toe space heading the list of priorities, and the Targhee III Waterproof proved it when we took them for a spin. Back in the lab, we measured the toe box with our trusty calipers. At the widest part of the toe box, the Targhee III Waterproof is wider than average by 6 mm, and 5 mm wider than average at the big toe. No cramped toes here! 

This boot feels stable and supportive underfoot on our hikes, even when carrying a heavy rucksack. We clamped it to our workbench in the lab and pushed it to a 90° angle using a force gauge. At 29N it’s around the average flexibility for hiking shoes, but the magic starts in cold weather. Simulating cold weather by leaving the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes, we then retested it. It became a mere 4.6% stiffer! This is good news because it means the shoe behaves as it should, whatever the weather.

The leather upper is augmented by the KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane, which together keep our feet warm and dry in wet and snowy conditions. We spied the tightly woven mesh of the tongue through our microscope; with such a dense fabric not even light can get through, let alone water! Yet when we pumped smoke into the shoe, a small but steady amount of smoke made it through. We scored it 2/5 for breathability, which is a bonus for a waterproof shoe, and makes this an adaptable shoe for all seasons, not just winter.

The sturdy nature of the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof adds up, and when we weighed it in the lab, we discovered this shoe is 3.77 oz (107g) heavier than average. In fact, it’s on a par with walking boots. We don’t recommend this shoe to hikers seeking a lightweight hiking shoe.


  • Grippy outsole
  • Good traction in muddy conditions
  • Excellent for winter hikes
  • Firm but protective cushioning
  • Well-constructed and durable upper
  • Lots of protective overlays
  • Amazing stability
  • Relatively breathable
  • No break-in time


  • Outsole durability could be better
  • Not ideal for narrow feet
Full review of KEEN Targhee III Waterproof

Winter hiking shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

Who wants a comfortable, grippy, warm and dry hiking shoe for winter adventures?! We certainly do. We chose the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX as the best winter hiking shoe with the best cushioning for that reason. Its plush midsole is comfortable and supportive in all weathers, its meaty lugs grip on all terrain and its 5* waterproofing makes it our go-to hiking shoe in for cold, wet winter hikes.

Hoka doesn’t settle for anything less that top-notch cushioning, and the Anacapa Low GTX is certainly no exception. In our lab tests, the midsole proved itself 24% softer than average when we tested it with our durometer. Not only that, but after spending 20 minutes in the freezer to simulate winter conditions, we tested it again and it had stiffened only to 27.5 HA. Even in sub-zero temperatures, it’s softer than other hiking shoes at room temperature by 10%! We find this an exceptionally comfortable shoe all year round. 

We tested this shoe on rocks, gravel, mud, snow and ice, and we were amazed at how well it handles everything. Back in the lab, we measured the lug depth with a caliper. It turns out the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX sports chunky 5 mm lugs, 17% deeper than average. No wonder we felt footsure and secure on our hikes!

The 10/10 waterproofing in this shoe is limited only by the collar height - in every other way it is completely flawless. It withstood 5 minutes standing in water, and our feet stayed completely dry! Our microscope images show how difficult the densely woven upper makes it for water to pass through. We even pumped smoke into the shoe to check how porous the upper is. No smoke seeped out, so we awarded it 1/5 for breathability - the lowest score, which indicates the highest waterproofing ability.

We don’t recommend the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX to backpackers due to their lack of ankle support. Alongside their soft midsole, we didn’t find they provided us with enough support for carrying a heavy rucksack.


  • Mind-blowing cushioning
  • Podiatrist-approved sole
  • Excellent grip
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Lightweight
  • Out-of-the-box comfort
  • Roomy toebox
  • Well-made
  • Contains recycled materials


  • GTX version only
  • Pricier than average
  • Weird-looking heel
Full review of Hoka Anacapa Low GTX

Winter hiking shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

On our winter hikes, we look for a stable shoe that keeps us from twisting an ankle, can grip well on frosty or icy surfaces, and remains comfortable in the cold. We found all that - and more! - in the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX, making it our most stable winter hiking shoe.

We put the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX through its paces on the trail and in the lab and we were blown away by its unbeatable stability. The Pro-Moderator technology embedded in the midsole is a force to be reckoned with, and prevents our ankles from rolling. With a firm heel counter rating 4/5 and a very rigid structure rating the stiffest score of 5/5, we felt secure and protected from twists and sprains. Overall, this shoe feels as solid as a boot on our feet, while retaining the freedom of a hiking shoe.

Snowy or muddy surfaces are no match for this shoe. Their 4.4 mm lugs are slightly deeper than the average 4.3 mm, and provide unmatched traction on everything from soft, muddy trails and snow to slippery rocks and asphalt. The rugged Continental outsole wins us over every time with its well-spaced chevron design, which sheds mud and stops us from slipping on loose descents.

With a heel stack 9% higher than average, our landings are superbly comfortable in the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX. We measured the plush midsole at 26 HA, making it 18% softer than average. What makes this such a good choice for winter hikes is that, after 20 minutes in the freezer and retesting with the durometer, the midsole had only become 17% firmer, measuring 30.5 HA, which is around the firmness of most hiking shoes at room temperature. In short, this shoe gives us a plush, comfy ride in all weathers!

We don’t recommend this shoe to hikers who prefer a low heel-to-toe drop and natural walking feel. With a heel stack height measuring 36.6 mm and a more flexible forefoot stack of 20.7 mm, the drop is a huge 15.9 mm. Since the average drop in hiking shoes is 12 mm, this may not be suitable for all hikers.


  • Boot-like stability
  • Highly durable and protective
  • Lightweight for what it offers
  • Excellent waterproofing
  • Breathable for a GTX shoe
  • Generously cushioned
  • Very secure foothold
  • Top-notch grip with deep lugs


  • Stuffy for summer
  • Can be too stiff (even stiffer in cold)
  • Break-in needed
Full review of Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX

3 things to focus on when buying winter hiking shoes

When hiking in winter, we distinguish between 3 different types of weather conditions: when it’s cold and dry, when it’s rainy/snowy, and when the surface is very wet. 

Based on them, we give different recommendations on what to look for in a hiking shoe: 

  1. It’s cold yet dry. Look for hiking shoes that are warm (i.e., don’t breathe well). In our lab, that means scoring 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 5. We consider these shoes winter-friendly.
  2. You expect rain or snow. Look for waterproof hiking shoes that don’t breathe well. By default, most of them don’t. Usually, their names contain waterproof, WP, or GTX. It’s also best when those shoes have gusseted tongues. 
  3. If the surface is wet, mushy, or soggy, the focus is on the grip. Look for hiking shoes with deep lugs (4 mm and above)

Regardless of these conditions, we prioritize shoes that don’t change their features significantly when taken to freezing temperatures. In the lab, we test that by measuring softness and flexibility at room temperature and at freezing temperatures.  


Yes, we simulate the cold weather by putting the shoes in the freezer. We cover this in detail further down. 

If you plan to hike in snowy conditions where the snow levels are higher than the bottom of your ankles, we advise getting a pair of hiking boots instead of shoes. The best thing is, they can be insulated, which means extra warmth! 

Prioritizing warmth in hiking shoes for winter 

Nobody likes frozen toes, so here’s our advice on how to find hiking shoes that provide warmth on winter days. We recommend shoes that are not breezy. In the lab, we test the breathability by pumping the smoke into the shoe and examining where and at which rate the smoke comes out. 

In this video, we see how a winter shoe on the right lets way less smoke out when compared to the breathable, summer shoe on the left. 

The breathability rating goes from 1 to 5. Shoes rated 1 or 2 we consider not breathable and, therefore, winter-friendly. 

We also examine the upper of the hiking shoes under the microscope. The non-breathable ones are very tightly woven with no perforation holes:

waterproof uppers under the microscope

Breathable ones, that score 4 or 5, are a completely different story. See examples in the image:

Breathable uppers on hiking shoes

Waterproof hiking shoes: Best protection from rain and snow

Winter hiking usually involves some exposure to wet elements. If this is your plan, we strongly recommend choosing hiking shoes that are waterproof

When doing wear-testing, we always test waterproof hiking shoes in the rain, puddles, shallow streams, and similar conditions. In the lab, we test the breathability that always corresponds to the waterproofness level we experienced in the field (waterproof shoes are by default less breathable).

If not sure whether the shoes are waterproof, be sure to check the full shoe name or the specifications. The most common waterproof membrane is called GORE-TEX or GTX.

GTX membranes on hiking shoes

There are other membranes like eVent® or Hydroguard®, and sometimes the name simply includes Waterproof or WP

Waterproof membranes in hiking shoes

Keep in mind that the waterproof hiking shoes are less breathable than the non-waterproof ones. 

Why gusseted tongues are a must

They are better at keeping the snow, water and debris outside of the shoe because they are attached to both sides of the shoe, just below the eyelets on the inner side. 

Here’s what a gusseted tongue looks like. It is fully attached to the sides: 


In the lab, we check the type of the tongue and note it down in the full-specs sheet. It’s easy to notice the type of gusset just by examining the shoe, but it is much more noticeable once the shoe has been cut in half. 

Lugs must be deep!

Deeper lugs simply bite into the ground better, especially when it’s wet: be it snow, mud, or slush. The deeper the lugs, the better the traction. We recommend 4 mm and above for soft and loose wet ground and up to 4 mm for hard, flat surfaces like rocks. In the lab, we measure the depth of the lugs with a caliper. 

In the example below, we can see that the Fivefingers V-Trek has lugs that are only 2.1 mm deep. On the right, however, the Anacapa Low GTX has 5-mm deep lugs.

Different depth of lugs on hiking shoes

However, if it’s mostly mud, which is the stickiest out of the three (snow, mud, slush), our recommendation is to look for lugs that are at least 4 mm deep and not too close to each other. When they have a bit more space between them, they shed the mud better. 

To explain it visually, have a look at Speedcross 6, which is a trail running shoe perfect for mud, and New Balance Nitrel 5, which is more of a do-it-all. Notice how the lugs are deeper and more distant on the first shoe that specializes in mud:

Winter hiking shoes outsole durability test

Durability of winter hiking shoes

Hiking shoes with deeper lugs are usually made of softer rubber. This rubber tends to be less durable, but it is not a rule. The durability of the upper in hiking shoes is always a topic of interest, as not all hikes happen on spotless trails. 

In our lab, we test for both using our Dremel. We press it against the upper and the outsole and measure or assess the damage they sustained. The durability of the upper is assessed on a scale 1-5, where 5 is the most durable. The outsole, however, is measured in the depth of the dent our Dremel has made. More millimeters, less durability.

If you’re worried about the durability of your next pair of hiking shoes, look at our list of top 5 most durable winter hiking shoes (here, we prioritized the outsole durability): 

How softness and flexibility change with the temperature

We like putting shoes in the freezer. Because this allows us to anticipate how the shoes will feel and perform in cold weather. 

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Midsole softness in cold

First, we measure a durometer to measure the softness of the hiking shoe. We push it against the midsole after we’ve cut the shoe in half. The lower the number on the durometer, the softer the shoe. 

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof iouer

Then, we measure the flexibility of the shoe we did not cut in half. We clamp it to the table and bend it with a force gauge. The higher the number (force) on the gauge, the stiffer the shoe. 

Then, we repeat this test after the shoe has spent 20 minutes in the freezer. For winter hiking, it is important that the changes (in %) are not big. The worst-case scenario is that the shoe stiffens up and firms up a lot (say 50% or more). If it also started with numbers higher than the average, then we can assume it will feel like a brick once taken to the cold area. 

See the top 5 hiking shoes that have firmed up the least in this test. We also added their change in flexibility. 

Socks for winter hiking 

Without a doubt, the best socks for winter are cushioned socks made of wool. Today, Merino wool is usually used, usually at least in some percentage. Wool socks dry quickly, which is very important in case your feet sweat, or the water/snow does get inside.


They also tend to stay odor-free, thanks to their natural antimicrobial feature. And, they are made of a natural material (unlike, say, nylon socks). And, as if we needed anything else, they tend to warm the feet even when they get wet (unlike, say, polyester socks). 

Before buying any kind of hiking shoes

If you’re actually new to hiking shoes, we suggest starting with the basics. From how to find the perfect fit in hiking shoes and which shoes are best for technical terrain to shoes for backpacking and types of midsoles. We’ve covered it all in the Best hiking shoes guide.

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic
Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.