Our verdict

We can't praise Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot enough for its quality comfort and toasty insulation. With its sneaker-like weight and flexibility, it proves that a winter boot doesn't have to feel like a brick. Even though we don't find it good for hiking per se, it is hard to beat as a city-to-trail option. What has delighted us even more is its affordable price tag.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Keeps you warm in cold weather
  • Effective waterproofing
  • Amazingly comfortable
  • Zero break-in period
  • Soft cushioning
  • Exceptionally flexible
  • Hard-wearing outsole
  • Reasonably priced
  • Stylish design

Cons

  • Not for serious hiking
  • Not so sturdy Cordura

Audience verdict

87
Great!

Who should buy

One of the lightest winter boots we have ever tested, the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot is a solid option if you:

  • want a super comfy winter boot that feels more like a sneaker
  • need an extra warm insulated boot (200g insulation)
  • look for a versatile boot that can go from streets to trails

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot review

Who should NOT buy

If temperatures don't drop below 40°F (5°C) in your area, the Fairbanks Omni-Heat is going to be an overkill. We recommend its lightened version, the Fairbanks Mid, for warmer conditions.

On the other hand, if you need a maximised level of protection, try Columbia's burlier high-top Bugaboot III (also 200g of insulation).

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot lab test

Breathability

It is pretty self-explanatory that an insulated winter boot is not a breathable one. But we still put the Fairbanks Omni-Heat boot through our smoke-pumping test to prove it.

With not even a hint of smoke passing through the boot's upper, we can confirm that this Columbia boot is sealed. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most breathable, we gave it the minimum score of 1.

According to Columbia, the Fairbanks features a sturdy Cordura fabric for the upper.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot microscope

Having a look at it through our microscope, we can see how incredibly tightly woven this textile is. It definitely adds airtightness to the boot.

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 1
Average 1.6
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Waterproofing

The interiors of this Fairbanks boot are lined with the Omni-Tech, the brand's proprietary waterproof membrane that is attached through seam-sealed construction.

Even though it's not the world-famous Gore-Tex membrane, we found it to be highly effective in downpours and snow.

Insulation

As an amazing partner for the winter, this boot is packed with 200 grammes of insulation under the Omni-Heat reflective lining. The idea behind it is that the tiny silver dots with aluminium will reflect the heat generated by the body and keep it inside the boot.

On freezing days (below 30°F/0°C), we were ecstatic to have this Columbia boot on as it created a really warm environment for our feet.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot laces collar

Durability

Toebox durability

Columbia claims that the Fairbanks' upper is made of Cordura. This sturdy fabric is known to be used in military wear thanks to its resistance to abrasion, scuffs, and tears. But is it just as durable on this Columbia boot?

Unfortunately, our durability test proved otherwise.

Using a Dremel, we drilled the boot's toebox at a 5K RPM speed for 12 seconds. The result was quite discouraging as the textile tore much easier compared to other hiking boots.

For that reason, we had to rate it with a lower-than-average score of 3.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot toebox durability test

For reference, the Salomon Outpulse Mid GTX's textile upper did much better in the same test, earning a higher score of 4.

Salomon Outpulse Mid GTX toebox durability result

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 3
Average 4.4
Compared to 21 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

On the other hand, the boot's interior lining showed much better wear resistance in the Dremel test.

After 4 seconds of drilling, the damage was minor enough to rate this boot's heel padding durability as 4 out of 5.

Knowing that the Omni-Heat lining doesn't scuff so easily is reassuring for a winter boot.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Heel padding durability test
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 4
Average 4
Compared to 21 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Even though the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat is not meant as a dedicated hiking boot, its outsole game is on par with some serious boots!

First of all, it's made of a pretty hard rubber compound. Based on our durometer, it comes in at 87.5 HC which is the same as the average of hiking footwear.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Outsole hardness
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 87.5 HC
Average 87.7 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
81.0 HC
Outsole hardness
92.1 HC

Outsole durability

Secondly, this rubber is not afraid of our Dremel. Drilling it for a good 22 seconds at a relentless speed of 10K RPM, the tool only caused a minor dent.

We used a tread gauge to measure the dent and got only 1.0 mm. This is how dpep the Dremel typically goes in hiking boots.

Great job, Columbia!

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Outsole durability
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 1.0 mm
Average 0.7 mm
Compared to 18 hiking boots
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Finally, we had to know how much rubber there is on the Fairbanks.

Our calliper showed that the outsole without lugs is 3.0 mm thick. This is also the same as the average of hiking boots and is considered a solid amount of protection.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Outsole thickness
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 3.0 mm
Average 3.0 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1.8 mm
Outsole thickness
5.6 mm

Weight

If you despise winter for having to wear heavy coats and boots, the Fairbanks is here to take care of the latter!

This Columbia boot blew our minds with its unmatched lightness. In a men's US size 9, the Fairbanks Omni-Heat weighs only 15.5 oz (439g)!

It is more than 3 oz lighter than winter boots on average (18.8 oz/532g)! On foot, it actually feels like a high-top sneaker.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Weight
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 15.49 oz (439g)
Average 18.48 oz (524g)
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
11.71 oz (332g)
Weight
28.29 oz (802g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Granted, this boot is not among the most cushioned ones. Measuring its heel stack with a calliper, we got only 30.8 mm.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Heel stack

This is notably lighter than the average hiking boot and feels minimalist compared to another popular winter boot from Columbia, the Bugaboot III (46.9 mm).

In terms of impact protection, we found the Fairbanks to be sufficiently cushioned. But some people may prefer a taller platform for winter months to keep their feet higher off the cold ground.

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 31.5 mm
Average 36.3 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
26.2 mm
Heel stack
46.9 mm

Forefoot stack

This boot also proved to be low-profile under the toes. With a 19.2 mm forefoot stack, it placed the foot a few millimetres closer to the ground than other boots.

This is what makes the Fairbanks feel so different from a typical boot. You have to cut off the platform to get a lighter and more flexible pair.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Forefoot stack
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 19.2 mm
Average 22.5 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
17.0 mm
Forefoot stack
30.7 mm

Drop

Looking at the difference in stack heights, we get a drop of 11.6 mm. This is a typical drop for a hiking boot.

Having a raised heel helps to relieve the pressure from the Achilles and calves, especially if you are carrying a backpack.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Drop
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 12.3 mm
Average 13.8 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
2.6 mm
Drop
20.9 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Walking in the Columbia Fairbanks feels pleasurable for one more reason - its cushioning is softer than usual! Seems like the boot's Techlite Comfort System lives up to its name.

Our experience was backed up by the durometer measurements too. With a reading of 18.9 HA, the boot's foam is 33% plusher than the average!

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Midsole softness

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 18.9 HA
Average 27.1 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
15.4 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
53.3 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

But most foams get significantly firmer in low temperatures. Does this Columbia boot also turn into a brick in winter?

As it turns out, it doesn't!

Having kept the Fairbanks in the freezer for 20 minutes, we repeated the durometer measurement. The foam did get 22.5% firmer but it was still softer than most boots at room temperature!

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 22.5%
Average 19.3%
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Secondary foam softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The boot's cushioning wouldn't be complete without a well-padded insole.

In the Fairbanks, we found it to be 6.0 mm thick, which is perfect for a winter boot.

Insole thickness

The boot's cushioning wouldn't be complete without a well-padded insole.

In the Fairbanks, we found it to be 6.0 mm thick, which is perfect for a winter boot.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Insole thickness
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 6.0 mm
Average 6.1 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
3.7 mm
Insole thickness
10.7 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

The base of the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat is not particularly wide or narrow. In the widest part of the forefoot, we measured its sole at 114.3 mm, just the same as the average.

Torsional rigidity

The Fairbanks Omni-Heat is all about natural foot movement. It feels very different from a traditional stiff hiker.

First of all, it's got no shank or any other stabilising features inside the midsole. Twisting the boot in our manual test made us think that we could do yoga in it.

Torsional rigidity is nearly absent here and gets a low score of 2 out of 5.

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 2
Average 4.3
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

As our squeeze-and-push test revealed, the boot has absolutely no structure in the collar either! We gave it the lowest rating of 1 out of 5 for stiffness.

While some people like such freedom of movement, many are used to having solid ankle support in their boots. For that reason, we cannot recommend the Fairbanks to folks with severe overpronation.

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 1
Average 3.5
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The base of the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat is not particularly wide or narrow. In the widest part of the forefoot, we measured its sole at 114.3 mm, just the same as the average.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 114.3 mm
Average 111.6 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
96.3 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
124.6 mm

Midsole width in the heel

As for the widest part of the heel, it turns out to be a little narrower than average at 84.6. But if you keep this boot to hard-packed and well-maintained trails, it won't be an issue at all.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 84.6 mm
Average 87.9 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
71.7 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

The Fairbanks Omni-Heat is by far the most flexible winter boot we've tested. It is even bendier than some running shoes!

To show exactly how pliable this boot is, we measured the force it takes to bend it to a 90-degree angle. Needing as little as 16.6N, this Columbia boot is a whopping 140% more flexible than average!

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 16.6N
Average 44.9N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
16.6N
Stiffness
84.7N

Difference in stiffness in cold

Amazingly enough, even after being exposed to low temperatures, the Fairbanks remains exceptionally flexible.

Having spent 20 minutes in the freezer and getting 33.7% stiffer, the Columbia Fairbanks is still 150% bendier than the average hiking boot.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Difference in stiffness in cold
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 33.7%
Average 25.4%
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
100%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

Measuring the lug depth on the Fairbanks Omni-Heat, we got 3.0 mm. This is not the kind of treading you need for technical trails and slippery slopes.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Lug depth

We recommend sticking to less challenging and more even terrains when wearing this Columbia boot. It can handle moderate amounts of slush, ice, and snow but only on level ground.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot outsole

Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 3.0 mm
Average 4.2 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
3.0 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Medium-width feet are going to feel right at home in the Fairbanks Omni-Heat.

Based on our calliper measurements, its toebox comes in at 102.7 mm in its widest part which is a standard width for hiking boots.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 102.7 mm
Average 101.8 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
95.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
110.2 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The boot's toebox doesn't get too tapered toward the toes either. Our calliper shows 77.6 mm at the big toe mark, which is a normal width for this area.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 77.6 mm
Average 78.4 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
67.6 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
91.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

As expected from a waterproof and insulated boot, both sides of its tongue are fully attached (or gusseted). This is essential for keeping the interior warm and free from snow and debris.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

Despite packing 200g of insulation, the boot's tongue doesn't get too puffy. Measuring its thickness with a calliper, we got 9.2 mm - only slightly thinner than average.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Tongue padding
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot 9.2 mm
Average 11.0 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
5.9 mm
Tongue padding
22.3 mm

Heel tab

Having a pull tab is really necessary in the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat. Because of the boot's collapsing collar, it can be tricky to get it on fast.

But the problem is that the heel tab is made of suede and is a little slippery between the fingers. We would appreciate a finger loop here instead.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Heel tab
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Pull tab

Removable insole

If you happen to need a custom pair of inserts, the boot's stock insole is easy to remove.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Removable insole
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Be careful when it gets dark! The Fairbanks Omni-Heat has no reflective elements on it.

Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot Reflective elements
Test results
Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot No