3 Best Snow Hiking Shoes in 2024

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
3 Best Snow Hiking Shoes in 2024
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Keep your tootsies cozy on your next chilly escapade with the right pair of snow hiking shoes. After trudging through ice and snow in different pairs of shoes, we picked our chosen models that will keep you warm and protected all winter long.

The current offerings are actually pretty superb when it comes to high-quality snow-specific designs, features, and overall performance. From trusted and dependable brands like Chaco, Adidas, and Vivobarefoot, your precious piggies will definitely remain comfy throughout the adventure.

We’ve done the investigation, field-testing, and even lab testing to rank our selections of the best snow hiking shoes available in our inventory. To get you started right away, we have created our in-depth shoe profiles and reviews of each pair on the list.

How we test hiking shoes

For this guide, we’ve subjected each model to a battery of real-life hiking tests, clocking up 30-50 miles of chilly outdoor jaunts. We’ve also brought all the shoes inside our RunRepeat shoe lab for closer inspection and analysis of the materials and technologies integrated into the models.

Our ranking process involves:

  • Putting in the time, energy, and our own money to buy the snow hiking shoes for our wear tests. This ensures the 100% objectivity of our assessments.
  • Taking each pair on actual hiking excursions to get a personal experience of its fit, comfort, insulation, traction, and overall performance. We test all the models further to see how they perform during moderate to extreme winter conditions.
  • Dissecting the shoes to see and measure all of their components. We also quantified the properties of the shoes. One example is the midsole and outsole hardness which we record by pressing our durometer to the said parts, displaying the hardness level in the HA unit of measurement.

Best snow hiking shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The Salomon X Ultra 4 came out on top as the best overall snow hiking shoe on our test hikes and in the lab. Its Gore-Tex lining keeps our feet warm and dry in rain and snow, the toothy outsole displays fabulous grip on all terrain and with a fully integrated support system, we can hike confidently all year round.

The Salomon X Ultra 4 passed our classic puddle test with flying colors! The Gore-Tex worked wonders and didn’t let a drop of water into the shoe. The high ankle collar helps to keep water and snow out. We pumped smoke into the lab to test for breathability - we rated the shoe as the least breathable 1/5. This is a bonus in cold weather as it keeps the warm air right where we want it - in the shoe!

The Contragrip outsole has toothy lugs measuring 4.5 mm, a little over the average of 4.3 mm. With 41 well-spaced lugs, including a sturdy one at the heel, we find them to work perfectly in snow, mud, gravel and wet grass.

The high collar supports our ankles, and Salomon’s integrated support system delivers a lockdown which is second to none. In the lab, we rated the heel counter as a stiff 5/5, and we experienced no heel slippage whatsoever. There is no doubt in our minds that the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX is a superbly stable shoe and is a force to be reckoned with.

Our measurements at the forefoot show that the Salomon X Ultra 4 is not for wide-footed hikers. Measuring just 108.2 mm, it is 3 mm narrower than average. Hikers with wide feet are advised to look elsewhere.

Pros

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

Cons

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

Snow hiking shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

Our winter adventuring doesn’t need to stop just because the snow has fallen. After testing several hiking shoes, we decided on the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX as the best snow hiking shoe with the best cushioning. We put the plush midsole through its paces in winter conditions, and it beat its peers every time. Its aggressive lugs champion traction on snow and ice. This waterproof shoe ticks all the boxes when it comes to comfort in snowy conditions.

Both our hikes and subsequent lab tests confirm that Hoka’s reputation for its luxurious cushioning is well deserved. Of course, there is the notorious protruding heel, which offers deliciously smooth transitions. But these shoes simply pack in a lot of material underfoot. We measured the stack height with a caliper and found the heel to be 2.5 mm higher than average, and the forefoot a mighty 4 mm higher than average! This is to counteract the deliciously plush midsole. Our durometer measured the midsole at 23.3 HA, 24% softer than average! It’s no wonder this shoe displays unbeatable all-day comfort!

It isn’t enough to have a soft midsole at room temperature if it firms up in the cold. That’s where our freezer tests come in. We left the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes before testing the midsole softness a second time. We measured 27.5 HA, which is still softer than the average of 30.7 HA for hiking shoes at room temperature! We also tested the flexibility in the cold. This shoe only gets 37% stiffer than at room temperature, while most hiking shoes get 49% stiffer! Altogether, this shoe performs admirably in cold weather.

Out on hikes, we tested the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX on mud, gravel, wet grass, snow and ice, and it passed all of our tests with flying colors. We understood why when we brought the shoes into the lab and analyzed the lugs. Measuring 5 mm, these shoes possess sturdy lugs that are 16% deeper than average. We felt completely footsure throughout our hikes.

Our measurements of the toe box made us doubt this shoe’s ability to accommodate wider feet. At the widest part of the toe box, these shoes measure 95.4 mm, 3.6 mm narrower than average. We therefore don’t recommend this shoe to hikers with wide feet.

Pros

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

Cons

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

Snow hiking shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

There are a few pointers that we look for in stable snow hiking shoes – lateral stability, grip and waterproofing being the main ones. The Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX feels as stable as a boot with the freedom of movement of a shoe. It combines all the elements above, earning its place as the most stable snow hiking shoe.

With the silhouette of a regular hiking shoe, the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX may not look like it’s up to much, but it actually packs a massive punch in terms of stability. For starters, it has Pro-Moderator technology embedded in the midsole, which stabilises our foot. We twisted the shoe in the lab, and it came up trumps with a 5/5 score for rigidity. A subtle bulge around the forefoot proved itself to be 3.3 mm wider than the average hiking shoe, making for an impeccably stable landing platform. Even on the roughest trails, we felt safe and surefooted.

Whatever the weather, we trust this shoe to keep our feet warm and dry. When we took a closer look at the fabric upper under our microscope, we understood why water has such a hard time getting in. The densely woven fibres and Gore-Tex membrane coupled with a fully gusseted tongue keep the water and snow out of the shoe and our feet dry!

As we would expect, the Continental outsole doesn’t let us down on mud or snow. We measured the lugs to be 4.4 mm, a little over the average 4.3 mm. They offer heaps of traction on soft and loose ground, and the chevron design grips well in both snow and mud.

The multiple overlays of the upper make the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX feel pretty stiff, and we needed a bit of time to break them in. Hikers needing something ready to go straight out of the box may want to research other options.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

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

The winter is not a dead and dreary time when you are forced to hibernate inside and wait for the spring. Instead, the winter and all its snowy glory can be a time for romping around in the snow, going for winter hikes, building snowmen and igloos, and sledding.

To enjoy all the fun activities that come with winter, we recommend a reliable and warm pair of snow hiking shoes. Due to versatility, they can even be worn for “not so fun” activities like running errands around town.

Core concepts of snow hiking shoes

When shopping for snow hiking shoes, there are five key features you want to look out for.

  1. Sufficient interior insulation.
  2. Grippy outsole and a lug profile designed for wet surfaces.
  3. Water-resistant materials in the exterior and a waterproof interior membrane.
  4. Gusseted tongue for extra weatherproofing and heat retention.
  5. Protective toe cap for added durability.

Insulation to keep your feet warm

Insulation sets snow hiking shoes apart from regular hiking shoes. Therefore, insulation is one of the most important components of snow hiking shoes. Ironically, insulation in hiking shoes can be somewhat convoluted to understand.

Shoe insulation specs do not refer to the total weight of insulation inside the shoe. Instead, insulation ratings refer to the thickness of the insulation used inside the shoe.

Let us explain more. A shoe with an advertised 600g of insulation does not weigh an additional 600 grams because of the insulation on the inside. That would be a lot!

Instead, the 600g insulation rating tells you that the insulation weighs 600 grams per square meter. Grams per square meter is the standardized unit of measurement for hiking shoe insulation.

Weight (Grams/ Square Meter)

Recommended Temperature Range

Season

Recommended Uses

100 grams

40 to 50 degrees F

3- season

  • Urban winters
  • Chilly evenings

200 grams

30 to 40 degrees F

3-season

  • Playing outside in the snow
  • Winter hikes

400 grams 

14 to 30 degrees F

3-season

  • Snowy and wet weather
  • Long exposure to cold

600 grams

-5 to 10 degrees F

Winter

  • Very cold weather
  • Winter backpacking 

800 grams

-20 to -10 degrees F

Winter

  • Long exposure to extremely cold weather

Traction on slippery surfaces

The second most important component of hiking shoes designed for the snow is the traction they provide. The word traction refers to the friction created when the shoe's outsole comes into contact with the ground. With good traction, your shoes provide you with a reliable grip.

Traction is measured using a measurement called the coefficient of friction (COF). The COF is a numerical value that ranges between zero and one. COF measurements closer to zero reflects very slippery traction. On the other hand, COF values closer to one reflect total traction.

Snow hiking shoe manufacturers use the science behind the COF of shoes to equip their footwear with the best possible outsole. In doing so, they use specific rubber compounds and lug profiles (also known as tread patterns) designed for specific terrain types and weather.

For example, the Adidad Terrex Free Hiker Cold RDY uses a Continental Winter Grip, an outsole designed specifically for winter conditions.

Waterproofing to keep your feet dry

Waterproofing can be very important for snow hiking shoes. Especially if you predict you will experience prolonged exposure to wet and snowy terrain. Hiking shoes are considered waterproof when they incorporate a waterproof membrane in the shoe’s interior. The membrane prevents moisture from soaking through the shoe, creating a drier and more insulated environment.

For example, the Salomon Outbound Prism GTX uses a Gore-tex membrane on the shoe's interior. Gore-tex liners will prevent water from seeping into the shoe, but they will not keep your feet dry if water or snow enters the shoe over the low-cut collar.

Waterproof membranes are super convenient for snow hiking shoes. However, if you don’t predict you’ll use the shoe in super wet conditions, the extra weight and cost may not be worth it. Not to mention the decreased breathability.

Instead, a better option may be a snow hiking show that utilizes water-resistant materials. Water-resistant materials naturally repel small amounts of moisture. But when exposed to large amounts of water, they will soak through. For example, the Chaco Ramble Puff or the Vivobarefoot Magna FG (a zero-drop shoe).    

Gusseted tongue to keep out snow

Gusseted tongues are a major upgrade compared to regular tongues. A gusseted tongue is a major advantage for snow hiking shoes because it helps prevent moisture and debris from entering your shoes via the gaps in the top of the shoe. They accomplish this because they are sewn into the sides of the hiking shoe, leaving no gaps.

All of the shoes we reviewed in this article use a gusseted tongue design or something better. For example, the Salomon Outbound Prism GTX has a gusseted tongue for extra protection. Whereas the Chaco Ramble Puff avoids a traditional tongue and laces altogether. For added protection, they even have a mid-height collar for hiking in deeper snow.

A protective toe cap for added durability 

If you are like us, then you have stubbed your toes thousands of times while out on the trails. That’s why we are big fans of protective toe caps on all hiking shoes.

But toe caps don’t just protect your toes and enhance the durability of your shoes by preventing the outsole from delaminating.

Toe caps are extra critical for snow hiking shoes because they add structure to the shoe and prevent the shoe from collapsing when you put on tight-fitting micro-spikes or crampons for extra traction.     

Temperature ratings for snow hiking shoes

Most snow hiking shoe manufacturers will provide temperature ratings with their products. These ratings are supposed to reflect the amount of insulation in the shoe and provide guidance about its intended usage.

However, temperature ratings for hiking shoes are, by and large– estimates. That is because there is no standard way of taking temperature ratings like there is for measuring insulation.

The warmth of snow hiking shoes will vary based on various factors, including their activity level, local climate, weight, sex, age, and socks. So it’s best to take recommended temperature ratings with a grain of salt and to base your decisions only on your experiences.

Socks for snow hiking shoes

Socks play an integral role in keeping your feet warm and dry during snowy adventures. Therefore, selecting the right pair of socks for snow hiking is essential.

Moisture-wicking fabric

We recommend using Merino wool socks for snow hiking. Wool socks are great for winter adventures for various reasons.

  • They insulate your feet and keep them warm. 
  •  Wool socks transport moisture away from your feet so the moisture can evaporate.
  • They are lightweight yet durable and keep their shapes for many years.
  • Wool is famous for being anti-static and anti-odor, which is convenient for smelly feet. 

Ventilation to prevent overheating 

Having socks with good ventilation may sound counterintuitive for snow hiking. However, good ventilation or breathability is super important. The more your socks can ventilate, the less likely your feet will overheat. Ventilation also promotes drying, so your feet don’t get soaked. 

Thickness to keep your feet warm

Socks come in a variety of thicknesses and weights. This is so you can match the thickness of your sock to your footwear, the predicted climate, and your intended activity.

Generally speaking, heavier and thicker socks insulate your feet more, keeping them warmer. However, they may also be more susceptible to overheating. In this case, you may be better off with a lighter or mid-weight sock.

It all depends. What’s important is to have a selection of socks so you can wear the appropriate pair based on what you learn about how warm your shoes keep your feet for certain activities.

Cut that matches your footwear

The general rule of thumb for socks is to wear a pair with a cut that ends above the shoe’s collar. For example, if you are wearing hiking boots, you would want to wear wool crew socks designed for hiking. On the other hand, for low-cut hiking shoes, you might consider quarter-crew socks.

Whatever the case, remember that snow hiking is cold. So the more protection and insulation, the better.

Tips for keeping your feet warm

The first step towards keeping your feet warm in snowy conditions is wearing the right footwear. After that, you may consider some of these tips to keep your toes warm and toasty no matter how low the temperature drops. 

Using toe warmers

We love toe warmers. They are a super lightweight and economical way to add more warmth to your snow hiking shoes. We recommend keeping a few spare toe warmers in your car or hiking backpack, that way, they are ready when you arrive at the trailhead and it’s colder than you predicted.

Unfortunately, toe warmers are only good for single use. If you are interested in more sustainable options, check out our other tips!   

Adding another insulating layer

You know your feet the best. So if you predict you will struggle with cold feet, despite having insulated hiking shoes, you may want to invest in adding a supplemental insulating linger or insole. You may even consider wearing two socks.

To make this possible, we recommend sizing your hiking shoes big enough to accommodate the extra materials. 

Wearing gaiters

Gaiters are protective garments that you attach to your hiking shoes. Gaiters protect your lower legs while simultaneously covering the tops of your shoes. Gaiters block snow, ice, rain, and other debris from entering through your shoe’s laces or over the shoe’s cuff.

We like gaiters because they are easy to put on and take off. Plus, you can use them on multiple pairs of hiking shoes. However, if you don’t want to invest in additional gaiters for your snow hiking shoes, then check out the Adidad Terrex Free Hiker Cold RDY. This shoe comes with a high-tech integrated gaiter closure system.

Not over-tightening your laces

It is common for hikers to want to overtighten their shoes. The thought is that with tight laces, you can keep your feet warmer and keep debris out of your shoes. However, overtightening your shoes may do more harm than good.

Overtightening can restrict the blood circulation going down to your feet. Without proper circulation, your feet will begin to get cold. They will tingle and, eventually, go numb.

Overtightening can also prevent heat from escaping and moisture from evaporating from the insides of your shoes. As a result, you may be left with sweaty and uncomfortable feet.

To avoid this outcome, we recommend tightening your laces up to the point where your foot is secure within the shoe and no more.

Avoiding cotton socks

When you go out for a hike in the snow, the last thing you want to do is wear cotton socks. Why? Because cotton socks are like sponges. As you exert yourself, your feet will heat up. To cool down, they will perspire, releasing moisture (sweat). Your cotton socks will soak up the moisture and hold onto it, preventing evaporation.

Afterward, you will be left wet. Over time, your wet feet will begin to freeze and not be able to reheat. After a while, your cold feet will be susceptible to cold-related injuries like frostbite. And your wet socks and skin will promote chafing and blistering. 

Frequently asked questions

How much insulation do my snow hiking shoes need?

How much insulation your shoes need will depend. Personal preference, climate, and activity level will all steer you in a certain direction. Therefore, it’s largely a personal decision. Ask yourself some simple questions to help you decide.

  • How cold is your local climate?
  • Do your feet run hot or cold?
  • Do you experience circulation issues?
  • What activity do you plan to use your shoes for?    

Which socks are best for snow hiking?

In our opinion, socks made with Merino wool are the all-time undisputed champions. However, socks made with synthetic fibers can also be a good choice. Synthetic fibers wick away moisture, are durable and dry very quickly. However, if we are being honest, they are notorious for developing odors.   

Do snow hiking shoes have to be waterproof?

No, snow hiking shows do not have to be waterproof. However, it is a major advantage if your shoes can keep your feet warm and dry in snowy conditions. This is especially true if you enjoy taking long hikes in snowy climates and terrain.

However, water-resistant shoes may be a better option if you are looking for a shoe to keep your feet warm during short hikes or for errands around town during the winter.

Can I use my regular hiking shoes in the snow? 

Yes, you can, but it may not be worth it. Regular hiking shoes will not be equipped with insulation. They may also not include a waterproof membrane or water-resistant materials. In this case, your feet may get wet and cold and become uncomfortable. Not to mention they may also become susceptible to cold-related injuries like frostbite. Therefore, if you plan to do any adventuring in the snow, it’s a good idea to have a pair of snow hiking shoes that can handle wintery conditions.

Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto
Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and run all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.