7 Best Winter Hiking Boots in 2024

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Winter Hiking Boots in 2024
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No one wants cold feet during winter hiking. So, if you want to keep your toes warm and cosy on your next chilly hiking adventure, check out our list of best winter hiking boots.

We have tested winter hiking boots to let you know our top picks. Whether you want the warmest, the lightest, the most comfortable, or all-in-one boot, we’ve selected the best option in each category.

On top of that, we also included the need-to-know facts and tips on winter boots in the guide section.

How we test hiking boots

We believe that each hiking boot is deserving of our complete and utter attention to make sure that all of them are equally scrutinised with no shoes left behind. In relation to equality, we preserve our fairness in sharing our views and opinions by acquiring all the hiking boots using our hard-earned money.

After getting our hands on the boots, we wear them on real treks and hikes on various trails and mountains while tackling obstacles and different conditions. We invest a significant period of time in each of them to widely gain experiences and observations that can help us conclude the advantages and drawbacks of the shoes.

We make sure that our conclusions are backed by science. We explore more about the shoes inside our lab by measuring their different parameters using our tools and machines. One thing we investigate is how much a winter hiking boot stiffens up when subjected to cold temperatures. We stick the boots in our freezer for 20 minutes and we use our digital force gauge to acquire the before and after force resistance to bending, which is inversely proportional to flexibility. We then compare the values to each other and compute how much the value changes from room temperature to freezing. 

Finally, we cut the shoes in half to reveal everything inside them.

Best winter hiking boots overall

What makes it the best?

We love it when we find a boot that keeps us motivated to get out in the mountains, even when the days are shorter and colder. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX shines as our best overall winter hiking boot because it supports our ankles on long days, provides unrivalled traction and handles those wet days unlike no other. All this fits into a boot that weighs less than the thermos of tea in your backpack!

Ankle protection in this shoe starts from the laces. Interestingly, Salomon went for traditional laces in the X Ultra Mid GTX, which helps us to get a very secure lockdown. The laces are attached by a strap to a plastic shank in the midsole. This keeps our feet well and truly locked in and prevents us from twisting our ankles when rock hopping.

In the lab, our calliper measured the lug depth at 5.1 mm. Just 0.7 mm deeper than the average for hiking boots, they still made us feel confident as mountain goats on steep, slippery ascents. The sturdy lug on the heel helped us keep our speed in check on the way down, too!

It wouldn’t be a winter hike without encountering some water, so we had to test these boots by standing in a stream. Even after a minute of being submerged, our feet were still completely dry. In the lab, we found this was partially due to the full gusset on the tongue, and the high ankle collar also helps to keep the water out. On weighing the boots, we found they weigh in just below average - at 13.8 oz (390g), they are a whopping 29% lighter than the average waterproof boot.

For those hikers expecting to walk in consistently muddy conditions, we don’t recommend these boots. The 41 lugs are necessarily closely spaced, which gives them a hard time shedding mud. We found this made us slip on muddy trails.

Pros

  • The boot of choice for multi-day hikes
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Excellent grip
  • Supportive midsole
  • Detailed ground feel
  • Great ankle support
  • Protective
  • Perfect lacing system

Cons

  • Midsole may be thin for some
  • Very stiff in colder climates
Full review of Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX

Best lightweight winter hiking boots

What makes it the best?

After thorough testing both in the lab and out on the trail in all weather, we chose the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX as our best lightweight winter hiking boots. This high-spec boot is unbelievably light for its category, and it retains its incredible performance under winter conditions by remaining comfortably flexible and grippy. There is so much to rave about in this boot!

Ultra-supportive boots of this calibre average around 17.9 oz (508g), but the Ultra Raptor II Mid surprised us by feeling light and nimble on our hikes. We weighed them back in the lab and discovered that they manage to knock an impressive 3.3 oz (93g) off the average. No wonder our legs still had energy to burn after a long day on the trail!

The delicious comfort that we experience while hiking in these boots comes in part from their ability to flex while keeping our feet supported. At room temperature, our flex test showed the boot to be 19% more flexible than average, but we were interested to know how that translates to winter conditions. Leaving it in the freezer for 20 minutes, we clamped it down once again and pushed it to 90° with a force gauge. It had only stiffened 40.2N, the average for most boots at room temperature, and 21% more flexible than those same boots in the cold! This truly is an excellent cold-weather hiking boot.

On the trail, we felt surefooted and stable on gravel, scree, mud, packed earth, and rock. In the lab, we measured the lug depth. Measuring 4.3 mm, they are only 0.2 mm deeper than average, but it’s the tread pattern that works its magic in all conditions. With a mix of narrow, toothy treads and broad ones, the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX is able to adapt to changing terrain without a second thought.

Despite measuring 99.8 mm at the forefoot, which is around our lab average, all its protective overlays leave little room for breaking in the toe box of the Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX. Hikers with wide feet should be aware of this limitation, and head directly for the wide option.

Pros

  • Unbelievably lightweight
  • Excellent waterproofing
  • Doesn't let debris and falling rain/snow inside
  • Exceptionally robust and durable
  • Phenomenal grip on technical terrain
  • Not so stiff and firm in low temperature
  • Great impact protection
  • Highly supportive collar
  • Ample flexibility

Cons

  • Tight fit
  • Narrow platform
Full review of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX

Best winter hiking boots for backpacking

What makes it the best?

Hikers looking for a do-it-all hiking boot for winter backpacking, it truly doesn’t get any better than the Salomon Quest 4 GTX. Astoundingly stable and supportive, especially while carrying a heavy pack, this boot kept our feet warm and dry on the coldest days and protected from unexpected bumps and scrapes.

Salomon’s reputable ADV-C 4D Chassis stabiliser in the midsole is once again put to work in the Quest 4 GTX. In the lab, we twisted the boot torsionally, awarding it the most rigid score of 5/5. It worked like a dream on our test hikes, and we found hiking over rough terrain while carrying a heavy load a breeze. The fully integrated system holds our feet and ankles firmly and we feel confident on rocky trails.

The Quest 4 GTX houses an impeccable Gore-Tex membrane which keeps our feet toasty and dry while hiking in snow or even stream crossings. The high collar and gusseted tongue stop water, snow, and debris from getting into the boot. We checked for breathability in the lab by pumping smoke into the boot and assessing how much smoke came out. It scored 1/5 for breathability, making it highly waterproof and warm - the perfect combination for winter hiking!

The Salomon Quest 4 GTX seriously outdoes itself in the durability department, with its rubber toe cap and sturdy upper. Returning from our test hike with barely a scratch to show for it, we put the boot to the test in the lab with our Dremel. After 12 seconds of exposure at 5K RPM and a force of 3.2N, there was only a minor scratch on the surface. We have no doubts that this boot is a force to be reckoned with!

At 23.4 oz (663g), the Salomon Quest 4 GTX is on the heavy side, compared to our lab average of 17.9 oz (508g) for waterproof hiking boots. Moderate hikers looking for something lighter may want to look at other options.

Pros

  • Exceptional durability
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Excellent impact protection
  • Highly secure ankle support
  • Fantastic stability
  • Comfortable in-boot feel
  • Effective grip on various terrain
  • Fits as expected

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Gets very stiff in cold
Full review of Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Best winter hiking boots with a wide toebox

What makes it the best?

Hikers with wide feet will be pleased to find a kindred spirit in the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid. Not only does it have an ultra-wide toe box, but it retains its flexible characteristics in cold weather, and feels sturdy and grounded. After thorough testing in the lab and on the trail, we declare the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid to be the best winter hiking boots with a wide toe box.

KEEN’s iconic silhouette prioritises toe comfort, and the Targhee III Waterproof Mid is no exception. At the widest part, our lab measurements proved that the toe box is 4.3 mm wider than average, rising to 6.5 mm wider than average at the big toe. Our feel had ample room to splay out and wriggle.

For such a robust, leather boot, we were surprised to find how flexible the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof felt on our feet while hiking. It flexed well with our feet, so we brought it into the lab to dive deeper. Pushing it to 90° with a force gauge, we found that it is an incredible 32% more flexible than average at room temperature. As astounding as that news is, this boot wins all the prizes in the cold. After chilling it thoroughly in the freezer for 20 minutes, we restested it. It stiffened by only 9.1%, meaning it will feel like practically the same shoe whatever the weather. Compared to the average hiking boots in the cold, it is 46% more flexible in sub-zero temperatures! This is truly the champion of winter hiking!

Stream crossings and rainy days proved no match for the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid’s waterproofing. The leather upper prevents water from getting in by its very nature, and we double-checked the weave of the tongue fabric under our microscope. The incredibly dense weave makes it hard for water to penetrate. The KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane finishes the job, and our feet stay warm and dry, even on wet winter days.

We don’t recommend the KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid to hikers looking for a lightweight winter boot. Tipping the scales at 18.2 oz (515g), these boots are slightly heavier than the average 17.9 oz (508g). For a lightweight option of the same quality, take a look at the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX.

Pros

  • Extremely stable
  • Great ankle support
  • Generously padded and comfortable
  • Secure heel hold
  • Flexible
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Laudable warmth
  • Performs very well in the cold
  • Excellent grip on various terrain
  • Short to zero break-in period
  • Commendable toe cap
  • Roomy toebox

Cons

  • Stuffy in the summer
  • Lacklustre outsole durability
  • Firm midsole
  • Not ideal for narrow feet
Full review of KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

Best 200g insulated winter hiking boots

What makes it the best?

On freezing winter days, it’s time to bring out the Colombia Bugaboot III. The leather upper and insulated padding keeps our feet warm when it’s below 0°C outside. It is extremely durable, and has the perfect winter midsole, making it our best winter hiking boots with 200g of insulation.

Whether hiking in the wilds or shovelling snow in the driveway, the 200g of insulation packed around our feet keeps us warm in temperatures below freezing. Due to the leather upper, padding and 7-inch collar, the boots scored 1/5 in our breathability tests, making them some of the least breathable boots we’ve ever tested! It presents no problem in cold weather since frigid air can’t enter the boot, and snow has a hard time entering over the high collar. Freezing toes are a thing of the past. 

This boot looks like a workhorse, keeping our feet protected from hidden objects in deep snow. It even passed our durability tests with flying colours! The heavily layered rubber toe cap stood up to our Dremel, with an impressively small amount of damage after 4 seconds. We awarded it the most durable rating of 5/5.

At room temperature, the midsole measures 27.5 HA, a little softer than the average of 29 HA. Not only does this make for a really comfy boot, but it still keeps our feet well-supported on our hikes. But where this shoe really comes up with the goods is in cold weather. We retested the midsole with a durometer after the boot had spent 20 minutes in the freezer, finding it had only become 21.5% firmer. We can still expect high-quality performance from this boot, even on a chilly winter’s day!

On the downside, when we tested it for flexibility, this boot turned out to be very stiff, requiring 47N to push it to 90°, making it 14% stiffer than average. For this reason we don’t recommend it to hikers looking for a more agile boot.

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping comfort
  • Remarkable insulation
  • Watertight upper
  • Excellent durability
  • Plenty of cushioning
  • High level of support
  • Reliable grip
  • Affordable for its kind

Cons

  • Restrictive toebox
  • Heavier than average
Full review of Columbia Bugaboot III

Winter hiking boots with the best support

What makes it the best?

We cut open the best winter hiking boots in the lab and took them out for a spin in search of the most supportive boot — it’s no other than the Asolo Fugitive GTX. Its watertight, protective upper and firm cushion kept us safe from unwanted elements and delivered one-of-a-kind steadiness on snow.

With its water-repellant and heat-preserving construction, our feet stayed warm and dry through winter, leaving no excuses to skip our training. The mesh upper is so tightly woven that light barely passed through in our breathability test. Further ensuring our safety are the rubberized toe bumpers, suede upper, and fully gusseted tongue.

The firm cushion preserves our balance even as we tackle rocky and uneven terrains. The stacked heel ensures protection from sharp objects, while the modest forefoot balances it off with some ground feel. What also keeps us stable is the rigid build that prevents awkward foot movements. Our bend test confirms it’s a whopping 97.2% stiffer than average!

Grip is a must in icy routes, and Fugitive GTX keeps us steady on slick surfaces with its firm clasping traction and 3.6 mm various-shaped lugs.

While the outsole rubber is durable, its glue to the midsole is disappointing. After just a few test hikes, the outsole began to unpeel. 

Pros

  • Superb adhesion and traction
  • Great impact dampening
  • Worth the price
  • Waterproof
  • Reliably supportive
  • Feels light on the foot
  • Zero break-in
  • Balance preserver

Cons

  • Outsole started peeling off
  • Not-so-cushy footbed
Full review of Asolo Fugitive GTX

Best winter boots for urban hiking

What makes it the best?

Of all the winter hiking boots we lab-tested and wore on the streets, Fairbanks Omni-Heat topped the urban hiking list. Its unmatched lightness and sneaker-like flexibility make it stand out. We enjoyed staying outdoors despite sub-zero temperatures since Fairbanks ensures our feet stay comfortable and insulated all day.

We’re blown away with how this Columbia boot doesn't feel like a brick. At 15.5 oz (439g), it's significantly lighter than the 18.4 oz (521g) average hiking boot. Fairbanks sheds off grammes by housing a lower-than-average stack to enhance flexibility. Despite the lower stack, Fairbanks ensures comfort by providing a velvet platform. Our durometer confirms it's 25.0% softer than average.

This pair is the most flexible winter boot we’ve tested so far, even beating some running shoes! It only requires 16.6N force to bend to a right angle, making it 58.5% more adaptive than average.

Honouring its name, Fairbanks really keeps our feet warm the whole day. On our breathability test, it scored the lowest 1/5. It effectively protects us from water and cold air. Moreover, its interior has an Omni-Tech lining that reflects and traps our body heat inside the boot. We highly appreciated this feature on 0°C (32°F) days.

Since Fairbanks highlights comfort and flexibility, we cannot recommend it to severe overpronators because it lacks stability and support for excessive pronation.

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
Full review of Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boot

Warm, waterproof and grippy: winter hiking boots

There are 4 high-priority features to look for in winter hiking boots

  1. Waterproofness: so that your feet stay dry even if you’re hiking in mud, snow, and slush. 
  2. Grip: so that you don’t slip regardless of the terrain you’re on. It is essential, however, to know whether you’ll mostly be hiking on wet or dry terrain, as the depth of the lugs that is recommended varies depending on that. 
  3. Warmth: if you plan to hike in very cold temperatures, consider getting insulated hiking boots. For mild winter days, it is usually enough to have waterproof hiking boots. 
  4. Softness and flexibility that don’t change wildly as the temperature drops. In our lab, we test this because it is very important to know what to expect, will the boot feel similar to how it feels at room temperature, or will it feel more like a brick. 

We will cover every feature mentioned above in great detail and add more nuances that are important to know when shopping for winter hiking boots. 

We’re able to cover every little thing because we don’t just wear-test all the hiking boots, we also cut them in half and subject them to dozens of tests in our lab. 

Hoka Kaha 2 GTX lab test

Winter hiking boot cut in half and torn into pieces for further lab testing

How not to slip during winter hikes

Know the terrain you plan to cover. Here are our general guidelines: 

  1. For wet terrain slush and snow, choose very deep lugs (4mm and deeper). 
  2. For a bit of everything, yet nothing too extreme, choose average lugs (4mm). 
  3. For large flat rocks, choose shallower lugs (less than 4mm). 

It could be enough for you to have a look at the outsole and notice whether the lugs are aggressive enough. However, if you’re not that experienced, look for our test results. One of our lab tests is measuring the thickness of the lugs. 

thickness of lugs in winter hiking boots

Using a digital calliper to measure the depth of the lugs in RunRepeat lab

However, traction is not about lug depth only. Harder rubber is awesome when you need more protection or you’re covering sharp rocks or debris because it is more durable. Softer rubber, on the other hand, is way more pliable and usually stickier. 

measuring the hardness of the outsole rubber in winter hiking boots

Using an HC durometer to measure the hardness of the rubber on a hiking boot

To examine this, we stick a durometer into the outsole rubber to measure its hardness. The bigger the number on the durometer, the harder the rubber. 

Which waterproof membrane to choose

Choose the one that works and is a part of the hiking boot that you found the most comfortable. Proper fit is not negotiable. 

Many brands develop their own waterproof membranes. Some simply write waterproof or WP in the boot name, while others promote the membrane names. You may have already seen some of these membranes: 

  • KEEN.Dry waterproof lining present in KEEN hiking footwear
  • Omni-Tech used in Columbia hiking boots
  • DannerDry waterproof membrane by Danner. 

different waterproof membranes in winter hiking boots

Different waterproof materials used on the uppers of hiking boots

However, the most famous waterproof material is called Gore-Tex or GTX. Many brands use it and it is not present only in footwear but all sorts of outdoor apparel, backpacks, gaiters, etc. 

gtx logo attached to winter hiking boot upper

Gore-Tex logo is always visible on winter hiking boot uppers

Warm means not breathable in winter hiking boots

Every hiking boot has an upper. 

Waterproof hiking boots have an upper and a layer of waterproof material.

Winter hiking boots are like waterproof hiking boots, except they might have an additional layer of insulation. 

winter hiking and testing boots for runrepeat lab

If you plan to hike in very cold weather, consider getting insulated boots. Insulation is measured in grammes: how much that insulation weighs per square metre. You can see it specified as, for example, 100g insulation or 400g insulation. 

Columbia Bugaboot III Drop

200g insulation (fluffy white layer) is visible once the boot is cut in half

It does not mean that the boot itself is heavier 100g or 400g! But, the bigger the number, the more insulated the boot is. The same specifications are used in insulated clothing, so you can see down jacket with a 800g insulation. 

Weight (Grammes/ Square Metre)

Recommended Temperature Range

Season

Recommended Uses

100 grammes

40 to 50 degrees F

3- season

  • Urban winters
  • Chilly evenings

200 grammes

30 to 40 degrees F

3-season

  • Playing outside in the snow
  • Winter hikes

400 grammes 

14 to 30 degrees F

3-season

  • Snowy and wet weather
  • Long exposure to cold

600 grammes

-5 to 10 degrees F

Winter

  • Very cold weather
  • Winter backpacking 

800 grammes

-20 to -10 degrees F

Winter

  • Long exposure to extremely cold weather

Given that it’s all happening at once (upper, waterproof upper, insulation layer), winter hiking boots are usually not breathable. When we test the breathability of hiking boots, we pump the smoke into them and watch where it comes out, and which pace, and how long it takes. 

Non-breathable waterproof hiking boot (left) vs. breathable non-waterproof hiking boot (right)

Based on this, we rate the breathability of the boot on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the least breathable and 5 being the most breathable. 

To examine this even further, we look at the upper under the microscope. Waterproof uppers are always denser, while breathable uppers have a more loose structure, and some even feature ventilation holes. 

uppers-under-the-microscope-regular-vs-gtx.jpg

Non-waterproof upper (left) vs waterproof upper (right) under the microscope

For contrast, look at how Gore-Tex uppers look under the microscope: 

Different goretex uppers under a microscope

Different GTX uppers under a microscope

It is also interesting to understand what’s happening on the inside. In non-insulated boots, we can easily see a layer of waterproof material. 

Salomon Outpulse Mid GTX Drop

Grey waterproof layer (GTX) visible once the boot is cut in half

Not only that, but waterproof (winter) hiking boots tend to have a gusseted tongue. This tongue is connected to both sides of the upper, just under the eyelets. This prevents water (and snow, slush) from getting into the boot but also makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate outside. 

KEEN Pyrenees Tongue: gusset type

Showing a gusseted tongue when laces are taken off

All of these contribute to the lousy breathability rating that winter hiking boots usually get. 

Winter-friendly hiking boots: results of our tests

When discussing whether a boot is good for winter, it’s important to take into account how it will actually feel and perform at sub-zero temperatures. If it’s soft at room temperature, will it remain as soft when it’s freezing cold? Or will it firm up: a bit or a lot? The same goes for flexibility. Will it feel like a brick?

Bending a winter hiking boot to 90 degrees using a digital force gauge to measure its stiffness

We anticipate that thanks to our freezer test. We text the flexibility of the boot and the softness of the midsole at room temperature first. 

Softness of the midsole measurements taken on a winter hiking boot

Sticking a shore A durometer into the midsole of a winter hiking boot to measure its softness

Then, we put the boot into the freezer for 20 minutes to simulate very cold weather. 

winter hiking boot put in a freezer

Freezing a winter hiking boot for 20 minutes 

Then, we repeat the flexibility and softness tests and look at the difference in numbers: room temperature vs post-freezer. The bigger the difference, the worse the feel and performance of the boot in cold weather. 

Find the perfect fit in winter hiking boots

In case you haven’t bought hiking boots before, here we list our guidelines that have shown to work well when it comes to nailing the proper fit: 

  1. Go shopping for winter hiking boots in the afternoon or in the evening. We recommend this because it’s important to simulate similar conditions to those when hiking, and, later in the day, our feet swell naturally. Just like they do on the hikes. 
  2. Try the boots on with hiking socks (not regular socks) and orthotics (if you’re using them). 
  3. When you put the boots on, check if you have 1 thumb’s width of space behind your heel when you push the toes to the front. Or glue your heel to the back and sense if there’s room at the front. 
  4. When you’ve laced the boots up, sense if there are any hotspots. Boots must not be tight or wide. 
  5. If you’re at a specialised store that has a ramp covered with different materials like pebbles and artificial grass, use it to walk up and down. Keep in mind: your heel should not slip. And your feet should not slide to the sides inside the boots. 

Before you embark on the hike, break in your new boots. Wear them for shorter periods of time so that you get used to them and they adjust a bit to your feet. 

In case you have wider feet, we recommend looking at winter hiking boots with a wider toebox. Fortunately, we measure that as well in our lab. 

toebox width measurements on winter hiking boots in the lab

Measuring the width of the toebox at the big toe (up) and where it's widest (down) using a digital calliper in RunRepeat lab

We take 2 measurements: where the toebox is the widest and at the big toe. Big toe meausrement is of a bigger value here because it tells us how pointy the boot is (how much it tapers). The smaller the difference between the big-toe and widest-part width, the less pointy the toebox is. 

Gaiters are awesome!

If you know there will be A LOT of snow on the hike or you simply want to be EXTRA safe when it comes to keeping your feet and socks dry, we recommend using knee-high gaiters on the hike. These also come in waterproof (or Gore-Tex) versions and do a great job of keeping the moisture on the outside. 

hiking in snowy conditions wear tests for runrepeat

Whatever you decide, consider also getting wool or bamboo socks, as they have moisture-wicking properties and help a lot in very cold weather. 

Author
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.