In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and survey friends, call up experts, and draw on our own personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with any questions of your own — we’re here to help.
I’m looking for black winter weatherproof boots that lace up (no zipper on the side), and are not a duck boot/Sorel type. Ideally, I could run around the city in the boots and handle several inches of snow upstate, and would spend around $200 or less. Sleek would be great — I love Aquatalia lace up styles, but they’re cost prohibitive and all the other boots I’ve seen are either very expensive or very fugly.
I love that you provided Aquatalia as a reference. The two weatherproof styles that popped up when I did a quick search for the brand’s boots really are sleek-looking. (I agree that clunky Sorels and duck boots aren’t great for everyday wear; they’re definitely more of an “occasional” boot — the occasion being inclement weather.) While the two Aquatalias I found are expensive, they both have pretty classic shapes — combat boot and hiking-inspired — that thankfully aren’t too hard to find at a lower price point. Below is a selection of lace-up boots in both shapes that are, at the very least, waterproof and in your price range. Many of them also happen to be pretty sleek, if I do say so myself.
Lace-up black winter boots
When I think of Merrell, “sleek” is the last word I’d use to describe the brand. But I actually kind of love these boots. They look like a combat-hiking hybrid and have a couple of hooked eyelets at the top and a woolen cuff that adds a nice touch, even if it means the boots are not all black. Plus, the leather shaft can be folded down Peter-Pan style if you want to show more of the cuff. They’re waterproof with a breathable plaid lining and a grippy rubber sole, yet still manage to have a rather slim silhouette. I might have to get these myself.
Here’s a more straightforward hiking style from Kodiak, which calls itself “Canada’s boot maker.” (Hey, if they’re good enough for our neighbors up north, then I bet they’re good enough for us New Yorkers.) They’re waterproof, lined with Thinsulate and high-pile fleece to keep your feet toasty, and have a treaded rubber sole for traction. The two-tone leather upper makes them a bit more interesting (and reminds of the Aquatalia styles above). They’re not as dressy — the metal eyelets make them feel more utilitarian — but I think they still look pretty nice for being winter boots, and could easily be dressed up, too, without looking like you just trekked through a blizzard.
Or, if you don’t mind a little extra bulk, consider these waterproof hiking boots from Timberland. They have a much sleeker silhouette than that of the brand’s ubiquitous work boots, but still have all the features — thick rubber lug sole, cushioned foot bed, and padded leather collar — you need for trekking through rain and snow. The polished leather makes them a little dressier, and the camo cuff and swirly green eyelets are fun.
Here’s another pair of Timbs that look especially toasty, thanks to their fleece lining and fold-down fleece collar (when the snow piles up, they can also be worn with the shaft all the way up for a more combat-boot-like look). The contrasting smooth leather-and-suede upper is also an interesting design detail.
To make more of a statement (think Hollywood starlet at Sundance), might I suggest these Timbs with a cozy shearling cuff and super wide laces that don’t require tying — simply pull them on and off. I think they’re sturdy enough without being too bulky, but these are definitely a more substantial boot than others on this list.
For something that leans more toward the hiking-boot look, try this pair from Cougar (another Canadian performance brand). The waterproof leather boots with lug soles have a plush fleece lining and a knit collar to keep your feet extra dry and cozy. While this isn’t the sleekest boot, it also doesn’t scream “winter shoe,” either.
Of course, you could always just get a pair of Blundstones. These are a tad over-budget, but they’re all black and lace up, making them slightly more fitted than the Australian brand’s classic Chelsea style. They’re also water-resistant and have a slip-resistant sole.
Lace-up black winter boots (with side zips)
You specified that you wanted black lace-up winter boots without side zippers, but I found some boots with zippers that otherwise fit all your criteria — black, weatherproof, sleek — and look too nice not to mention. I dare say that a couple of them are even sleeker than the ones above.
Canada’s got the market cornered on stylish, cold-weather footwear. Blondo, another company from up north, has been around for more than 100 years, so it probably knows a thing or two about keeping your feet protected from the elements. All of its shoes are waterproof, including this suede combat-style boot that features a special seal to protect against water, calcium, and salt. A lug sole provides traction, and a side zip makes it easier to put on and take off. I like these a lot — especially since they don’t look like winter shoes at all.
These could pass as non-winter boots, too, thanks to cute details like the buckle. Although they cost more than $200, the lightweight boots have a water-resistant upper, fleece lining, and a thick lugged sole appropriate for slushy sidewalks and snowy hikes. Another pair that I would seriously consider for myself.