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A faithful pair of boots is essential in the colder months, alongside a snug set of slippers and some thick wool socks, but they can also be worn in the spring and summer if they’re lightweight and minimalist enough. Here, I’ve rounded up the best winter boots for women, from rugged Aussie work boots to ski-bunny Sorels to rebelliously stylish Doc Martens. To hone this list, I tried out several pairs of women’s winter boots myself, while also consulting with fellow Strategist staffers and stylish folks who live in chilly climes about their go-to winter shoes. Additionally, I spoke with a couple of technical footwear designers, who advised on the best features to look for and avoid in order to keep your feet as warm and dry as possible. You’ll find recommendations here for puddleproof winter boots that can be worn every day, as well as insulated snow boots that can hold their own against more extreme weather conditions. I’ve also included a pair of insulated rain boots approved by an Alaskan park ranger, some cozy UGG boots for slipping on after a long day on the slopes, and winter hiking boots for hitting the trails off-season.
What we’re looking for
The gold standard for waterproof shoes and clothing is Gore-Tex, a finely woven waterproof membrane that locks out moisture while remaining breathable. But the majority of winter boots are simply treated with a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, which can be perfectly adequate for milder climates. “If you live in Portland and it’s pouring 200 days a year, DWR is going to do nothing,” explains footwear designer and lecturer Igor Burt. “But if you live in California, you shouldn’t be buying Gore-Tex shoes.” For extra puddle protection, Burt also suggests looking for boots made from leather (a material that is “a breathable natural protectant from water”) with minimal seams and stitching. “The more stitches on the outside of the boot, the less waterproof it is,” he advises. A vulcanized-rubber outsole will give an additional rain-boot-like effect.
“If you have multiple boots, and you’re only going to use one boot when temperatures are below freezing, look for insulation,” advises Burt. “You should be able to feel it with your fingers on the inside of the boot. If it’s the same material inside and outside, you know there’s no insulation.” He points out that if you’re spending less time in extreme conditions, there’s an easy hack for warming up a winter boot — and preventing blisters in the process. “Build insulation yourself, in the form of moisture-wicking wool socks. You can choose when you want to use it, and customize according to conditions.”
If you’re encountering ice and snow, traction is even more important than waterproofing. “The reason you slip is because the top layer of ice melts and you have a layer of water between your shoe and the ice,” explains footwear and product designer Mark Britton. In order to increase flexibility and control in such conditions, he recommends laced boots, which will have a tighter, more customized fit. Grip is also key, Burt says. “Walking on ice, you can’t get a shoe that has no studs or no lugs on the bottom. You’re going to be slipping all over the place.”
Best overall winter boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather | Insulation: None | Traction: Pull tabs, elastic gusset, lugged rubber sole
For non-extreme winter conditions — puddly commutes, wet park walks, and the occasional snow day — it’s hard to go past a pair of classic Blundstones. These boots are a longtime Strategist favorite for a reason: They’re comfortable, reasonably waterproof (being made of leather, with minimal seams), and neutral enough to style with almost any outfit. They work well across seasons, develop an attractive patina over time, and get comfier with wear. They also seem to mold to most people’s feet with ease. “A Chelsea boot is actually difficult to get right,” says Britton. “The fit has to be spot on, because there’s no lacing — so I give Blundstones extra kudos.” If you know you’ll be walking in freezing temperatures more often than not, the brand offers an insulated version of the same style. These boots are even rock-star-approved: Sharon Van Etten told us that she and numerous other touring musicians she knows take their Blunnies (as they’re known in their native Australia) on the road. These boots are sturdy but unlined, and therefore relatively lightweight. I like to wear mine even in spring and summer — they look great paired with dresses and skirts.
Best insulated winter boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Pull tabs, elastic gusset, lugged rubber sole
If you know you’ll be walking in freezing temperatures more often than not, Blundstone offers an insulated version of its trademark boot above that’ll decrease your wool-sock budget. Like a good pair of winter gloves, these boots are lined with both shearling and Thinsulate, and they’re just as waterproof, comfortable, and outfit-neutral as their nonthermal cousins — albeit with slightly chunkier “all-terrain” Vibram outsoles. Trying out a pair for myself, I found the fit to be very similar to the best overall winter boots above, with just a bit more bounce and a slightly padded feeling that’s rather cozy. Walking around in shearling-lined boots during winter can turn an uncomfortable experience into a magical one — the difference is like putting on a pair of thick mittens instead of thin gloves. Buying a pair of these would be a bit of an extravagance if you already own the original 510s and live in a mild climate, but certainly worth it if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors in the cold.
Best lace-up winter boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof membrane | Insulation: None | Traction: Slip-resistant lugged rubber sole
As Burt advises, a laced boot offers great support and traction as you traverse potentially icy terrain. Dr. Martens makes indestructible laced boots with a slightly edgy aesthetic, and we (alongside many other stylish people) are big fans of the brand. Strategist writer Dominique Pariso has been wearing a pair of 1460s every winter since she was 13 years old, and says this boot is “guaranteed” to keep your feet warm and dry — especially if you opt for its waterproof, winterized version. “I also love the matte, slightly rubberized finish that looks great with practically anything,” she notes.
Best square-toe winter boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather | Insulation: Non-insulated | Traction: Pull tabs, elastic gusset, lugged rubber sole
I think Blundstone’s 510 boot, with its recognizably round toe, looks smart when paired with most casual winter outfits. But I’ve been wearing this square-toe style for the past three seasons instead, because I enjoy its slightly dressier look. Former Strategist senior manager of audience development Mia Leimkuhler agrees that if you’re looking for a versatile winter boot that can be worn day and night, these are the Blundstones to buy: “They really just go with anything and work for everything.” She once brought only these boots on a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon, that included going to the ballet and hiking up Multnomah Falls.
Best vintage-style winter boots
Waterproofing: Non-waterproof | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Lace-up, lugged rubber soles
J.Crew’s Nordic Boots boast substantial rubber lugs and a thick shearling lining, as well as shearling cuffs that’ll keep snow out of your socks. The Strategist’s senior vice-president of e-commerce Camilla Cho purchased a pair of these “cozy and comfy” shoes for a trip to Wyoming last winter and says they were perfect for traipsing about in 20-degree weather: “My feet always felt super toasty and warm.” Inspired by vintage hiking boots, they’re also just inherently stylish, and come with two pairs of colored laces for optimal outfit customization.
Best snow boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof membrane | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Laces, lugged rubber sole
Britton puts it simply: “The UGG Adirondack is a really great boot.” Made from leather, with a high shaft that’ll keep the snow out, these boots offer tight lacing for maximum traction and lugs for gripping onto snow and ice. Instead of Gore-Tex, they use a similar technology developed by UGG called DryTech, which creates a highly effective waterproof bootie effect. They also feature a cozy sheepskin lining for comfort and warmth. These boots are an investment, but if you’re spending months at a time in snow, they’re worth it.
Best (less-expensive) snow boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather shaft, waterproof rubber outsole | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Laces, lugged rubber sole
Two of the experts I spoke with also praised the Sorel Caribou, which Burt calls “one of the standards” for winter boots against which others should be measured, because it’s “a vulcanized boot with an interior lining, meaning it’s waterproof.” A little cheaper than the Adirondack (and missing its slipperlike sheepskin lining), the Caribou is similarly designed for heavy snow, with sealed seams and removable insulation, as well as faux-fur cuffs around the calf to keep ice and water out.
Best high snow boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather shaft, waterproof rubber outsole | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Laces, lugged rubber sole
Burt and Britton also mentioned Sorel’s Joan of Arctic boot, which has a higher shaft that’ll keep your feet warm and dry in deep powder. It features the same vulcanized-rubber sole as the Caribou, and a removable, insulating inner boot for maximum insulation.
Best slip-on snow boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof membrane | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Ice grip sole, rubber lugs
Baffin sent me a pair of these lightweight, minimalist Chelsea boots three winters ago, and I’ve worn them at the Sundance Film Festival, during an icy November trip to Kings Canyon National Park, and while traipsing through Brooklyn post-snowstorm. Highly waterproof, they’re made from Baffin’s own version of Gore-Tex, B-Tek, as well as durable leather. While Britton advises that lace-up boots are the best choice for icy conditions overall, Chelsea boots are much more convenient for city dwellers. These look nice, too: like Blundstones, but with cozier lining and way better traction. While these boots aren’t tall or insulated enough for deep snow, they’re warm and waterproof, and can be conveniently slipped on and off for trips to the bodega.
Best winter rain boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof vulcanized rubber | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Rubber tread, no lugs
When considering heavy-duty insulated rain boots, we turned to Ben Shryock, chief ranger of the Alaska State Parks Kodiak region. He told us that Xtratufs are his only choice and daily go-to: “They are the most comfortable and durable rubber boots I’ve found. You can find them for sale in almost any coastal Alaskan town.” Shryock’s insulated 15-inch Xtratufs do a great job of keeping his feet both warm and dry, but he says that if you do happen to step in some water that goes over the 15-inch mark, they’ll air out fast — “much faster than leather boots.” Being too warm for extended indoor or summer wear, he’ll usually trade them out for the uninsulated, regular Xtratuffs in April.
Best everyday winter rain boots
Waterproofing: Waterproof rubber | Insulation: None | Traction: Slip-resistant outsoles
If you’re dealing with downpours more than snowstorms, we also love these slightly less hardcore Xtratufs, which come recommended by Maine-based fashion photographer Bea Helman. She wears them every single day (“rain or no rain”) and says they’re perfect for both mud and snow. Beloved by deckhands, these ankle boots have slip-resistant soles, as well as pull tabs that make them easy to put on and take off. To battle that sweaty-rain-boot feeling, they have an antimicrobial liner that helps regulate foot temperature. (If you’re on the hunt for rain boots in particular, for whatever season, we have plenty more recommendations here.)
Best shearling boots
Waterproofing: Non-waterproof | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Non-grip
“Have you ever taken off your tight ski boots and slipped on a cozy pair of UGGs?” asks Strategist editor Maxine Builder. “It’s heaven.” While they lack the waterproofing capabilities of the tougher winter boots on this list, I’ve always got plenty of space in my closet for a warm, utilitarian pair of standard UGG slipper boots like these. They’re an essential for cozying up indoors on cold days, and you can even wear them outside, in the right conditions: “They are my go-to when it’s below 50 degrees, but there’s no slush or snow, and I’d rather be wrapped up in a duvet than out on the street running errands,” says Builder.
Best winter duck boots
Waterproofing: Water-resistant leather upper, waterproof rubber outsole | Insulation: Yes | Traction: Rubber tread, no lugs
Builder, alongside New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff and Strategist writer Lauren Ro, is also loyal to L.L.Bean’s duck boot. “Any other winter duck boot is just trying to copy what L.L.Bean perfected more than a century ago, and I do not believe in straying from a classic — especially when it comes to outdoor gear,” she says. This shearling-lined pair provides a little extra warmth and insulation for colder days, while retaining the Maine-worthy rainproof qualities that L.L.Bean’s standard duck boots are known for.
Best winter hiking boots
Waterproofing: Gore-tex membrane | Insulation: None | Traction: Lugged rubber sole
“It’s not necessarily always true that everyone’s going to need insulated [hiking] boots in the winter,” Scott Wilkinson, communications director at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, tells us. “So much of that depends on temperature, weather conditions, whether it’s wet or dry, and the individual: Some people’s feet are always freezing, and they’re going to need more insulation.” Budget-wise, you’re better off investing in a quality waterproof boot that can be used in all seasons, like these Gore-Tex Salomons that Wilkinson uses in both winter and summer. Despite being waterproof, these boots will never feel stiff, being designed to flex with your foot in the same way that trail runners might — but unlike trail runners, they feature high cuffs to keep water and even snow out of your socks.
Some more women’s winter essentials we’ve written about
• Maxine Builder, editor, the Strategist
• Mark Britton, footwear and product designer
• Igor Burt, footwear designer, apparel designer, and lecturer
• Camilla Cho, senior vice-president of e-commerce, the Strategist
• Bea Helman, photographer
• Mia Leimkuhler, former senior manager of audience development, the Strategist
• Dominique Pariso, writer, the Strategist
• Lauren Ro, writer, the Strategist
• Ben Shryock, chief ranger, Alaska State Parks Kodiak region
• Alexis Swerdloff, deputy editor, New York
• Scott Wilkinson, communications director, Pacific Crest Trail Association
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