In the market for a new pair of winter boots? Allow me to help! During a recent extended vacation in Vermont, I put well over a dozen pairs through their snowy paces—taking icy walks, snowshoeing, tromping around pre- and post-ski, waging a snowball fight against my husband. Five rose straight to the top. They were the warmest of the bunch, fit extremely well, and were waterproof to, um, boot. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Read on to find your perfect pair.
THE TOP FIVE
Columbia Women’s Bugaboot Plus ($115 at Columbia.com)
- What’s to like: These were the warmest boots I tried—think sub-zero-nighttime-walk-on-a-frozen-windy-beach warm. So warm that when I wore them a second time on a day during which the temp reached the low 30s, my feet started to sweat. Other good stuff: They’re just high enough to keep the snow out in most cases, have great traction, and keep my feet bone-dry. Just the thing for snowshoeing, sledding, you name it.
- The caveat: They’re a little heavy.
Hi-Tec St. Moritz 200 WP ($110 at Zappos.com)
- What’s to like: So fun to wear! The faux fur lining is really cozy and soft, like a pair of slippers. They’re nice and tall—good for shoveling new snow—but stylish enough that you could also wear them to run errands and meet up with friends for lunch. Solid warmth and a toe cap to protect your feet make them well-suited for winter walks, too.
- The caveat: The laces are a little too long and bulky, and I found myself wishing the tread was just a wee bit stickier.
LL Bean Women’s Wildcat Lace-Up Boots ($119 at LLBean.com)
- What’s to like: These are great boots for sledding and snowshoeing: warm and dry, easy to lace up, flexible, with a ridged heel for snowshoe bindings. The height (mid-calf) is good for keeping snow out, and they were surprisingly comfortable. (I actually thought they’d be a little stiff, but they felt really great on.) Earth-friendly bonus: The insulation is made from recycled materials.
- The caveat: They look pretty utilitarian.
Merrell Women’s Pixie Lace Waterproof ($125 at Merrell.com)
- What’s to like: This is one cute pair of boots! Love the blue laces and plaid on the back. They’re light, the tread is nice (great for icy walks and trudging back up the hill with a sled in tow), and the fleecy fur is especially comfy around the calves.
- The caveat: The toebox gets a little tight with thick socks.
Timberland Women’s Crystal Mountain Waterproof Mid Pull-On Boot ($100 at Timberland.com)
- What’s to like: Thanks to the bungee laces on the back, it takes about two seconds (literally) to slip in or out of these—so nice!—making them ideal to keep by the door for shoveling the driveway, walking the dog, grabbing the mail, etc. What’s more, they’re tall enough to handle even sizeable drifts, and the cozy lining is partly made from recycled plastic bottles—very cool!
- The caveat: While comfy and warm enough for chores and walks around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t choose them for extended hikes.
Next page: The Runners-Up
While these two weren't quite warm enough to make the top five, both are worth a look if you live in a slightly less frigid part of the country:
The North Face Women’s Snow-Drift Tall Boot ($140 at TheNorthFace.com)
- What’s to like: This is a good choice if you’re looking for a pair of great-looking hiking-style winter boots. The faux fur lining on the sides and tongue is buttery soft, they lace easily, and have excellent traction. Plus, they’re waterproof.
- The caveats: They weren’t warm enough to keep my toes from numbing during a long single-digit walk on a Vermont evening. Also, they’re a bit too short to take on serious snow, and are pricier than the other boots tested.
Orthaheel Emma Lace-Up Boots ($74.95 at OrthaheelUSA.com)
- What’s to like: The podiatrist-designed footbed keeps feet totally aligned and supported, the wavy tread gives good traction, and (best of all) they don’t look like “orthotic” boots—they’re actually quite cute!
- The caveats: These aren’t warm enough to be true winter boots—they’re okay for short forays into light snow on milder-temp days, but definitely better suited for southern-style winters. Also, if you’re looking for lots of cushioning, these aren’t for you.