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One of the greatest things about hiking is that it's a year-round activity, provided you have the correct gear. From hats to insulated hiking boots, appropriate winter hiking gear is a head-to-toe game that will keep you out on the trails for longer. It's tough to rank winter hiking apparel in order of importance, since the right pieces in a system all feel equally important, but if I had to rank it, winter-ready footwear would be near the top. The right pair of winter hiking boots mean good support on uneven terrain, waterproof protection against snowy trails, and insulation against frigid temperatures. Most people's hands and feet are the first to get miserably cold during a winter outing, so keeping those protected will allow you to stay out longer — or help you leave the house in the first place.
I'm focusing on women's hiking boots for this piece, which are built differently than men's footwear. Women's boots will typically have a narrower footbed and a shallower heel cup, and are sized smaller than men's. When I buy unisex or men's footwear, I will usually size down one entire size, but this isn't a science. As with any footwear, I recommend trying them on first before going out hiking. When shopping for winter hiking boots, consider the type of hiking you like to do — is it more local, smooth trails, or off-trail bushwhacking? Will the conditions be wet and sloppy, or will you encounter powdery snow? Consider the temperature range as well. A deep-winter expedition boot will be great in the coldest regions and the deepest snow, but will feel like total overkill on dry trails and temperatures above 30 degrees. These are my picks for women's winter hiking boots for a variety of hiking adventures, terrain, and conditions.
1. The Best Hiking Boot for Varying Terrain
I've been wearing an earlier version of these Oboz boots for the past three years. They're my go-to pair for winter peak bagging in the northeast, where temperatures vary from the deep negatives to low 30s, and I might encounter snow, ice, slush, rocks (or all of the above) on any given outing. These boots work well with the multiple pairs of snowshoes I've tested, and they're also comfortable for many miles without snowshoes. The winter-specific outsole provides traction on a variety of slick terrain, and they feel super secure with both crampons and microspikes. The footbeds have a wool covering, and the 200 grams of insulation under a durable upper have kept my feet warm on many winter peaks. The Bridger boots come in a 9" version, but I've been fine with the 7" boots — I'll pair them with gaiters if the snow is extra deep.
2. The Best Hiking Boot for Moderate Conditions
These Altra Lone Peak boots don't have the same level of insulation as others on this list, but they're built with a waterproof, breathable ALL-WTHR membrane, which makes them perfect for moderate weather on wet or slushy trails. I love that these boots offer the comfort and flexibility of Altra's super-popular Lone Peak shoes, but with the added protection of a higher rise and waterproof membrane. Altra is my go-to for thru-hikes — my feet love the wide toe box and zero-drop design, and their addition of a boot-style model means I don't have to switch shoes for longer outings in wet conditions or trails that call for an over-the-ankle style.
3. The Best Hiking Boot For The Extreme Cold
Keen temperature rates these boots down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, which is quite the claimed temperature limit. That said, everyone's cold tolerance and circulation is different, so until you've tested them yourself, take any manufacturer's rating with a grain of salt — but it's a good bet these will keep you warm on very cold hikes. These hiking boots utilize Keen's "KEEN.WARM" recycled PET fibers for insulation, which help reflect heat back to your feet and prevent it from escaping, helping increase thermal efficiency while you're on the move. They feature multi-directional lugs on specialty rubber outsoles (Keen's proprietary "KEEN.Polar Traction") built for better grip on ice and unpredictable terrain, increasing confidence with each stride no matter what the trail has to offer.
4. The Best Hiking Boot for Everyday Wear
From dog walks to half-day winter hikes, these boots are a versatile option for waterproofing and insulation without a huge commitment to a bulky boot. I like the "walkable" feel of these boots — when I put them on I don't feel like I'm committing to an Arctic expedition. These have the standard 200 grams of insulation, using Merrell's M-Select insulating fibers under a waterproof leather upper with mesh for more flexibility. Merrell is known for their out-of-the-box comfort, and despite the winter-worthy construction of these boots, they feel great for hikes, walks, and general outings without any break-in period.
5. The Best Hiking Boot for On-Trail Mobility
It can be tough to strike a balance between winter protection and mobility on the trail, but this offering from Salomon slots right in the middle. This is a relatively lightweight boot with a waterproof membrane, ankle protection, and similarly flexible materials to their line of three-season hiking shoes. These boots have 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation, but it doesn't feel like overkill on winter hikes with a high level of output. The outsoles are made with a Contagrip rubber for solid traction on ice and snow, though with any super icy conditions, I recommend some sort of additional traction.
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