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What to know
about winter boots 1

Given the extremes in cold temperatures, your winter boots need to be warm and well insulated to suit the different winter conditions. The typical winter here in North America ranges from 0 degrees Celsius to minus 20C (0 degrees Fahrenheit to 30 degrees F) where most people live straddling the Canada - U.S border. Of course, there will probably be some days of much colder temperatures too.

Boot types

There is certainly a wide variety of boot styles for the whole family but the choice comes down to just a few basic types.

These are:

  • Pull-on only
  • Lace-ups
  • Zippers (side or front)
  • Pull-on with additional side zip.

Everyday outdoor boots for women, men and children will be one of these styles. The pull-on style with a side zip allows easy on, easy off. With lace-ups, getting them on and off takes a bit more work. Boots can be stylish, more functional-looking or somewhere in between.

Lace-up winter boots
Pull-on and lace-up winter boots

This style is a straight lace-up boot.

Here's a pull-on and a lace-up boot. 

You might ask why boots would be pull-on as well as lace-ups at the same time. Why? It makes it's much easier to get winter boots on; sometimes having only one way to get them on just isn't enough. I've had pull-on boots that felt like I'd done three rounds of standing on my head trying to get them on my feet! 

Any lace-up boot is more of a hassle to lace up versus a pull-on boot. Keep this in mind when you are trying on new boots. How easy are they to get on and off your feet?


Within those four main styles, there is a huge variety of winter boots to suit the main shades of winter weather.

There are:

  • Winter boots for men, women and children
  • Rubber boots (lined and unlined waterproof)
  • Work boots
  • Snow boots
  • Shearling (wool) boots e.g. Ugg boots (brand name)
  • Snow clogs
  • Winter dress boots
  • Heavier weight cross-trainers
  • Hybrid everyday boots
  • Winter dress shoes...

and that's just naming a few types too! Then there are also special boots such as cold-rated hunting boots, snowmobile boots and winter hiking boots.

Your boot style preference is?

An important style to consider besides the choice of pull-on or lace-up boots is how far up your leg do you want the sides to cover?

Low ankle boots

  • Best plan is make sure your boots cover your ankles and up your lower calf area. This will keep both your feet and ankles warm and protected. This applies to everyone although us women have another style to add to our shoe collection which is....

Knee-high boots

  • You can get knee-high boots can be with or without heels to complete your winter wardrobe. If you plan to walk any distance, then get flat booted heels. For indoor use, wearing high-heeled boots is fine. Wearing them outside is a different matter. Not only are high-heeled boots are harder to walk in given the snow and ice but I think becomes more than a little dangerous in winter weather to stay safe and upright in my opinion.

Boot materials

Boots are made of weatherproof material including leather, man-made durable synthetics and rubber.

Uppers - Leather, man-made synthetics, rubber or combination

Soles - Rubber and man-made synthetics or combination.

Boot insulation

On the inside, there are just two basic types of insulation.

These are:

  • Shearling or Fine wool fleece
  • Insulating synthetic materials. Thinsulate, a popular brand name is an excellent insulating synthetic material. It will still insulate well even when wet. It's a dense, thin material making boots appear compact and less bulky.

Shearling is the warmest fabric to have snuggled up against your feet to the extent you can do without socks like Ugg boots for example. The downside is that the shearling fleece tends to have a more limited life span as it breaks down and flattens more quickly. Boots like Ugg boots where it's all wool fleece both inside and outside (excluding the sole) are definitely not for extended outdoor use but is great for casual everyday use like going to the mall or to the movies.

Although fleece boot insoles are warm and cozy for your feet when new, but over time, they can break down too. Generally, you can easily replace them when they get matted down or worn out. Or you might want a thicker insole instead of what came with the boots for better cushioning and insulation.

Unless you plan to live way, way north (think Alaska or Nunavut-like latitude) you probably won't be too concerned with the amount of insulation in a temperature - rated boot. If you are, then this is measured in grams.

What does this mean? 

It means the more insulation there is in the boot, the more suitable it is for extreme cold. Some brands specialize in producing boots to suit specific temperatures or conditions such as snowmobile boots for example or artic boots that is, if you are going to the Artic.

Generally, winter boots you buy anywhere along the US-Canadian border for everyday use is more than adequate for the normal winter conditions you are likely to encounter.

What to know about winter boots - part 2

Return to Winter Living Advisor from What to know about winter boots - part 1

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