There’s peace of mind to be found in knowing your garb is up to the challenge when winter strikes. It’s that feeling of contentment and cosiness that comes from stepping outside in a Gore-Tex raincoat during a downpour, or flipping the hood of a goose-down parka up in sub-zero temperatures.
More often than not, however, it’s our footwear that lets us down. After all, what good is it being wrapped up in a winter-proof coat if your feet are freezing and soaked through? The solution: a sturdy pair of winter boots that have been purpose-built to cope with whatever the weather throws their way.
A true investment piece, well-made boots will last as long as you look after them. Well, provided you buy the right ones. To steer you in the right direction, we’ve highlighted what we consider to be the eight best models on the market, along with some tips on what you should consider before opening your wallet.
Winter Boot Buying Considerations
To ensure you get the most out of your winter stompers, there are a few variables to bear in mind. Think about your lifestyle and how your boots are going to be used before considering the following things.
What really sets a winter boot apart from just any old boot is the sole. You want something that works in all conditions – sludge, snow, ice, rain and everything in between – so they should have a thick, grippy tread. Steer clear of flat soles or anything that doesn’t offer ample traction, such as leather.
It should go without saying, but there are some materials that simply aren’t suited to adverse weather and cold temperatures. Suede, mesh and canvas can all leave you high and dry (or high and wet, as the case may be) in anything less than fair conditions. Instead, opt for leather or water-resistant synthetics like Gore-Tex.
Quality is all in the details, so take care to really inspect the finer points of a boot before parting with your cash. Hand-stitched uppers, Goodyear-welted soles and high-grade materials are all good indicators of craftsmanship. Stick to traditional British shoe manufacturers and specialist bootmakers for peace of mind.
Warmth is key where winter boots are concerned. While an extra pair of socks is always an option, it’s reassuring to know that your boots are up to the task on their own. Leather is the classic option but it’s not always the warmest. If the cold is a big concern, look for something with a bit of insulation such as shearling or borg. For extreme temperatures, consider an option with a removable thermal liner.
The Best Winter Boot Models
With a lineage that can be traced back all the way to 1908, Fracap’s Magnifico boot is a real heritage hiker. Handcrafted at the Capello family’s historic factory in Puglia using only the finest vegetable-tanned leather and soft suede, this classic boot is undoubtedly Fracap’s best-known style. Vintage design motifs including a folding gusseted tongue, D-ring eyelets and leather lining retain a retro feel, while a variety of sole options – customers can choose from ripple, christy and commando sole units – lend the boot a contemporary edge.
From hip-hop heavyweights to weather-beaten construction workers, Timberland’s iconic 6″ boot is the winter-ready footwear that unites them all. With a thick tread, sealed seams, cushioned ankle support and instantly recognisable appearance, this all-time classic is a glowing example of what can happen when function and fashion are perfectly aligned. It may have been built for walking, but these days you’re more likely to see it being worn in an urban setting. That being said, the Timberland 6″ can still hold its own when pitted against the most rugged of outdoor footwear there is, making it nothing short of a modern essential.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Danner (featured image, top) has been cementing its name as the go-to brand for sturdy American-made boots for almost a century. A key supplier to military and law enforcement, Danner’s footwear is hardworking and functional, but not without its aesthetic charm. Its iconic Light model is a prime example. First introduced in the 1970s, the Danner Light was the first boot to feature a Gore-Tex liner, making it completely waterproof. Almost 50 years on, it remains relatively unchanged thanks to its rugged good looks and timeless leather and canvas design.
One of the original Northampton shoemakers, Grenson is a brand with some serious clout when it comes to crafting a good pair of boots. The label’s Brady hiker is about as close to being a work of art as a piece of footwear can get. The hand-painted leather upper sits on top of a lightweight commando sole unit for maximum comfort, while the Goodyear-welted construction offers increased durability and the option for future sole repairs and replacements. If leather’s not your thing, there are suede options available too – although we wouldn’t recommend wearing them in inclement weather.
Red Wing 875 Moc Toe
Workwear is one of the cornerstones of modern menswear. Meanwhile, the Red Wing Moc-Toe boot is one of the cornerstones of workwear. This hardy wedge-soled work boot is nothing short of a footwear icon. Instantly recognisable, beautifully made and unwavering in its style appeal. The perfect accompaniment to denim and winter layers, this all-American classic is a real does-it-all casual staple. Just go steady on frosty days, because while those crisp white christy soles may look the part, they’re not particularly well equipped for handling ice.
Clarks Wallabee Gore-Tex
What’s not to like about a pair of suede Wallabees? Well, absolutely nothing, aside from the fact that they have a tendency to get trashed in the rain. For this reason, these Clarks classics are often cast aside come winter. But with a few seasonal tweaks there’s no reason they can’t be enjoyed all year round. Featuring a higher cuff for improved weather resistance and a waterproof Gore-Tex lining, these cold-weather-ready Wallabees can handle anything. There’s even the addition of a Vibram sole to ensure a good grip in slippery conditions.
Dr. Martens 1460
The flagship of the Dr. Martens brand, the 1460 is more than just a solid winter boot, it’s a British institution. With its eight-eyelet design, chunky silhouette and signature yellow stitching, this is a bona fide footwear classic. Loved by everyone from rock-music royalty to working-class subcultures, it has established itself as a countercultural icon. An excellent cold-weather option and a genuine piece of footwear history.
Here in the UK, winter never really amounts to much more than grey skies, rain and the odd frosty morning. But if you happen to live somewhere with heavy snowfall, you’ll require something a little more heavy-duty. Enter the Sorel Caribou. This is arguably the definitive snow boot: warm, durable and absolutely winterproof. The perfect option for tackling extreme temperatures and slippery terrain.