The world has been wearing boots for centuries. In that time, the key styles have been well established and defined. Designs like the Derby boot, the brogue boot and Chelsea boots all have rich histories dating back hundreds of years. They’re so firmly embedded in the menswear consciousness that it’s difficult to imagine how they could be improved or developed upon, but the truth is that boots are still evolving and new styles continue to emerge even today.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of boots but fancy something a bit different to the traditional silhouettes then there are a number of modern alternatives you should take a look at. These are contemporary designs that are either hybrids of two different types of footwear, or something new entirely. What they all have in common is that they’re great for getting through the colder months in style.
Here are our top picks of the alternative boots worth considering.
Sneaker boots are exactly what they sound like: boots with the DNA of sneakers… or maybe even sneakers with the DNA of boots. They differ from high-top sneakers in that they’re usually built to be sturdier and more robust. They might have features like grippy Vibram soles, or be made from techy waterproof materials. You’re more likely to find Gore-Tex and Ripstop than mesh and Flyknit. Essentially, they’re outdoorsy sneakers built for the harsh conditions of winter.
Sneaker boots are a great footwear option for everyday use during the colder, wetter months of the year. Pick right and they’ll go with all sorts of casual outfits. They offer a good blend of function and fashion, and best complement pieces of a similar ilk. Think cargo pants, fleeces, technical jackets and puffer jackets.
There are countless versions out there, but some key sneaker brands to check out include the likes of Nike, Hoka One One, Adidas Terrex and Salomon. These labels create sneaker boots that balance performance, style and practicality, often incorporating technical materials that make them extra weatherproof, comfortable and durable.
If you like the idea of sneaker boots from a comfort perspective, but you prefer the classic look of traditional boots, then a sneaker-sole boot might be the best option. This type of hybrid footwear takes the best of both worlds and fuses them together to create something new: a classic boot-like upper with the comfortable, sporty sole of a sneaker.
They’re a good day-to-day option for those who spend a lot of time on their feet, and their casual looks make them incredibly easy to style.
Sneaker-sole boots work great with casual, everyday clothes. In a versatile material like brown leather, you’ll be able to team them up with everything from jeans and a T-shirt to chinos and an Oxford shirt. You could even wear them with tailoring if you pick the right ones. A pair of black suede sneaker-sole boots, for example, would go great with an unstructured blazer and pants in an earthy autumnal shade in the fall and winter, or pretty much any dark, neutral colour for that matter.
The desert boot is one of the most iconic, timeless and versatile pieces of footwear around. It’s easy to style, goes with everything and can be dressed up or down with ease. It does have one flaw though: it’s not exactly brilliant in wet weather. Those crepe rubber soles are notoriously slippery on wet ground, making desert boots a poor choice during the fall and winter months. But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch them entirely. Thanks to the rise of the ‘desert commando’, it’s possible to enjoy the perks of this brilliant piece of footwear all year round.
This hybrid boot takes the instantly recognisable upper of a desert boot – mid-top cut, round toe, double eyelets – and mounts it on top of a lug-treaded sole to improve grip and support.
There are a few companies making them, but Clarks will always be the original and best. The British brand calls its version of the boot the Desert Rock, and it’s a great alternative to the original. As well as improving grip, the commando sole gives the boot a chunkier silhouette, which makes it easier to style with bigger pants.
Loafer/Slip On Boot
The loafer might just be the ultimate casual shoe. It goes with pretty much everything, it’s easy to slip on and off, and there aren’t many settings in which it won’t look right at home. We love the way a loafer can elevate pretty much any casual outfit when worn in place of a sneaker and loosen up any tailored look when worn in place of a dress shoe. But it’s not without its drawbacks.
Like the desert boot, loafers aren’t the best option during the colder months. The low cut of the collar leaves the ankle and part of the top of the foot exposed, which can quickly get cold in frosty temperatures.
Enter the loafer boot. This loftier alternative to a traditional loafer features the same breezy slip-on design but with a heightened shape that covers more of the ankle. It still has the same smart-casual appeal and works with all sorts of outfits, the key difference being that it’s much better at dealing with winter temperatures and conditions.
For those who live in parts of the world that experience extreme cold in the winter, a simple leather boot may not be sufficient. What you really need in order to keep warm is some insulation, and a pair of padded puffer boots can provide that in a relatively stylish package.
Puffer boots look a bit like what might happen if a pair of wellies and a puffer jacket had a baby. They’re tall enough to cover the ankles and have stitched baffles packed full of down or synthetic insulation to trap body heat and keep the cold out.
Snow Boot 2.0
Snow boots are the tanks of the footwear world. They’re big, heavy, built to take a beating and can stand up to the absolute harshest of winter conditions. Trouble is, they’re not all that fashionable. Boots like Sorel’s iconic Caribou are warm and durable, but if you’ve ever tried styling a pair you’ll know they’re not exactly easy to base outfits around. So, what’s the alternative? That’s where a new crop of fashion-forward cold-weather stompers can be of assistance.
We’re calling the style the ‘snow boot 2.0’. It’s a type of ankle boot that features a grippy lugged sole and an extended rubber rand that reaches up around the sides. Some versions are almost duck boot-like in this respect, which makes them excellent for keeping feet warm and dry. Check out brands like Canada Goose and Diemme for some of the best examples.