Hiking Gear, Winter

Are Hiking Boots Good in the Snow? A Guide to Choosing Winter-Ready Footwear


Hiking in snowy conditions presents unique challenges, requiring gear that can handle the elements while providing essential support and protection. A common question among outdoor enthusiasts is whether hiking boots are up to the task. 

While some hiking boots offer features suitable for snow, not all are equipped for winter’s harsh demands. The key lies in specific attributes such as waterproofing, insulation, and traction, which are crucial for safe and comfortable winter hiking. 

In the following sections, we’ll delve into these features, along with additional gear recommendations and maintenance tips, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your snowy adventures.

Are Hiking Boots Good in the Snow?

Key Features of Hiking Boots for Snow

Snow-covered trails pose unique challenges for hikers, necessitating specialized footwear that can handle both the cold and the terrain. When it comes to selecting the right hiking boots for snowy conditions, there are several crucial features to consider.


In snowy environments, keeping your feet dry is paramount. 

Wet feet can lead to a host of problems, from blisters to frostbite. To ensure your feet stay dry, look for boots with reliable waterproofing capabilities. Materials like Gore-Tex are industry standards for water resistance while maintaining breathability. Boots with a built-in waterproof membrane create an impenetrable barrier against moisture. 

Pay attention to the construction as well; boots with fewer seams in areas exposed to snow are less likely to let water in. Additionally, a fully gusseted tongue prevents water and debris from entering the boot.


As temperatures drop, proper insulation becomes a lifeline. 

Insulation in hiking boots is typically made from synthetic materials such as Thinsulate or Primaloft, which provide excellent warmth-to-weight ratios. These materials trap and retain body heat, creating a warm interior environment. 

However, insulation needs vary based on activity level; too much insulation can lead to sweating, while too little can leave you cold. Opt for a boot with an appropriate gram count of insulation for your intended use, and consider the fact that you can always layer with thick, warm socks for additional warmth.

Keep in mind that the right choice depends on your specific activity level and personal preference, as well as the other gear you are using (such as socks). Higher gram counts provide more warmth but can also lead to overheating if you are highly active, even in very cold conditions. 

Always consider the balance between insulation, breathability, and your expected activity level when choosing insulated hiking boots.

High Traction Outsoles

Maintaining footing on snow and ice is a constant challenge, and the right outsole can make all the difference. 

Look for boots with deep, multi-directional lugs that provide grip in various conditions. Materials engineered for cold temperatures, like Columbia’s Omni-Grip, offer enhanced traction on icy surfaces. 

Additionally, the rubber compound used in the outsole should be designed to remain flexible in cold temperatures, as standard rubber can harden and lose grip.

Ankle Support

Snowy and uneven terrain puts additional stress on your ankles, making proper support crucial. 

Choose boots that extend above the ankle and provide a snug, supportive fit. This not only helps to stabilize your foot and prevent ankle rollovers but also adds an additional layer of protection against the snow, keeping it outside where it belongs. Look for boots with padded collars for comfort, and reinforced ankle zones for added stability.

By giving careful consideration to these features, you can ensure that you choose a pair of hiking boots that will stand up to the challenges of snowy trails, keeping you safe, warm, and dry in the process.

My Hiking Boots for Snow Recommendations

Navigating through snowy landscapes demands not just skill but also the right gear, with hiking boots being a paramount part. The right pair can make the difference between a treacherous trek and a triumphant one.

With the multitude of options available, finding the ideal match for your feet and your adventures can seem daunting. I’ve put numerous pairs to the test, taking into account all the essential factors for snowy conditions.

In my recommendations, I will share the best men’s and women’s hiking boot that excel in insulation, waterproofing, support, and traction—crafted to ensure your winter hikes are as safe as they are exhilarating.

Men: Merrell Rogue Hiker Mid GORE-TEX

Merrell Men’s Rogue Hiker Mid GORE-TEX

  • GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane
  • Ballistic mesh and TPU upper
  • Vibram® MegaGrip®
  • Bellows gusset integrated with
    hybrid midfoot bootie

The Merrell Men’s Rogue Hiker Mid GORE-TEX is a winter trail conqueror, blending GORE-TEX® waterproofing with a breathable mesh lining for dry, comfortable treks.

Its durable ballistic mesh and TPU upper, coupled with a Vibram® MegaGrip® outsole, ensure steadfast traction on slippery surfaces. A bellowed gusset keeps debris out, while the molded TPU heel counter is ready for snowshoe integration.

With 100% recycled laces and eco-friendly odor control, this boot is not only trail-ready but also environmentally considerate, making it the ideal choice for the eco-conscious hiker seeking robust performance in the snow.

Women: Merrell Thermo Rogue 3 Gore-TEX Mid

Merrell Thermo Rogue 3 Gore-TEX Mid

  • GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane
  • Jacquard and TPU upper
  • Bellows tongue keeps out debris
  • Snowshoe strap ridge for stability

The Merrell Thermo Rogue 3 Gore-TEX Mid excels in winter’s worst, with a GORE-TEX® membrane ensuring feet stay dry and 200g Primaloft® insulation keeping them warm.

Its Jacquard and TPU upper, integrated lacing, and bellows tongue craft a glove-like fit that excludes snow. With a Snowshoe strap ridge and Gaiter D-Ring, it’s ready for deep snow treks.

The boot’s Vibram® Arctic Grip™ outsole extends its use through varied winter conditions, offering unmatched durability and traction. Lightweight yet supportive, this boot is for women who demand reliable warmth and steadfast grip on their winter journeys.

Additional Gear to Enhance Performance

Equipping yourself with the right hiking boots is a vital step for winter adventures, but it’s not the whole picture. Integrating additional gear can significantly enhance your performance and safety in snowy conditions.

Hiking in heavy snow with hiking gaiters attached to his hiking boots.

Hiking Gaiters

One of the most essential additions to your winter hiking gear is a pair of hiking gaiters. These garments wrap around your lower leg and cover the opening of your boot, preventing snow, water, and debris from getting inside. 

For snowy conditions, opt for high gaiters that reach up to just below the knee. Ensure they are made of waterproof and breathable material to provide the best protection while maintaining comfort.

Traction Devices

Even the most aggressive hiking boot treads can meet their match on ice. For added safety, consider using traction devices such as microspikes or crampons, depending on the terrain’s severity. 

Microspikes are generally sufficient for icy trails and packed snow, while crampons are better suited for more technical, icy terrain. Ensure whatever device you choose is compatible with your hiking boots.

Insulated Socks

A great pair of insulated and moisture-wicking socks can complement your insulated boots, adding an extra layer of warmth and comfort. 

Wool or synthetic materials work best as they retain insulative properties even when wet, unlike cotton.

Always carry an extra pair, as changing into dry socks can be a game-changer on long, cold hikes.

Trekking Poles

Snowy and icy trails demand balance and stability. Trekking poles provide two additional points of contact with the ground, aiding in balance and reducing the load on your knees during descents. 

Look for poles with snow baskets to prevent them from sinking into soft snow.

For a trekking pole recommendation, read my Black Diamond vs Leki Trekking Poles guide.

By integrating these additional pieces of gear into your winter hiking setup, you significantly enhance your performance, safety, and enjoyment of the trail.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with your gear before heading out, ensuring everything functions correctly and you know how to use it.

Extra Tips for Choosing the Right Hiking Boots for Snow

When the landscape is blanketed in snow, the right pair of boots is not just a comfort issue—it’s about safety and mobility. Here’s how to choose the best hiking boots for your snowy adventures.

Extra Tips for Choosing the Right Hiking Boots for Snow

Measure for Size with Winter Socks

Before you try on any hiking boots, ensure you’re wearing the type of socks you’ll hike in. Winter hiking socks are typically thicker, so they can affect the boot size you need. Your boots should fit snugly with the socks on, but not so tight as to restrict circulation.

Prioritize Boot Cut and Fit

High-cut boots are preferable for deep snow conditions as they provide better ankle support and keep snow out. Ensure the boot fits well around the heel and instep to prevent slippage, which can lead to blisters. Toe room is also crucial to prevent your toes from hitting the front of the boot while descending.

Check the Lacing System

A good lacing system is vital for a secure fit. It should allow for easy tightening and adjustments. Look for boots with hooks or D-rings at the top that hold laces in place, making it easier to adjust the fit around your ankle and calf, crucial for stability and support.

Look for a Stiff Sole

A stiffer sole will provide better stability on uneven terrain and when using traction devices like microspikes or crampons. Check the sole’s flexibility by trying to bend the boot at the toe. For winter conditions, you want minimal bending.

Test for Comfort and Support

Spend time walking in the boots to gauge comfort and support. Pay attention to any pressure points or slipping. Good cushioning and a supportive insole are also important, as they can reduce foot fatigue and keep you comfortable on long hikes.

Read Reviews and Testimonials

Take advantage of others’ experiences. Online reviews, testimonials, and recommendations from other hikers can be invaluable. They often share insights on performance and durability in real-world conditions.

Consider Compatibility with Other Gear

If you’re planning to use gaiters, crampons, or snowshoes, bring them along when trying on boots to ensure compatibility. Not all boots work well with all gear, and finding the right match is essential.

By carefully considering these tips, you can ensure that you select the right hiking boots for your needs, providing you with the foundation for safe and enjoyable winter hiking experiences.

Final Thoughts

In answer to the query at the heart of our discussion, “Are hiking boots good in the snow?” the response is a resounding yes—with a caveat. The effectiveness of hiking boots in snowy conditions hinges on their features and your preparation. A well-equipped pair of hiking boots, designed with snow-specific characteristics such as waterproofing, insulation, traction, and support, is indeed an excellent choice for braving snowy trails.

Your journey through winter landscapes requires boots that are more than just good; they must be exceptional. They should boast the essential features that we’ve discussed, ensuring that each step you take is stable, dry, and warm. With the right boots, complemented by gear such as gaiters and traction devices, you’re not just prepared; you’re poised for a winter hiking experience that’s both safe and enjoyable.

Always keep in mind that while standard hiking boots can be versatile, when it comes to snow, you’ll need to ensure that the pair you choose is equipped to handle the unique challenges posed by winter conditions. A suitable pair of boots, when matched with the right knowledge and additional gear, can transform a snowy trail from a daunting venture into a winter wonderland waiting to be explored.

As we wrap up, let’s affirm that with the right preparation and the correct type of hiking boots, snow-covered trails can be as inviting as their summer counterparts. So, gear up, step out, and let your winter hiking adventures begin!

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: