If, like me, you have walked a few too many overcrowded summer trails, then it might be time to consider pulling on a pair of snowshoes. Just imagine pristine, untouched environments with barely another soul around.
Imagine being the first to slice almost effortlessly through freshly fallen snow, away from loud voices, dust-drenched air and 200 different people spoiling your photographs. And, as nearly all types of boots and shoes are snowshoe compatible, you may already have a pair sitting ready in the cupboard.
If you are in the market to buy a pair of boots just for snowshoeing, we’ve compiled a list of 6 ‘best bets’ based on varying types of conditions and terrain you’ll be facing. So, let’s dive into the list…
6 kinds of boots to wear for snowshoeing:
1. Sorel Conquest
Pros – These rugged boots come with a whopping 400 grams of insulation and are therefore rated for temperatures as cold as -40°F. They feature a rubber lower, which means the boots are completely waterproof, while I love the built-in gaiters that seal the boot shut, preventing all that unwanted snow and moisture from getting in.
The upper is made from full grain leather, while the Achilles adjustment strap is a nice touch, giving you more ankle support when or if you desire it.
Cons – Construction with such durable materials (and the amount of insulation) also comes with it the extra weight, and it is no different for these Sorels. You will be looking at about 4lbs 6oz for the pair. The lacing system has come under a bit of scrutiny as well as they do not feature speed lace hooks, while some owners have reported the seam un-stitching between rubber and leather, perhaps a hangover from moving their production centers from Canada to China.
2. Baffin Snosport
Pros – This Baffin boot is rated to -4°F and is compatible with both snowshoes and crampons. The rubber lower keeps the boots waterproof, while the soft-shell upper is both comfortable and breathable. They provide outstanding rugged traction for when you need to take those snowshoes off, while the nylon arch shank provides excellent support to the middle of your foot, keeping you in comfort all day long.
Cons – I would not recommend buying a pair of these boots online as the sizes do run small, meaning that if you are normally a size 10, then you may need to purchase a size 11 or even a 12 to make sure they fit. Best to just go into the shop and try them on first.
A lot of buyers have also noted that due to the lacing design and the eyelets being quite wide apart, there have been a few instances of snapped laces. This is exacerbated by thin eyelets that can cut into the laces.
3. Merrell Thermo Chill
Pros – When you buy a Merrell boot, you are buying quality, and in this case with the Thermo Chill, you are getting it without breaking the bank. It is an extremely affordable and budget-friendly option. The lower part of the boot is sealed with polyurethane-coated leather. The mesh upper has the same treatment while remaining breathable.
They are relatively lightweight for an insulated boot, while the softer materials will keep your feet feeling as though they have been wrapped in Egyptian cotton. They also tend to be comfortable straight out of the box. Highly recommended.
Cons – Although a very good boot and more than adequate if you are heading into cold-yet-not-ridiculously-cold weather, I would not recommend it for environments of extreme temperatures. The lightweight insulation does provide good protection, but if you think your feet will be covered in snow for most of the day, then they will eventually become uncomfortably cold. They are also not crampon compatible.
4. Oboz Bridger
Pros – Whether you are going for a ramble around town or hitting the back country over deep, fresh powder, these boots from Oboz will be an excellent addition to your equipment list. They are another boot renowned to be comfortable straight out of the box, and you can wear them for multi-day trips without fear of discomfort.
They are a mid-hiking boot, so provide you with excellent ankle support, while the all-leather upper is surprisingly soft and flexible. It should also go without saying that they are completely waterproof, and they do run true to size. If you need to get out of those snowshoes, you will be hard-pressed to find a boot with better traction on the slippery stuff that these Bridgers.
Cons – They are quite expensive for a mid-hiker, so if you need something a little more budget friendly then you may be better off with the Merrells. A lot of buyers also have problems with the laces, which have a tendency to slip and loosen over time. Maybe pack a spare pair of laces before heading off on your snowshoeing adventure.
5. Keen Revel III
Pros – This mid hiker from Keen is both reasonably priced and well suited for snowshoeing. They come with 200 grams of Keen Warm Insulation inside the waterproof leather upper, while a special “Trapolator” underfoot insulation system prevents the cold from entering through the base of the boots.
This is achieved by three layers of insulation that work in much the same way as housing insulation. They are also the lightest boots on our list, so you will have no problem lifting your legs through the snow all day long.
The boots also feature a revolutionary eco anti-odor probiotic system embedded in the sole. This naturally breaks down odor causing bacteria, without the need for any chemicals. Other features you may enjoy are dual speed lace eyelets, a gaiter ring hook and a rugged, grippy outsole, designed for the slipperiest of conditions.
Cons – If you are heading into Arctic-like conditions, then I would recommend getting a warmer pair of winter boots, although these are great for tramping around in freezing conditions. The one thing that lets these boots down are the laces themselves, that always seem to come undone. Get around this by buying a decent set and re-lacing before you head out into the cold.
6. Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV – (Best women’s boot for snowshoeing)
If you are looking for the best women’s boot for snowshoeing, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat (Womens) would be hard to beat.
Pros – Packed with 200 grams of Omni-Heat insulation, this winter hiker will keep your feet warm, even if immersed in snow for long periods of time. Columbia have even stamped a bone-chilling -25°F rating on them. The lacing system is clever, enabling the wearer to keep the boots snug all the way up the feet and ankles, which is excellent for keeping warmth trapped where you want it.
Cons – There is not a lot to say here. If you are planning on snowshoeing on gentle, flat trails with very little snow, then maybe you will find these boots to be overkill. However, if you are heading for something a little challenging, then I would go try a pair of these boots on for yourself.
Fit and Features – What to look for in a good snowshoe boot:
- Evaluate your existing boots – If you are a hiker, then you will be pleased to know that your hiking boots are a perfect fit for snowshoes. Providing they are warm and waterproof, you can make the transition to this winter activity without having to spend a lot of extra money.
- Extreme cold – If you are heading into extremely cold weather, then it would be recommended to invest in a pair of ultra-warm winter boots, and we have included some of the most popular brands and models above.
- Insulated and waterproof – If your boots are comfortable, insulated, warm and waterproof, then you will be well on your way to experiencing this amazing outdoor activity for yourself. If your boots are more suited to warmer environments, then look for winter walking boots with at least 200 grams of insulation.
- Mid to high cut – They should also be mid or high-cut to provide greater warmth retention and ankle support. The better boots from the more reputable companies will also give you a temperature rating, so if you know roughly how cold the weather is likely to be, you can use this as a purchasing guide.
Do you need gaiters for snowshoeing?
It is not necessary to wear gaiters when snowshoeing, particularly when the trails are flat and the snow is not too deep. However, you may wish to consider wearing gaiters when you are tackling harder terrain, where it is necessary to kick-step your way up steeper inclines. Snow is going to be flying everywhere, and creating that extra waterproof seal above your boots could be the difference between having wet (and therefore, cold) and dry feet. Even better – buy a pair with built-in gaiters such as the Sorel Conquest.
Can you wear snow boots when it’s not snowing?
Snow boots can be worn even if it is not snowing, although the temperatures should still be relatively cold, otherwise you will find your feet will overheat and start to sweat. Some people choose to wear their snow boots over various types of terrain, as they normally provide excellent traction for dealing with snow and ice. This traction converts to other types of non-frozen terrain as well.
Other snow boots can be worn as a fashion statement – particularly for women – even when it is not snowing. Boots such as the Sorel Conquest Carly and The North face Shellista II are considered trendy and stylish; and are increasingly being worn for more than just traction in the snow.
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As a travel writer and photographer, Gordon spent the better part of 2018 visiting 13 different countries as far apart as Chile, Morocco and Vietnam. He is in New Zealand in 2019, writing a third travel book, while exploring pretty much anything that forms a bump on the Earth’s surface.