Out In The Cold: The 12 Best Winter Boots

Winter is weird and unpredictable at the best of times and given the odds that a repeat performance of the Polar Vortex is likely, expect the cold months to be unusual in the most unpleasant way possible. What this means for your daily wear is trying to make do with some grubby sneakers is not going to hack it. You’re going to need some serious winter boots to get through an average day.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a good pair of boots for the winter months need to be big and clunky where style is sacrificed for warmth. You have that option, but there are some boots that do a good job of striking a balance between comfort and style so you don’t need to feel embarrassed when donning your winter gear. Simultaneously there are still some manufacturers that have never heard of fashion and want nothing more than to keep you warm while you’re plowing through the snow. We’ve included some hiking boots, some snow boots, and plenty of options for the fashion forward guy who doesn’t always need the hardest, highest, or heaviest options. Whatever the cut of your jib or whatever your climate plans on throwing at you, one of the 12 best winter boots for men will suit you.

Kamik NationPlus

Kamik NationPlus

Pro: Affordable
Con: Not exceptionally warm

Day-to-Day Use: These are probably the most basic winter boots we considered. They aren’t weak by any means, they just don’t serve any special purpose. These are better for the weekend winter warrior who intends on shoveling the driveway, then jumping in their heated car to cruise off to work. They are comfortable enough that they won’t over or underheat your feet, while not quite burly enough for long days fighting the elements. If you’ve long been a fan of Sorel boots that are good enough to get you through the day but don’t blow any sunshine up your skirt, the NationPlus will make you happy. The fit can be a little tight, but they aren’t clunky or too awkward. They also cost about half of what you will pay for anything else, which will give you more cash to blow on gifts this year. [Purchase: $59+]

L.L. Bean Waxed Canvas Maine Hunting Shoe

L.L. Bean Waxed Canvas Maine Hunting Shoe

Pro: Fights wet weather
Con: Minimal thermal protection

For Wet Work: The design of these boots is straight out of Saving Private Ryan and that is done on purpose. L. L. Bean was paying homage to the original winter ass-kickers that made them famous. They’ve taken the classic and loaded it up with a few modern additions. A steel shank has been placed inside the boot to give improved arch support for all day wear for the workman who can’t survive with a boot that won’t go the distance. They claim to be a hunting shoe, and the waterproof bottoms and waxed upper work well for that purpose, so long as you’re not out in deep snow. They fight wet better than cold so slogging through damp weather, wet grasses, or even taking a winter cruise will work just fine even if you don’t have any waterproof socks. You’ll want some wool between you and the elements if you plan on using these for adventures in the freezing cold. [Purchase: $139]

UGG Hannen

UGG Hannen

Pro: Rugged
Con: All-season boot requiring extra socks

On the Job: The Hannen model from UGG is a great work boot for all seasons. A lot of guys prefer the sheepskin lining for winter wear while they’re on the site and need a little extra warmth without creating something too bulky. The inside is coated with Mylar that improves comfort and reduces strain from walking while kicking up the thermal protection a couple of notches. The entire foundation is rugged and meant to last for years under the most punishing conditions. On the outside, the Vibram sole absorbs shocks and helps keep joints from taking painful jolts. With moisture wicking that won’t go flat after a month they help keep your boots from growing bacteria and adding awful odors to your home. You may specifically want to buy a summer and winter pair, with a larger winter size for added socks. [Purchase: $230]

Columbia Bugaboot Plus II Omni-Heat

Columbia Bugaboot Plus II Omni-Heat

Pro: Exceptional tread
Con: Looks like a ski boot

Total Traction: One thing can be certain if you plan on walking anywhere outside of southern California or Phoenix: you’ll want good grip. Icy streets and snowy fields are equally treacherous and one spill can put you in traction for months, not to mention make you look a fool on your way down. When you need to ensure your feets don’t fail you, the Bugaboot will keep you grounded. They can withstand being dunked into icy water without seeping away all their heat or letting a solitary drop sneak in. They have a shaft that runs partway up the calf to keep snow drifts from twisting your ankle while the pliable rubber soles work to grip black ice and even in streambeds. The Bugaboots were easier to slide on than most slippers. You just grabbed the back and pulled. They slid on and you strapped in. Sure, the ski-bum design isn’t glamorous, but taking a spill down slick steps isn’t either. [Purchase: $117+]

Baffin Arctic

Baffin Arctic

Pro: Extremely warm
Con: Does not work well in moderate climates

Extreme Cold: The high tops of these boots and the nearly smothering liner make these a poor choice for anyone who plans on doing a lot of moving, but if you’re going to be planting your feet in the snow for long periods or waiting for the bus in Fargo, you’ll want these around. They call to you like an easy chair and once you put them on, they inspire long periods of sitting. They aren’t as heavy as some other winter boots, but they are packed with thermal protection that doesn’t need much in the way of assistance to keep out the cold. Odds are good that you won’t even need a set of thermal socks if you’ve chosen the Arctic as your footware of choice. The style basic black style isn’t the ugliest thing we’ve seen, but they do say “snow pants” much more than making the club scene so expect incredible function without much nodding to fashion. If you don’t dig the threads and treads, try the Baffin APEX. [Purchase: $125]

Timberland Earthkeepers Ryker

Timberland Earthkeepers Ryker

Pro: Very green
Con: Minimum reinforcement

For the Eco-Adventurer: The Ryker’s from Timberland balance green design for the serious environmentalist with outstanding protection for anyone looking to spend their holidays out under the stars. These aren’t merely water-resistant but can be completely submerged in a stream because they have an internal membrane without seams. No seams means they cannot leak making them equal to water shoes though built for winter wear. The rubber sole has 42% recycled rubber, the laces are organic cotton, and the PET lining is all reused plastic bottles. The leather naturally comes from animals, though it is produced by a tannery with a reduced carbon footprint and limited waste materials. This is the bigger, badder brother of the original Timberlands that DMX wore when yelling “Up In Here,” but these come with a decidedly new millennium attitude meant for explorers looking to save the planet. [Purchase: $98]

Irish Setter Elk Tracker 1000

Irish Setter Elk Tracker 1000

Pro: Prevents ankle twisting
Con: Can feel binding and restrictive

On the Hunt:¬†When you’re done trying to protect mother nature and it’s time to do some killing, then you’re definitely ready for the Elk Tracker 1000. They have a negative 100 degree rating and are protected by a Thinsulate layer that is fully 1,000 grams. If that isn’t enough, they have a EE width which means unless you’ve got some serious clod stompers, you’ll be able to pack in the socks. The long tongue runs right up against your shin to give you protection and stability when tracking game across unusual terrain that you may not always be able to see. The reinforced protection helps keep your ankle in place which means that missteps or trips over unseen roots won’t leave you with a sprain or a break. Even if you just dig extreme cross-country hiking, these will keep your joints in line and still look damn good. [Purchase: $220]

Palladium Pampa Sport Cuff Wp2

Palladium Pampa Sport Cuff Wp2

Pro: Quiet, tactical movement
Con: Air circulation can be cold

Run N’ Gun: Sports don’t stop just because the weather gets a little chilly. It just means it is time to upgrade your gear. These winter boots were inspired by tactical gear from the French Foreign Legion but reimagined partly for active sportsman, police and military personnel in cold urban settings, and anyone who needs a boot that is right and tight for any kind of exertion. They have full-grain leather that doesn’t leak but allows the boots to breathe and kills odors so even after hours on the field or taking a run through Hogan’s Alley, you’re feet will still feel fresh. The black build with ballistic-nylon mesh on the sides and upper scream badass but honestly don’t look that out of place with a suit, though your co-workers may think you kick in doors on your days off. Sponge fillers make your feet comfortable and allow air to circulate, but don’t do much for warmth so keep some decent socks handy in case you find yourself out in the cold. [Purchase: $75]

North Face Arctic Guide

North Face Arctic Guide

Pro: Lightweight for running
Con: Minimal sole padding

Hit the Turf: The Arctic Guide is either a trail running shoe with the soul of a winter boot or a winter boot with the heart of a trail running shoe. Either way, it couples the minimalist style with sufficient warmth to let those who will not their internal marathon be stopped by little things like blizzards. The upper is waterproof yet breathable to reduce foot funk after a long day. The toe is lined with Primaloft insulation that keeps out cold and wet without stifling your foot. As the weather gets colder, the lugs firm up to give you more traction, though they lack much in the way of padding so pounding the pavement will leave inexperienced runners with aches in places you didn’t know you had places. [Purchase: $150]

Dr Martens Mens Triumph 1460

Dr. Marten’s Men’s Triumph 1460

Pro: Tough exterior
Con: Little airflow

Hard-Core: Leave it to old Doc Marten to come up with a biker boot that works best for the months out of the year when you really shouldn’t be on your motorcycle. The tactically inspired Triumph 1460 gives you a comfortable rubber sole that is meant for the rigors of hiking around sidewalks or strapping onto your Harley for a little wintertime ride where you take your life in your hands around every curve. The reinforced toe works equally well for keeping street grime and slush off of your feet as keeping your toes warm when you’re heading out on the highway. The 8 eyelet lacing gives you more than enough support and keeps down airflow so cold can’t seep in through the PVC outside. Even if you’ve never straddled a motorcycle in your life, the tough style combined with hidden fabric comfort interior will look and feel great. [Purchase: $114]

Wolverine 1000 Mile Chelsea Boot

Wolverine 1000 Mile Chelsea Boot

Pro: Requires little breaking in
Con: Slip-on style

Comfortably Casual: Wolverine has managed to strike a perfect balance between affordability, durability, and style. The style teeters on the edge of hipster, but the twin-gore slip on complete with Horween Predator upper is built for punishment. The lining is hand-crafted leather sheepskin that is water resistant and can help fight cold so long as you don’t expect to do any heavy trailblazing. The exterior isn’t so sleek that you’ll look like you’re trying to be Ringo Starr, but isn’t as worn as really heavy workman’s gear either. These imply business casual but ready to party. You’ll be surprised at how long they last, though if you are in colder climates you’d be wise to buy a size up so you can pad them out with socks. Though they look stiff and restrictive, you’ll find them comfortable right out of the box with minimal breaking-in required and shocking heat retention thanks to the full leather body. [Purchase: $230]

Hugo Boss Lumero Shearling-Lined Ankle Boots

Hugo Boss Lumero Shearling-Lined Ankle Boots

Pro: Professional looking
Con: Long walks are uncomfortable

Truly Trendy: The Brogue-style boots can be found almost anywhere with many pretenders to the crown offering up knock-offs. These come with both the brand recognition you need along with a few little surprises under the hood that make them well worth the heavier price tag. The semi-military look is casual enough that they don’t seem at odds with jeans while a little spit shine is all it takes for them to look like they belong on Wall Street. The collar is suede and keeps out the blustery weather of the east coast or the wet, bleak cold of London or Essex. With patterned leather and an extra warm lining it is one of the few winter boots that give you enough pomp and circumstance without giving you an icy foot. The dress-style heel isn’t terribly comfortable for extremely long walks so don’t go pounding the pavement all day. [Purchase: $262]

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