Snow boots are an essential part of winter gear. They have a waterproof rubber bottom and fur or fleece on top to keep your feet warm, so they should be the perfect footwear for hiking in cold weather, right?
Can You Use Snow Boots For Hiking?
Yes! Absolutely. They’re not the best, but they will get the job done if that’s all you have. Most people hate wearing them because its like walking in sand with a very heavy pack on your back – but it’s doable.
Snow boots are significantly more comfortable than hiking boots because they offer much more ankle support and cushioning, which I highly recommend taking if you are going to be stuck wearing snow boots for an extended period of time (3+ days).
In fact, some people may even choose to wear their snowboarding footwear rather than regular winter boots or shoes because it offers less friction against your skin and they usually have neoprene socks built into the boot.
What To Look For When Choosing A Snow Boot For Hiking
Proponents of using snow boots for hiking say that the extra traction from the tread will help you move more easily up slippery slopes and they’ll also provide better insulation against the elements because there’s less air space between your feet and socks.
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It’s also important to buy snow boots with insoles or inserts because a lot of winter boots are really rigid and the insole that comes with them is super thin, making it very uncomfortable.
Insoles will give your feet a much more comfortable cushioning while hiking (you’ll be surprised by how much this helps).
However, if you don’t want to spend money on an insole, packing tape does wonders for the barefoot people out there who don’t want to wear snowboarding footwear.
In the winter, you don’t want your feet to get wet. Winter temperatures will cause your feet to freeze if they get wet. This can result in frost nip or, even worse, frost bite.
Frostbite is a cold injury that causes numbness due to vasoconstriction. Frostbite is caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, which causes the top layer of your skin and some tissues to freeze. Both are painful and necessitate rest.
The distinction between water repellent and waterproofing is significant. A water-repellent material typically has a shorter life span and will lose its ability to repel water more quickly as it is used.
Waterproof means completely impervious to water. That may also imply that it does not breathe. Waterproof and breathable materials, such as Gore-Tex, are available.
If you don’t want to go this route, another option is to buy a pair of neoprene socks. Most winter boots come with the option of wearing regular socks or wearing neoprene socks, but not both at the same time.
So if you’re going on a trip that will involve hiking through snow and possibly standing in water for an extended period of time, invest in some neoprene socks.
They are perfect for snow travel because they are made out of 100% waterproof material so no moisture can get inside your boot even if it’s flooded outside.
They also have good cushioning inside them so they won’t cause any blisters from rubbing against your skin and they provide good insulation for your feet.
Breathability is an important feature because as you walk, your feet naturally sweat, making them wet. Moisture can escape and keep your feet dry if your boot breathes.
Winter hiking boots and mountaineering boots are heavier, and stiffer, and provide the most versatility in difficult terrain, whether it’s packed, loose, icy, or slushy snow.
Sturdy ankle support is essential in the winter for trails where you are post-holing every step or for trails that have been worn down by use. Each scenario causes uneven ground and can make hiking difficult.
Winter hiking boots are designed to fit snugly around the ankle. They have sticky rubber soles with lots of traction features.
You’ll notice a difference between a street snow boot and a hiking boot because snow boots typically lack extra ankle support and are more flexible.
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The Right Fit
Finally, the best hiking boots will be the ones that fit your feet the best. You want to be comfortable both during the hike and after you take your boots off.
When fitting boots, they should feel snug but not tight everywhere. You should be able to wiggle your toes but not move your heel.
A too-tight boot will restrict circulation and create pressure points, causing your feet to ache and become cold. Your feet will naturally swell as you hike, so make sure there’s enough room for them to expand a little.
Consider the type of sock you prefer to wear. Bring your favorite winter hiking sock with you to the store when shopping for new boots to ensure you get the best fit.
Because our feet swell at the end of the day, it’s best to go in and try on boots at that time.
Take the time to walk around in the boot, feeling for any hot spots – rubbing spots can cause painful pressure points in the boots. Hot spots can cause a lot of pain and blisters. This will be a good test to see if the boot is a good fit.
Also, avoid buying a boot that will be too warm for your hike, as this will cause you to overheat and be uncomfortable. A boot designed for the coldest climates in Antarctica will be overkill for your mildly warm winter day in the Rocky Mountains.
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Some Winter Boot Accessories
Water and moisture are wicked away from the body by thick wool socks. If you have sweaty feet, the wool will help to circulate the moisture away from your feet, through your socks, and out of your boots.
Gaiters are available in a variety of lengths, ranging from the top of the ankle to just below the knee. Most hiking boots have a gaiter ring that allows the top of the boot to be attached.
They also serve a dual purpose in other seasons, protecting your boots from mud and keeping insects like mosquitoes and ticks out.
Crampons are required for mountaineering or more extreme winter hiking and backpacking. Compatible boots for attaching crampons are an excellent feature to look for in your winter hiking or mountaineering boots.
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My Winter Hiking Boots Recommendation
Salomon Men’s Toundra Pro CSWP Snow
Salomon Toundra Pro CSWP is developed by NASA for spaceflight. They are rated for -40F temperatures. Sturdy, comfortable, and plenty insulated.
Baffin Snow Monster
Baffin makes great quality winter boots for hiking. There are various models for women and men that each has the combination of the above attributes you will want of a great winter hiking boot.
Are hiking boots and snow boots the same?
It depends on where you are hiking. If you are in a dry climate, like Phoenix or Las Vegas, then the answer is yes. In fact, hiking boots can be used to hike through snow if they have not been designated as winter boots (which means they will be insulated)
Hiking boots and snow boots are both designed for trekking long distances through rough terrain. Though they look different from one another, both types of footwear offer cushioning on impact so that your feet do not take all of the shocks while walking.
The most important thing is to make sure your boots are actually waterproof (or at least resist water) before you bring them on any hike.
The last thing you want is for your feet to be wet through, either from snow or rainwater, so look carefully inside the boot in those areas that might not be obvious.
If you can see design elements that should keep water out but are located in places where they will get damaged by normal hiking, the boot probably isn’t going to survive a long trail—even if it looks like it would otherwise have great “hiking” features.
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