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A Guide to Finding the Warmest Winter Boots

A Guide to Finding the Warmest Winter Boots
The North Face

While there are many factors to consider when purchasing a new pair of winter boots, we're willing to bet the top two criteria on your list are:

  1. Making sure you don't slip and fall and make a total fool of yourself (not to mention, risk injury)
  2. Keeping warm

Finding a "warm" pair of winter boots may seem simple, and in theory it is. Most popular sites, including ShoeBuy, list features like insulated and lined as winter boot categories, but these titles stop short of describing exactly the kind of protection that you can expect against wintery conditions. To set the record straight, we've compiled the top 3 types of insulation often featured in winter boots so that you can make your next winter boot buying decision an informed one.



GORE-TEX® is a popular brand of waterproof liners made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Try saying that three times fast. While some may argue GORE-TEX® isn't exactly an insulator in that it doesn't retain heat, per se, its ability to keep feet dry while also allowing ventilation and sweat evaporation is crucial, and finding winter boots that include a GORE-TEX® membrane may be the first step to choosing the warmest pair.



This brand of thin, highly insulating fabric made from polypropylene fibers provides warmth by trapping air molecules in its microfibers. Commonly used in shoes, outdoor clothing, and sleeping bags, Thinsulate™ and other synthetic insulators like it offer durable protection from cold and wet conditions without adding much bulk.

Typically, the insulation value of a winter boot that contains Thinsulate™ is measured by the weight of the Thinsulate™ in grams per square meter of insulation, and ranges from 100 gram insulation to 1000 gram insulation. The higher the number (i.e. the more Thinsulate™ the boot contains), the warmer it should be.


Shearling vs Sheepskin

But first, what's the difference?

The difference between shearling and sheepskin is fairly nuanced, but worth clarifying all the same. The term "shearling" is used to describe leather with the wool attached, which comes from sheep that have only been shorn once. "Sheepskin," on the other hand, refers more generally to a sheep's skin with the wool attached. Some manufacturers also refer to shearling when describing sheepskin where the wool has been clipped. Oftentimes, the two terms are used interchangeably, but the word "shearling" only is used to describe tanned hides with attached wool that come from lambs.

As for its insulation capabilities, shearling and sheepskin winter boots can be considered in tandem. From a warmth perspective, shearling/sheepskin may be the frontrunner as far as materials go, to such an extent that many people choose not to wear socks with a shearling-lined boot.

However, shearling lacks the durability of the abovementioned methods, so is best reserved for boots that will not face harsh conditions and continuous wear-and-tear.

The type of winter activities in which you partake and whether you're exposed to wet conditions or extreme cold largely influence the kind of insulation you want to look for in a new pair of winter boots. We hope this guide will help you choose the method that best suits your needs so you'll stay warm all winter long.

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Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Boots?
How to Pick a Good Pair of Hiking Boots
What's the Difference Between Hiking and Work Boots?
Non-Slip Shoes: Winter Boots Edition

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