By Janet Kelly
SNOW DAYS—from a fashion and technical perspective—present more challenges than ordinary cold weather. To be worth investing in, a good pair of winter boots should meet some requirements. For example, a snug fit around the calf keeps the wet stuff from dribbling in, the reason why most winter boots lace up instead of zipping. You also want foot gear with high-quality insulation for warmth, waterproof/water-resistant materials to keep you dry and deep-traction soles (with rugged treads) to prevent slipping.
When it comes to height, shorter boots are easier for walking around in, but if you’re trudging through deep snow, taller boots will protect your calves.
As manufacturers of ski apparel have adapted their designs to be lighter, more stylish and suitable for a wider range of activities—while retaining their technical properties—manufacturers of snow boots have similarly incorporated the fashionable with the functional.
This season, more styles resemble Tecnica’s Moon Boots of the early 1970s, which were created as après-ski footwear. But this time around versions from North Face, Columbia and Pajar as well as the original come with treads for serious ground control. And some Pajar and Wind River styles come with ice grippers.
Stalwarts, such as Sorel’s Joan of Arctic, continue to be popular for looks and winter prowess. As New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman noted, it’s the dominant brand at the Sundance Film Festival. Ugg’s new Adirondack III gets rave reviews from our own Kathy Legg (older styles often fell short on traction). Another discriminating friend swears that pricey La Canadienne is worth the splurge. Made in a family-owned factory in Montreal, every boot is hand cut to ensure the right fit and oodles of comfort.
Because no boot is foolproof over icy sidewalks, follow New York Times health columnist Jane Brody advice: “Walk like a duck or penguin.”
As they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Here are ours:
LEFT: Puffy boots pack a warm punch. Details matter, such as a waterproof upper that sloughs off slush. A metallic dot pattern on the lining is designed to keep heat in, while an outsole with fiberglass particles in the rubber holds on to slippery surfaces. Adding to functionality and style is a waterproof pouch to store necessaries. A velcro cuff seals the deal on this Paninaro Pull-On Boot, which sells for $140.
LEFT: Based in Freeport, Maine, L.L. Bean has always had its radar trained on coping with cold, snowy weather. The 9 ½-inch high Rangely Boots ($169) update the company’s classic snow boot with a waterproof upper, faux fur around the collar, an acrylic fleece lining and grooved-tread rubber outsole designed to keep wearers steady on their feet.
CENTER: What grown-up girl among us doesn’t dread slipping on an icy sidewalk? According to Toronto’s Kite Research Institute, which has developed a methodology to test and rate footwear for slip-resistance, Wind River’s Ice Queen mid-height winter boots earned high marks. No footwear is failsafe, but these also offer plenty of warm insulation, are 100% waterproof and are equipped with innovatively designed IceFx outsoles. They’re reduced in price from $179.99 to $125.99 until January 19, 2022.
RIGHT: Lightweight and on the inexpensive side—$79.95—Columbia’s Ice Maiden Boot II provides waterproof protection on its leather and textile upper, warmth and traction. A good option for daily cold-weather errands but not as robust for heavy snow situations.
LEFT: Points for a sleek silhouette and front zipper for easy on-and-off go to La Canadienne’s waterproof suede Abba bootie. A genuine shearling lining keeps feet dry and warm, while the stitched trim outsole keeps you steadier on snow days. A cushioned foam insole ups the comfort quotient. It is selling for $575 on Zappo’s.
RIGHT: Water-resistant lace-ups with an adjustable nylon back strap for a secure fit, North Face’s ThermoBall boot is lightweight (1 pound 8 ounces), lined and equipped with a collar bungee to prevent snow and such from getting inside. Another feature in favor of this oversize puff boot (shown above in taupe green) is an outsole with temperature-sensitive lugs. They’re $118.95 at Zappo’s.
LEFT: Deep snow drifts won’t deter you with your feet shod in Sorel’s Joan of Arctic. Waterproof suede, a removable felt inner boot for insulation, closed-seam construction and a rubber sole for grip are key to their durability. The only thing that isn’t waterproof are the laces. Sorel also has some fashion chops: New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman noted that it is the dominant brand at the Sundance Film Festival. For winter function and style, the Joan (shaft height is 12 inches) rises to the occasion. It’s $210.
CENTER: Ugg’s Adirondack III ($249.95), in waterproof leather, has a high-friction rubber outsole with serious traction in freezing temps; extra-warming, feet-cosseting sheepskin insulation; a cushioning insole and a cold-weather rating of -25.6˚F. It’s 10-inch shaft goes to 8 inches when fashionably cuffed. And, er, to boot, MyLittleBird’s Kathy Legg calls them “amazing.”
RIGHT: Inspired by the 1969 lunar landing, this low-top version ($120) of the original Moon Boot riffs on astronaut gear. Made of water-repellent nylon, the boot is insulated with foam, fitted with a lightweight mid-sole and has suction pads on its rubber-tread sole. Slip it on and then tighten with a top drawstring and criss-cross laces. In addition to this cool khaki, it comes in many other colors, including hot pink, pink, yellow and white.
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