Here are the boots we can't navigate winter without, from writers who live in snow-covered mountain towns


Snow boot roundup
Suzie Dundas/Business Insider

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To say Lake Tahoe in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains is snowy during the winter is an understatement. With an average snowfall somewhere between 200 to 215 inches per year, it's a haven for skiers, snowboarders, or anyone yearning for several feet of soft powder.

For anyone who has to leave their front door around here, navigating the accumulated snow takes a careful approach — and the right collection of snow-specific attire and gear. As a resident of Lake Tahoe, I've learned that, in addition to a good snow shovel and warm gloves, one of the most important pieces of gear you can own in a mountain town is proper footwear. It's not unusual for me to walk out of my front door in the morning and find snow up to my knees. Even the snowbanks can easily be as tall as houses.

Over the years, I've tried various pairs of snow boots to find what works the best in conquering Lake Tahoe's cold, snowy, and icy conditions. Whether it's a pair of boots for everyday wear or something to relax in after a day on the slopes, there's a pair fit for anyone's snow-filled lifestyle. Along with Insider staff editor Rachael Schultz, who lives near Aspen, Colorado, we've put together seven of our favorite winter snow boots, including pairs from brands like Danner, Timberland, Cat, and Forsake. 

A note on fit

This guide includes boots with options for both men and women. We include options with this cisgender language since a "women's" design typically has a narrower heel and taller arch than a "men's" design, and often features more feminine colorways. However, we think anyone should feel free to wear any type of boot, regardless of gender, sex, or how a product is labeled. We've included options for both listings, so if you have a wider foot overall or prefer more muted color options, check out what's labeled as "men's;" for narrower feet, more arch support, and/or brighter, lighter color options, check out what's labeled as "women's."

Here are the best boots to get you through the winter:

Danner boots
Suzie Dundas/Business Insider

There's plenty about Danner's Artic 600 Chelsea that makes it a worthy winter boot. They feature a slip-on style for easy on and off (along with a helpful finger loop on the front), and the lack of a tongue and laces prevents leakage in low snow and puddles. The boot's low-profile style (about ankle-height) means they pair well with most styles of pants, too.

Since the bottom of the shoe is made entirely of rubber, they have excellent grip on icy roads and sidewalks. Danner refers to it as its Arctic Grip, and while I haven't tested them on something as sheer as a glacier, they do make me feel stable in any icy conditions.

My favorite part of these boots is that they're insulated. I wear them snowshoeing in frigid conditions and never get cold as they're filled with 200g of PrimaLoft Gold insulation. PrimaLoft Gold insulation is a synthetic material that maintains heat even when wet — the whole boot is completely waterproof, anyway but this is still a great feature. My feet have never been wet wearing these. 

There are three downsides, however: The Arctic 600 Chelsea retails for around $200. While they're durable enough to last multiple seasons, it's still a hefty price tag for some consumers. Next, some people with wider feet or wider toe boxes find Danner's a bit uncomfortable. The final drawback is its style — it may not appeal to all wearers. A more traditional laced style is available, though the boot as a whole is a bit chunky, not entirely unlike a pair of Doc Martins.

timberland waterproof boots 2
Timberland

Timberland is an oft-overlooked brand when it comes to functional footwear, but they actually have a full line of quality winter boots, including calf-length and down options.

I bought the Timberland 6-inch Premium Waterproof Boots a few years ago when I lived in New York City and was looking for good-looking waterproof boots that could handle the city slush and vibe with an array of winter outfits. Now, I live in a small mountain town near Aspen, Colorado and these are still my go-to footwear after a solid snowstorm.

These boots have light PrimaLoft eco insulation to lightly retain warmth around your feet. The footbed is comfortable for hours of walking or standing, while the rubber lugged outsole has great traction on slippery surfaces. The shining feature is their responsibly-sourced and waterproof leather outer, which not only keeps your feet dry and warm but also only looks better with age and weathering.

The biggest downside to these are that the ankle-length sometimes lets snow inside and won't protect you if the snowbanks are too high. Overall, the boot is rather heavy, and a pair isn't cheap (although the women's are on sale right now).

But I love that these boots come in a ton of colorways for your own unique aesthetic, from the classic Timber tan-and-black to a chic all white and silver. (And for skeptics of the lighter palette, mine are a now-discontinued light grey that truly never showed four-years-worth of dirt and look better after years of weathering than when they were new). There's even an option to customize your own colors.

Forsake Alma boot
Suzie Dundas/Business Insider

When I'm going out to a nice dinner or going to a more formal social event, I need a pair of boots that are more elegant and style-focused than the others on this list. But since I'm still walking through snow and ice, I can't put water resistance and warmth on the back burner. This rules out many boots from more style-focused brands.

Fortunately, outdoor companies realized the need to mesh a dressier style with protection from the elements. My current favorite is the Alma Boot from Forsake. They have a sophisticated, modern look, thanks to a tall wedge heel and a choice of three understated colors. I wear them most often with skinny jeans but they lend themselves to just about any winter outfit, and look great with a long wool jacket. 

Most importantly, they're warm, and the moisture-wicking fabric on the inside ensures my feet stay dry even if I start to overheat. It also has a comfortable inner foam liner that cradles my foot, making it comfortable when walking long distances. Despite the tall wedge, there's no pain on my heels or ball of my foot when walking on hard surfaces, either. The laces are a bit short but that's a slight annoyance that's easy to overcome. 

Puff 'N' Chill
Suzie Dundas/Business Insider

While living at a ski resort can have its challenges, there's one major perk: skiing and snowboarding every day. But as anyone will tell you, ski boots are incredibly uncomfortable on your toes. A tight fit is necessary but it can lead to sore spots, poor circulation, and tired feet — which is why I always throw Sanuk's Puff N Chill boot into my ski bag.

These slip-boots have a rubber outsole, so they're extra-grippy on snow and ice, plus a foam footbed that contours to your foot. Slipping into these after wearing ski boots all day feels like walking on clouds. Since they're insulated with fluffy foam fill, they're also quite warm in chilly conditions. They have a wide toe-box, so your toes can relax a bit after being shoved into narrow boots for hours. As someone who has wide feet, I feel like I have plenty of space to stretch. 

This is also the boot I wear on ski trips, either during long car rides or while flying. They're toasty enough to keep my feet warm on airplanes but comfortable enough to sleep on a red-eye flight. And if they get dirty during travel, I just toss them in the washing machine when I get home. On the off-chance I rip or destroy them, they're relatively affordable to replace. On sale, you can usually find them around $30-$40. 

The most obvious downside of these is that they aren't waterproof, so I can't wear them on really wet or rainy days. At resorts, it snows far more often than it rains, so this is rarely a problem but skiers who often contend with rain might want to check the forecast before packing these as their après-ski boot. 

holden apres boots
Vimeo - Holden

While I wouldn't wear these boots in an actual snowstorm, the Holden Après Boots are hands down the best mountain town booties if you're looking for warm, cozy, dry feet equally alongside serious style.

For starters, the Après Boots have PrimaLoft Insulation so they keep your feet warm — in fact, they can actually get too warm if you're going to be inside for hours (I wouldn't be able to wear these on a plane like Suzie does with the Sanuk Puff N' Chills). But that instant warmth, combined with how they feel like clouds on your feet, is angelic when your toes are cold from wearing ski boots for hours.

A one-up they have over the Sanuk down booties is that Holden's exterior is water-repellent, and has a laminated toe and heel cap for durability, so I never worry about how the boots will hold up walking through snow-covered town. (Though I will say, I often wear them without socks and it's pretty easy to kick snow down the low-cut ankles.)

The outsole has thick lugs and decent traction, making them great for walking around town, but they're not super reliable if it's especially icy out.

I particularly love that the boots are slip-on and snug enough to wear untied, but they have quick-tie drawstring laces for when I'm going on a longer walk and want a more secure fit.

I got these boots mid-way through winter last year and I wear them every single time I'm headed to the resort to ski, along with most of the time I run out to the grocery store, and pretty much any chilly day where my toes my be cold at the office. I own the camo print and get a compliment almost every time I wear them.

The bad news: It looks like Holden has discontinued this boot for now, so they're harder to find and often only in limited sizes. A few are currently available on Moosejaw (and discounted!) and Amazon.

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