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Experts share the 3 must-have features you need for effective winter boots

Lace up and get ready to take on the frigid elements.
Courtesy Jannely Espinal

Cold weather creates an opportunity to experiment with layers and unique fashion pieces, plus it gives us a chance to dust off our winter boots from our closets. While many people lean toward aesthetic footwear like high-heeled boots around wintertime, many options tend to lack the fabrics and materials needed to keep your toes free of humidity and frostiness.

Just like cold weather-specific clothing and gear, winter footwear should have a combination of comfort, style, support and insulation — all of which help your feet withstand snow and slippery surfaces. Unlike your fall footwear, winter calls for sturdier and more supportive styles. Before you select your perfect pair of kicks for the chilly season ahead, there are some crucial tips you should keep in mind.

Best winter boots

How to shop for women's winter boots | Qualities to look for | Stylish winter boots | Boots for everyday wear | Waterproof boots | Lightweight boots | Boots with extra insulation | Boots for hiking | How we chose | Meet the experts

How to shop for women's winter boots

The first thing to consider when buying a pair of winter-approved boots is the material. According to footwear designer Damion Le Cappelain, start by searching for boots made with GORE-TEX. "This is a tried and tested material that makes the boots both waterproof and breathable," he says. Shoes made with this durable material have to meet rigorous waterproof performance standards and tests to ensure they can withstand extreme temperatures and precipitation.

Winter boots should also be comfortable instead of constricting. According to sixth-generation master shoemaker Marcell Mrsan, "When you expect to wear footwear in extreme cold, the last thing you need is tight footwear, which restricts blood flow. Blood flowing is what will keep your foot warm."

Mrsan also advises trying your boots with socks, which, he says, "can take away a mentionable amount of girth from the inside." Before committing to a purchase, try wearing your desired boots with thermal socks to gauge the amount of room your feet will need.

Vivian Le / TODAY

While leather boots look fashionable and seem ideal for the winter, their maintenance can be difficult. Instead, footwear designer Carla Lopez recommends finding a pair that's made with "waterproof synthetic leather for people who like the look of leather but don’t like the upkeep to make it waterproof."

What to look for in women's winter boots

Consider these key features when sleet and snow try to get in the way of your fashion choices:

  • Rubber boots: According to Lopez, "Rubber boots with non-skid soles will keep you safe from slipping in inclement weather."
  • Comfort: Boots made of most synthetic materials, such as polyester, are unable to take your foot's shape, said Mrsan. He suggests trying the boots on several times before leaving the house. "Badly fitting footwear is only going to lose the counter stiffener shape [the thermoplastic material between the shoe's lining and upper meant to give it shape]."
  • Waterproof: During extremely cold weather, Lopez advises choosing boots with non-wicking properties on the upper materials.

The best stylish winter boots

Palladium Pallabase Twill Boots

What we like
  • Very comfortable heel
  • Ideal for all-day wear
Something to note
  • Footbed is not as comfortable
  • Requires a different insole

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 15 | Heel height: 2 inches

For the woman who wants comfort but doesn't want to give up her stylish choices, this pair is a great option. This PETA-approved vegan boot has that distinctive chunky aesthetic and a discrete zipper with a chic design. This is the kind of boot you would wear on cold days while the snow is melting. The rubber sole and thick heel will keep you safe and elegantly elevated during the holiday.

I own these boots and they have become an everyday essential for my winter activities. For extra comfort, I added a pair of Fulton insoles which are designed for those who experience arch pain.

Naturalizer Madalynn Gore Water-Repellent Bootie

What we like
  • Great for wide feet
Something to note
  • Need time to break in

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 3 | Heel height: 3 inches

Commerce editor Amanda Fama is a fan of this pair for many reasons. "They’re water-repellent and super warm. Whether it’s raining or chilly outside, I know I’ll be comfortable when I wear them. The outsoles are made with non-slip rubber, too, which is helpful during slippery weather."

As for the outsole, you get a block heel and a sturdy slip-resistant design that will make you feel confident while walking outdoors.

Franco Dizzy Bootie

What we like
  • Great for all-day wear
  • Lace-up feature for adjustment
  • Water-repellent
Something to note
  • Requires extra care

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 2 | Heel height: 3 inches

A lot of us have had a last-minute date we had to squeeze into our schedule. This pair has a three-inch block heel and back pull tab to don them in seconds, just in time to make it to your reservation. The pair is made with a water-repellent leather upper and a cozy fleece lining to match your cold-weather style. It's also a pair you can wear for 8+ hours, according to enthusiastic reviewers.

Dr. Martens 1460 Combat Boots

What we like
  • Non-slip material
Something to note
  • They feel stiff before breaking them in

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 5 | Heel height: 1.25 inches

Add some edge to your winter outfit with these iconic boots from Dr. Martens. Choose from a matte or patented finish, depending on your style. The best thing about these boots, though, is that they are a timeless staple and go well with almost anything you wear.

While some customers said the boots take a while to break in, they will protect you around slippery sidewalks. Holiday editor Nina Bradley is a fan of this iteration and says, "They pair well with just about everything. I can wear them with jeans, leggings, skirts and even dresses. They instantly add a cool vibe to any outfit and make me feel like an 'it girl' without trying too hard."

Blundstone Lace-Up Gore Boots

What we like
  • Roomy toe box
Something to note
  • Requires time to break them in

Sizes: 6-11 | Colors: 6 | Heel height: 1.25 inches

For a more elevated feel, jump into the lace-up trend. This Blundstone pair offers a grunge vibe with its gold brush detailing on the upper and elastic panels. There is no need to tie the laces every time because you can easily pull them on with the pull tag on the back. The boot also features shock absorption, which the brand claims can absorb 90% of the impact as you walk.

Frankie4 Allegra Black

What we like
  • Cushioning soles
  • Enough arch support
Something to note
  • Slightly narrow on the toe box

Sizes: 6-10 | Colors: 1 | Heel height: 2.75 inches

While these boots are an investment piece, they receive my seal of approval for two main features — their removable footbed and snug fit around my calves. These are the most sleek knee-high boots I have ever worn and the short heels are perfect for my commute.

These were designed by a podiatrist plus they offer a full-length Sole Hero Support Footbed that is perfect if you have plantar fasciitis.

The best winter boots for everyday wear

Sperry Women's Syren Ascend Boot

What we like
  • Very comfortable around ankle
  • Spacious toe box
Something to note
  • Can run big

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 2 | Heel height: 2 inches

When style, functionality and performance combine, you get a modern boot like this one from Sperry. It feels ultra comfortable at first slip and is a shoe that will look great with dresses, jeans and leggings.

I love the cushioned feel around the ankle area and how roomy the toe box is. This boot will be my go-to pair for the winter months, especially when there's snow.

Ryka Highlight Winter Boot

What we like
  • Great for extra warmth
Something to note
  • No zipper or laces

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 1 | Shaft height: 5.4 inches

When the crisp weather turns much colder, then it's time for something sturdier. This is a sporty, comfortable women's winter boot that features padded cushioning, faux fur lining and built-in heat protection for a comfortable day exploring the holiday towns. You can even explore the woods, because the boot is made with water-repellent outdoor protection.

Dolce Vita Huey H2O Boots

What we like
  • Can wear with thick socks
Something to note
  • Not ideal for narrow feet

Sizes: 4-13 | Colors: 4 | Heel height: 2.3 inches

If you're a classy girl who needs extra comfort, then look no further and add this pair to your collection. Editorial director Adrianna Brach knows how to keep it chic and this boot is part of her shoe repertoire.

"They’re not 'rain boots' but they’re waterproof. You get a stylish Chelsea style that’s built for rain and snow. They’re so comfortable and I can wear thick socks with them too," she adds.

Merrel Women's Bristol Chelsea

What we like
  • Can withstand the elements
  • Ideal for narrow foot.
Something to note
  • Require taller socks
  • Can cause blisters

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 4 | Heel height: 0.75 of an inch

Whether you're going on a hike or a trip to the store, these boots are supportive enough for any weather condition. They are offered in a Chelsea and hiker style, depending on your daily activities.

"I have been testing these out and know that they will be my winter boot. They are comfortable, warm, waterproof and great for a variety of terrains because I never know where I might go with my dog as the weather cools down," says commerce editor Vivien Moon.

Dr. Martens Leonore Chelsea Boot

What we like
  • Can be worn with thick socks
  • Provides a good grip
Something to note
  • Too narrow for wide feet

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 4 | Heel height: 0.75 of an inch

Embrace a little bit of edginess with these classic Dr. Martens boots. The Chelsea boot style is a great option for busy urbanites looking for a practical boot. According to one reviewer, "The slip-in style was what I really wanted, and they are super easy [to get] on and off."

Overland Mustang Shearling-Lined Waterproof Leather Hiker Boots

What we like
  • Interior is very warm
  • Ideal for very low temperatures
Something to note
  • Requires extra care

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 2 | Heel height: 2.25 inches

For extra cold days, stay stylish with these waterproof leather boots from Overland. The brand specializes in leather goods with modern designs, all while focusing on warmth. These boots in particular will keep your feet cozy up to -13°F, thanks to their soft shearling sheepskin shaft and wool lining. Plus, your winter footwear will get an easy upgrade with the pair's versatile coffee cream color.

The best waterproof winter boots

Timberland Women’s Kinsley 6-Inch Waterproof Boot

What we like
  • Memory foam footbed
Something to note
  • Run slightly narrow

Sizes: 5.5-11 | Colors: 4 | Heel height: 2.25 inches

Senior editor Jess Bender has a penchant for all things comfortable yet stylish. This pair in particular has been a game-changer in her footwear rotation. "While it has a similar construction to the brand’s classic work boot — waterproof leather upper, durable lug soles, lace-up style — the all-black color makes it easy to give me a 'rugged chic' edge for most occasions."

Just to summarize how much she loves this pair, "The first time I wore these boots outside was a very adventurous night (I had to sprint through peak Christmas crowds to make a train in Times Square) and I had surprisingly comfortable strides courtesy of the cushy memory foam insole these come with. All of my other boots in my wardrobe required some additional time to break them in (from hours to days), but these Timbs required none of that."

Ariat Harper Waterproof Boot

What we like
  • Great for hiking adventures
  • Removable cushioning insole
Something to note
  • Not suitable for high arches

Sizes: 5.5-11 | Colors: 2 | Heel height: 1 inch

Made with an "impermeable" waterproof PRO construction and 100% full-grain leather, these Ariat winter boots were designed to withstand rain puddles, packed snow and rougher terrains. Shoppers tend to agree, giving it a near-perfect average for how warm it keeps their feet during some of the season's fiercest elements.

Ugg Adirondack Boot III

What we like
  • Effective for snowy environments
  • Lots of cushioning
Something to note
  • Can be snug with thicker socks
  • Toe box can be narrow

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 8 | Heel height: 1.25 inches

When it comes to extreme weather, these Ugg sheepskin boots will keep you safe at every step. The Adirondack style is constructed with 100% leather and a synthetic sole for reliable winter wear. Plus, as one reviewer raved, "These boots keep my feet warm and dry and withstand the harsh elements. Good arch support, too!"

The best lightweight winter boots

Stio Colter Boot

What we like
  • Can be worn without socks
  • The fuzzy material feels warm
Something to note
  • Hard to slip on if you have high arches

Sizes: 6-11 | Colors: 4 | Heel height: 0.19 of an inch

While these Stio boots may look hearty with its full-grain weather-resistant leather, 300 grams of synthetic insulation and treaded rubber insoles, this pair is as lightweight as it comes when you're rocking them on your tootsies.

"Wonderful shoes — comfortable to wear all day, warm, but not too toasty," one verified reviewer who likes wearing these for daily errands said. "Look forward to wearing these all winter long."

Sorel Whitney II Short Lace Boot

What we like
  • Feel like sneakers
  • They are lightweight
Something to note
  • Doesn't have great arch support
  • Has a narrow fit

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 6 | Heel height: 0.75 of an inch

Lopez recommends these Sorel boots for their durability and comfort. Aside from their sporty style, these boots feature 200 grams of insulation and are lined in warm microfleece for extra warmth. Also, they have an EVA footbed for heavy walkers and provide ample ankle support.

The best winter boots with extra insulation

Columbia Minx Shorty III Boot

What we like
  • Super lightweight
  • Ideal for very cold temperatures
Something to note
  • Tend to run small
  • Narrow toe box

Sizes: 5-12 | Colors: 8 | Shaft height: 6 inches

Columbia boots are stylish and warm for better or worse. This particular pair offers 200 grams insulation, an Omni-Grip™ non-marking traction rubber outsole, a faux fur collar and all the waterproof materials you need to keep your feet dry through winter.

Kamik The Ariel F Winter Boot

What we like
  • Ideal for low temperatures
  • Waterproof sealants to keep feet dry
Something to note
  • Not intended for hiking

Sizes: 6-11 | Colors: 4 | Shaft height: 7.5 inches

These hiker-inspired winter boots have all the features a winter boot needs: a removable EVA footbed, thermal insulation, a synthetic rubber outsole, seam-sealed waterproof suede and overall comfort. But what makes it extra chic is that faux fur cuff for added warmth. The style will also keep your feet toasty in very low temperatures.

The best winter boots for hiking

Merrell Women's MQM 3 Mid GORE-TEX

What we like
  • Lightweight construction
  • Can accommodate a wider foot
Something to note
  • Shoes run small

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 3 | Heel height: N/A

Hikes require the ability to move around with ease. This Merrell boot has the brand's proprietary Air Cushion insole made of EVA foam for maximum shock absorption and stability. Like any high-quality winter boot, this is waterproof thanks to the GORE-TEX membrane.

Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid

What we like
  • Ideal for rocky terrain
  • Great for bunions
Something to note
  • Flat footbed

Sizes: 5-11 | Colors: 3 | Heel height: N/A

You'll never have to worry about chilly ankles when you're wearing these Keen boots. This iconic hiking boot is waterproof-tested, so you can feel a whole new sense of confidence when crossing a shallow river. Plus, as one reviewer noted, the boot has great "quality, comfort, design and overall figment is perfect. My feet and toes are so happy."

How we chose

Shop TODAY asked a group of experts for tips on finding the best winter boots to keep your feet warm. We also rounded up some stellar kicks currently on the market based on customer reviews and recommendations.

Meet the experts

  • Damion Le Cappelain is a footwear and accessory designer based in San Francisco.
  • Marcell Mrsan is a sixth-generation master shoemaker, footwear educator and pattern consultant.
  • Carla Lopez is a footwear designer and business development consultant based in California.
  • Dr. Najwa Javed is a foot surgeon and podiatrist based in California.
  • Dr. Brad Schaeffer is a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and owner of Central Park Sole in New York City.
  • Dr. Buck Smith is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who focuses on minimally invasive treatments, joint replacements and joint arthroscopy. He has also worked with professional athletes.