Snowshoeing is an amazing way to see the world during winter time. Whether you are a grizzled mountain man checking his trap lines in Alaska or just headed to some of the great Nordic trails in Summit County, Colorado, you need great boots to go along with your snowshoes!
I had my first experience snowshoeing in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in the Northern Cascades in Washington State. I trekked from Snoqualamie Pass to Stevens Pass, across the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and the southern face of Mt. Chikamen. It was a frozen dream and with plenty of powder my flotation tails really came in handy!
Snowshoes is a great way to explore the winter landscapes without building a skill set like Nordic Skiing or back country snowboarding on skins and a split deck. A common saying is, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe!" There is a small learning curve while you become accustomed to a wider stance (to keep the snowshoes from catching each other) and also learning the best use of your poles, but in general a person can learn to snowshoe quite rapidly.
If you are like me, and need to do an amazing amount of research before you buy a new article of gear, you have probably been reading a million reviews for snowshoeing boots. Remember, not everyone knows what to buy! Some of these reviews for snowshoe boots are very biased because the person did not actually buy the right boot. Before we get into my top picks for what to wear while snowshoeing, let discuss what makes a great snowshoeing shoe or boot.
INSIDER TIP: Yes, you can wear shoes while snowshoeing! There are specialized snowshoes built for racing that will function best with trail-running shoes!
Of course, this is the extreme end of the sport, and most of us are looking to trek along and enjoy the winter landscape! For that, I recommend boots.
Snowshoe boots are actually winter boots, but have a few very important specifications to look for in order to make sure you have the best experience possible.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT SNOWSHOEING BOOT?
There are some important factors to consider when choosing your snowshoeing boots. My Top Picks for Snowshoe Boots will include choices that exhibit the following criteria:
- A good snowshoeing boot must be waterproof. Wet feet become cold feet very rapidly in the wintertime. GORE-TEX®, neoprene, and other materials serve to keep your feet dry and warm!
- Ankle support is a must! Snowshoeing is a great aerobic activity, but the opportunity to twist an ankle will present itself often with slick or uneven surfaces.
- The sole of your boots must be sturdy. This is to prevent your foot from straining to flex as you walk. If you are wearing soft-soled snow boots, this will mean your foot needs to work twice as hard to keep you moving.
- Great insulation. A typical winter boot will be well insulated, so we should be covered in this category. Some people enjoy the freedom of a lighter summer-weight hiking boot for short excursions, which can work well given you use a gaiter to keep powder out of the cuff and warm socks!
- A durable upper and secure fit. If your foot is sliding around in the boot, you will not be comfortable snowshoeing.
OK, we have a good idea of what to look for, so now let’s get to my TOP PICKS!
Best Boots for Snowshoeing
NUMBER ONE PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE VASQUE SNOWBURBAN ULTRADRY INSULATED SNOW BOOT
The Vasque Snowburban Ultradry is my top choice for best snowshoeing boot because it just does everything well. Vasque makes durable, high quality hiking footwear and the Snowburban is no exception. This boot was made for your “Shoeing” adventures!
- 400 grams of Thinsulate® insulation will be sure to keep you warm all day!
- Front loop for your lace hook on the toe for gaiter attachment
- Rear kick plate on heel designed for use with snowshoe bindings
- Coated leather upper (SUPER DRY) and fleece lined collar
- Run narrow, might not work well for wide feet
NUMBER TWO PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE COLUMBIA BUGABOOT PLUS III OMNI COLD WEATHER BOOT
Columbia is a company that constantly impresses me; they make sturdy, durable equipment and still manage to sell it at a reasonable price! The Bugaboot Plus III Omni Cold Weather Boot is a great option for your next snowshoeing boot. This well-designed boot is made for the winter with thick insulation, sturdy soles, and waterproof construction.
- 200 grams of insulation will keep you warm this winter!
- Columbia’s patented OmniHeat® reflective technology will retain heat far better than a simple insulated boot
- Ankle high – 7” boot
- Rubber sole and lightweight midsole for comfortable snowshoeing
- Some issues with water entry at the seams after extended use
NUMBER THREE PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE SOREL CARIBOU
I have spent many a pleasant afternoon in REI, dreaming of my next adventure and imagining I had an unlimited credit card that would allow me to buy anything I wanted there! Truth is I am more of a bargain and sales-rack type, but that is fully covered by REI as well, they dish out some amazing deals, especially in the store!
Sorel Boots at REI actually cost less than on many of the websites I have looked into. The Sorel Caribou is an all-round, general purpose winter boot that I am including on my list of top picks at number three, and for the 2nd place economic choice. I would suggest the Sorel Caribous for shorter excursions along well-packed Nordic trails.
- Decades of experience behind the design and brand!
- Cost-effective and warm
- Felt Liners and Fleece Collars wick sweat
- Waterproof NuBuck uppers
- Sole is not as rigid as my other top choices
- In snowshoe boot reviews the most common complaint is warmth (rated to -40deg but do not perform to this extreme cold.)
NUMBER FOUR PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE COLUMBIA BUGABOOT PLUS III XTM OMNI HEAT SNOW BOOT
OK, at first glance this might seem identical to my number two pick; these boots look similar but come with some very specific differences that make them great for different needs when shopping for a snowshoeing boot.
The XTM is a higher calf-boot that has heavier insulation. Why would you need this? Well, for extended trips (overnight Nordic runs or all-day expeditions) the extra insulation and height will really come in handy. However, in standard conditions or short trips the lighter standard Plus III will be more comfortable.
- 9.5” boot rises up to the calf and seals well
- 600 grams of insulation vs the 200 grams in the standard model
- Sturdy sole and non-marking outsole
- Taller boot is stiffer
- Some complaints of seam separation
NUMBER FIVE PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE KEEN REVEL III WINTER HIKING BOOT
I have walked the soles off of more pairs of Keen boots and shoes that I can remember; the overall impression I get from this company is that they produce simply the most waterproof footwear on the market! The Keen Revel III is just as waterproof at their entire line; someone needs to find out how they are doing this, because hands down, Keens will keep you drier than any other brand. In the winter version Keen has added some beefy insulation and a couple of nice options that make sure you will enjoy your time in the back country ‘Shoeing!
- 200 grams of Keen.Warm® insulation will tackle some serious cold weather!
- Incredibly waterproof; the most waterproof boot I am reviewing
- Excellent grip on snow and ice (before you even put on your snowshoes!)
- Durable, well-made; these boots will put in the time for you and last for seasons if carefully maintained.
- Not as high-cut as other models
- Can be expensive, depending if you buy on sale or not
INSIDER TIP FOR BOOT MAINTENANCE: Never, ever, EVER dry your boots close to the fire! I know, this is standard practice among some circles. The heat will loosen the glue and tack used in your boot’s construction and “cook” the boot itself. Remember, this is leather or something similar, and should be treated like skin, properly dried and moisturized!
NUMBER SIX PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE EDDIE BAUER SNOWFOIL
Eddie Bauer impressed me with their First Ascent line; the SnowFoil carries on the tradition of excellence the company has brought to the outdoor world and does so in a stylish fashion! What I love about the Snowfoil is the cross-over pac boot middle. This will keep you dry when the powder heaps up over your bindings.
NOTE: It is very tempting to clear your bindings or cramp-ons (I generally snowshoe with alpine gear and so I like the integrated cramp on and tracks to grip the inclines) with your poles while you are shoeing. Instead of this, try a forward kick but root the tip of your shoe in the snow ahead. I generally clear the pow quickly this way, and save my poles!
- Well built – the quality impressed you out of the box
- 200 grams of insulation for cold days
- Front gaiter loop for your gaiter lace hook
- Waterproof pac boot middle without the loose fit or soft sole of most pac boots!
- Expensive and rarely on sale – if you see a new pair for under $100, snap it up!
- Low cut – you need a gaiter to snowshoe with these
NUMBER SEVEN PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE MERRELL MOAB POLAR WATERPROOF WINTER BOOT
I think the Moab and the Snowfoil really come close to tying for the number six spot, but I like the upper on the Snowfoil more and the placement of the loop for your gaiter lace hook on the front is higher on the Moab. This means you need to cinch the instep straps a bit more to keep the front laces out of powder-town! The Moab is a great option for your next wild winter adventure!
- Excellent price – almost the same options as the Snowfoil but $45 cheaper on average
- Pac-Boot style middle section keeps your feet dry
- Waterproof and breathable
- Runs wide, very nice for winter sock bulkiness!
- Low cut and gaiter lashing is a bit high-cut
- Upper can get soaked on a warmer day when the powder melts on your feet
THE NUMBER EIGHT PICK FOR BEST SNOWSHOEING BOOT – THE HI-TEC SNOW PEAK 200 INSULATED WATERPROOF SNOW BOOT
The Hi-Tec Snow Peak is at the number eight slot on my list, but NUMBER ONE FOR BEST ECONOMY SNOWSHOEING BOOT! I think when you can find a decent pair of hiking boots for under $50, you need to share the good news! The Hi-Tec Snow Peak might not have the durability of my top picks but for low levels of usage or growing kids who will be up a size or two each season, this is a great option to keep warm and dry this winter!
- Steel shank means your feet are flexing less in your snowshoes!
- Leather and suede upper is well made
- 200 grams of Thinsulate® will match the weight on a more expensive brand!
- Not as waterproof as more expensive brands
All right, you have some great picks for your next pair of snowshoeing boots and a good idea of what to look for when buying. Good luck and I wish you warm, dry feet this winter!