Are you interested in hiking boots? Maybe you got a pair as a gift, or perhaps you just want to hike some trails—maybe even in the winter. We’re sure you have a lot of questions.
Generally, most hiking boots are fine for light snow that isn’t very deep. You only run into problems when the snow is heavy and deep, but even then, you have options. It depends heavily on the type of snow, your planned activities, and other factors.
You may get numerous accessories to go with your boots and may consider several other things regarding the boot itself. Read on to learn more.
Are Hiker Boots Good in Snow?
If you are serious about hiking, you’ll need to be properly equipped. One of the first items you’ll need is a good pair of hiking boots. Then, you’ll need to ask yourself a couple of questions. First off, are hiker boots good in snow?
The answer depends on how much snow you are hiking in. If only a little, then they should be fine. But if a lot, you might need a few more accessories. Hiking preparation can be an involved process, after all.
Overall, if you are properly prepared and have the appropriate boots, you should be able to enjoy hiking all year round, even during cold winter days.
Are Hiker Boots Waterproof?
As we all learned in high school, snow is frozen water. When it melts, it returns to its liquid state. Depending on where you live and the time of year, your weather may fluctuate and cause fallen snow to do the same.
As a result, when snow is on the ground, it sometimes melts during the warmer parts of the day and turns a trail into a wet, muddy mess, which then refreezes overnight. Thus, your footgear must be able to deal with these changes.
Sloshing through the mud requires waterproof boots. Fortunately, you can find some on the market and or make your current boots waterproof thanks to sprays and oils that can be applied to the material of the boot.
Are Hiking Boots Good for Snow and Ice?
We’ve already touched on snow alone, but often, snow is mixed with ice to make an especially slippery combination. Fortunately, numerous accessories for hiking boots can improve their traction, even on ice covered with a dusting of slippery snow.
But before we get to that, let’s revisit snow in finer details.
How Do Hiking Boots Work in Snow?
As stated earlier, the degree to which hiking boots work in snow depends largely on the conditions in which a hiker is hiking. These conditions include things like the type of activity, the weather, and the type of boot they are wearing.
As far as activities are concerned, here, we are only concerned with hiking. We don’t need to discuss things like mountaineering or what-have-you.
But as far as the weather is concerned, we’ll discuss the degree of snow and its impact a little more before moving on to the nature of the hiking boots themselves.
In our case, we are only concerned with two types of snow:
- Light, shallow snow
- Deep, heavy snow (especially alpine snow)
Let’s look at each of them.
Light Snow: Fine for Hiking Boots
Hiking boots are usually fine for almost any activity taking place in light snow. As long as there isn’t a whole lot of snow on the ground, a hiker shouldn’t have much to worry about. Many people wear hiking boots in the winter instead of normal shoes because boots offer better traction. Regardless, a hiking trip in a localization with little snow should not prove difficult.
If the snow is hard-packed, regular hiking boots are probably fine. The only word of caution is when you are dealing with ice. A fine powder of snow on ice can be very slippery. We recommend using microspikes to provide extra traction when dealing with such.
Deep Snow: Think Twice About Hiking Boots
Although hiking boots are fine for light snow, deep snow can pose difficulties, the main one being exposure to water. Any snow that is deeper than an inch or two will wet a hiker’s boot. If their boots are not waterproof, they may wind up with a soaked foot over time, which can be dangerous and lead to issues like frostbite if not dealt with quickly.
Many boots on the market are already waterproof. But if not, there are ways to make them so.
Waterproof boots should be fine when trekking through snow that is only an inch or two deep. However, if the snow is deep enough that it reaches above the top rim of the boot, it can sometimes find its way inside the boot, melt, soak the foot, and lead to similar difficulties, like frostbite. Even if the frostbite does not develop, hiking with a wet foot is, at best, uncomfortable, and can often lead to the development of blisters as the damp flesh grinds against the rough edges of the inner boot.
Important Qualities in Winter Hiking Boots
Hiking boots are a critical item on a prepared hiker’s equipment list. There are four critical aspects of a hiking boot to consider:
- The proper fit
We will cover each in detail below.
Your Hiking Boots Should Fit Properly
A proper fit is essential for a hiking boot. A boot that doesn’t fit properly will be uncomfortable to walk in for any length of time and will likely cause blisters and other problems.
A properly fitting boot will feel snug across the whole foot, but not too tight. Your toes should be free enough to wiggle and you shouldn’t be able to slide your heel up or around. Boots that are too tight can constrict circulation. This will make your feet ache and even allow them to get cold—both of which make for an uncomfortable hike.
Your feet will expand slightly as you walk. You should take this into account when getting new boots. And don’t forget that your socks take up some room too! It may be a good idea to test your boots with your hiking socks before purchase.
Also, if you notice points of uncomfortable contact between the inside of the boot and your foot, you may need another pair. These points of contact can cause blisters, particularly if water (or sweat) gets inside your boot.
Lastly, make sure you get boots that are appropriate for the conditions in which you are hiking. Some boots may get too warm, for instance, if they are made for arctic conditions and you are hiking someplace more temperate.
Hiking Boots Should Be Sturdy When Wet with Snow
Another critical feature of winter hiking boots is sturdiness. This feature allows them to work effectively in multiple types of rough terrains, regardless of the kind of snow and ice conditions. Sturdy hiking boots have the following critical features:
- Ankle support: Sturdy boots offer significant ankle support, which helps when traversing trails across uneven ground. In the winter, many such trails are covered in snow that is packed-down or post-holed from a great deal of usage. Good ankle support keeps you from injuring your ankle as you walk.
- Rubber soles: Sticky rubber soles cling to the snow-covered ground and ice better providing superior traction because of the rubber grip.
- High ankle collar: Good sturdy boots often have a high ankle collar as well. This keeps the snow from too easily slipping into the confines of a hiker’s boot and filling it with water as it melts. Water inside the boot causes problems, such as uncomfortable pressure, blisters, and even frostbites in cold temperatures.
Remember that these are the ideal features of a winter hiking boot and that not all hiking boots feature them to the same degree. So, you have to do your due diligence.
Waterproofing Is Essential for Winter Hikers
As noted above, getting water inside your boot is a big problem when hiking in the winter, particularly when it’s cold. One way a hiker can try to prevent such issues is to waterproof their boots. Nowadays, some boots are water-repellant, which is okay to a limited extent. Maximum protection, though, can only be obtained from waterproof boots.
- Water repellant: Water-repellant boots lose their ability to keep water out more quickly. They also tend to have shorter lifespans.
- Waterproofing: Waterproof boots will further lock out water, keeping a hiker’s feet drier for longer. Although there may be issues with breathability, numerous modern materials deal with that quite effectively.
Remember that water and cold weather can be very dangerous. People lose toes and fingers to frostbites all the time. So, be careful!
Insulation: Are Your Hiking Boots Warm Enough?
The degree to which someone can withstand the cold depends on many factors, including:
- Activity level
- Health and fitness
- Clothing and layering
As a result, choosing the right amount of insulation isn’t necessarily cut and dry. It depends a great deal on personal preferences.
Still, a few distinctions need to be made. First, there are two types of insulation, built-in and removable. Both can be made from synthetic materials. Alternatively, some built-in insulation is made from down filling, and some removable insulation is made from felted wool. The degree of insulation provided is measured in grams (200g – 800g).
The amount of insulation a hiker needs is also determined by the climate in which they are hiking. Obviously, colder climes require more insulation.
Keeping Your Feet Warm
If a hiker uses regular hiking boots (as opposed to winter hiking boots) in the winter, they must contend with the fact that they aren’t normally insulated. If this is the case, the lack of insulation should be compensated by wearing well-insulated socks.
Many people find that wearing two pairs of socks can help a great deal and even serve to prevent blisters. Keep that in mind.
What Do I Need to Wear Hiking Boots on Ice?
By themselves, hiking boots are not recommended to use on ice, particularly ice covered with a light film of snow or water. Fortunately, as mentioned above, numerous accessories help improve traction, so a hiker wearing hiking boots can deal with such obstacles as ice.
- Crampons: Crampons are specifically designed for improving traction across ice and such. They are essential for the most extreme nature sports, like winter hiking and mountaineering. One word of advice, though: Make sure the crampons you get are compatible with your boots.
- Microspikes: Microspikes function like crampons but are primarily used on reasonably leveled terrain instead of slopes and such. They can be put on quickly and with little difficulty. They are made for both hiking and mountaineering boots.
- Snowshoes: Snowshoes help hikers walk across the top of looser snow without sinking in too deeply. They are most useful where the snow is fresh, deep, and not too packed down.
Are Hiking Boots and Snow Boots the Same?
Much like sneakers and shoes in general, there are many different types of boots these days, including hiking boots, mountaineering boots, snow winter hiking boots, and so on. Thus, it might be better to start looking at boots as belonging on a spectrum as opposed to a selection of discrete types.
Still, numerous distinctions can be made to differentiate hiking boots and snow boots as general categories. Regular hiking boots are not specifically designed for snow and winter. They provide excellent ankle support but may come up short in insulation, traction, and possibly insufficient waterproofing.
Snow winter hiking boots, however, fully take winter and its weather into account. Not only do they have ankle support, but they also usually have excellent insulation and waterproofing. However, they are designed for unpacked snow. As a result, their soles tend not to hold up as well when crossing rugged terrains.
As claimed from the beginning, hiking boots can be used in the snow to a certain extent. Some varieties will fare better than others, but these days, it isn’t difficult to find a boot that matches the specifications you want. As time goes on and technology improves, snow will become less and less important to the average boot and average hiker. Regardless, we wish you the best in your hiking endeavors!