Winter Boot Picks for 2011

Cold, snow, ice, and gloom are imminent here in the Northern Hemi. In fact, all four have already descended upon many parts of the U.S. and are creeping their way gradually across the remainder of the country. And lemme tell ya, I’m THRILLED.

But cold, snow, ice, and gloom give us an excuse to bust out (or buy new) fun winter boots! It’s LIKE a bright side, no? In case you’re in the market for a new pair of stylish snowboots, here are my picks for the season, all of which are waterproof.

Sorel Cate the Great – $200

This is the style you see me wearing in the top image, and they just might supplant my Joan of Arctics as my preferred winter boots. When I first saw photos of these guys, they looked extremely tall. Like just-above-the-knee tall. They must’ve put ’em on a short-calved model because my legs are far from lanky and these are a fabulous height for me (13″). Just as cozy, comfy, walkable, and stylish as all the Sorels I’ve ever encountered.

Merrell Martina – $200

Although I don’t own these personally, I know from experience that Merrell is a trustworthy brand for comfort, quality, and durability. And while I’m smitten with all the faux fur trim that’s available this season, its’ nice to see a non-fuzzy alternative. The marled sweater topper on these Martinas is darned cute, don’t you think?

Columbia Ice Maiden Lace – $75

Since the snow generally gets neck-high here in MN, I prefer tall snowboots, but definitely wanted to offer a shorter alternative for those of you in slightly milder climates. These lovelies are 9.5″ tall and the laces make them a bit flexible in terms of calf width. My hiking boots are Columbias, so this is another brand that I can vouch for, though I’m yet to try this style out myself.

Nine West Vossler – $119

I was frustrated to find very few wide-calf options. Many of the lace-up pairs shown here will have some leeway, but not all. These shorter boots are 16.5″ in circumference at 11″ high, so I feel like they may be able to accomodate some wider calves. WideWidths.com has a few pairs of Blondos, but not many. Would love more resources, if anyone has ’em.

Timberland Lexiss – $175

Husband Mike is a longtime fan of Timberlands, and his have held up beautifully over the years. I’ve been eyeing this pair for a while now since they are absolutely stylish enough to be streetwear, but both waterproof and treaded for winter wear. Well played, Timberland. Well played, indeed.

Sperry Top-Sider Pelican – $70

I’ve got a pair of these in solid black, and I absolutely adore them. Technically, they’re rain boots, and once it gets below 20 degrees they don’t quite cut it. But on any day warmer than that, especially worn with boot socks, these Pelicans will serve you just as well as their bulkier friends. A great option for folks who don’t need or want the bulk of a traditional snow boot.

A few of these might be able to pass for regular boots, though few are office-appropriate. As always, when winter weather hits, I recommend wearing your snow boots, carrying your indoor shoes along with you, and changing into them upon arrival. No reason to ruin your footwear. But also no reason to slog around in snowboots you hate. Waterproof and weatherproof design have come a long way, so consider investing in a pair you love.

Do you live in a cold, wet, or snowy climate? What’s your favorite brand or model of winter boot? Know of any that truly double as indoor boots? Anyone have wide calf options to share? What are your requirements for a truly great winter boot?

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  • Those Sperrys are adorable. I’ve been thinking for years I’d like to add some cute wellies to my wardrobe. My friend has some in kelly green and you can’t help but smile when you see them…and who doesn’t need a reason to smile on a rainy (or slushy and snowy) day?

    I could definitely get some use out of those Nine Wests, too πŸ™‚

  • Hope

    I live in New Hampshire and spent many years seeking comfy, warm, rugged AND stylish winter boots that can double as dress shoes. My favorite brand so far is Santana Canada; I’ve owned four pairs. My favorites are a black mid-heel pair with scrunchy tops — I wear them with heavy skirts or under wool dress pants. Not sure I can speak to the calf width — my calves are skinny so I have the opposite problem — but this brand is AMAZING.

    • Sal

      Hope, I’ve never heard of that brand! Thanks for letting us know about it.

      • Hope

        Yes, our fashionable neighbors to the north really know how to do this right. Worth a post all their own!

  • Angela

    Perfect timing, we will have snow in a week or so which will stay until early April

    I like your Merrell choice, warm and can be worn into work.

    I have worn Cougar boots ( I know, sounds funny, and might be Canadian only) they have come along way since I was a kid, stylish enough for work commute

  • I like those Merrells–they don’t scream “winter boot!” I could see them both over a pair of narrow-legged pants or with a dress/skirt.

    And as I mentioned on Twitter, I gotta give a shout-out to my North Face Janeys (http://bitly.com/w2wJc4). I’ve had them for 2 winters already so I can attest to their absolute warmth and snow-proofiness (is that a word?). Plus I think they’re adorb; you can wear them up or fold the top down to show off the fleece inner lining. Perhaps best of all, they could not be more comfortable.

  • Dina

    Another great brand that I’ve found is La Canadienne http://www.lacanadienneshoes.com/

    It’s a Canadian company so they know winter too. I live in DC, where it’s no where near as snowy or cold as Minnesota, but it can get chilly. I have really lovely boots that are SO COMFORTABLE and pretty AND waterproof AND lined with fleece (http://www.lacanadienneshoes.com/us/boots/flat/stella-black.html)

    They are not cheap ($300+) BUT, I got mine for $120ish on Amazon and have seen frequent sales on Amazon, Zappos, Sierra Trading post, etc. Worth it. Really lovely.

  • Katharine

    My current favourites are a pair of Kodiaks which look a lot like the Timberlands above. They served me very well last winter. I’ve never been a fan of Sorels; I’ve had more than one pair in my life, and always found them very uncomfortable for my feet.

    One brand I’ve been seeing a lot of is Bogs — which would make a great alternative for those in wet winter climes. They’ve got a few models which are full-bore rainboot on the outside, but with cozy winter linings, and for rainboots, if you like that sort of thing, they’re pretty cute.

  • I live in a warm climate, but those Merrells and the Timberlands are so good-looking, I could “suffer” a bit for fashion!

  • ParisGrrl

    It’s also a challenge to find stylish boots that can accommodate arch inserts. After a lot of searching, I’m trying out some new Propet Tundra Walkers this year. I hope they turn out to be comfortable, because while we don’t get a ton of snow here, we do a lot of walking in the cold.

  • Tara

    I bought these guys last year and they served me well all through the winter and have already come out again this year: http://www.zappos.com/sorel-tivoli-grout (Only mine have magenta laces.)

  • Stephani

    As I’m about to go into my first New England winter, having migrated here from D.C.–where winters tend to be merely cold, wet, and slushy rather than truly snowbound–I was very excited to buy my first real pair of winter boots. I got them from Zappos in September, cuz I like to plan ahead. I lusted over the Sorel Cate the Greats, but opted for the Sorel Tofinos instead (in chili pepper–cuz snow boots should be fun and highly visible in case you get stuck head first in a snow bank). Wearing them (http://www.zappos.com/sorel-tofino-chili-pepper-black) around the apartment, I was quite pleased with their fit and their very comfortable insoles. Nice features and great price, too. I managed not to try them out in the pre-Halloween snow we had, but I think they’ll be perfect for the snows that are sure to come!

    • LOL at the “stuck in a snowbank.” I replaced the off-white down jacket I had for several years with a burnt orange one just so when the day comes that I pass out shoveling my driveway, someone finds me πŸ˜‰

  • I live in Chicago, and the best winter boots I’ve had are my Baretraps. They helped me survive last year’s Snowpocalypse, and I know I am going to have to bust them out again soon!

  • I have those Cates too! Love them so much & considered getting Joans this year, but if you prefer your Cates over Joans, then maybe I’ll just stick with what I have. As a big-calved girl (even at a size 2, my calves were 16″ – why?) I am in constant search for the perfect tall boot. I bought a cheap pair from Avenue this year just to satisfy the craving (riding boots that lace up the back), but I will keep looking for my “sole mates”. Oh, if you have any thoughts on Kalso Earth, I’d love to hear it because they have a pair called Prance that looked cute, but I wasn’t sure about the calf or the “negative heel”.

  • I have Timberlands very similar to the ones above and they are indeed very nice. I love the Sorels but I’ve been somewhat scared off of that type of boot by a friend of mine (who was admiring my zip-up Timberlands last year) saying she gets frustrated with the wet, icky laces on her lace-up boots when putting them on and off. (She has a dog that needs to be walked several times a day, so she’s changing in and out of her boots probably more than the average person.) Anyone else find the laces on snowboots to be a pain?

  • I stalked Steger Mukluks (http://www.mukluks.com/) on ebay all year and ended up getting an awesome deal on some in the middle of the summer when it was like 105 degrees. Now that we’ve had the first snow in Mpls I am so glad I went for it, even though the cognitive dissonance of buying them while I was melting on the couch was almost too much to handle. They feel like slippers, they walk like barefoot shoes (you can actually feel the ground with your foot), they’re incredibly warm, and they’re made in Ely MN! I also happen to love the way they look. You have to waterproof them yourself, which I’ve not yet done, but I have high hopes that these are going to get me through the winter happily.

  • I am cheaper than you guys and also, not as stylish, but I am obsessed with Totes boots for my Minnesota dressy-snow needs. They don’t seem to make my long-wearing favorite mid-calf pullons anymore, but I just bought the Cynthia front-zip below-knee boots: http://www.totes-isotoner.com/product/totes-womens-cynthia-tall-winter-boots.do
    they come in wide sizes, and they’re good for calves that are a bit wider than usual, but not quite full-on wide-calf sizes (which is not me, because I have size 10 legs on size 6 feet/ankles) – they zip up the front over a gusset so if you have to leave them partway open, you’re still covered. Little fake-fur trim on the edges, warm, and a lot cheaper than Sorels! (Though I have a pair of bright purple Sorels that look kind of like those Tofinos that I paid 20bux for at the end of a season, so there is that option.)
    Just in case anyone here has a price limit that’s more like $50 than $200.

    Also, Blondos are great, I thrifted a vintage pair that fit around my calves for like 10bux once. Awesome for the big-legged.

    • Lady Harriet

      Seconding the recommendation of Blondos! I’m too poor to buy new boots, but I found a pair of Blondos at a garage sale last summer for $2. The soles had some cracks in them that had been glued, but they didn’t leak one bit. I was thrilled to find them, since here in WI people rarely get rid of usable winter boots, so I had previously been limited to ones from Payless. (Ugh!) They are warm, waterproof, and have good traction. They come to midcalf, and while I’d prefer knee-high ones, these are taller than most other boots I’ve found. I have large calves, and I can zip these almost all the way. (I can get the zipper to the very top, but it’s painfully tight, so I leave it down less than an inch.) I need a ton of arch support, and while the boots don’t have enough for me, there should be plenty for most people. The difference is certainly like night and day from my previous Payless boots! My boots are brown suede with a little bit of brown and dark green yarn embroidery near the top.

  • Ooooh, the Merrels, LOVE!

  • Erin

    Bogs are my go-to boots for upstate NY winters (hello lake effect snow!). They’re not the most stylish choices out there, although I do get compliments sometimes. And they stand up to shoveling serious amounts of snow as well as walking ~1 mile to work throughout the winter.

    These are the ones I have, in blue:
    http://www.amazon.com/Bogs-Womens-Classic-High-Paisley/dp/B00375LSBK/ref=pd_sbs_shoe_3

    • Sal

      I’ve heard GREAT things about Bogs!

  • D

    I’ll also vouch for Timberlands; I recently bought a really adorable pair of waterproof, treaded boots that are super light, and I can wear them to work. Also, they kind of look like pirate boots (at least to me), so that is fun. Love!

  • Alaska Comet

    I love the Cate the Greats, I’ve wanted a pair for awhile now.

    but for the budget shopper, I can recommend EMU boots – they’re every bit as good as uggs only much cheaper. only… now that I go look, apparently they aren’t that much cheaper anymore. I got mine for $60, and a close style is now almost $200. I guess I got lucky. whew! I’ve been in mine for 3 years now and they’re fabulous for when the weather gets super cold. I like to think they’re so ugly they’re cool.

    Sal – please tell me about the tunic sweater! I’ve been looking for something just like that!

    Amanda

    • Sal

      Oh lady, I bought it on a trip to Iceland … sorry!

  • Shanna

    I have the Timberland Lexiss in brown. I bought them in the fall of 2009 and they really are wonderfully comfortable and stylish…as streetwear. The adjustable calf buckle is BRILLIANT (you can wear the same pair of boots with tights, thick socks/leggings, or jeans and have it look fitted around the calf opening each time), and I wear them several times a week from October through March.

    Unfortunately, even with supplemental waterproofing at home, they don’t hold up to more than a light rain or a bit of slush. Step into an icy puddle in these babies and you will have soggy, frozen toes. I muddled through a couple of New England winters in them, but it was a mistake. I think that real snow/slush/puddles calls for the kind of boots with a one-piece bottom (I think all the other boots you posted have this).

    But, really, if you are looking for low heels, traction, comfort, style, and a BRILLIANT adjustable calf buckle (oh, did I mention that already?) – these boots are awesome.

  • The last thing I need where I live is winter boots, but I love the top pair.

  • Holly

    Hi, I live in California, so this is kinda a silly question. So, do you wear these to get to work and then have some shoes there or in your purse to change to? Do work places have like a mud room?

    • KiwiMichelle

      As above!
      As one that also lives in a relatively temperature climate, I’m fascinated by the concept of snow boots and how y’all deal with them!

    • Sal

      Hi Holly! I used to carry my work shoes in a tote with my lunch and just slip them on when I arrived in my cube. I stashed the snowboots under my desk. No mud room, just a cube. πŸ˜‰

    • Lisa

      I live in Minneapolis, like Sally does, and lots of the women I work with just have a stash of 2-3 pairs of shoes they keep in their cubicle during the winter, to lessen how often they have to carry shoes back and forth between home and work. There gets to be a certain point where you’re almost never wearing shoes out of the house, only boots, and you get tired of carrying shoes everywhere. πŸ™‚

  • Jen

    How do you do this? I JUST got my Cate the Greats in the mail today, put them on, poured a glass of wine, and then went to your blog and read this post! I LOVE mine – even though I’ve only had them on for about half an hour. For the last four years I was wearing Timberland (an earlier version of the knee-high Granby), but the waterproofing finally gave out last year. I’m REALLY looking forward to wearing my Sorels a ton…in Ontario, I’ll be wearing them just about every day until March.

  • Yan

    I finally, after almost 8 years of living in snowy climates with cheap Target or department store clearance boots, bought a pair of knee-high Bogs with the neoprene lining. LOVE.

    Now, admittedly, they aren’t the most stylish boot ever created, but they are reasonably comfy and so so so warm. Why did I wait so long???

    • Sal

      I know just what you mean, Yan. I skimped on snowboots my whole life until last year. And aside from a 2-year stint in California, I’ve lived in Chicago, upstate New York, and Minnesota – all virtual Snow Factories!

  • I bought the Timberland Lexiss boots in Edinburgh, Scotland, while on holiday in January 2009. Mine are the oiled ‘nu-buc’, so they are a distressed dark brown. I maintain them by rubbing them with mink-oil. I love them, although they are not quite warm enough for most of the winter on the Canadian Prairies (today it was minus 22 C when I went to work.), but they are great to wear with jeans & skirts/dresses, if you are not out for hours. For the real cold, I have a pair of mukluks by the ‘Manitobah’ Co. in Winnipeg, Manitoba (a first-nations-owned company). They have a rubberized sole, which makes them less slippery than plain leather. Funky, but perhaps not quite the thing to wear with some skirts/dresses.

  • Ruth

    Soft Star Shoes makes an unbelievable pair of winter boots called Phoenix that are handmade with formaldehyde-free leather, sheepskin lining, and a very flexible sole for easy trekking. They are pricey though at $225.
    http://www.softstarshoes.com

  • Daisy

    I love my Sorel “Joan of Arctics”, which I only get to wear on ski trips and the two times a year it snows in Georgia. They adjust for my “wide” calves, which are 15 inches. Most of my other, non-snow, boots are J. Crew because they make extended calf boots with regular foot sizes. Lands End makes wide boots, but both the foot and the calf are wide, and my feet are not wide. The boot search is my bete noir, I love cute boots and it is so hard to find ones I can zip.

  • Amy K

    Muck Boots!

    The fabulous boots can be spendy, but they’re a fabulous rain/snow boot hybrid. They come in a variety of warmth ratings and there are fun patterns in addition to the traditional black. They’re extremely comfortable to wear too.

  • sandra

    I live in Chicago so warm, functional boots are a must for trekking in unshoveled, icy sidewalks. I tried on countless boots from zappos and endless and finally settled on Patagonia (Fiona style) from Sierra Trading Post. What I love about them is that they are waterproof, warm, and have pull tabs for easy on/off. I HATE dealing with laces on snow boots, especially in the morning when I have a train to catch. Although the sorels look warm, I just can’t handle the laces situation. I made sure to buy the taller version of this Patagonia boot (they make a shorter length too) because my legs were so cold last winter in shorter boots.

  • My attraction to fleece-lined snow boots is fairly ridiculous, given where I live. Even the Bos & Co. pair I brought to New York in February, which aren’t really all that heavy, are often too much for this climate. I need to learn to be happy living vicariously through your cute winter outfits and not trying to incorporate things like snow boots and Icelandic sweaters into my wardrobe.