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Winter boot guide: warm, waterproof and versatile

It doesn’t matter how many pairs of shoes you have in your closet, in winter most of us reach for the same pair of boots over and over. Right now is prime time to find the trusty pair that’ll keep your feet warm and dry over the next few months. There’s nothing more crucial than proper footwear to navigate through icy slush, sidewalk puddles and snowy drifts.

I’m a huge fan – along with most of the MEC Vancouver office – of waterproof Blundstones on repeat. Our Montreal team, on the other hand, opts for the dependable warmth of Sorel boots. As winter starts appear in various forms across the country, Canadians are getting prepped for the season.

To help make things simple for members, we’ve pulled together some top winter boot picks for different weather coast-to-coast for adults and kids.

Best waterproof boots for rainy winters

Check out: Wild Bird Society of Japan Rain Boots

These boots are for you if: You live in a mild climate with not too much snow, mostly rain (hello, Raincouver), and you enjoy splashing through puddles with wild abandon. They’re also amazing if you have a small closet or like to travel.

Why they’re great: Waterproof is the name of the game with these boots. Thanks to the thin, supple rubber, you can wear them high and do up the drawstring cuff to keep out splashes and have dry socks. Or you can wear them slouchy for more of a laid-back look. Since you can roll them up for storage, they’re excellent for stashing in your bag as a back-up when the weather goes sideways.

Looking for something waterproof that also has insulation? Look no further:

From left to right: Keen The Rocker Waterproof Boots and Keen Belleterre Waterproof Insulated Boots

Best winter boots for warmth

Check out: Kodiak Shari Arctic Grip Waterproof Insulated Boots (left) or Timberland Chillberg Waterproof Insulated Leather Boots (right)

These boots are for you if: You endure cold and icy winters, spend lots of time walking in snow and slush, and want something warm but still breathable.

Why they’re great: Both of these boots have waterproof leather uppers, grippy soles for traction on packed snow, and insulation to keep your toes toasty. How cold are we talkin’ here? The Shari Arctic Grip Boots provide warmth and comfort down to -30°C.

Some other toasty options to stay comfy on cold walks:

We have a wide selection of Blundstones for adults and kids

Best boots for hiking and outdoor activities

Check out: Keen Revel III Winter Boots (left) or Salomon X Ultra 2 CS Waterproof Winter Boots (right)

These boots are for you if: You navigate snowshoe trails or city trails, spend lots of time on your feet, or commute in slush and ice.

Why they’re great: These are high-performance boots for cold-weather hiking or snowshoeing. Key features to note? The EVA footbeds for cushion and support, grippy soles, and a waterproof- breathable membrane to let your feet breathe when you’re staying active.

What our members are saying:

“I wore these all last winter and am enjoying them again this year. I walk with my dog about an hour a day – sometimes on city trails, other times in the woods – and they are great. Very warm and comfortable, especially with a pair of Woolie Boolie socks. They also function well with my snowshoes. An all-around great boot.” – Keen Revel III review on mec.ca

We also like these Timberland EarthKeepers Chillberg Boots. They’ve got traction for trails and can fit into snowshoe bindings too.

Most versatile boots for urban 9-to-5ers

Check out: Timberland Premium Fleece-Lined Waterproof Boots (left) or Keen The Rocker Waterproof Boots

These boots are for you if: You commute in gnarly weather but also work somewhere that requires something slightly more professional-looking than rugged hiking boots.

Why they’re great: Almost all the performance of a waterproof-insulated hiker with the appeal of a casual, nice-looking winter boot. The Timberland boots are fleece-lined for warmth, and the Keen boots have a breathable lining so your feet don’t overheat when you’re running late to work.

We also have our eye on these:

Best boots for weekend warriors

Check out: The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Waterproof Leather Boots – women (left) and Back-to-Berkeley Waterproof Leather Boots – men (right)

These boots are for you if: You’re always on the go walking the dog, hitting the trails, or commuting and need a boot that adapts to your active lifestyle.

Why they’re great: They’re a sneaker/boot hybrid with a retro twist and have secret features like a cushion-y OthroLite footbed, PrimaLoft insulation, and temperature-sensitive lugs so you can keep it moving on icy sidewalks or slushy footpaths.

What our members are saying:

The Berkeley Boots are a staff favourite of MEC photo and video producer Jaime, who owns a pair and wears them all the time.

“I spend a ton of time outside on shoots, and these boots have never failed me in nasty weather. They’re way easier to scramble around in compared to giant rainboots, and they’re awesome for dog walking too.” – MEC staffer Jaime

Best winter boots for toddlers

Check out: Sorel Snow Commander Winter Boots

These boots are for you if: You’re getting used to this whole walking thing and starting to explore new terrain with the curiosity of a cat and the fearlessness of a lion.

Why they’re great: Simple closure system makes them easy to pull on and off so you can dress yourself (thank you very much). Stuffed with synthetic insulation so you can keep playing outside longer.

What our members are saying:

“These boots are the greatest. Since my children could walk we’ve purchased these boots. They can easily put them on themselves. They keep them warm for hours during snow shoeing, tobogganing, etc. I highly recommend these boots.” – MEC member review on mec.ca

Best warm winter boots for kids

Check out: Sorel Yoot Pac Nylon Winter Boots

These boots are for you if: You love spending time outside building snowmen, doing snow angels, and occasionally tossing the odd snowball at your brother or sister.

Why they’re great: Uppers are seam-sealed nylon backed with a waterproof membrane so your socks and feet stay dry. Outsoles are waterproof rubber with a grippy pattern that stays flexible in the cold so you can quickly run for cover during a snowball fight.

Another excellent option for serious cold: The North Face Alpenglow IV Waterproof Winter Boots

 

Best rain boots for kids

Check out: Bogs Classic Waterproof Insulated Boots

These boots are for you if: You love stomping around in the rain (no matter what your parents say) and make it your duty to leave no puddle un-splashed.

Why they’re great: 100% waterproof (need we say more?). The 7mm neoprene insulation is flexible and super warm. Fun designs, too.

Want something even more insulated? The Keen Lumi Waterproof Boots have a removable felt liner that’s rated to -40°C, plus a waterproof shell for deep drifts and icy slush puddles.

Bonus: traction devices

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how solid your boots are when sheer ice is around. Traction devices help you confidently navigate slick sidewalks and slippery trails. There are lots of different styles to choose from to meet your grippy needs, from stainless steel spikes to spike-free coils for running.

You’ve heard the saying: there’s no bad weather, only bad gear. That’s definitely true when it comes to winter boots – the right pair will keep you playing outside longer without worrying about cold feet. If you buy a pair and they don’t work out like expected, know that everything at MEC is backed by our Rocksolid Guarantee.

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Missy Shana
Missy Shana

A social media specialist, Seinfeld-quoter who repeatedly travels vast distances for good food. Has probably creeped your Instagram profile.