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How to buy winter boots Print E-mail

Monday, 01 October 2012 00:00

Written by Pamela Sosnowski

Winter boots should be an essential part of anyone's wardrobe, and today there are lots of styles to choose from. But before you splurge $100 or more on a pair, you need to make sure you're buying the right kind. 

Stiletto heeled leather numbers, for example, are fashionable and sexy, but not very warm or safe if you're planning on trudging through the snow in them. Likewise, if the temperature where you live rarely drops below 60 degrees in the winter, your feet will be sweltering in insulated boots.

For that reason and others, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying a pair of winter boots. Here's some general guidelines to help you choose the right ones:

CONSIDER YOUR CLIMATE. The winter climate in your part of the world should be the first factor when buying boots. Will you be shoveling snow this winter, or mostly navigating your way around rain puddles? Those who encounter snow and ice will need footwear that protects their feet from the elements while keeping them warm and dry. Check the tag or product information to make sure the boots are waterproof or water resistant, and are insulated to keep your toes toasty. Primaloft has recently become a very popular material in winter footwear thanks to its lightweight, insulating properties. LL Bean makes several winter boots that contain Primaloft. You'll also want to check the soles of the boots to make sure they are designed to give you good traction on slippery surfaces.

For those who live in warmer climates, a leather boot may be all that you need to get through the winter season, or look for a rain boot that keeps your feet dry as you slosh through puddles and mud. The Hunter Wellington (Wellies) is a traditional, British all-weather boot. Recently featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, it comes in a variety of colors and can be paired with the Hunter Fleece Sock for added warmth. Wellingtons are available through several stores including

WINTER ACTIVITY WEARABILITY. If you like to hike or snowshoe in the winter, then you may want to consider a pair of boots that can do double duty for winter fun. Most boots strap comfortably into snowshoes, and LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, and REI carry several winter hiking boots that are designed to grip icy surfaces and withstand freezing temperatures, while also serving as regular winter boots for everyday wear. For equestrians who plan on riding in colder temperatures, Dover Saddlery ( carries a variety of winter boots suitable for the saddle as well as the snow.

CHECK FOR COMFORT. While the Internet has made it very easy to shop online, try some styles on in person first to see how they fit (you can always leave the store without buying them and ordering them online.) Walk around the store in them. It's a good idea to try boots on with the socks you'll be typically wearing during the winter while trying on boots. If you plan on wearing thick woolen socks, you may need to go up a half size depending on the boot manufacturer. Look for boots that have good arch support, and resist the allure of Ugg brand boots. Despite their popularity with movie stars and warm sheepskin linings, the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists claim the flat-footed footwear "leave(s) the arches limp and can cause painful tendon conditions." (The Cut: New York Magazine's Fashion Blog, 11/3/08) If you must have a pair of flat-footed boots, wear them with shoe inserts that help support the arch.

PICK THE RIGHT HEIGHT. Most winter boots made to withstand the snow and cold come in an ankle height, but if you'll be routinely standing or walking in deeper snow, you may want to consider a higher boot shaft that offers more leg coverage. You'll also need to decide whether you want to deal with shoelaces or zippers when putting on and taking off your boots.

READ REVIEWS. Most outdoor wear stores (and footwear chains such as DSW) include customer reviews on their site. Reading comments from customers who previously purchased boots you're interested in can provide great insight on whether the features live up to their claims, and the comfort and practicality of the footwear.

Still can't decide? Buy two pairs - one that's fashionable and fun, the other that's functional - to get your feet happily through the winter.


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