Are Hiking Boots Good for Snow? (Our Definitive Answer)

The desire and ability to go for hike doesn’t have to be limited by the seasons or weather conditions. We can enjoy the benefits of hiking all year round! It’s a great form of exercise that can accommodate different fitness and skill levels, provided you do your research.  

If your hike requires you to travel some distance to get there, or it’s a longer day hike, you want to pack only what’s necessary to make it less strenuous. It wouldn’t be practical to bring every type of shoe and boot you own to accommodate each potential outcome. During winter months especially, it is important to bring exactly what you need – no more or less. This may also mean assuming there could be snow. 

Since it is winter, you will already be wearing extra layers. Backpacks may already have an extra scarf or headwear, gloves, socks and a warm thermos. A bonus set of boots can take up valuable inventory space or add unnecessary weight.

So, it comes down to picking the footwear that will work regardless of the weather. Which raises the question: Are hiking boots good for snow?  Or do we need to invest in specialty boots?

Are Hiking Boots Good for Snow? 

Yes. While many outside considerations may impact this, hiking boots are generally appropriate for walks in snowy conditions. As with all footwear, it is important that the boot fits your feet precisely.

Newer boots will have the disadvantage of being less limber, so it will be best to break them in on a more controlled walk before using them in the snow. Start by walking around the house, then the yard, then maybe a few blocks or short 1 mile trail.

Hiking boots come with their own strengths that can allow them to work well for walking in the snow.

  • Traction. Hiking boots are lined with deep indentations. These allow for better gripping of the surface, which includes mud, ice, and snow. This form of traction is ideal for multiple weather conditions.
  • Lightweight. Hiking boots tend to be made from lighter materials. This will keep you from reducing your agility while walking on surfaces covered in snow.
  • Flexible. Earlier, flexibility was mentioned as important. Not only does this increase comfort, but it helps the sole of the boot better grip the various shapes of terrain found in nature.
  • Waterproof. Most hiking boots are either water resistant or water proof. You definitely want to invest in ones that are waterproof (and socks too) if you’re planning to hike in the snow, as you never know how slushy or wet it will be.

Hiking boots come in a variety of styles. In addition to providing support and traction, they can pair well with your hiking pants, jacket, hat, and other attire… should you care to coordinate. They can help you blend in with the environment, or be whimsical and fun.

Here are some of our recommedations:

When Are Hiking Boots Not Good for Snow?

As we mentioned earlier, hiking boots are generally good for walking in the snow. However, there are times when they might not be the best fit. 

When the snow is more than just decorative.

If the snow is more than just an inch or two deep on the entire trail, this affects a few things. For one thing, small holes will be completely filled in by the snow. This creates the illusion of terrain being much more smooth and flat than it really is. There is also a much higher risk of the lowest level of snow having formed a thin layer of ice over the surface of the ground.

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During winter months especially, it is important to bring exactly what you need – no more or less.

Additionally, rather than your feet being on the surface of the snow, each step will place your feet into the snow. Much of the hike will have your foot be surrounded by ice rather than merely be on top of it. Without proper insulation, that can lead to frostbite or other medical issues. 

In this case, snow boots have some advantages like:

  • Gusseted Tongue. The tongue is sewn closed into the sides of the boot so as to keep snow/water from leaking into the boot through this gap.
  • Reinforced Toe Cap. It is assumed that a lot of kicking will be done to carve steps, so the toe is designed for this.
  • Removable Liner. If the inside of the boot does get wet, the liner can be removed for quick drying. 
  • Higher cut. Snow boots are designed to go higher up the leg than traditional walking boots so as to keep snow from being funneled down the leg with each step.

Disadvantages of Hiking Boots, which can be an issue include:

  • Long Break-In Time. Because of their sturdy design, they don’t warm up on their first walk. Since their flexibility is a high point for snowy weather, lacking that flexibility for the first few walks can be an obstacle.
  • Pricey. A quality pair of hiking boots can range from $300 to $500.

Ultimately, there may be better options than hiking boots depending on your level of experience or the level of the snowfall.

When Experience Trumps Practicality

If you have grown up playing in snow and ice, running in the woods with tennis shoes in all kinds of weather, you may feel that you know what is best when it comes to keep your feet comfortable for the entire hike. If you know hacks (like plastic bags in the shoes), that’s your choice.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Boots Being Good for Snow

When someone asks me, “Are hiking boots good for snow?”… my answer is yes. There may be better options if you are more experienced, but hiking boots are a good default for those still learning. Deep snow, however, will likely require snow boots. Even more experienced hikers will need a form of snow boot in extreme circumstances, despite preference and comfort. 

There are many factors that come into play when choosing the most suitable hiking gear. So be sure to speak with people who have hiked in your area of interest and during the times of year you plan to hike. They will have inside information! 

And if you are new to hiking, be sure to check out how to get started on an effective walking program so that you can work your way up to enjoying the sport for many years to come!

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