The Best Winter Boots for Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing has been a basic method of traversing deep snow for over 6,000 years. Despite this longstanding human proclivity for snowshoeing, your experience might suffer if you're using the wrong boots. The best snowshoeing boots need to keep your feet warm and dry and attach firmly to your snowshoe binding to keep you moving comfortably. There are no boots designed specifically for snowshoeing, but some boots have features that make them especially suited to the task.
Keeping Snow Where It Belongs
The most important trait of a snowshoeing boot is the ability to keep your feet dry and comfortable. The best boots achieve this using a waterproof-breathable membrane, which prevents any moisture from melting snow or sleet from entering the boot, while still allowing perspiration to evaporate out. This will keep the clammy feeling of wet feet from ruining your snowshoeing trip. Waterproof-breathable membranes work better than coatings because they don't rub off over time.
Getting an Icy Grip
Most snowshoeing trips cross a variety of terrain, making a good outsole important for a snowshoeing boot. Should you need to remove your snowshoes to climb over an obstacle, you want tough rubber lugs to grip into ice or fallen tree trunks for security and safety. A snowshoeing boot's sole should be firm so you can kick the crampons on your snowshoe into the ice firmly. Some boots have small metal teeth embedded in the soles that provide a solid contact point on any icy surface.
The best snowshoeing boot provides a solid connection for your snowshoe binding. Firm rubber or leather over the toe of the boot lets you tighten down the toe binding firmly, and a firm sole that doesn't bend or twist while you walk prevents the binding from loosening over time. Snowshoeing boots should also have a small lip at the base of the heel that keeps the heel strap of your snowshoe binding from slipping off as you walk. The best boot will also attach firmly above the ankle, giving you support to prevent any twisting if you lose your balance.
Keeping Your Piggies Wiggling
Subzero temperatures force your body to draw heat away from your extremities, making your toes especially prone to frostbite and numbness. Good snowshoeing boots combat this with synthetic insulation that traps warm air in your boot to prevent an icy chill from ending your snowshoeing trip early. Some snowshoeing boots allow you to remove the insulation layer for faster drying after a long day. If the boot's insulation isn't quite enough for the coldest days of the year, you can augment it with a thick pair of wool socks.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.