Winter boot basics

Think about it. From a muddy backcountry hike to a day on the slopes, your winter boots keep you in step in harsh conditions—protected, warm and stable as you move. So when you’re prepping for your next outing, it’s important to know a thing or two about your outdoor footwear.

The anatomy of your boot

The upper

The soft, outermost portion of your boot is the upper. This component is typically made of materials like leather, suede, rubber or synthetics.


When it comes to warmth, it’s all in the lining.  Boot lining can be comprised of fleece, fur, sheepskin or synthetic materials. Many brands offer heat-seeking technologies, which use specialized fibers to trap and retain warmth. And don’t forget about waterproof liners.

Removable lining

Removable boot lining lets you customize your level of warmth, trading a thermal liner for an all-weather one as the conditions change. If your boot is wet at the end of your trek, you can simply remove the liner to allow it to dry faster.


Molded materials, like EVA or polyurethane, provide support and shock absorption for comfort. Keep in mind—the thicker the midsole material, the more warmth your shoe will provide, as your foot is farther from the ground.


The all-important outsole is critical for trekking through snowy, muddy and rainy terrain. Traditionally, boots come with rubber outsoles, and for good reason: Rubber is naturally waterproof and slip-resistant.

When shopping for winter boots, always refer to the thickness of the outsole. Many boots come with spikes or lugs for walking over technical terrain. Many are designed to be slip-resistant and come with specialized tread patterns.

Toe Box

The toe box is a layer of protection that extends over your toes. Some toe boxes are covered with a layer of insulation for extra warmth. Work boots often come with steel or composite material toe boxes.

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