Hiking in the mountains in the winter requires special protection for your toes and feet. With the genuine threat of frostbite to consider, as well as slippery ice and snow on the ground, it is essential to find the right pair of winter hiking boots for 14ers. Specifically, you need a pair that offers the right kind of traction and insulation. Here are five tips for finding the best winter hiking boots for 14ers, plus six specific suggestions from my research and experience.
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Five Tips for Picking out Winter Hiking Boots for 14ers
Before you start testing out different pairs of boots, consider these important tips while you’re evaluating your available options. Not all hiking boots are the same, and those differences matter even more in the bitter cold you will experience while hiking a 14er in the winter.
1. Look for boots that are rated for cold weather.
This sounds obvious, but it is important to reiterate. Most hiking boots are designed for use in the spring, summer, and fall when temperatures are warm enough to stay warm on your own. You need to purchase winter hiking boots that are rated for cold weather use or your toes may become frostbitten while hiking. Check to make sure the boots you’re checking out are insulated before you make any purchases.
2. Choose boots with good traction.
Ice and snow are slippery and can lead to devastating consequences in the mountains, where a fall might be fatal. Good traction is necessary during the winter when you’ll need to deal with a lot of snow and ice on the trail. While you will probably use microspikes or crampons, you want rubber soles to be dependable as well to limit their use, or in case your traction gear breaks while you are in the field.
3. Consider the height of the boots.
While many people enjoy lightweight shoes with a low ankle in the summer, these lose heat more quickly in cold winters. I recommend buying winter hiking boots for 14ers with a significant ankle height and support to preserve warmth and keep your ankles supported in case you fall on slippery terrain (which, let’s be real, you will).
4. Try on the boots with the socks you plan to wear.
Thick winter socks take up more space than your typical summer hiking socks. When you decide what size boots to purchase, always add an extra size to ensure you fit with all those extra layers and foot warmers. If you order online, try picking up your boots at the store so you can test this when you arrive and swap them for another size right away if necessary.
5. Choose boots made from waterproof and breathable materials.
Waterproof boots dry much more quickly than other materials as they let the water evaporate without letting more water in. Postholing in deep snow often leaves your boots and socks wet – even if they are waterproof. However, if your boots are not breathable, they’ll stay wet and leave you at risk of frostbite or trench foot (yes, it’s still a real thing). Stick to fabrics like GORE-TEX that allow water to evaporate without your socks getting wet.
The Best Winter Hiking Boots for 14ers: My Six Suggestions
Keeping those six tips in mind, I put together a list of some great winter hiking boots for 14ers. The first three are ideal for snow climbs, technical routes, and other mountaineering objectives in the mountains. They’re overkill for most hikers, but they’ll last you a long time and keep you safe in extreme conditions if that’s what you are looking for.
Mountaineering Boots for 14ers: Suggestions
These mountaineering boots are ideal for challenging climbs on technical terrain, including snow and ice climbs that require crampons and an ice axe. They are probably unnecessary if you only want to hike winter 14ers on simple terrain without any climbing gear.
La Sportiva Nepal Cube
La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX mountaineering boots are designed to be a reliable and high-performance option for tackling a variety of difficult mountain terrain, including big peaks, mixed terrain, glacier travel, and vertical ice. They are built with several features that make them well-suited for these types of environments, including a lightweight yet robust construction that helps to ensure that they are both comfortable to wear and capable of performing at their best in even the most challenging conditions. Whether you’re an experienced mountaineer or just starting out, these boots are an excellent choice for anyone looking to tackle the highest and most challenging peaks.
Scarpa Charmoz Mountaineering Boot
The Scarpa Charmoz 3-season mountaineering boots are designed to be fully featured for fast-and-light alpine objectives, allowing you to tackle long, fast-paced days over various types of terrain, including rock, snow, and ice. These Charmoz 3-season boots are waterproof and breathable, providing excellent protection against the elements and helping to keep your feet comfortable and dry even during the most demanding mountain adventures. They sacrifice insulation to save weight, so they aren’t ideal for longer climbs in winter conditions when more warmth may be necessary, but they excel in cool weather or quick day trips.
Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX Mountaineering Boots
Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX mountaineering boots are designed to provide both protection and performance over a variety of different types of mountain terrain, including snow, ice, and mixed alpine terrain. These boots feature supertough leather uppers with integrated cuff gaiters that help to protect your feet from the elements and provide added support and stability. They also include GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort technology, which helps to keep your feet warm and dry even in wet and cold conditions. Additionally, these boots are compatible with both automatic and semiautomatic crampons, making them an excellent choice for tackling more challenging mountain environments
Hiking Boot for 14ers: Suggestions
These winter hiking boots do not have a rigged sole, so they cannot be used with crampons for technical climbs. However, they are ideal for winter hikes on snow-packed trails, with good traction to avoid slipping and insulation to keep your toes warm.
Merrell Thermo Chill Mid Waterproof Boots
The Thermo Chill boots are a good, affordable pair of winter boots for 14ers. They provide lots of warmth and solid traction without frills or unnecessary weight. They have a lower profile compared to other boots on this list, which makes gaiters important to keep snow out of your shoe. Otherwise, they are lightweight and small enough to wear on short day hikes and simple 14ers, but I would not recommend them if you expect to break trail or posthole for a substantial period of time.
Oboz Bridger 10/9" Insulated Waterproof Boots
These boots are the warmest of the hiking boots on this list. Their insulation and heat-reflective materials keep your feet warmer than any other option, while the high top helps lock in warmth. This is accompanied by practical winter rubber soles that provide plenty of traction for the ice and snow you’ll run into on winter 14ers. They are waterproof but use a breathable membrane system to keep your feet dry throughout long hikes in the snow and wick away sweat. These are fantastic options if you are concerned about keeping your feet and toes warm and dry.
Most Affordable: Columbia Men's Bugaboot III Snow Boot
Columbia’s Bugaboot is the most affordable winter hiking boot in this review. Despite its low cost, it offers solid insulation and warmth, good traction, and quality materials and construction that will work for hikes and 14ers. It uses Columbia’s own breathable waterproofing to cut costs but it stands up in the field. While this hiking boot doesn’t rank first in terms of durability, traction, or insulation, it does meet the bar to do the job in each of these areas and more at a low cost that most people can afford.
Winter Hiking Boot for 14ers: FAQs
Q: What are the best materials for winter hiking boots?
A: Here are some common materials used in winter hiking boots to keep your feet dry and warm and provide traction on snow and ice.
Gore-Tex: This waterproof, breathable membrane is used in many boots and hiking clothing to keep you dry and comfortable. It contains tiny pores that allow moisture to evaporate out and keep liquid water out. Some boots use their own proprietary waterproof material.
Thinsulate: This is a synthetic insulation material that is used to keep feet warm in cold temperatures. You may also see Primaloft in many new hiking boots, while down and wool are common in older or higher-end boots.
Rubber: Rubber is often used in the soles of winter hiking boots to provide traction on slippery surfaces. Look for Carboxylated nitrile rubber (CBNR), Thermoplastic rubber (TPR), or Polyurethane (PU) for good traction in cold environments.
Q: How do I know if my winter hiking boots are warm enough?
A: Buy a pair of insulated boots and test them at home. Wear your boots outside on a walk when it’s cold, and see how long it takes for you to feel cold. A good pair of hiking boots should keep your feet and toes warm for several hours at the least. If you get cold easily, you may want to find a warmer pair of boots or get a thicker pair of socks to add more insulation.
Q: Can I wear my regular hiking boots in the winter?
A: Some hiking boots already provide enough warmth to work in the winter, especially if you have mild weather and limited snow and ice to deal with. However, if you plan to use these winter hiking boots for 14ers, I would recommend one of these insulated boots. The conditions are very cold on these high peaks and the cold-weather rubber will help you navigate the snow and ice far better than normal hiking boots.
Q: How do I choose the right size winter hiking boots?
A: You should try on boots when possible to ensure the right fit. Add an extra size to account for the thick pair of winter socks you will be wearing while using these boots. If you are ordering online, I recommend having them delivered to the store and picking them up so you can try them on and get a different size right away if necessary. Break in your boots after buying them, as it may takes 2-3 days of wear before they fit well.
Don't Forget Socks and Microspikes!
Thick winter hiking socks provide a key layer of insulation, while extra traction devices create a better grip on packed snow and ice. Here are my go-to recommendations for both of these critical must-haves for winter 14ers.
Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion Socks
These workhorse socks are built tough enough for actual mountaineers. The plush lining cushions your feet on long hikes while thick layers of wool lock in heat to keep your toes nice and warm.
Every winter hiker and mountaineer should have a pair of these socks in their closet for cold winter expeditions and climbs. If you are prone to blisters and hotspots, use a silk liner with these to reduce your risk of developing hotspots and blisters.
Kahtoola Microspikes Traction Device
Most 14er trails are covered in packed snow and ice during the winter and spring. Microspikes digs into the frozen terrain, reducing your fall risk and improving your balance and stability. There are many cheaper copycats available, however they use inferior materials that break easily in the cold temperatures found in the mountains Anyone climbing 14ers during the winter should have a pair of Kahtoola microspikes in their backpack or on their boots.
Best Boots for Winter 14ers | What Are Your Favorites?
If you need a pair of winter hiking boots for 14ers, there are a few key factors that matter: insulation for warmth, good traction for snow and ice, and breathable waterproofing to keep your feet dry and warm. The six options I recommend here are all great choices that will meet these needs for a variety of activities, from hiking and snowshoeing to climbing and mountaineering. Safe travels on whatever next adventure you take you on!
More Resources Related to Winter Hiking Boots for 14ers
Looking for more information about winter hiking boots for 14ers? These articles and guides were helpful as I put together this guide. If you have a suggestion for another resource to add to the list, leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you and share your insight with the community.