They go perfect with your jacket, not to mention your purse, and you can’t wait to show your friends. Maybe they’re a little thin. And there’s not much tread. But all boots are made for winter, right? Not exactly, which you discover the moment you step out your front door, hit a patch of ice, and fall flat on your backside. Okay, so maybe you haven’t had that exact experience, but walking can get a little treacherous once the temperatures start to dip thanks to the snow, sleet, and freezing rain. We want you to be ready for the right occasion, so here’s our guide to finding boots that will keep your feet comfortable all season long. The Difference between Snow Boots and Winter Boots To keep it short, a snow boot is for (surprise!) the snow. It’s what you wear trudging through snowy fields, hiking in the backcountry, and shoveling your driveway Winter boots, on the other hand, may keep your feet warm, but they’re not ready for any off-sidewalk ventures. They’re typically more about the fashion than they are about the utility. So they might get you to work and back, but when you want to go hiking or get knee-deep during a snowball fight, you’ll want something that’s a little more rugged. And probably waterproof. What to Look For in a Snow Boot Good snow boots are built to handle snow, slush, and puddles with finesse. Cheap snow boots might look the part, but there’s a good chance that they won’t perform. Here’s how to find snow boots that actually do their job. Waterproof You can tell it’s a snow boot by its built-in gaiter, which usually looks like a cuff on the outside attached to a liner that surrounds your whole foot. A true waterproof boot has tight seams and it won’t let anything slip in around the lacings or zipper. Traction Snow boots tend to have heavier soles because they need good traction. It might feel too bulky, but on an ice patch it can be a lifesaver. Breathable Insulated boots can trap heat, which means even if your boots are waterproof on the outside, you can build up quite a bit of perspiration on the inside. Nobody wants that, which is one of the reasons we love our GORE-TEX boots. We designed them to be waterproof and breathable. You don’t want to settle for one or the other. Pro tip: When picking out socks, look for something thin and moisture wicking. You can always put wool socks on top if you need a little more warmth, but wool or cotton next to the skin will trap moisture and make your feet even colder after you sweat. Insulation Good snow boots are made from multiple layers of different materials. Synthetic insulation like Primaloft® and Thinsulate™ are popular choices to keep your toes warm. Height Look for a boot that goes about halfway up your calf and has laces all the way up. You want to able to tie it close to your calf. That way snow doesn’t fall in through the top, you’ll keep your socks in place, and the compression will help prevent swelling after a long day of walking. What to Look For in a Winter Boot We’re not going to lie—winter boots tend to be more fashionable. And most of the time they’ll get you to work, to the store, and around urban areas without a problem (as long as you avoid snow and puddles). But because winter boots place so much emphasis on appearance, they don’t perform well when it comes to function. It’s true that you don’t always need the heavy protection of a snow boot. But there are still a few features that will go a long way when it comes to keeping your feet happy (even when your winter boots have heels). Close fit Many boots have a wide opening, and taller boots are especially susceptible to letting the snow in. It’s like standing in a bucket, and your feet are sitting there ready to collect snow while the heat escapes. So be sure to look for boots that stay close to your calf. They’ll keep you much warmer and they’ll even look a little sleeker. Waterproof… mostly We’ve seen a lot of sheepskin boots take on wet sidewalks. They might feel like slippers when you put them on, but it won’t take long out in the elements before it starts to feel like you’re wearing a pair of soggy sponges. A winter boot doesn’t need to be watertight, but it should at least be made of a material that will let flurries run off without a fuss. Insulation Don’t compromise when it comes to insulation, even when it comes to winter boots. Go for warmth. This is why you want to avoid rain boots. They might come in cute patterns, but they’ll likely have zero insulation. And let’s be real—no matter what you’ve heard, beauty should not require pain (especially when it’s already freezing outside). A Happy Medium Is there such thing as a winter/snow boot? You know, a hybrid that’s functional, fashionable, and will keep your feet comfortable all season long? Believe it or not, there actually are a few, like the Ara Maeko Boot. It’s waterproof and breathable, and the hint of faux fur adds a bit of flair and extra warmth. And there’s more where that came from. On the hunt for your perfect boots? All GORE-TEX products are waterproof, breathable, and GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY®. Check out our catalog for footwear to keep you protected all winter long!