Winter Weather Guide
How to Keep Your Feet Warm

Winter Boot Insulation

Once upon a time, buying winter boots was pretty simple. You didn't have a lot of choices, and what was available was frequently warm enough for an arctic expedition. Hmmm...how things change.

Today, there are enough winter and snow boot varieties available to fill a sizable shoe store all by itself. Unfortunately, along with all these choices has come a bewildering array of insulation types, much of which is couched in rather obscure but important sounding terminology. So let's cut through the jargon, and get to what is important - what type of insulation you want in a boot and how much you need.

Sorel Caribou Boot : Review of this popular Snow Boot

Winter Boot Insulation Types

There is really an amazing variety of insulation types available today in winter and snow boots. Yet, in the end, there are really only two major types that most people need to be aware of - Thinsulate and shearling.

First, to avoid confusion, note that Gore-Tex is NOT insulation. Many winter boots are Gore-Tex boots - which is a good thing. Unhelpfully, the way many of these boots are labelled, though, gives the impression that the boot is insulated with Gore-Tex. Remember, Gore-Tex is just a thin membrane that goes over the boot and provides protection from external water and also allows your foot to breathe. Gore-Tex, all by itself, has virtually no insulation value what-so-ever.

Thinsulate Insulation

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about Thinsulate. Thinsulate is by far the most popular winter/snow boot insulation type. And for good reason. Thinsulate provides superb insulation in a very small package. Moreover, unlike goose down (which does indeed provide superior insulation all things being equal), thinsulate is not bulky and, quite importantly, does not lose its insulating ability if it gets wet.

Unfortunately, this is where the jargon begins - although happily the jargon is quite easy to understand. The insulation value of a snow/winter boot that contains thinsulate is measured by the weight of the thinsulate, in grams. Thus, you'll find boots with thinsulate insulation that range form 100 gram insulation to 1000 gram insulation. The higher the number, the more thinsulate is in the boot - and theoretically - the warmer the boot should be.

Sadly, there is no "set way" to rate a boot for temperature. While boot ratings are generally "in the ballpark" of their claimed rating, due to differing metabolism rates among people, how snug/loose the boot fits and what type of socks are worn, no winter boot can give an exact rating for a particular person. My own general rule for winter boot ratings is to take their rating and then go up by about 10-15 degrees in temperature. Thus, a boot rated to 0 degrees I'll assume will only work well in temperatures above 10-15 degrees instead.

Additionally, and this is very important. A winter boot temperature ratings assume two things - that you are wearing both a sock liner and a winter type sock (not a flimsy cotton sock). The reason for this is simple - no matter how thick the insulation on a winter boot, if your foot is wet then your foot is still likely to be cold.

Shearling Insulation

I love shearling - also known as fine fleece. I try to buy shearling whenever possible. It is soft, very snuggly and incredibly warm (if you get the high quality shearling, not the Wal-Mart version).

Yet, for footwear, shearling has a few problems. It is plenty warm - that isn't the problem. Indeed, for most shearling boots (such as Ugg Boots), you don't even want to wear socks! The shearling works best with bare feet.

Instead, the problem with shearling in footwear is its durability. For general around town walking, going to the mall, commuting uses, etc..., shearling insulation works just fine.

However, even the best of shearling boots will begin to break down when taken out on long walks through deep snow, mud, and the other wintry mixes that you can come across.

In short, shearling insulated boots are best used for what they have been designed for - a casual, stylish boot for general daily use. These boots are not meant for rugged outdoor excursions or for wearing when working outside for longer periods.

Recommended Snow Boots

Sorel Caribou Boot : The Most Popular Snow Boot Around

Sorel Conquest Boot : A More Rugged Snow Boot for Backcountry Use

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