Snow Boots vs Winter Boots – Are They Mutually Exclusive?

ski boots vs winter boots

As the end of the year draws nearer, winter drags along its notoriously less-than-ideal weather. Some states, more so Northern ones, typically receive average annual snowfall well over 90 inches. As the snowflakes start to fall and cover the ground, there comes the inescapable need to cope with the freezing conditions. Winter coats, cozy gloves, and beanies all form the checklist of winter must-haves.

However, what goes on your feet matters just as much, and that’s where snow boots and winter boots come in. Can you get away with just a pair of either winter or snow boots? Snow boots vs winter boots is an age old debate so let’s get cracking and bust any myths! There’s the all-too-common misconception that snow boots and winter boots are synonymous. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s a breakdown of how the two differ.

SNow Boots

Snow Boots

There are places where it snows, then there are places where it really snows (if you’re from Vermont or Maine, you’ll understand). If you live in one of those places where average snowfall is measured in feet and not just inches, or if your next vacation happens to be a ski vacation, then snow boots would be an ideal fit.

That begs the question, what makes a good pair of snow boots? An ideal pair of snow boots should be waterproof while also offering a cozy interior and a rubber sole for better grip on icy ground. Thick soles offer insulation against cold and deep treads add some much-needed traction. It’s worth noting that snow boots aren’t solely designed for snow, but also wet conditions.

Snow boots may be considered specialist boots. These boots are designed to provide both protection and warmth in extreme weather. For instance, snow boots with 100 grams of insulation have a rating of up to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. The insulation in snow boots traps and prevents your body’s natural heat from escaping, ensuring your feet remain warm and snug, regardless of the freezing conditions.

When sporting a pair of snow boots, your best bet is on wool socks. These socks add some much-needed warmth while simultaneously soaking up any perspiration from your feet. Wool is also a better option than cotton because wool continues to insulate your feet even when wet (expect considerable perspiration when wearing snow boots). Wool wicks away moisture, leaving your feet warm while remaining dry and comfortable.

Winter boots

Winter Boots

Think of winter boots as a sort of laid-back version of snow boots. Yes, they may be waterproof, but not always. Some pairs may be water-resistant, but that’s not the same as being waterproof. Also, prolonged exposure of any cold weather boot to moisture will eventually lead to some level of damage.

As a rule of thumb, When looking for a decent pair of winter footwear, get something with a durable upper that also offers anti-slip treads for traction. Winter boots are great for places that experience milder winters or for spending shorter amounts of time outside, say a dash to the grocery store.

Winter boots offer some level of insulation, but not as much as snow boots. While they offer some degree of water repellence, winter boots cannot completely avert snow from entering inside the boot opening. Therefore, wearing winter boots in deep snow could potentially allow some snow to enter the shoe and wet your feet. To avoid this scenario, you might want to wear a separate snow gaiter.

Wool plays a key role when it comes to winter boots to keep cold weather chill at bay. Given wool’s excellent temperature regulating properties, winter boots with a wool interior offer the best wearing experience. Taller winter boots will keep your calves warm and protected from any snow entry, although shorter winter boots are easier to walk around in. The only downside of short winter boots is snow intake if you trek in deeper snow.  

Winter Boot vs. Snow Boot: What's the Difference?

Winter Boot vs. Snow Boot: What’s the Difference?

Winter boots are traditionally comprised of thick, insulating cloth with a rubber sole. They are intended to keep your feet dry, trendy, and adequately insulated while walking in sleet, snow, or ice. Snow boots, unlike conventional winter boots, normally barely cover the ankle but come in a variety of heights because they are designed to be warm and insulated. They are also typically better insulated than standard winter boots, allowing them to be worn in harsher snowy circumstances. Winter boots, on the other hand, are light in weight, making it easier to walk over snow or icy streets. If you live in a snowy region, keep both on hand and wear both types of footwear depending on how slick the roads are outside. Always keep both pairs on hand, one for warmth and the other for traction on slick areas.

Why Would You Need Both?


Weather is one of those things the human race can’t control. As such, winter weather can sharply vary from day to day. One morning, you could wake up to half an inch of snow and 24 hours later, you could wake up to a front door barricaded with snow.

Having both snow and winter boots offers you versatility. A pair of each would make it easier to transition when conditions change. From snowy to wet and slushy mornings, from cold temperatures to icy puddles, snow boots and winter boots afford you the luxury of choice.


Your typical day will most likely involve running a couple of errands. Perhaps you have kids who you have to drive to and from school. Then comes the drive to work. In the evening, you might have to pass by the dry-cleaners then the store to pick up a few home necessities.

If you’re driving in snow boots you might find it a tad uncomfortable, so having a pair of winter boots in the car that you can slip into would help ease your daily drive. Also, snow boots tend to be significantly heavier than winter boots and as such, clomping around in them will get exhausting pretty fast.

Fashion Consciousness

When it comes to choosing between snow boots and winter boots, functionality is the main criteria you ought to consider. However, given the fact that snow boots are bulkier, they usually have less of an aesthetic advantage. Many winter boots, on the other hand, have thinner soles and tend to have a greater aesthetic appeal. Having both pairs makes it easy to swap into your winter boots when and if conditions allow for a more fashion-conscious look.

snow or winter boot?

In Conclusion

Snow boots and winter boots are substantially different in terms of function and look. While snow boots provide better protection against snow, they may be overkill for less severe conditions. Winter boots, on the other hand, are lighter in weight than their bulkier counterparts and are better suited for lower snow levels.

When choosing between the two, consider the advantages of each pair. If you have to choose, both shoes make a strong case for some closet space. The question is, why make a choice at all? Purchase a pair of each and enjoy the versatility and convenience that each pair provides.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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