5 Tips for Choosing Walking Shoes for the Winter

5 Tips for Choosing Walking Shoes for the Winter 3
Sure-footed is the way to be

Aside from warm clothing, another thing you'll have to contend with if venturing out is choosing the right walking shoes for the winter.

Ice can be slippery and it’s easy to slip and fall if you are wearing your favorite pair of sneakers.

If the weather permits a walk outside for you to burn those extra pounds, getting the right pair of walking shoes is a must! It’s not just for comfort, but also for your safety.

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So how do you get the right pair? Read on.

What are the tips for choosing walking shoes for the winter?

Check the lowest recommended temperature from the manufacturer & add about 10 degrees for comfortable use. Check the materials used for the upper & the soles. Leather is good for uppers but treats frequently for waterproofing. Ensure a good snug fit to maintain the thermal air cushion & buy thick-soled shoes or boots, (yes, it matters for insulation & keeping feet dry!).

So, before the first snow falls, you might want to take a look at these tips when out buying a new pair of winter walking shoes.

How To Choose Shoes For Winter

As the temperature drops below zero, lakes and rivers can freeze over, animals hibernate, and even our blood flow slows down with evident changes in the external parts of the body. You might have wondered why your cheeks numb, your complexion gets pale or rosy-cheeked, and you get toe cramps as a result of frequent cold feet.

Your choice of footwear plays a huge role in protecting your feet from getting injured during the winter. You want to avoid slips and falls, yet keep your feet warm, and be comfortable during your winter walks.

Here are some things to consider in shopping for footwear for the cold weather


Insulation is a must for winter footwear. You have to keep the heat in and the cold out! The microfibers of the insulation in the linings of your winter walking shoes trap air inside. Without airflow, cold air from the outside can’t seep through and the warm air around your foot can’t escape. This trapped warm air forms the barrier to the cold which keeps your feet nice and cozy.

Insulating fabrics, such as Primaloft and Thinsulate, are commonly used in the interior of a shoe. Other patented insulation technologies include Heatseeker (The North Face), Omniheat (Columbia), Zylex (Kamik), and M Select WARM (Merrell).

How much insulation you need depends mainly on how cold the temperature will be when you are out walking as well as how easily your feet get cold.

If you are someone who gets cold feet easily, choose a pair of winter walking shoes with 400 grams of insulation. Otherwise, the regular 200 grams can keep you warm enough even down to temperatures of -25°F. 100 mm of insulation will be good to about 0°F (about -17°C).

Some winter shoes also have a temperature rating and unfortunately, there’s no exact science to measure the insulative effectiveness for shoes.

To be on the safe (and warm) side, go up at least 10 degrees above the temperature rating. If a pair has been rated 0°F, then it might work best in temperature above 10°F.

Pretty girl walking in the snow with snow cleats
If the snow gets deep you need more than shoes really.

Material Matters

You have to know what your pair of shoes is made of. Materials used for making winter shoes range from authentic leather to faux leather, rubber, velvet, wool, flannel and synthetic waterproof material such as Gore-tex, eVent, and thermolite.

Leather is arguably the best material for winter shoes. They are naturally waterproof and with regular waxing and polishing, you further enhance this feature. Plus, they also keep your feet warm.

Leather shoes are also easy to clean. You just wipe the slush and go!

But if you are looking for walking shoes, leather is not your only choice. Check out sneakers with waterproof upper material as a more practical and comfortable choice depending on your use of course.

Now, don’t even try using your suede or sheepskin shoes in the snow, unless you want to learn all about proper winter footwear the hard way.

Suede is a very delicate material and not made for the cold while sheepskin boots are used as after-surf footwear so that’s sand and not snow – unless you are inside.

The Sole

Slips and falls during winter account for about 300,000 serious injuries and 20,000 fatalities every year in the United States. Choosing walking shoes with soles that provide good grip and traction on snow and ice may just be the best thing you will ever buy yourself this season!

The insole and the outsole must be inspected according to your specific use or purpose. The texture of the insole helps stimulate the circulation of the blood in your feet. Choose walking footwear for winter that comes with insulated insoles. These prevent the cold from seeping through the soles of your shoes as continue with your walking routine this winter.

Rubber spikes on the outsole should help you get good traction on the slippery grounds as you walk or run. These spikes are also varied in size as they serve different functions. Materials like Vibram outsoles provide excellent durability, resistance, and traction.

Couple walking nordic style in the winter snow
Don't let the snow stop you enjoying time together Nordic walking.

Snug And Comfy Fit

If you’ve found a pair of shoes or boots that are well insulated with good traction and high-quality material but it doesn’t fit, then it’s all in vain! You’ll have to find another pair; one that fits your feet snugly and comfortably especially with your favorite winter socks on!

The reason for this is that loose fitting shoes will allow too much movement of the warm air trapped in the lining between your feet and the outer upper. That will result in a much-reduced buffer of warm air and hence insulation. So you want a winter boot or shoe that fits snugly but not over tightly.

Fitting a shoe without your winter socks on is a recipe for disaster, a cold and damp one!

Make sure you try the walking shoes with your thick socks on in order to find the right fit. Too tight might result in poor circulation. Too loose and your shoes might just slide right off as you walk but will certainly not be as warm as you might have hoped.

You can also pick shoes with laces so that there is room for adjustment.


No, not the U2 hit song but rather choosing walking shoes for the winter with some elevation thanks to their chunky soles. With a couple of inches thanks to those thick soles, you are safe to step into snow puddles as well as snowy paths and walkways.

Though it’s important to note the difference between a chunky soled pair of walking footwear and a pair of platform shoes. It would be awkward and a bit unsafe if you are out for your usual walk wearing the latter.

Meanwhile, some winter walking shoes are designed with thicker spikes which substantially add the height to keep your feet off the icy ground.

You might also like our article on choosing wet weather shoes or our review of the best-insulated women's ankle boots.

Related Questions

What type of shoes are suited for brisk walking during winter?

For your physical activity needs such as brisk walking during winter, athletic shoes are best for you except in extremely low temperatures.

These shoes aren’t evidently warm, but you can easily compensate that with winter socks or thermal insoles. The plus point is that these shoes use high-tech waterproofing and insulation technology.

What you really need to consider is if it is flexible enough for your feet to be comfortable on a long session of walking during cold weather.

What type of shoes are fit for hiking during winter?

Now if you want to take walking to the next level this winter and decide to go for a hike, you need boots or shoes for walking in snow and ice.

For icy hikes, waterproof hiking boots work best especially if the snow is already thick and heavy. These boots are heavier than your typical winter boots. There’s actually quite a difference.

Winter boots are made to be warm and withstand the cold weather while hiking boots are not only insulated but also often laced for a good fit and have special spikes optimized for grip and traction.

What type of shoes are fit for walking around the city in the winter?

You love walking as a form of exercise but have no intention of taking it up a notch with hiking. Let’s say you’re more of a city person. You love the hustle and bustle of the city as it gets blanketed in snow.

If that’s the case, there are several types of shoes that are fit for walking around the city.

There are your trusty sneakers, of course. Flat-heeled boots can also get you farther than the heeled ones. As long as you are not walking on snow, they should give the most comfort and flexibility.

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