Proper shoes are a MUST during winters in the Midwest. While some people continue to wear flats and tennis shoes when there is 6" of snow on the ground and sheer ice on the sidewalks and parking lots, I decided to prioritize the comfort of my feet and personal safety and invested in some useful boots.
When I moved up to Sioux Falls on New Year's Eve, I had a suitcase stuffed with clothes and "winter" gear. Little did I know, my high-heeled "winter" boots would not get me far in this frozen tundra. Winter in Tennessee is much more forgiving than up here. No, Sioux Falls is not literally a frozen tundra, but it sure felt like it to me for the first few months I lived here.
My initial boot purchase was from a consignment shop (Try It Again Consignment), which I have come to love and frequent. The boots though turned out to not be my best investment. They may have looked a little ridiculous (my husband was not a fan of them). They definitely squished and squeaked with every step I took, regardless of if they were wet or not. Most importantly, they were not very waterproof. However, they at least got me through one season and held me over until I was able to find exactly what I wanted...and had time to learn what it is I should look for in a boot!
So, what should one consider when purchasing winter boots? These are in no particular order, each aspect is just as important as the next when considering your boot purchase.
1. Warmth - Cold feet are the worst. When searching for boots you will find that they have a temperature rating. The temperature rating is a basic gauge for users to know what the coldest temperature in which the boots can maintain warmth. One must take into consideration how active the individual is when wearing the boots and the clothing they wear. Note: Warmth/Temperature ratings are not universal among boot manufacturers.
My boots that are rated -25F /-32C have worked great for my everyday use, which would be in temps that range from 20F to -10F. If I am outside in -25F, I would be wearing my boots that are rated as cold as -40F because I know my feet get cold easily and I would need the bigger boots with better insulation. If I am ice fishing on the ice all day, I wear the heavier boots regardless of how warm it is outside because my feet will be close to ice the entire time and not a lot of physical activity.
2. Waterproof - The only thing worse than cold feet is cold and WET feet! Even if we get a dry snow, there is a LOT of wet slush to combat. Our temperatures often fluctuate between freezing and slightly above freezing temps during the winter. This means that even dry snow will partially melt and become slushy. Parking lots are the worst! This thaw and refreezing also leads to a lot of ice forming...which brings us to the next point to consider when searching for boots.
3. Grip - There is no reason you should purchase a pair of winter boots that are flat and sleek on the bottom. To be honest, I am not sure there are many out there being sold without a good grip, but make sure you double check just in case. Once the first snow falls, I pretty well put my cowgirl boots (which are probably not real cowgirl boots anyway because they have no tread) away for the season. Note: No matter how wonderful the tread/grip is, if you are consistently on ice you may need additional gear to prevent slipping. I will cover this in a different post!
4. Purpose - What use will you have for your boots? You need to consider what activities you will be doing in these boots. Will you be out enjoying winter activities in frigid temperatures? Will you use them to run errands? Will you need them for work? If you need them for multiple purposes, you may end up needing more than one pair. Up here you will find that boots can be worn as regular shoes to go meet up with friends at a bar, or casual restaurant. In the middle of winter, they may be your everyday shoes....so you may want to have variety to accessorize with!
So what did I buy? ***Men's Winter Boots will be featured in a different post!
All-Purpose Black Sorels - Sorel Women's Meadow Lace Boot, Black - These I bought to have as somewhat of an all-purpose boot. They are tall enough to go through some deeper snow and look nice enough to wear in most settings. They are not warm enough to be out on the ice all day in them (ice fishing), so I purchased a more heavy duty winter boot for that. These boots are also a bit too much for when we get some warmer temps and snow melt, so I have a shorter pair for that. However, if I needed to save $ and only purchase 1 pair to start off, these would have been it!
Everyday Brown Columbia - Columbia Women's Minx Shorty Resort Nutme Cold Weather Boot, Nutmeg/Penny - These I bought to run errands and wear to/from work when there is snow on the ground. Since they are a lower cut, they are not the best for snowfalls of more than 2". When the snow has just fallen and is still fluffy, these boots can end up with snow getting down in them easily. They are great once the snowfall has compacted some. Awesome for grocery store, gym and other errands! I also wear these when meeting up with friends!
Heavy Duty Sorels - Sorel, Caribou Winter Boots, BUFF - These were bought for those cold weather activities that I am out doing for extended time. They have been great for ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and exploring the winter wilderness. They are heavier in weight and more bulky than the others, so not the best option to run errands. They are rated comfort down to -40F!
Where to buy your boots?
Scheels - This is a regional store (with a few locations outside the Midwest) that has just about anything you need for athletics, outdoors and common name-brand apparel. It is like combining Dicks and Cabela's, but better because they also have a ferris wheel in the SF location! They have a decent selection of boots to try on. Scheels is located on 41st Street and S. Western Ave.
Great Outdoor Store - They are located downtown and specialize in top brands for the outdoors. They have some boots, but not too many. So if you are looking to try on a lot of different styles to find what you want, you may need to start your search elsewhere. If you have your search narrowed down, you should check them out!
Online - I am a huge proponent for buying local, but went to Amazon and REI for my boot purchases. I found that there was a larger selection to find exactly what I wanted at affordable prices, with easy returns. You will learn that I also am not the biggest fan of shopping anyway, so this took some of the stress out for me.
Remember to start looking for sales around the holidays and as the season starts to come to an end.
You don't have to buy a million pairs of boots right off the bat. Get something that will work to get you through your first winter and determine what you want for next season. My favorite pairs I bought almost a year after living in Sioux Falls.
Don't be afraid to order a couple sizes of the same boot to make sure you get the right fit. Most stores will have a generous return policy. When trying them on, make sure you wear the socks that you will most commonly wear in them. As with any other shoe you buy, having the right fit is important.
Take care of your boots! It doesn't hurt to spray a waterproof barrier on your boots in the seasons that follow after your first winter in them. Follow your boot care instructions to make them last for several years. You should not have to buy a new pair of boots every year because your old ones only last one season. They should last, at least, for a few years.
***Men's Winter Boots will be featured in a different post!
Hope this helps!
Photo Credit: Rhiannon Israel