Types of boot
Some winter boots offer extra warmth, some provide more grip on wet and frosty ground, while others will take a crampon if you want to go hiking on icy trails or go winter hillwalking. Decide what you will mainly be doing and make your choice.
As usual, with luggage weight restrictions, this is key. Going light is great, but do check the other features of the boot to make sure you’re not getting a lower weight at the price of comfort, or possibly less cushioning or warmth.
Lighter boots often have less cushioning underfoot. Check how much there is by trying on the boot and stamping your feet. You’ll quickly feel the difference between the models. If you plan on doing a lot of walking, then more cushioning is preferable.
This can be leather or synthetic. It’s worth bearing in mind that a boot with fewer panels and less stitching should, in theory, last longer, though it may often be heavier. Synthetic fabric also looks a bit more modern. Look for something waterproof (important in snow) and breathable.
Know your Bs and Cs
If buying a traditional walking winter boot, aka four-season, you’ll notice the soles are stiffer than the three season version. But even among these, they range in flexibility. That is because they are rated – either as B1 (least stiff), B2, or B3 (stiffest). This also helps you choose the right crampons (for walking on ice or thick, solid snow), which are similarly rated C1, C2 and C3 depending on flexibility. B1 boots are the most comfy to walk in, as they still offer some flex in the sole but only take a C1 crampon. B2 boots can take a C1 or C2 crampon, and B3 boots offer hardly any flex, as they are meant to help provide a platform for your foot (usually for Alpine mountaineers) but they can take any crampon types.
This is where you’ll feel how flexible your boot is. If you’re going to be walking on paths and even surface trail at low elevation, then a very bendy boot won’t really be a problem. You will feel more through it, though. However, if you want to tackle more rocky and uneven ground higher up in the mountains, a stiffer sole is the way to go, and then crampon compatibility becomes important.
Turn the boot over and look at the lugs – deeper ones will take longer to wear and grip better on slippery surfaces. Some boots will also have a heel break to help you grip better when descending.
A stiffer toe box with a large rubber rand covering will offer better protection from rocks and knocks.