Shoes are a terrible thing to travel with. They take up so much space in your luggage, they’re heavy, and it’s hard to find the perfect pair that doesn’t require also packing several other pairs. This is especially frustrating in the wintertime, when it’s particularly hard to find a pair that looks nice and keeps your feet toasty and doesn’t make you sweat when you go indoors.
For the past few years, I and some gear-testing friends who are very good (and gracious) guinea pigs, have collectively tried dozens of pairs of shoes in search of the best options for travelers. Here are a few of our favorites for traveling in cold, wet, rainy and snowy winter weather.
These Chelsea-style boots are easy to pull on and kick off when you’re going through airport security—a tricky thing to find in a pair of winter-friendly boots. It’s made with waterproof, lightly insulated leather, and has a removable sheepskin footbed. The soles have a great set of treads to provide traction in ice, slush and snow. They’re comfortable and durable enough for short hikes on mild trails. Even better: These shoes easily transition into fall and spring weather, too, so they won’t become useless once the sun starts shining again. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more versatile year-round, Blundstone’s non-insulated, water-resistant models are also fantastic, and come in quite a few different colors for both men and women.
Glerups are made from super-soft wool felt and are best worn barefoot. Trust me: Your feet will still be cozy in these even without socks. Unlike your standard house slipper, they have rubber soles so you can wear them outdoors. They’re great for wearing both indoors at a ski lodge and wandering around cities on chilly days. They’re not going to be your MVP, all-purpose travel shoe because they’re not waterproof or tall enough to keep out snow if you have to trek through anything more than a dusting. That said, they’re great walking shoes for cold, dry weather. They come in a slip-on, ankle height, and taller bootie, and they’re available in several fun colors for both men and women.
These unisex shoes might be the most beautiful winter boots I’ve ever owned. Hand-made in Italy from wool and suede, they basically make you look like you were born to play in the snow. The removable inserts have Velcro patches on the tongue so you can tuck and secure it closer to your foot to seal out cold and snow. If you’re going somewhere extra cold or you expect to have to trudge through a lot of snow, you can get a pair of insulating wool booties to swap out with the regular ones, and add on insulated gaiters to stay dry. The soles are made with Vibram’s Artic Grip and their big lugs are indeed quite grippy on ice and snow.
Yes, these are hiking boots. But they’re fashionable hiking boots, the kind you can wear with skinny jeans around town as easily as you can hike in them for weeks at a time, and they’re comfortable for all-day wear. There’s basically no break-in period on Danner’s Mountain 600 series, which offers boots in many different colors, materials and insulated and non-insulated versions. All are waterproof. I’ve worn my non-insulated Mountain 600s on everything from a five-day trek around Peru’s Mt. Ausangate to writing from my co-working space in downtown Providence on cold and rainy days. I’ve yet to find another pair of hiking boots that’s as comfortable and versatile as these, and a guy friend who also has a pair from this line agrees.
L.L.Bean’s Maine Hunting Shoes are basically the original winter boot. They’ve been perfected over more than 100 years—they were the first-ever product L.L.Bean sold, and ultimately made the icon we know today. You can pair these classic winter boots with a thick pair of wool socks and you’re good to go for winter adventures of all kinds. One friend who tells me he’s been wearing his for seven years says they’re his go-to shoes for slushy days in Massachusetts. Because these are taller than other boots on this list, they’re ideal for travel to places with lots of deep snow you can’t avoid walking through. They’re fully waterproof and work great as springtime rainboots, too. Bonus? You can have them re-soled for about $40 when you’ve loved them to near-death, which is more sustainable (and affordable) than buying a new pair outright. L.L.Bean carries these for both men and women.