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HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

Hiking on snow: boots or shoes?

Depending on the weather conditions, difficulty of the route, state of the snow, etc., there are plenty of factors that you need to consider when choosing the right footwear for a snow hike. We give you all the advice you need for finding your feet!

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We go further when wearing the right footwear ... The choice of footwear is essential when hiking, especially on snow. Warmth, comfort, impermeability, grip will allow you to forget your feet and just think about enjoying yourself! Follow our guide on choosing between shoes and boots.

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Did you know ...?

When it is cold, the body gives priority to protecting vital organs such as the heart or the brain. The blood is therefore directed to these parts to the detriment of all the others. That means, other parts, such as feet or hands receive less blood. All the more so since the body, to keep its heat, constricts the arteries closest to the skin (this is called vasoconstriction): the blood has less contact with the outside and more easily maintains its temperature.

It is therefore important to protect your hands and feet when it is cold by equipping yourself with the appropriate equipment. Cover your head well, too, otherwise you may lose the heat your body produces to protect your brain, and you will cool down faster.

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Boots or shoes: what is the difference?

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Shoes

    The snow hiking boot is like a regular hiking boot, but adapted to winter conditions thanks to its sole, among other things, which provides grip and traction on this particular terrain of snow, whether hard, soft, icy... They come in different heights, which range from the ankle (Mid) to the top of the ankle (High). Shoes offer comfort, breathability and grip, with the added benefit of being lightweight and supportive.

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Boots

    Boots are generally higher, they are also available in mid and high version (mid = high ankle - and high = mid calf). It is looser and a little heavier, and has less overall foot support, however it offers more warmth and waterproofness thanks to its anti-intrusion aspect. Its height allows better snow protection.

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Boots or shoes: comfort and performance

Whether you choose shoes or boots for your winter hikes, the most important thing is to make sure that they are warm, waterproof, provide good grip and support your feet and ankles.

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Waterproof & breathable

    To keep feet dry, shoes or boots must obviously be waterproof, while being breathable. Waterproofing shouldn't prevent the air from circulating when you’re making a real effort, otherwise moisture from perspiration will make your feet wet and you’ll get cold.

    When it comes to the waterproof level, opt for a boot if the snow is rather fresh and light or like spring snow, or consider combining shoes and snowshoes to improve your lift and therefore avoid sinking into the snow too much. The less the foot is in contact with the snow, the more likely it will stay dry. If the snow is quite packed, snow boots, like hiking boots, work very well, and it's up to you to find what’s most comfortable: the snow boot offers more warmth, while the hiking boot is often lighter and more breathable.

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Warmth

    What could be more unpleasant than having cold feet? To fully enjoy your hike in the snow, make sure your shoes or boots are resistant to very cold temperatures (between 0 and -20 ° C). Even though shoes are designed to protect against the cold, on this type of terrain, boots win! More enveloping, with a lining, they’re ideal for feet that feel the cold.


    Tip: Choose the right size well, your foot and ankle must be maintained to avoid friction and blisters, but not too tight so that your feet can breathe and blood can circulate properly.

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  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Foot support

    Whether you are wearing boots or shoes, it is important that they provide good support. However, the level of support may vary depending on the effort required, the walking time, the type of hike or the terrain.

    Hiking boots support the foot and ankle well, and offer greater support, which goes from the top of the ankle (Mid) to the beginning of the calf (High). They are lighter and give you more ease. Their laces or hooks provide adjustment for better support.

    Snow boots, on the other hand, offer less overall foot support and don’t hug the ankle, but provide more coverage.

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Grip

    When you walk in winter, whatever the type of terrain, grip is important. The grip of the shoe supports you in your effort and prevents you from slipping. Make sure your snow or hiking boots have a sole with a suitable structure and studs of sufficient size (about 5 mm minimum).

    Both snow and hiking boots can offer good grip, but here at Quechua, it’s the hiking boot that’s systematically studded, using Snowcontact® technology. Its manoeuvrability also facilitates good grip.

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Our tip

A pair of poles will provide you with better balance and ensure you more on slippery ground. For hiking on snow, choose poles with a basket so you don't get stuck in the snow!

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Wear footwear in function of the terrain

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Are you going for a hike on a signposted path, with packed or not very deep snow? On uneven, winding or steep terrain, shoes will give you greater freedom of movement. And good grip in the event of frozen snow, for maximum safety. If you hike on flat ground, boots will also be perfect, and the best ally for the those who feel the cold more.

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    If the snow is really deep and you're worried about getting wet, wear gaiters to keep snow from creeping into your shoes! You can also get warm hiking boots with built-in gaiters. Very practical!

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  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    The weather forecast announces 30 cm of fresh powder overnight? Prepare your boots! They are ideal for walking in deeper snow, offering you protection and warmth for shorter hikes (less than 3 hours for example). They’re ideal if you decide to go sledging with the kids or for games in the snow.

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    On the other hand, if you decide to walk the snowy slopes with snowshoes, you need to choose boots that support the foot well. Snow boots are not suitable for snowshoeing.

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HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?
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Boots or shoes depending on the type of hike

Are you more like a small beginner bear, an agile lynx or a skilful hare?
Depending on your athletic level, your experience, the planned route, your physiology, the weather conditions or the people accompanying you, you'll need to put on different footwear!

  • HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

    Hiking with the family

    If you are going for a hike with the family, with a picnic, selfie breaks and snowball fights, plan to wear boots instead. Boots are suitable for calmer walks, with less elevation and less walking time. More covering, they will be ideal in wet or cold weather to keep your feet warm, and to alternate between a more contemplative hike and games in the snow with the family.

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    Sporty hiking

    Choose footwear that match your hiking intensity: very sporty, with good elevation and a duration of several hours, you will sweat faster, so you will need a lighter, breathable shoe. Hikes with steep slopes require shoes with good grip.

    Whether you are a beginner or an expert, shoes are suitable for any type of hiking, with or without a snowshoe.

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Our tip

Whether you wear boots or shoes, the choice of socks is very important. They must be:

- Adapted to the weather (warm and quite breathable) all are breathable, but some are warmer than others

- Adapted to the height of your snow or hiking boots: there’s nothing worse than a sock that slips down and gives you blisters!

- Suitable for boots or shoes, that is to say more or less thick so as not to compress your foot and prevent blood from circulating.

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HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?
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In short, get started and go hiking on the snow! In boots or shoes, in good weather or in the snow, with the children or in sport mode… take possession of the snowy nature to breath in the fresh air and serenity.

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HIKING ON SNOW: BOOTS OR SHOES?

Jessica

Hiking advice editor

Mountain enthusiast, fan of hiking with or without snowshoes, lover of wide-open spaces, lakes and mountain peaks, occasional climber and part-time surfer.

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Here is some of our other recommended sports advice 

Our advice on choosing socks for snow hiking

How to choose socks for snow hiking

Length, material, knit fabric, warmth, breathability etc When hiking in the snow, the type of sock you choose is critical. How do you choose the ideal sock that will keep your feet both comfortable and safe?