When it comes to surviving a Canadian winter, not just any footwear will do. If you try to wear running shoes or stylish slippers, you will be subjecting your toes to the risk of frostbite in minus thirty degree temperatures. If you try to wear anything without serious grips on the bottom, you will send yourself flying and landing sharply on your tailbone on every frozen patch of ice. If you choose shoes that are not waterproof, you will come home with dripping wet socks every day, cold and shivering. If you buy shoes that are flimsy and poor quality, the road salt will dissolve the soles of them fast!
A Canadian winter is not something to take lightly, as temperatures in the Prairie Provinces often get down to minus 40 and the snow drifts can climb halfway up the side of your house. A Canadian winter is a test of mental and physical endurance that only a fool would face without the proper gear.
So what do you need to take in mind when buying a winter boot?
Your Foot Should Be More Sheltered Than a Home-Schooled Kid from Small Town Saskatchewan
Sometimes your feet will never see the snow at all but lots of puddles and moisture. This means that the sole of your boots needs to be 100% waterproof, so that you can trudge through the snowy sludge with confidence.
A great choice for this is a Sorel boot, which has a sole that is almost as impenetrable as a layer of Canadian social awkwardness at a party. Sorel was founded in 1962 and although they might be a little bit clunky and less than fashionable, they will absolutely protect your feet from all of the snow, water and ice that you slosh through on your way home. They have an amazing leather shell with waxed canvas upper and leather overlays – which means that if you maintain them well they will keep your feet sheltered from the elements for years. For some great deals on Sorel boots, check out the Boxing Day Sale on outdoor gear at Canadian retailer Live Out There.
Your Foot Should Be Warmer Than a Newfoundlander after a Few Drinks on George Street
“Waddya At, By?” There is nothing friendlier than a slightly tipsy Newfie and in a minute he is probably going to invite you into his house, ask you to stay for the week, share with you his grandmother’s homemade cod tongues, tell you the history of his entire family tree and pretty much give you the plaid shirt right off his back. That’s how warm and welcome your feet should feel when they slip into your winter boots.
Boots with a sheepskin lining are often a great choice, so that you can walk around all winter with your feet feeling like they are being cuddled by baby lambs. Also, many boots will have a fleece inner lining, which also works well to incubate your toes at a very high temperature.
Remember, your feet should be so warm that if you are wearing your boot inside – your feet will start to sweat and feel so uncomfortably hot that you need to take them off. If they feel like they are roasting your toes at room temperature, they will feel just right when you are waiting for the bus when it’s minus 20.
Your Boots Should be Tougher than an Oil Rig Worker
Working on an oil rig in middle of nowhere Canada is a tough job, it’s physically demanding and work conditions are gruelling. However, the tough roughnecks who drive their 4x4s to work every day certainly don’t cry like a baby about it, they just get to work. Your winter boots need to be this tough if they are going to survive a Canadian winter.
Your boots cannot shrink or crinkle when they get wet, or start to dissolve when they get soaked in road salt. The soles must stay together and the laces must not unravel. Your boots need to stand up to the brutal conditions that you are going to put them through, otherwise you will have to fire them and find other boots that can.
The search for the perfect winter boots is more difficult than finding an open tourist attraction in Charlottetown, PEI in February… but it’s certainly worth it. Once your feet slip into the wonderful comfort of those perfect boots and you realise that you never have to experience frozen toes again – it’s better than having an entire year’s supply of Tim-bits.
Ben Brown is a freelance writer who for a number of local publications and is also currently writing his own memoirs about growing up on the Canadian prairie. He is an avid skier and cheers for the Oilers.
*This post is in accordance with our disclosure policy.*