A Letter to Winter Boot Makers

Dear winter boot makers:

What do you think when you make winter boots? Who do you make your boots for? Yes, your boots may be pretty and have nice details and leather accents, but do you use these boots in the conditions for which you make them? Yes, I’m talking to you North Face and you Sorel and no doubt a slew of other companies I haven’t had the guts to try yet.

Here’s the deal and I know I’ve talked about this before on this site but here’s a quick lesson in boot making from a girl who knows nothing about design but knows a lot about performance:

1. Rubber conducts cold. If I’m wearing a rubber outsole on a boot and my boot is covered in deep snow, my feet are going to get cold, from the top and the bottom. Insulation needs to go around the entire boot.

2. It doesn’t matter how thick the sole of the boots are, if they are rubber, they are going to be cold. Ex: my Sorels rated at -30 have a felt insole that is the only piece of the boot that keeps your feet warm. When I took them off, there was frost on the bottom of the felt insole. How does this happen? Wool wicks away sweat to the bottom of the insole where it sits against rubber and gets cold. So my feet are constantly fighting the cold. And no, they aren’t too tight. These boots are so big I have a sheepskin insole for further insulation and can still wear two pairs of socks and wiggle and maneuver my toes. They do work well above 15 degrees.

3. Boots need to¬† be breathable. Look at Mukluks made of moose hide. Moose hide is breathable – it’s animals skin. In the three years I wore those, I never had issues with the felt sole staying wet. The only problem was on slushy days the entire boot would soak through, but there was enough felt to keep the foot warm even when damp.

4. Lightweight boots are preferred for those who truck around in them for three plus hours a day in rugged snowy and icy terrain. Adding six pounds of weight to a 105 lb frame makes moving harder.

5. Flexible soles let your feet feel and move the way they were meant to. Our feet have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. They know how to support us. Poor support is worse than no support. Give me a boot that lets my foot move and bend over rocks and trees.

6. If we can put a man on the moon, can’t we find lightweight insulation? Many aboriginal tribes use straw and grasses for insulation. Have we tried that? How could using natural substances work?

7. If your boot says rated to 0 degrees, then I would like that boot to keep my feet warm to 0 degrees. I know I have feet that are very sensitive to the cold, but when the boots I try are typically off by 30 degrees, there’s a problem. Who is testing these and how? I would be happy to volunteer to test and weather-rate any boots out there.

Thank you for listening. I look forward to your 2012 winter line of boots that might actually keep my feet warm, provide a great hiking experience in snow, ice and any type of weather, be flexible and be true to your word.


A woman who does more than walk from her house to her car to her house in her boots.

One Response to “A Letter to Winter Boot Makers”

  1. golde says:

    I will tell you about the letters I wrote to NIKE and PATAGONIA years ago when I found it difficult to find woman’s gear!…I use to do ridge running and had to buy men’s shoes……..and when I was skiing I found that the men’s gear was so much better than the woman’s…..I was standing on the same mountain top, in the same blizzard as my then husband….and his gear was superior to mine. After that the R&D dept. from Patagonia use to call me!….Hoping you get results from North Face…. ! By the way, when I lived in the bush of BC I use to make my own mukluks!…..see you soon……

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