Which boots are best for snow?
With most of the United States seeing some early flakeage this year, it’s time to break out the sleet-kickers. Some things to consider if you’re considering new winter boots, whether you need dress boots or something less sleek:
Traction
For minimum slippage on snow and ice, you want an outsole that is relatively soft with maximum tread. Ralph Fabricius of Russell Moccasin told me that you don’t want “a real hard sole for ice—that’s two hard surfaces up against one another. Some Vibram [brand] soles have more forgiveness to them.” So a dress leather sole is right out—adding a Topy rubber sole probably helps a little. The title of grippiest, according to Ralph, goes to Vibram’s Fire and Ice or Olympia soles. My Danner boots (pictured above) use a light but deeply lugged Vibram Kletterlift outsole that suited me well on a trip to Quebec last January. The white Christy wedge sole that looks so darn good with so many boots is not a great choice for snow—too flat and too hard.
For dress boots you’ll find Dainite studded rubber or Ridgeway (also a Dainite product) soles are handy and widely available on better British shoes, especially country boots like those from Crockett and Jones. Likewise Commando lugged soles. On icy sidewalks, though, there’s not much you can do but be cautious.
Water resistance
In cold temperatures, you can often get away with outerwear that’s not 100% waterproof—it will take a lot longer for snow to soak through the shoulders of a heavy wool coat than steady rain. Water from melting snow can start getting into shoes rather quickly, though. Leather is hide, and by definition porous, so you have two options: treat your leather boots with a waterproofing compound like mink oil or Obenauf’s LP, which can darken leather and will need re-proofing over time, or add a layer of synthetic material, like Gore-Tex. Hiking boots—I’m partial to classically styled models like Danners or Merrells—are the most likely to feature a synthetic liner; I don’t know of any true dress boots that do so. Of note is that the highest-end hiking boots, like Limmers, do not use synthetic midlayers, but rather recommend waterproofing treatments.
For dress boots, you’re best off avoiding serious snow and slush if you can, and treating your leather boots well, both before and after you go out in winter conditions. So, rub them down with a quality, natural leather protectant regularly, and once you get out of the snow, wipe them clean, use shoe trees, and let them dry away from heat to avoid cracking or overdrying the leather. Crockett and Jones’s Snowdon model is one of the few dress boots that claim to be waterproof, with a waxy leather upper and Norwegian/Veldtshoen construction that is less likely to let water seep in between the sole and the upper than most shoes. If I had a pair of Snowdons, though, I’d still shovel the walk in something I wouldn’t feel I had to fuss over.
Warmth
Few boots are significantly insulated by themselves. Viberg hikers use a layer of Thinsulate, and you can always wear down booties, I guess. Bean Boots, a classic choice for long New England winters, are really quite cold, although L.L. does offer shearling/Thinsulate lined models. For dress boots, Paul at Leffot recommends Edward Green Galway boots, which can be made to order with a shearling lined shaft. Woah. Let’s see those again. Nice. Like Eddie Green Uggs.
Of course, warm socks provide insulation when boots don’t. Cotton socks are poor insulators when dry and miserable to wear when wet. I’m a big believer in SmartWool’s widely available wool-blend socks. Are they dress socks? No; but if you’re wearing a boot with a high shaft anyway, the dress-appropriateness of your sock becomes less of an issue. If you’re desperate for a little more warmth without resorting to all-out ultra-thick hiking socks, you can add a sock liner, which you wear as sort of a baselayer for your feet. Sock liners (also called liner socks) are usually made from synthetics or silk—quite comfortable and not too thick. One last tip for warm feet: add a layer to your legs. Long underwear under your trousers is too warm for most offices, but if you know you’ll be out in the elements a while, they’re worth it: warmer legs will make your feet feel warmer, too.
-Pete

Which boots are best for snow?

With most of the United States seeing some early flakeage this year, it’s time to break out the sleet-kickers. Some things to consider if you’re considering new winter boots, whether you need dress boots or something less sleek:

Traction

For minimum slippage on snow and ice, you want an outsole that is relatively soft with maximum tread. Ralph Fabricius of Russell Moccasin told me that you don’t want “a real hard sole for ice—that’s two hard surfaces up against one another. Some Vibram [brand] soles have more forgiveness to them.” So a dress leather sole is right out—adding a Topy rubber sole probably helps a little. The title of grippiest, according to Ralph, goes to Vibram’s Fire and Ice or Olympia soles. My Danner boots (pictured above) use a light but deeply lugged Vibram Kletterlift outsole that suited me well on a trip to Quebec last January. The white Christy wedge sole that looks so darn good with so many boots is not a great choice for snow—too flat and too hard.

For dress boots you’ll find Dainite studded rubber or Ridgeway (also a Dainite product) soles are handy and widely available on better British shoes, especially country boots like those from Crockett and Jones. Likewise Commando lugged soles. On icy sidewalks, though, there’s not much you can do but be cautious.

Water resistance

In cold temperatures, you can often get away with outerwear that’s not 100% waterproof—it will take a lot longer for snow to soak through the shoulders of a heavy wool coat than steady rain. Water from melting snow can start getting into shoes rather quickly, though. Leather is hide, and by definition porous, so you have two options: treat your leather boots with a waterproofing compound like mink oil or Obenauf’s LP, which can darken leather and will need re-proofing over time, or add a layer of synthetic material, like Gore-Tex. Hiking boots—I’m partial to classically styled models like Danners or Merrells—are the most likely to feature a synthetic liner; I don’t know of any true dress boots that do so. Of note is that the highest-end hiking boots, like Limmers, do not use synthetic midlayers, but rather recommend waterproofing treatments.

For dress boots, you’re best off avoiding serious snow and slush if you can, and treating your leather boots well, both before and after you go out in winter conditions. So, rub them down with a quality, natural leather protectant regularly, and once you get out of the snow, wipe them clean, use shoe trees, and let them dry away from heat to avoid cracking or overdrying the leather. Crockett and Jones’s Snowdon model is one of the few dress boots that claim to be waterproof, with a waxy leather upper and Norwegian/Veldtshoen construction that is less likely to let water seep in between the sole and the upper than most shoes. If I had a pair of Snowdons, though, I’d still shovel the walk in something I wouldn’t feel I had to fuss over.

Warmth

Few boots are significantly insulated by themselves. Viberg hikers use a layer of Thinsulate, and you can always wear down booties, I guess. Bean Boots, a classic choice for long New England winters, are really quite cold, although L.L. does offer shearling/Thinsulate lined models. For dress boots, Paul at Leffot recommends Edward Green Galway boots, which can be made to order with a shearling lined shaft. Woah. Let’s see those again. Nice. Like Eddie Green Uggs.

Of course, warm socks provide insulation when boots don’t. Cotton socks are poor insulators when dry and miserable to wear when wet. I’m a big believer in SmartWool’s widely available wool-blend socks. Are they dress socks? No; but if you’re wearing a boot with a high shaft anyway, the dress-appropriateness of your sock becomes less of an issue. If you’re desperate for a little more warmth without resorting to all-out ultra-thick hiking socks, you can add a sock liner, which you wear as sort of a baselayer for your feet. Sock liners (also called liner socks) are usually made from synthetics or silk—quite comfortable and not too thick. One last tip for warm feet: add a layer to your legs. Long underwear under your trousers is too warm for most offices, but if you know you’ll be out in the elements a while, they’re worth it: warmer legs will make your feet feel warmer, too.

-Pete

Dealing with Bad Weather
Every year starts off with a few months of bad weather. First there is snow, then the snow turns to slush, and finally the slush gives way to showers. Depending on where you live, these conditions can put a real beating on your clothes, so it’s good to know how to best take care of them.
Salt Stains on Shoes
The best care is preventative. There are a number of treatments that can give your shoes a superficial layer of protection. Use a thin layer of wax polish on calf leather dress shoes and mink oil lotion on work or hiking boots (you can buy both at most shoe repair shops). Note that you don’t want to use mink oil on dress shoes; if you do, your shoes will never take a proper shine.
For added protection, use a pair of overshoes. Swims makes an attractive flocked version that slips on easily, while Tingley makes a very affordable (albeit less attractive) model. You can read Jesse’s review of Tingley here.
If you’ve picked up salt stains despite these measures, however, you need to treat them as soon as you get home. Mix one part vinegar to two parts water (or half and half for more serious stains). Brush off your shoes with a horsehair brush to remove any dirt, then dab a soft towel in the solution and gently use it to wipe off the stain. Once you’re done, use a clean damp towel to wipe off any vinegar residue. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes and repeat as needed. You want to work through this slowly, patiently, and gently; rubbing too hard can also damage your shoes. Once you’ve gotten the stain out, apply leather conditioner, polish, and wax again so that they’re protected next time you use them.
If the salt has raised the leather on your shoes (ie given it a welt), use a bottom end of a spoon and press down on the leather.
Drenched Shoes
If you’ve been going through a downpour, your shoes are probably soaked through. Again, the best care is preventative, so follow the steps above. You can also spray a suede protectant on suede. Suede should be fine in the rain, though I wouldn’t advise using it in the snow.
Once you get home, stuff your shoes with newspaper and lay them on their side (as the soles need to dry the most). You may want to change the paper every few hours just to make it effective. After they’re dry, stick unvarnished cedar shoe trees in them and leave them alone for two days so they can fully recover. Resist any temptation to set them near a heater. Doing so will only dry out and crack the leather.
Mold
If wet clothes or umbrellas aren’t allowed to dry properly, they’re at risk of developing mold. Once mold grows, they can develop a smell that can be very, very difficult to get out.
To prevent this, brush off your jackets or coats with a clothes brush once you get home. I use a separate brush for this from the one I regularly use to clean my clothes. Once the snow or water has been brushed off, hang your garment on a sturdy wooden hanger (ideally with wide shoulders) and leave it in an area with good air circulation.
For umbrellas, gently shake them out a bit, but be careful not to ruin the ribs. Once you’ve gotten most of the snow or water off, leave them completely open and let them dry in a place with good air circulation. Again, don’t set them near heaters, however, as you risk damaging the canopy. Most umbrellas are made with materials that are designed to dry quickly, so this shouldn’t take too long. Once it’s dry, neatly furl the umbrella and store it away.

Dealing with Bad Weather

Every year starts off with a few months of bad weather. First there is snow, then the snow turns to slush, and finally the slush gives way to showers. Depending on where you live, these conditions can put a real beating on your clothes, so it’s good to know how to best take care of them.

Salt Stains on Shoes

The best care is preventative. There are a number of treatments that can give your shoes a superficial layer of protection. Use a thin layer of wax polish on calf leather dress shoes and mink oil lotion on work or hiking boots (you can buy both at most shoe repair shops). Note that you don’t want to use mink oil on dress shoes; if you do, your shoes will never take a proper shine.

For added protection, use a pair of overshoes. Swims makes an attractive flocked version that slips on easily, while Tingley makes a very affordable (albeit less attractive) model. You can read Jesse’s review of Tingley here.

If you’ve picked up salt stains despite these measures, however, you need to treat them as soon as you get home. Mix one part vinegar to two parts water (or half and half for more serious stains). Brush off your shoes with a horsehair brush to remove any dirt, then dab a soft towel in the solution and gently use it to wipe off the stain. Once you’re done, use a clean damp towel to wipe off any vinegar residue. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes and repeat as needed. You want to work through this slowly, patiently, and gently; rubbing too hard can also damage your shoes. Once you’ve gotten the stain out, apply leather conditioner, polish, and wax again so that they’re protected next time you use them.

If the salt has raised the leather on your shoes (ie given it a welt), use a bottom end of a spoon and press down on the leather.

Drenched Shoes

If you’ve been going through a downpour, your shoes are probably soaked through. Again, the best care is preventative, so follow the steps above. You can also spray a suede protectant on suede. Suede should be fine in the rain, though I wouldn’t advise using it in the snow.

Once you get home, stuff your shoes with newspaper and lay them on their side (as the soles need to dry the most). You may want to change the paper every few hours just to make it effective. After they’re dry, stick unvarnished cedar shoe trees in them and leave them alone for two days so they can fully recover. Resist any temptation to set them near a heater. Doing so will only dry out and crack the leather.

Mold

If wet clothes or umbrellas aren’t allowed to dry properly, they’re at risk of developing mold. Once mold grows, they can develop a smell that can be very, very difficult to get out.

To prevent this, brush off your jackets or coats with a clothes brush once you get home. I use a separate brush for this from the one I regularly use to clean my clothes. Once the snow or water has been brushed off, hang your garment on a sturdy wooden hanger (ideally with wide shoulders) and leave it in an area with good air circulation.

For umbrellas, gently shake them out a bit, but be careful not to ruin the ribs. Once you’ve gotten most of the snow or water off, leave them completely open and let them dry in a place with good air circulation. Again, don’t set them near heaters, however, as you risk damaging the canopy. Most umbrellas are made with materials that are designed to dry quickly, so this shouldn’t take too long. Once it’s dry, neatly furl the umbrella and store it away.

Q and Answer: What Kind of Shoes are Best for Snowy Days?

David asks: Is it OK to wear leather soled shoes through the snow, or should I really get Dainite?

If you’re just concerned about your shoes, almost any kind of sole - leather or Dainite - will be fine in the snow. Just make sure you follow the sacred rule of putting in shoe trees after you take your shoes off, and giving them a day of rest in between each wearing. If you don’t let the leather naturally dry out, you’ll really shorten your shoes’ lifespan.

If you’re asking for your own safety, I would recommend Commando soles. There’s a lot of academic research on this that you can read through Google Scholar. Like in most research, however, there’s a lot of bickering about variables, measurements, and definitions. Still, researchers agree on a few things.

First, leather soles can be dangerous on wet, smooth surfaces. There is debate on whether Topy soles make a difference, but most scholars agree that rubber soles with treads or cleats will provide four to five times better traction. This means they’ll better in foul weather conditions. Second, it’s better to have more heel-to-surface contact, which means Commando soles will be better than Dainite. A Commando sole is what you see above in the left hand picture, and Dainite is what you see on the right. 

For what it’s worth, I’ve used Topy-ed leather, Dainite, and Commando soles on snowy days and haven’t killed myself, but I do find that Danite and Commando perform slightly better than simple rubber protectors. Lug soles can be a bit clunky, but as you can see in the left-hand picture above, Alden has a model with recessed treads at the forefront’s edge. This will give you a slightly cleaner look. If need to wear dressier shoes, I recommend a studded Dainite or maybe using galoshes. 

mrsartorial:

It’s such a nice day out, I think I’ll SWIM to work.

Everyone is Swim-ing today.

mrsartorial:

It’s such a nice day out, I think I’ll SWIM to work.

Everyone is Swim-ing today.

(Source: mrsartorial)

Shoes When The Weather Outside is Frightful
One of our most frequently received questions (three times just this week) is: “what shoes should I wear when it’s raining/snowing/shitty outside?”
We argue for a policy of proportional response - the level of your action should be directly proportional to the shittiness of the weather.
Code Yellow: Wet Streets
Shoes with rubber soles (or a rubber sole protector over a leather sole) will wear better in wet conditions.  You should have at least one pair of shoes that either has a rubber layer on its sole (many good shoe manufacturers offer Dainite soles, which are long-lasting and very low profile) or a Topy (or equivalent) layer.  The Topy, if you don’t know, is a thin layer of hard rubber that’s glued to your sole to increase its life and traction.  If your shoe is on the ground, it’s unlikely that either of these will be noticed.  With a slightly more casual outfit, you can probably get away with “commando" soles, which are slightly lugged.  I’d still strongly suggest against full rubber soles on dress shoes - blech.
Code Orange: Rain or Slight Snowiness
Depending on how far you have to walk, the above may still work in this situation, when paired with an umbrella.  Shell Cordovan is particularly resistant to wetness, as long as it’s allowed to dry after wear.  Still, you may need to bring in bigger guns.  In that case, I recommend overshoes like Swims or Tingleys.  These galoshes will go over your shoes (and in some cases ankles, as well), preventing them from getting wet.  Tingleys can be had for as little as $15, depending on the model. Swims are a bit more expensive but are also lined and a little more attractive.  Both will do the job.
Code Red: Heavy Rain or Snow
There should be no shame in wearing shoes that are appropriate to the season.  If you live somewhere cold enough to merit cold-weather footwear, then wear cold-weather footwear.  If you work in a business-clothing environment, bring a pair of shoes in your bag or leave one at work. 
When it’s raining heavily in Los Angeles, I break out my LL Bean Boots, which have served me quite well.  They’re very reasonably priced (less than a hundred dollars) and come in a variety of heights and levels of insulation.  Obviously, as a resident of Southern California, mine are unlined, but with a Thinsulate lining I’m told they’re quite warm.
Last year I took my first “snow trip” in years, to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  The heavens were dumping snow all over us pretty much continuously during our four-day visit.  Luckily, the kind folks at Sorel had offered me a review model, and after perusing their catalog, I settled on their classic model, the Caribou.  Frankly, most snow shoes are ugly (the Sorel catalog was no exception), but the Caribou is highly funtional and quite handsome.  They’re also pretty reasonably priced - just north of a hundred bucks.
I’m also a big fan of Wellingtons.  If you are too, you should just go ahead and get Hunters.  If you’re into them, you already know that you’ll look a little ridiculous, but in kind of an awesome way.  So I won’t really recommend them, because if you’re not sure, it’s definitely a no.  But know that if you do go with some pig-slop, English mud type boots, I’ve got your back.
(Photo by Peter Nettleton)

Shoes When The Weather Outside is Frightful

One of our most frequently received questions (three times just this week) is: “what shoes should I wear when it’s raining/snowing/shitty outside?”

We argue for a policy of proportional response - the level of your action should be directly proportional to the shittiness of the weather.

Code Yellow: Wet Streets

Shoes with rubber soles (or a rubber sole protector over a leather sole) will wear better in wet conditions.  You should have at least one pair of shoes that either has a rubber layer on its sole (many good shoe manufacturers offer Dainite soles, which are long-lasting and very low profile) or a Topy (or equivalent) layer.  The Topy, if you don’t know, is a thin layer of hard rubber that’s glued to your sole to increase its life and traction.  If your shoe is on the ground, it’s unlikely that either of these will be noticed.  With a slightly more casual outfit, you can probably get away with “commando" soles, which are slightly lugged.  I’d still strongly suggest against full rubber soles on dress shoes - blech.

Code Orange: Rain or Slight Snowiness

Depending on how far you have to walk, the above may still work in this situation, when paired with an umbrella.  Shell Cordovan is particularly resistant to wetness, as long as it’s allowed to dry after wear.  Still, you may need to bring in bigger guns.  In that case, I recommend overshoes like Swims or Tingleys.  These galoshes will go over your shoes (and in some cases ankles, as well), preventing them from getting wet.  Tingleys can be had for as little as $15, depending on the model. Swims are a bit more expensive but are also lined and a little more attractive.  Both will do the job.

Code Red: Heavy Rain or Snow

There should be no shame in wearing shoes that are appropriate to the season.  If you live somewhere cold enough to merit cold-weather footwear, then wear cold-weather footwear.  If you work in a business-clothing environment, bring a pair of shoes in your bag or leave one at work. 

When it’s raining heavily in Los Angeles, I break out my LL Bean Boots, which have served me quite well.  They’re very reasonably priced (less than a hundred dollars) and come in a variety of heights and levels of insulation.  Obviously, as a resident of Southern California, mine are unlined, but with a Thinsulate lining I’m told they’re quite warm.

Last year I took my first “snow trip” in years, to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  The heavens were dumping snow all over us pretty much continuously during our four-day visit.  Luckily, the kind folks at Sorel had offered me a review model, and after perusing their catalog, I settled on their classic model, the Caribou.  Frankly, most snow shoes are ugly (the Sorel catalog was no exception), but the Caribou is highly funtional and quite handsome.  They’re also pretty reasonably priced - just north of a hundred bucks.

I’m also a big fan of Wellingtons.  If you are too, you should just go ahead and get Hunters.  If you’re into them, you already know that you’ll look a little ridiculous, but in kind of an awesome way.  So I won’t really recommend them, because if you’re not sure, it’s definitely a no.  But know that if you do go with some pig-slop, English mud type boots, I’ve got your back.

(Photo by Peter Nettleton)