Not long ago, nearly all winter boots were warm enough to trek through Antarctica and so heavy that small rocks would orbit them. The good news is that modern boots come in all different shapes and sizes with many varying degrees of insulation. The bad news is that most of this information is rather clouded in obscure and often confusing terminology. Hopefully this article will help you cut through the jargon and understand what’s most important for you.
There are many companies creating different types of boot insulation however most can be placed into one of two categories: synthetic or shearling. We'll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each below.
Synthetic is the most popular insulation type and with good reason: It provides superb warmth while being thin and light. Synthetic insulation’s durability is also a big advantage; you can wet it and wash it frequently without any breaking down.
Synthetic insulation works by using microfibres to trap air molecules inside itself. These trapped air molecules act as a barrier between the cold air outside and the inside of your boot.
At Absolute Canada, we use ThermoShield on many of our boots since it’s one of the strongest and lightest synthetic insulations on the market. If you’re interested in our boots that use ThermoShield, we’ve created a list here.
Shearling really is the softest, snuggly-est and warmest form of insulation. It’s been used in footwear for centuries and is naturally antimicrobial.
For footwear, shearling does have a few disadvantages. Shearling is naturally warm which may seem great at first. However, unless worn barefoot, your feet may overheat which leads to sweating and results in cold feet.
The durability of shearling is also a point to be aware of. For general activities like going to the mall, commuting or walking around town, Shearling boots fit the bill perfectly. When introduced to heavy snow, mud or road-salt the material breaks down quite quickly.
Which is best?
It really all comes down to your needs. If you’re looking for a day-to-day commuter boot for mild winters, shearling insulation may be your best bet. However if you’re looking for a durable, cold-weather winter boot you may be inclined to lean towards synthetic insulation. Whichever you choose, stay warm this winter!