Our sneakers get us through the milder seasons with no problems. But when winter rolls in, they go back into the closet and we bust out the boot collection. Sure, heavier footwear is preferred for cleaning the gutters or shoveling the sidewalk. But when loaded with the right features and technology, sneakers can stand up to winter weather too. Here are five models that will keep your feet warm and dry in the coldest months.
Nike Lunar Force 1 Flyknit
As part of an annual tradition, Nike releases a line of “sneakerboots” every fall. This year, design director Dylan Raasch wanted to do something unexpected, so his team took the lightweight breathable upper from Nike’s Flyknit line and made it water-repellent. By incorporating a new thermoplastic rubber into the yarn, the summery Flyknit material can now take on the winter elements, shedding rain and surviving the odd puddle. A new durable, water-repellent finish helps seal the gaps in a Flyknit construction while letting the material maintain breathability and a comfortable stretch.
The four sneakers in Nike’s new collection all have a more rugged aesthetic. Along with the Air Presto Mid Utility, Lupinek Flyknit, and Roshe Two Hi Flyknit, the iconic Air Force 1 basketball sneaker has been refashioned into the Lunar Force 1 Flyknit Workboot ($200). Leather overlays and a gusseted tongue help protect from moisture, and a beefed-up rubber outsole offers durability and traction. An inner sleeve features zones of soft wool to bring warmth.
How it performs: The Lunar Force 1 Flyknit lives up to its water-repellent name without bringing full waterproofing. Typical rain gets pushed aside, but a sudden deluge of powerful water can get through. The elevated rugged outsole performs well in wet conditions and the added wool really ups the winter comfort.
Vans Sk8-Hi Mountain Edition
Whether or not you want to take your skateboard through the slick rain-soaked streets, Vans has footwear options that extend beyond sunny days. In its Mountain Edition collection, Vans has upgraded some classic designs with weather-resistant tech.
The most prominent choice in the MTE line is the Sk8-Hi MTE ($85). It comes with either a leather or suede upper, both Scotchguard-treated to keep the water out. A gusseted tongue eliminates openings in the sneaker’s upper for further protection. Inside, Vans uses warm linings, such as fleece, and additional padding. A thermal heat-retention layer (vacuum-coated aluminum strobel board) between the sockliner and outsole to retain up to nine degrees of heat within the shoe. The MTE outsole borrows from the snow boot history of the company. The lug design provides rugged grip and traction akin to a work boot or snow boot by pushing snow or slush out the side of the outsole instead of letting it pile up inside the traction pattern.
How it performs: The Sk8-Hi MTE has the look of a premium Vans sneaker, but it performed admirably in winter weather. The leather upper easily shunned rain—even sudden dumps of it. It’s still leather, so don’t be shocked with a little build-up. The fleece lining provides warmth, and the outsole offers solid traction without a blemishing the skateboard-ready aesthetic by making it look too much like a boot.
Adidas EQT Winter Wool
Pesky precipitation isn’t the only wintry weather our feet must endure. It gets plenty cold too. Adidas’s solution is to wrap the foot in wool. Stylish wool, at that.
The Adidas Original EQT silhouette, a classic 1990s model currently enjoying a resurgence, takes on our upcoming season with its Winter Wool variety ($140). The entire upper above the high-standing rubber outsole is already built for rough terrain, but here it gets embraced by a grey wool, at times double-layered for additional warmth. Adding leather on the collar lining, toecap, tongue tag, and heel tab add another touch of protection. A robust outsole with oversized nodes of traction help grip and elevate the foot off the ground—a key detail when you encounter a stray puddle.
How it performs: The Adidas EQT Winter Wool does what it says, providing plenty of warmth. The oversized outsole provides extra traction and a bit of relief from any splashes you may encounter. Extra leather near the outsole and in the heel tab adds protection. Unlike the rest of the winter crowd, the shoe isn’t a high-top and has a more refined style.
New Balance 910v3 Gore-Tex
Sometimes style isn’t all you need. Performance has its place too. New Balance knows this and partnered with Gore-Tex to winterize running shoes, everything from the typical street runner (the 880v6 has Gore-Tex) to the trail-ready 910v3 ($135).
The worst part about testing a pair of waterproof running shoes is running in the wind and rain. But the best part is searching for the next puddle to splash into. The Gore-Tex membrane made the 910v3 perfect for a wet run.
In this shoe, Boston-based New Balance added a new technology to its rubber compound it calls “HydroHesion,” which is meant to provide more grip in water. A protective layer of foam and TPU film has been placed under the foot to distribute the pressure of sharp objects (like rocks and roots) you’d find on the trail. There’s also an additional layer of toe protection. Even with all the armor, the running sneaker remains a manageable 11.6 ounces and doesn’t look like a super-duty boot.
How it performs: The fully waterproof membrane works from the outsole to the shoe’s upper, ensuring a dry foot even if you fully submerge it in a puddle. The only way water even has a chance of getting in is from the top down, but the proper pants or gaiters will alleviate that concern. And dry means warm; the 910v3 uses Gore-Tex and rubber in a winter-friendly way.
Converse Chuck II Shield Canvas Boot
The top-selling sneaker in history now comes in three styles that are incredibly unfriendly to water. While the Chuck Taylor All Star Tekoa Waterproof Boot uses rubber and leather for waterproofing in a definite boot-like look, there’s also a more minimal design that retains the classic Chuck aesthetic while including technology more fitting for weather-challenged months.
I tried both styles of waterproof Chucks, the $83 Shield Canvas version and the $130 waterproof leather model. Both include treatments on the materials to keep water from penetrating the initial layer. There’s a gusseted waterproof neoprene tongue and a weatherized gum outsole. More crucial is the interior bootie, which fully wraps the foot and provides an added layer of warmth. This design hides the winterization elements and retains a true Chuck vibe.
How it performs: The waterproof Chucks handle the rain just dandy, even the non-leather canvas variety. It can take on buckets of water and still keep your foot dry. The addition of the inner sleeve really serves to make this more than just a stay-dry version of the classic Chuck, giving it a winter-ready warming element for unfriendly climates.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.