Boots can be worn any time of year but are popular during the cooler months. While boots can serve as a fashion accessory, they are also a practical way to keep your feet warm. But what about leather boots? Are leather boots warm and are leather boots good for winter cold weather?
Although leather boots are warm enough to handle mild winter conditions, a leather boot by itself is not likely to keep your feet warm in extreme winter conditions. For the coldest conditions, you will want an insulated leather boot.
The type of insulation used for insulated leather boots can vary company to company. Some boots will have a lining (like flannel, fleece, or shearling), but most insulated leather boots use synthetic insulation. This type of synthetic insulation (like 3M Thinsulate) is popular because it is very good at trapping heat but is also lightweight and non-bulky, so it doesn’t affect the shape or fit of the boot.
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The amount of synthetic insulation used in leather boots can vary from 200 grams to 1000+ grams (the higher the number, the warmer the boot). There are other things that can affect the warmth of a boot too, like the quality and thickness of the leather used.
The amount of synthetic insulation you will need in a leather boot will depend on your climate and your activity level while in the cold weather. For most climates in the continental US, 200g and 400g insulated leather boots will do the trick, but I must emphasize there will be exceptions. If you are dealing with extreme conditions and have a low activity level, you may need 600g boots, or even higher.
If you are shopping for casual leather boots, unfortunately it is harder to find insulated casual leather boots (yes, there are some options out there). Although leather boots can provide warmth for more mild winter conditions, if you can’t find a pair of insulated casual boots you like, you may need to use winter socks to provide extra warmth.
In this article, let’s take a closer look at the warmth of normal leather boots, and let’s also discuss in further detail what to expect from insulated leather boots.
Are Leather Boots Good for Winter Cold Weather?
As we discussed above, yes, certain types of leather boots can work well for mild winter conditions. A leather boot by itself can provide warmth in mild winter conditions, but is not likely to keep your feet warm in extreme winter conditions.
For the coldest conditions, you will want an insulated leather boot that also has a waterproofing design. Not all leather boots are waterproof, but many are.
How Does Leather Compare to Other Boot Materials?
Synthetic leather boots look like leather, but they have a plastic base and are treated with various dyes and waxes to obtain a leather-like look. While they may be fashionable, they are not likely to be durable or long-lasting.
Depending on the lining, they often are not as warm as genuine leather. Genuine leather tends to be the thicker option due to quality.
Genuine leather is a material that is made directly from animal hide. The durability of genuine leather boots is second to none. Genuine leather tends to become more attractive with age if it is cared for properly.
Genuine leather does not rely on dyes, plastics, or waxes to provide color, and it is known to last for years. Genuine leather boots are often thicker than synthetic leather boots, and may provide more warmth, but you will still likely need an insulated boot for the coldest conditions.
Nylon boots are made with woven fabric material and are not going to be as durable as leather. Without treatment, nylon boots will not be waterproof, which means they may not keep your feet as warm and comfortable as you would like.
Nylon is a woven fabric, which means your feet may not stay warm in cold or wet conditions. Nylon is popular because of its breathability and comfort.
Rubber boots are ideal for wet conditions, but much like leather a plain rubber boot will only provide mild warmth in cold conditions. You can, however, buy insulated rubber boots which are ideal for wet, cold weather.
Rubber is nice because you don’t have to worry so much about salt stains ruining the boots. And, of course, you could consider a duck boot (or pac boot) which uses a combination of leather and rubber to create a boot that is both comfortable and winter ready. To see options, visit our article duck boots for winter.
Do They Make Insulated Leather Boots?
Many companies make insulated leather boots for different purposes. Some focus on fashion-forward leather boots while others stick to traditional and work style boots. When looking for insulated boots, you need to focus on these things.
- Insulation Weight: Not all boot insulation is the same (types of boot insulation). You will find boots with different weights of synthetic insulation. The most common weight for cold weather boots is 200-400 grams, but there are options all the way up to 1000+ grams.
- Insulation Type: Not all boots will use synthetic insulation (but many will). Synthetic insulations include 3M Thinsulate and PrimaLoft. Boots will also be lined occasionally with flannel, fleece or shearling. At times, you will find options that combine a lining in the shaft of the boot, like shearling, with a synthetic insulation (like Thinsulate) around the foot.
As we discussed earlier, companies will use synthetic insulation that is lightweight and non-bulky to insulate boots. This allows them to line the interior of a boot without affecting how the boot fits and looks. The amount of insulation used will vary, and will affect the warmth of the boot.
For insulated casual boots, you will typically see either 200g or 400g of insulation used. The 400g boots will be warmer. While it’s impossible for me to know your weather conditions, in my experience, 200g boots keep my feet warm in typical, mild-to-moderate winter conditions. For colder weather, I’m using 400g (or higher).
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find casual boots boots that use more than 400g of insulation. Anything above 400g is typically used for extreme conditions, and can actually cause a boot to be too warm if you’re simply wearing it in moderate winter conditions.
In work boots, however, there are many options for extreme weather. If you want to explore other options, visit our articles linked below about insulated winter boots:
Pros and Cons of Leather Boots in Winter
Choosing to wear leather boots in the winter can be both great and not so great. While they are durable and supply protection from the elements, there are some things you need to be aware of.
Pros of Leather Boots in Winter
- Waterproof: Many (but not all) leather boots are almost entirely waterproof, which means you don’t have to worry about your feet getting wet in the winter. Many companies will treat leather boots with a waterproofing spray, and also seam-seal the boot to keep water out. To read more, visit our article about how leather boots are waterproofed.
- Wind Resistant: Leather is a thick and durable material. Because of this, it is difficult for the wind to get through. Unlike some synthetic and nylon materials, leather will keep the temperature of your feet in most conditions.
- Well, fitted: Leather boots typically have a comfortable, but snug, fit around the collar of the boot which can prevent snow and other debris from getting in the boot. Many leather boots also finish above the ankle for extra protection.
Cons of Leather Boots in Winter
Leather is one of the most durable and long-lasting materials available when it comes to shoes or boots. While this is true, winter can be a tough time for certain types of leather boots. Some things you need to be aware of before you lace up your leather boots for winter are:
- Tough to care for: To keep the life of leather, you need to devote time to caring for it properly. In winter this is especially challenging because the weather does not always cooperate and does not supply an environment that naturally protects leather. Because of this, you may notice water damage, that can result in salt stains and cracked leather.
- Stiff – Cheap leather boots can feel stiff in cold weather, and may result in an uncomfortable experience in cold weather.
- Heavy – Leather is a heavy material, and leather boots can be very heavy to wear. If you are walking long distances in the snow and cold, this can be an added pain.
The winter weather can be harsh on leather boots. Prolonged exposure to the snow in untreated boots can lead to damaged leather because of the wet conditions.
When walking outside in the winter, you may meet salt on the road or on sidewalks. This salt can cause light-colored stains all over your boots.
You can remove salt stains, but it will take a lot of effort and could ultimately ruin your boots. Not to mention some types of leather tend to crack with exposure to cold temperatures for an extended period. A leather conditioner, and other proper care habits, can help extend the life of your leather boot.