Here's How To Buy The Perfect Montreal Winter Boot, According To Experienced Canadians

Step one: stop believing in Doc Martens.

Staff Writer
An assortment of boots lined up in rows. Right: someone steps through a pile of slush.

An assortment of boots lined up in rows. Right: someone steps through a pile of slush.

Everyone needs a good pair of winter boots, whether you're selling feet pics online or just trying to keep your toes attached this year. To avoid frostbite or (heaven forbid) slight discomfort, it's important to be strategic when making your next multi-hundred-dollar investment into little hermetically sealed chambers of foot-warmth.

We asked experienced Canadians, including Montreal locals, for their top tips on how to shoe shop in a snowy, icy place that will not spare your thin-socked, Doc Martens-wearing friends. Become better than them by following these seven simple steps.

Assess your lifestyle

The perfect boot for a rural Quebec farmer might not be the perfect boot for a Montreal townie. They're not totally dissimilar, considering the amount of snow and ice Montrealers regularly need to navigate. When you're picking a shoe, make sure it's not overkill for your lifestyle — or worse, under-kill, leaving you with frigid toes and no traction.

Go big, or get stuck

Canadians seem to agree on this: when in doubt, buy your winter boots a half or even a full size bigger than your standard shoe size. Assuming they're still comfortable at the larger size, this allows you to layer thick socks and keep your feet warm without squeezing the life out of them.

Waterproofing is key

This is another near-universal recommendation: go for truly waterproof footwear and avoid the less "water-resistant" label. "Resistance" ain't gonna cut it when you're tromping through a metre of drift and a thick crust of ice just to get to the office. If you've already invested in some pricey water-resistant boots, one Narcity shoe shopper endorsed waterproofing spray. Simply wipe the salt off and spray them down once every month to keep the city water away from your precious moneymakers.

The taller, the better

Speaking of snow drifts, taller boots are your fast friend come the Montreal snow season. Ankle boots will let in the snow, so taller boots — that are still slim for maneuverability — are a big plus, especially if you want to walk off the beaten path a little or if you live somewhere with bad snowplow access.

Sacrifice style to avoid slipping

Taller, bigger boots may sound clunky and ugly, but unfortunately, that's often the price we have to pay to survive and thrive in Montreal's snowier months. Fashionable Montrealers will often turn to the slim-fitting, tall, water-resistant Blundstones, but these suffer from a slightly worse grip and a lack of laces. They're great for urban dwellers but might fall short when compared to hardier hiking boots — and that's a fashion loss worth considering.

Get a grip (on your soles)

Grip strength and traction are hugely important in the wintry months, especially when the ice is here to stay. Montreal's sometimes steep and often slippery streets are harsh enough to justify slip-on urban crampons. Ideally, though, your winter boots will offer similar levels of stability, so you don't have to shell out for an additional product. According to a 2021 CBC Marketplace investigation (which only addressed men's boots, for some reason), the WindRiver Backwoods Waterproof Hyper Dri 3 hiking boot has the grippiest sole, thanks to its materials. Most hiking boots won't live up to that benchmark, so just don't buy flat-soled Vans and accept that everyone falls sometimes, and you'll be fine.

Trust the temperature rating

Finally, some boots have temperature ratings like sturdy jackets do, so keeping an eye out for these is a good way to make sure your feet won't freeze come February. It's also worth looking for hard or even steel-toed boots, which give your toes extra protection against falling rogue icicles and stuff. Temperature ratings, when examined alongside the boot's size and waterproofing, can together give you enough security to know that you won't get frostbite waiting for the 24.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog, often found covering weird and wonderful real estate and local politics from her home base in Montreal.