Stumped by Snowboots? Fashion May Not Function

Winter Storm Jonas may have spared Chicago, but stepping into the frigid outdoors still requires bundling up.

Most of us who’ve braved a Windy City winter know to invest in a puffy, down-filled coat, thick gloves and a warm hat.

But what sort of winter boots are best for your feet?

While it’s common to see women wearing colorful Hunter rain boots or fur-lined Uggs, what’s the perfect footwear for keeping feet warm and dry with enough traction for ice and snow?

Dr. Ryan Holmbeck, a podiatrist at Ankle N Foot Centers – which has five clinics across the city and suburbs – said the right winter footwear is essential to one’s overall health.

“Keeping your feet dry in the winter months is perhaps even more important than keeping your feet dry in other seasons,” Holmbeck said. “Cold, wet feet in winter months can lead to serious problems.”

For one, he said, chilly, moist feet can cause frostbite — especially in those with diabetes.  In addition, the cool, damp environment inside boots is perfect for fungal growth. This can infect the skin and lead to athlete’s foot, or target the nails and cause thick discoloration. These infections are often difficult, costly and time-consuming to treat. They can also lead to bacterial infections of the feet or nails.

Meanwhile, the fit of boots is also important. Poor fit can result in foot and ankle pain, heel or tendon pain — even nerve pain. Make sure to try on the boots with the appropriate thickness of sock.

Last, but not least, does the boot have traction on ice? Are you wearing boots for fashion or function?

Here’s a look at some popular boots you’ll see on people’s feet this season – perhaps even your own – and the pros and cons of each.

Rain boots

Sometimes dubbed “wellies,” and produced in a rainbow of colors by brands such as Hunter, these boots are popular among women in Chicago – and their style is favored by celebs such as Kate Middleton and the Olsen twins.

Pros: They’re waterproof, and block rain or snow from soaking into socks. You can make them warmer by adding socks or specially made boot-liners.

Cons: Be prepared to pay if you want Hunter boots, often upwards of $150. There are cheaper brands, but the cheap ones may gap, let rain or snow soak in, or cause slipping in the snow.

Shearling boots
Let’s face it, Chicago gets cold. Even with socks, rain boots are no match for the next Polar Vortex. Fur-lined Uggs or copy-cats that are knit, down-filled or fleece-lined were made to withstand the sub-zero.

Pros: Uggs will still let you feel your feet while waiting for the CTA during a cold morning commute. These boots can also repel light, powdery snow.

Cons: They’re only warm as long as they’re dry. Step in enough slush or a puddle, and your feet will wind up wet.

Duck boots
Made popular by companies such as L.L. Bean, the boots are part-rain boot with a waterproof rubber coating on the foot and laces criss-crossing the front of the leg.

Pros: Opt for a shearling-lined version for a boot that’s both warm and waterproof.
Cons: Stripping off the shoes – especially if the laces are caked with snow and your hands are still gloved — can be messy and cumbersome. In addition, the shape could potentially put pressure on the toes.

Snow boots
It may seem obvious, but take note of how many people trudge around town in loafers, tennis shoes – even heels. It’s Chicago – winter snow is as certain as death and taxes. We recommend visiting a retailer such as North Face or Columbia for boots that are warm and snow-proof. Since the holidays are over, odds are good of finding boots on sale.

There are often no laces, and many can be pulled off – meaning you often don’t even have to deal with a zipper.

Cons: Sorry, you’re still in Chicago – not Florida. It’s going to be cold for a few more months, and you’re going to need snowboots.

Still stumped about which boots to buy? Consult the experts at Ankle N Foot Centers. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can help you weather winter with advice about the right boots.

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