Minimalist Winter Boots for the Whole Family
When many people think winter footwear the images that come to mind are big thick clunky boots. For footwear minimalists, luckily there is an alternative “barefoot” option: the mukluk. And these zero drop winter boots excel in the harshest environments.
Mukluks are available for adults and there are a few options for kids. Every year new “barefoot” style boots are coming out as the trend to stay away from shoes with heels.
The idea is to revert back to zero drop footwear (soles that keep your toes and heel on the same plane, to mimic your natural stride) that gives you better ground feel and supports a natural foot shape.
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Four different Mukluk / Barefoot Winter Boots are described here. Adult styles include Steger Mukluks, Manitobah Mukluks, Jurga Felt Life Boots, and Soft Star Phoenix Boots.
Options for children include Manitobah Mukluks and Soft Star Phoenix Boots.
Benefits to Mukluks: Barefoot Winter Boots
This is really the number one. Want to feel like you’re in slippers all the time? Mukluks are the answer. There are lots of boots that will keep you warm and dry, but it’s a rare boot that you’ll wish you could keep on all day long.
One of my favorite things about winter is super soft cozy woolies that feel like pajamas, and then bundling up with squishy layers on top, and a hard boot ruins it all.
The comfiest winter boot isn’t going to do you any good if you aren’t warm in it, but luckily mukluks and minimalist boots use natural materials that are excellent at heat retention. Leather, furs, wool. There is a reason animal fibers are used because they provide the best warmth.
Manitobah does have a faux fur option, but there are no truly vegan options out there that meet the criteria of comfort, warmth, waterproof, and zero drop. When you start adding synthetics you usually have to increase the bulk of a boot substantially, and most vegan options I’ve seen look more like urban boots designed for looks rather than boots you’d wear being active outdoors.
Can boots made out of canvas or fur or moosehide really be totally waterproof and warm? YES. (Of course they can!). You do want to treat them with waterproofing agents (different boots will recommend different applications), but they preform excellent in wet weather.
If you have options to get waterproof lining, and you live somewhere that gets snow or cold rain/slush, absolutely go for the waterproof option.
Great for Active Pursuits
You don’t need to be delicate with your mukluks. They are great for snowshoeing. And they fit ice grippers well also. The foot of the boot has more “smush” and snowshoes and grippers leave temporary indentations on them but they go away quickly. I prefer a larger size in the Kahtoolah microspikes when I’m wearing my mukluks.
I wear my mukluks all winter long, and I never use my insulated waterproof hiking boots anymore because I just don’t need them. The only time I’m not wearing a mukluk in the winter is when I’m wearing ski boots.
Steger Mukluks (Adult Only)
My Steger Arctic Mukluks pictured below are my favorite footwear of all time, and that’s saying a lot as I love good footwear. They are cozy, waterproof, lightweight, and so so warm.
I’ve been tempted to grab a second pair to wear as house slippers because I never want to take them off. I really wish Steger would make a shorter slipper version with a boiled wool cuff like the beautiful boots pictured above!
The sole is made of natural rubber, and it has a delightful “squish” to it. Like walking on clouds. Then the foot is wrapped in moose-hide leather. The laces are also made of moose hide, and lace over the canvas upper.
The canvas upper is “weather-treated” and in my experience completely waterproof. I broke through ice on the edge of a lake and was completely submerged in water to just an inch below the top of my mukluks on a subzero day.
I was sure the hike was going to be over right then and there, but to my surprise my feet stayed warm and the wetness never seeped through. We continued to hike for over an hour.
I have the Steger Arctic Women’s boot in a 10 wide. I sized up a bit and have lots of room in mine. They offer three different widths in ladies: Regular, Wide, and Double Wide. If you need even wider than Double Wide, you can get the men’s Double Wide which allows even more room. I don’t have wide feet but years in barefoot footwear have splayed my toes a bunch and I I love that my feet feel completely free in these.
The laces on the Arctic Style are not just for show, they really help hold the boot in place. I’m usually a lazy lacer, and will leave my shoes and boots laced and slip into them, but I can’t do this with this style.
Manitobah Mukluks (Adult and Child)
Manitobah makes a variety of mukluk styles for adults and for children! Their child styles are just mini versions of the ones for adults. They come in both suede/fur outer and leather outer. For adults they come in waterproof styles and in styles without the waterproofing, and for children all the styles are waterproof. All boots have sheepskin insoles.
Child Manitobah Mukluks
Since Steger does not make child mukluks, I can easily say Manitobah are my favorites for the kids. If Steger made mini versions of mine I think it’s all we would wear.
Manitobah Mukluks makes several options for children, and they all come in waterproof design. We’ve owned the leather outers and the suede/fur outers, and they are both excellent. We got our leather boots (the Gatherer) second hand and they are still completely waterproof even after being worn by their kids for several years and mine for years.
These mukluks are warm and easy to move in. The kids say they are their coziest boots. They aren’t technically the warmest ones we own (the Baffin Snogoose are rated to -76F and the Gatherer Mukluk is rated to -25) but the kids say they feel warmer in the mukluks.
The waterproofing on these is impressive. They do even better than our beefy baffins in the kind of conditions where there is slushy snow and puddles. The waterproof membrane on these must be higher than those on the Baffins, which seem like they maybe only are fully waterproof over the rubber bottom piece and the fabric upper lets in the real wet stuff.
It’s especially important in fur-lined boots like the Manitobahs that you have plenty of space to allow warm air to circulate around the feet. The fur can only do it’s heat-trapping magic if it has warm air to trap, and if the boots are too tight the fur will be compressed and less effective. These boots are much thinner than their synthetic counterparts so without letting that fur do its work they will not live up to their temp rating.
Due to the completely flat bottom (which I’m a big fan of!) and the smaller nature of these boots, the stirrups from our snowsuits slip off sometimes if they are adjusted for bulkier boots. The fix is just to make the stirrup a little tighter by buttoning it up higher.
Adult Manitobah Mukluks
Manitobah makes a bunch of adult mukluk styles for women and men. I have the waterproof half mukluk, and I use them as barefoot slip-ons for times I want to free my feet from the constructiveness of socks. I have these in a smaller size than usual (I bought these in a 9, compared to my Steger’s in a 10 wide), but this size is a bit too tight of a fit with socks.
They are perfect for cozy fall and winter barefoot-ness and I love that I don’t have to tie anything to put them on.
Softstar (Minimalist Boot, Adult and Child)
While not a true mukluk, the Softstar Phoenix is a great winter boot. They make them for adults and children.
My kids wore them when they were first learning to walk, as they are much easier to toddle around in than your typical winter boot, and were cozy and waterproof. They did take some time to dry and could be heavy when they got really wet but they kept their little feet happy.
Jurga Felt Life (Minimalist Boot, Adult)
These wool felt boots are made in Lithuania and were my first foray into the world of barefoot winter boots. My boots were a custom design based off of the Valenki, and are rated to about 0 degrees F. The Jurga Felt Life boots are made entirely of boiled wool, that is artfully crafted into a boot.
My boots were a custom request and Jurga did a beautiful job with them. You provide your foot measurements and the boots are made to your exact specifications.
They run a bit wider in the ankle, so I can slip these on without using my hands at all to pull up on the back of the boot when putting them on. This may seem like a silly thing to care about, but as parents especially I feel like we’re always trying to go places with our arms already full, and I often put these boots on when my arms are full!
To take them off I can also just kick them off, because same reason, my hands are full and I can’t be bothered to put all the gear and mail down to use a hand to help ease my boot off!
So I like that they’re slip on and I don’t need to mess with ties, but I do miss the security of the ties and when I’m choosing an active pursuit I usually choose my boots with the ties.
Only one of the boots mentioned here have a removable liner: the Steger Mukluks. It’s always a benefit when you can remove the liner if they get wet.
Most of the manufacturer’s sell replacement sheepskin insoles or liners so you can extend the life of your boots by purchasing these.
If you’re in the market for slippers, options are available from all of these brands!
- Manitobah Moccasins
- Soft Star Fireside Slippers
- Jurga Felt Life Slippers
- Steger Moccasins (Men’s Only Right Now)
- Also tons of other Mukluks available on Etsy!
Mukluks can absolutely go toe to toe with any other winter boot, offering the same waterproofing and warmth but with greater comfort. They usually accommodate wide feet and allow your toes to splay naturally.
Adult and Child Mukluks and Barefoot Winter Footwear
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