• the forks winter boot winnipeg

    People walk, jog and skate on the ice at The Forks in Winnipeg — a fun winter activity that could turn ugly without proper grippy footwear. (Photo: Carolyn Janzen/Canadian Geographic Photo Club)

There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. This truism has been passed from parent to child during many a Canadian winter, but amid the shuffle of mittens and downy parkas, proper footwear sometimes gets lost in the mix. This can be a dangerous oversight, considering that icy conditions send more than 21,000 people to the emergency room each year in Ontario alone. Now, a team of researchers hopes to help people stay safe and upright.

Most of the winter boots sold in Canada won't protect people from tumbling on tricky surfaces, according to a study conducted in the WinterLab at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute–University Health Network. The researcher team put 98 boot models (spanning both safety work boot and casual boot styles) through a slip test on ice, and only nine kept the study participants standing.

"You'd think winter boots would be adapted for winter, but they're not. Some of the boots are so bad that they couldn't stand up on level ice," Geoff Fernie, research director at the rehabilitation institute, told the CBC.

Excluding car accidents, falling on ice causes more serious injuries throughout the winter than anything else, and leads to more hospital admissions than all winter sports and recreational activities combined.

The slip test

In a tiltable five-metre by five-metre room, with a floor made entirely of ice and artificial wind that can reach 30 kilometres per hour, scientists had participants walk back and forth on an increasingly steep incline (while harnessed to the ceiling so that if/when they slipped they suffered no bodily damage).

The top-rated boots only earned a single snowflake out of three, meaning they'd held fast while traversing a seven-degree incline. To earn the coveted three-snowflake rating, a boot would have to grip on a 15-degree incline. Although boot tread proved helpful, the scientists found that the material on the sole was the most important factor.

The two materials that stuck better than the rest were the gritty rubbers called Green Diamond and Arctic Grip, the latter of which was awarded Best in Show at the 2016 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

The tested boots that use these compounds and earned a single snowflake are

  • Caterpillar Men's Stiction Hiker Ice+ Waterproof TX Boots
  • Dakota Men's Oil-Resistant T-Max Anti-slip Transitional Boots
  • Dakota Men's 9800 CTCP PU Boots with Green Diamond
  • Dakota Women's CTCP Transitional Boots
  • Sperry Women's Powder Valley Polar Ice Grip Boots
  • Sperry Men's Cold Bay Sport Ice+ Boots
  • Wind River Men's Snow Leopard Boots
  • Wind River Men's Yoho Hiking Boots
  • Men's Wolverine Safety Boots

Get the full list of rankings on the Rate My Treads website.