When the weather turns truly cold, and there’s snow and ice on the ground, a standard pair of boots might just not cut it for keeping your feet warm.
Not all boots have insulation, so after a while, your feet will start to feel the cold.
Whether you’re ranching, riding, farming, on a job site, or walking around town, you’ll find a boot liner can make a world of difference in keeping the cold out and your body heat in.
What Is a Boot Liner (and Why Would You Use One)?
As their name suggests, boot liners are an additional lining inside your boot, inserted between your feet and the exterior leather or synthetic material that makes up the boot’s “shell.”
A boot liner provides an extra insulation layer between your feet and the cold air outside your boots.
Typically, boot liners are used in winter boots, rubber boots (like Wellingtons or duck boots), or ski and snow boots.
Humankind has devised many ways to keep our feet dry and warm in the winter throughout history, and over the last few decades, companies have seen the value of adding an inner lining to their boots. Boot liners can either be built in or an optional extra, but a worthwhile one.
There Are Different Types of Boot Liners
Leather Boot Lining
Leather boot linings are used not for warmth or insulation but for comfort. Typically, they’re added to protect your feet from rubbing against the rough, stiff leather used to craft the upper and shaft of your boot. They also provide an internal reinforcement to the boot’s structure.
Leather boot linings can be made from a number of materials:
- Napa leather, which is fine-grained and has a luxurious feel against your skin.
- Suede leather, which has a velvety texture.
- Lambskin, which is delicate, supple, and smooth.
- Goatskin, which is pliable and wonderfully soft.
- Cowhide, which is tough and durable, if a bit thicker. (Cowhide is typically used inside work boots.)
Foam Boot Lining
Foam is typically used for insulation but can also be used to provide extra cushioning (as is the case with most EVA foam-containing footwear).
Typically, multiple layers of foam in varying densities will be combined. Multiple layers of foam are less likely to compress and can provide the various properties (cushioning, warmth, and moisture-wicking) desired.
The more insulation your boots need, the more layers of foam are used.
Foam is often used to line the interior of ski and snowboard boots. Some foam liners will be built in, but many snowboard boots, in particular, have a removable “inner boot” that can be replaced.
Wool or Felt Boot Lining
Wool and felt have been used for centuries to line the insides of boots. They’re both thick, add cushioning, have moisture-wicking and thermoregulating properties, and offer impressive insulation.
Many modern boot liners are made using a combination of wool or felt blended with synthetic fabrics (such as polyester or nylon). The addition of synthetics increases the moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties while still maintaining the reliable insulative properties of wool or felt.
UGG Boots, for example, uses a blend of repurposed wool with other textiles to create their UGGpure boot lining.
Fleece Boot Lining
What is called “fleece” is actually polyester that has been treated to look and feel like wool.
Fleece has similar properties to wool—it’s moisture-wicking, thermoregulating, and highly effective at insulating—but the synthetic fibers used in its creation are more effective at trapping body heat close to the skin.
Synthetic fleece isn’t as breathable as wool, however, so it’s more likely to cause your feet to overheat. However, in addition to being moisture-wicking, fleece can also be quick-drying to keep your boots from getting too sweaty or swampy over a long day of wear.
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Cotton Boot Lining
Cotton isn’t typically used for insulative purposes. It’s usually used as the final layer of fabric to cover the material used in the boot lining (such as foam or Thinsulate), but it doesn’t have any insulating properties and won’t increase warmth retention.
However, cotton will protect your feet from rubbing against coarse materials, so is often added for comfort.
Cambrelle Boot Lining
Cambrelle is a synthetic material made using polymeric fibers. It’s typically used in military, hiking, and safety boots (such as LOWAs) because of its durability, abrasion resistance, and quick-drying and moisture-wicking properties.
Cambrelle can absorb up to 350% of its weight in moisture, keeping the sweat away from your feet so your socks dry quickly and stay warm even in damp conditions.
It’s capable of ventilating excess heat (unlike GORE-TEX linings) and essentially “forms its own microclimate inside your boot” to maximize comfort.
Neoprene Boot Lining
Neoprene is highly effective at keeping water and cold out and heat in—which is why it’s typically used in the construction of wetsuits.
Insulated rubber boots (like Wellingtons or duck boots) or snowboarding and ski boots may use neoprene for the boot lining due to its insulative and waterproofing properties.
The more insulation needed, the thicker the neoprene layer will be.
Typically, neoprene is used for built-in linings. You won’t find many removable neoprene boot liners made for standard work or winter boots, though there are some used for ski and snowboarding boots.
Thinsulate Boot Lining
Thinsulate is a material made by the American company 3M. It’s crafted using polyester fibers structured like goosedown and provides similar (if not better) insulating properties.
Thinsulate is used to line the inside of work boots, snow boots, winter boots, and ski and snowboarding boots.
Zylex Boot Lining
Zylex is another synthetic material that, like Thinsulate, is added to work boots, winter hiking boots, mountain boots, and any extreme cold-weather boots to provide insulation against dangerous sub-zero temperatures.
Zylex boot liners add multiple layers of insulation depending on the amount of warmth required. They’re also waterproof and capable of protecting your feet against freezing rain and snow.
Pros and Cons of Using Boot Liners
|Provides extra warmth; ideal for extreme winter and sub-zero temperatures
|Adds extra weight, may make your boots heavy
|Provides weatherproofing or waterproofing (depending on the material)
|Makes the boots too hot to use in warm climates
|Extra cushioning and comfort
|May cause the boots to fit too tight
|Protects your feet against friction from boot interior
|Prone to wear and tear, may need replacing
So, Is a Boot Lining Really Necessary?
If you’re working, living, or planning to venture into sub-zero temperatures, a boot liner is the smart way to go.
You can find boots that feature a built-in wool, fleece, Thinsulate, or Zylex lining to ensure your feet are protected. Or, if you already own a pair of boots and want to double down on the warmth they provide, you can look for a removable wool, felt, foam, or Neoprene lining to insert and remove as desired.
Why use a boot liner?
A boot liner provides extra insulation, cushioning, and protection against friction. Many materials used for boot liners—including wool, fleece, and felt—will add moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties that keep your feet dry and cool even if you sweat a lot.
Should I put inserts in my boots?
If you’re in need of extra warmth for the winter, inserts are a good addition to double down on any existing insulation your boots may have. Or, if your boots have no insulation at all, an insert can keep your feet toasty even when the weather turns icy.
Do I need the boot liner that comes in my boots?
Boot liners are typically only added into boots that need them—for example, leather or cambrelle lining to prevent your feet from rubbing against the sturdy, stiff outer leather or wool or felt lining to provide warmth when the weather turns cold.
Boots with removable linings are built to be worn independently, but may be colder or less comfortable without the lining.