Know the Trends
"One thing that this season has going for it is that there are some real strong trends," says Andre. The three biggies? Cowboy boots (especially shorter styles), motorcycle boots with studs or chains and over-the-knee styles (ladies only).
Get a Good Fit
When shopping, wear your own socks (rather than those disposable shoe-store footies) and spend a full five minutes walking around in the store. "If it doesn't feel good now, it's going to feel a lot worse later." Try the toe-wiggle test: They should have enough breathing room to wiggle freely inside the tip of the boot. Another trick? Stick your hand inside the boot to feel for bumpy seams or rough edges where the lining meets the sole that could potentially irritate your foot. And if your calves are either more muscular or slimmer than average, look for brands offering knee-high boots in wide and narrow calf widths.
All About the Material
Look on the boot's box or lining for a label noting what it's made of. "Boots that are really high-quality are leather lined, leather-soled and leather-uppered," says Andre. Leather keeps your feet warm but is also breathable, and, when used for the sole, offers more flexibility and shock absorption than molded plastic. But because leather has a more involved treatment process and a higher import duty, it'll cost you. Likewise, a boot with a synthetic upper costs much less, but because the material isn't breathable, your feet can be a hot sweaty mess after all-day wear.
Watch the Weather
"If you're going to buy a $600 pair of leather boots and wear them in the snow, they're going to get ruined," says Andre. Salt and water can erode leather over time, unless it's treated to be waterproof. "We always tell people, buy a synthetic boot that's guaranteed waterproof [for snowy days] and wear your fashion boots when the weather is good."
Credit: Metromix photos by Jason Little