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(The Gear Loop) - Winter is arguably the most annoying time of year when it comes to selecting footwear. Rain wreaks havoc with suede, ice and snow put the brakes on your favourite pair of trainers and frigid conditions mean anything without an insulating liner might as well stay in the bottom of the wardrobe.

Now, we’re not saying everyone needs to rock a chunky pair of Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 on the daily commute, but if you’re regularly tackling snow, ice, rain and the cold over longer jaunts, they make a fantastic addition to the kitbag.

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The Gear LoopVans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 review photo 6

Taking inspiration from Vans skate shoes and snowboard boots (a product the company has proudly been making for 25 years) these tough, all-terrain tacklers packs a plethora of clever tech - from Gore-Tex weather-proofing to an All-Trac rubber outsole - to ensure they perform both in extreme environments and when conquering a dismal morning schlep to work.

Our quick take

These are impressive boots, considering Vans isn’t exactly claiming that they are specifically for hardcore hiking or mountaineering. They’re a lot tougher than they look, but more importantly, they also look good and can be worn with jeans or more casual clothing.

We found that they can be a real pain to clean, with mud and dirt clinging to the textile used for the high-top ankle area, while those deep lugs cling on to mud, which eventually dries and then drops all over your floor when you put them back on.

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But these are minor quibbles and if you don’t need something that’s crampon compatible or can summit K2, the Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 are a surprisingly versatile and brilliantly stylish option that will keep you warm, dry, upright and looking sharp.

Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 review: a solid winter boot that's tougher than it looks

Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Extremely warm
  • Large lugs for grip on snow and ice
  • Built tough
Against
  • Lugs bung up in the mud
  • Parts of upper hard to clean
  • Sole isn’t the hardiest

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In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 in a nutshell

  • All-Trac outsole rubber compound with a dynamic lug tread pattern
  • 3M Thinsulate is warm, lightweight, powerful, and thin
  • Gore-Tex inner sock for keeping out the rain
  • Reinforced toecap
  • Classic Vans styling
  • Available in 6 colours

Styling & features

These are undeniably a pair of Vans, with numerous touchpoints to classic skate shoes and the trademark stripe along the side standing these out from a crowd of fairly unassuming walking boots. There's also a neat mix of leather in the lower potion of the upper and protective yet softer textiles around the ankles.

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But unlike other models in the Vans family, they have also taken the pinnacle of outdoor textile technology and wrapped them up in one, albeit slightly chunky, package.

There’s a 3M Thinsulate microfibre inner that helps to both trap air in colder climates but also prevent moisture build-up and the dreaded sweaty feet. Furthermore, this internal bootie design allows moisture to escape, while a Gore-Tex layer then stops anything getting in.

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Vans then takes its Ultra-Cush technology (found in everuything from its workout shoes to skate trainer) and adds an OrthoLite topsheet for enhanced comfort and reduced weight, which these beasts really need because they're not the lightest, while further keeping the feet dry.

Styling-wise, they are spot on for anyone who is partial to a pair of Vans but this added toughness comes with a little extra bulk - something we are willing to live with if it means garnering a few extra cool points when out on the slopes or peaks.

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Fit & performance

The Vans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 feel solid straight out of the box and were actually a lot stiffer than we imagined when first laced up. As previously mentioned, Vans has taken inspiration from its back catalogue of snowboard footwear, but these actually felt a little like those rigid boots upon first wear.

They soften up over time, but when fully laced to the very top couple of reinforced metal eyelets, they keep the ankles locked into place well. Something that’s handy when attempting to tackle slippery conditions.

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The new All-Trac compound rubber outsole is also fantastic at providing some extra stability, as its deep lugs will happily bite into snow and ice, while toe picking treads allow for a bit of traction on steeper inclines and a higher rubber toe bumper offers protection from any rock bashing.

Although not sold as a hiking boot per se, we found that it’s extremely easy to wear these things all day and over a surprisingly varied amount of terrain. Granted, those deep lugs can clog up in really muddy conditions and the rubber sole isn’t the toughest we’ve tested, but the various technologies at work do a great job of keeping feet warm and dry.

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The toe picking treads at the front of the shoe are particularly good for feeling your way over precarious ground and the fact you can really lock the ankle into place makes these feel like a solid choice for hiking or light scrambling, where perhaps a welcoming pub is the chosen end point.

But they really come into their own when things get cold and icy, as the grip is effective at biting down on slippery surfaces and that insulated inner does a really good job of keeping feet toasty, especially when paired with a good set of hiking socks.

The Gear LoopVans SK8-Hi Gore-Tex MTE-3 review photo 8

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To recap

It’s not often you can say the words "winter boots" and "stylish" in the same sentence, but the pinnacle of Van’s MTE footwear range manages to be both eminently practical and properly cool at the same time. Crammed with the brand’s classic high-top skate styling but with more vanilla elements - such as a Gore-Tex outer and a 3M Thinsulate inner - featuring throughout, they’re bound to keep you warm, dry and upright without being laughed out of the pub.

Writing by Leon Poultney.