Dubbed an "arctic slip-on," the Fairbanks Snow Sneakers are a strange low-top option for winter use. Made to protect from the snow and cold, the shoes have waterproof leather uppers and felted wool lining. The tough outsole tread is said to have been inspired by snowmobile tracks.
The shoes slip on and off easily, no lacing required. They are warm for average winter tasks like running errands or shoveling the walk. The company notes that design cues were taken from the winter chukkas of the Alaskan Inuit.
But a replacement to winter boots these are not. I would not recommend the Sorel shoes for anything beyond the most basic activities in the outdoors. In my test, loose snow came right in when walking on a trail. The shoes' opening at the ankle is large and loose. And at only four inches high, a lot of snow can spill inside. On ice and packed snow, the "snowmobile tread" outsole was fine for traction. But being rubber, the tread was far from slip-proof.
Overall, the Snow Sneakers' fit was loose and uncomfortable. Around my ankles, the big opening felt strange and too large for my foot. At the same time, they were too short in my regular shoe size. My toes banged against the front of the shoe as I walked a trail.
At $90, the Sorel Fairbanks Snow Sneakers are not worth the price. They are warm--I wear them around the house on winter days as slippers--but the company (sorel.com) has some work to do on this model before I'll take to wearing an "arctic slip-on" outside.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.