Although I have done a lot of long-distance hiking (Triple Crown) I do not have much experience with long-distance trips in winter. I want to change this and plan to hike a 900 mile loop combining the Pinhoti Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail and parts of the AT in December and January. The Northernmost point of this trip is Davenport Gap in the Smokies. After studying temperature charts and trip reports I am expecting to hike in temperatures around or above freezing during the day, but below freezing at night. Snow will be not much of a problem in Alabama or Georgia, but I expect snow up to ankle deep in the Smokies. Due to temperatures around freezing I expect lots of WET snow. And of course I want to be prepared for the odd snow storm that dumps 2 feet of snow and brings more extreme cold temperatures.
Usually I hike in low cut trail runners like Keen Voyager, but I realise I have to buy more robust footwear for this trip. I am pondering two options:
Specific winter boots like Salomon Tundra or Keens Revel boots that are made for much lower temperatures
Normal mid-cut waterproof trail shoes like Keen Targhee II combined with a waterproof sock (as the waterproofing in trail runners never seems to work on the long run)
Of course I would bring gaitors for both options. I do not mind spending more money on the first option but I am afraid that those winter boots might be a bit too warm for the conditions in SE US. On the other hand I am not sure that mid-cut trail runners would be able to handle a lot of snow in the Smokies. Please keep in mind that this trip will take at least 1 1/2 months and I want to be more comfortable and safe than UL. I am not asking what is doable, but which option is more comfortable.
Thanks for any input or thoughts on that topic!