LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015
Each year hunters will spend thousands of dollars on outfitters, guns, and bows. They will research and spend hundreds of dollars on everything from calls, scents, to back packs; however the one item often over looked is proper foot wear. They will buy top of the line equipment from archery specialist at pro shops but will run to a big chain store to pick up a pair of hunting boots on sale, basing their boot selection just on price and looks.
Even the United States Military under stands the importance of taking care of your feet. A solder is no good if he has a bad case of trench foot or feet so blistered the soldier can’t walk.
Your feet and foot wear are just as important as the weapon you are carrying on your next hunt, because if your feet get cold, wet, or blistered your done hunting. If you don’t take care of your feet you won’t sit in the stand long waiting for a big whitetail to walk by. You’re not going to cover the amount of ground needed to find that big bull elk if your feet are blistered from an uncomfortable boot. You’re not going to stay in the woods or cover much ground chasing that long beard in the early April morning if your feet are wet from the morning dew.
I think by now you get the point, and understand the importance of proper foot wear. There is no magic boot out there, nor is there one style of boot for every hunting situation. The key is to look for certain characteristics in a boot that will not only fit your foot but also your hunting situation.
In this article we will break down the three main types of boots to fit a variation of hunting situations. These are not the only style of boots out there however these are the most popular. Next we will take a close look at each type of boot and common characteristics that you will want to look for in picking the right boot for you and your hunting situation.
Keep in mind that with all the boots out on the market the main thing for all three categories is to get the best boot that you can afford. I am not saying that you will need to break the bank for a good pair of boots, but foot wear is an area of your hunting equipment you won’t want to skimp on.
We have noticed that you are better off paying up front for a good pair of hunting boots that will last you many years and treat your feet well versus buying a cheap pair just to get buy, which will often leave you buying a new pair year after year.
Again we want to emphasize that there is no one perfect boot, the reason is, there are too many variables in your hunting situation and environment for a one size fits all situation boots. With that being said we will not focus on a particular brand of boot but common characteristics that you will want to look for in making your next hunting boot selection.
The three main categories that we will cover for hunting boots are, knee high rubber boots, hiking or hunting boot, and pack boots.
The knee high rubber boot is often best suited for the whitetail stand hunter. The guy or gal that walks a relatively short distance whether it be through swamps or upland, but is looking for scent control and who has the main goal of sitting in a tree stand for several hours. The other type of hunter that utilizes rubber knee high boots is that of a hunter in swampy wet conditions or a turkey hunter battling the morning dew.
The hiking boot or hunting boot is for the hunter who will walk through a variety of conditions, whether it is shallow swampy water, upland conditions, snow, or mountains of the west.
The third popular boot is the pack boot. This type of boot is often used in the far north ware hunting conditions consist of extreme cold and snow. Most often used for sitting long hours in the cold waiting for a deer to walk by.
Now that we have the three most popular types of boots available, let’s break them down to discuss what to look for in making the right selection for you.
Knee High Rubber Boots:
With rubber boots there is no laces to tighten up the boot around the top of your foot and around the ankle area of your foot. Because of this it is important to select a good pair of rubber boots that is form fitting in this area of your foot and ankle. Some companies such as the Irish Setter Company designs the boot to have a flexible cup for your ankle to stretch out from the boot allowing the top of your foot to slide down into the boot. By doing this it allows the company to make a more form fitted boot to your foot. Other companies are now producing a more properly molded boot to the hunter’s foot. This will make the boot tougher to slide your foot into, however once your foot is slid into the boot it is more locked in and secure allowing less “slop” for your foot to slide back and forth in.
A good rubber boot such as these from Scent Blocker have an antimicorbial inner sole to resist mildew and bacteria growth.
This is very important to have a secure ankle and foot fit in rubber boots because if you’re a hunter who has a considerable distance to walk to your tree stand you will start to feel fatigue in your legs from trying to compensate your natural walk and to avoid the boot from slapping the back of your calf and to prevent your foot from sliding around. Not only will this fatigue your legs, but will also create blisters on your ankles from the constant rubbing of the boot.
Next, you will want a rubber boot that provides good ankle support so that you don’t roll your ankle while walking through a given type of terrain. A good rubber boot will have a thicker rubber around the foot and ankle area. Above the ankle you will want to have a more flexible rubber, some companies use neoprene in this area. The reason is that the boot above the ankle must flex with your shin to allow a more comfortable stride to your step.
You will also want to find a rubber boot that has a removable insole. The negative of rubber boots are that they do not breathe. Because of this, often the insoles of the boot will be ridden with foot moisture and need to be pulled out of the boot to dry and avoid bacteria growth.
Also pay attention to the outsole of the boot or traction. Because these boots are less flexible and forgiving as hiking boots and are often worn in wet muddy conditions you will want an aggressive sole pattern that will clean out and not get clogged up with mud limiting your traction.
Last and most important the boot must be comfortable. When trying on a pair of rubber boots, don’t just take a couple of steps in them and throw them in your cart. Walk around, make some laps in the store, you may get some strange looks but for the people that understand the importance of a proper fitting boot, they will know what you’re doing. If you feel just the slightest part of the boot that is uncomfortable or ankle slop, start over and look at a different pair, because what might feel slight in the store with a flat smooth floor will be magnified tenfold in the woods on uneven ground.
It is also important to note that with all boots you want a good snug fit, especially in the ankle and the top part of your foot, however you don’t want a boot to tight that it will restrict the blood flow and circulation of your foot. Even just the slightest restriction will cause your feet to feel cramped and also cause your feet to get much colder very quickly. You will want room to freely wiggle your toes. If you know you’re going to be picking out a pair of boots at a store, wear the type of socks you will be hunting in, because if you wear wool socks while hunting they will fit much differently in a boot than thin cotton socks that you wore while trying on the boots in the store.
Tips for taking care of your rubber boots:
•The biggest thing to remember with rubber is that as soon as it is produced from the factory, when exposed to UV (ultraviolet light) the rubber begins to break down. To avoid your rubber boots from cracking, ultimately leaking, keep your boots out of any sun light when not in use. Don’t store them out on the deck or next to a window. Keep them in a tote or a box for best life of the boot.
•Try to avoid extreme heat on the rubber. Avoid keeping them in the vehicle for an extended period of time. Extreme heat can warp the boot causing a different fit.
•Because rubber does not breathe, after every use, pull out the removable insole and allow it to air dry. Next place the boot on a boot drier or have a fan blow fresh air inside the boot. By doing this will avoid bacteria and mildew from growing inside the boot. If your feet are like mine, I highly recommend sprinkling foot powder inside the boot after each use.
•A flexible rubber bonding glue works good for quick fixes of your rubber boots to patch minor holes or cracks such as “Shoe Goop”. However depending upon the amount of use, often this is just a quick fix and not a permanent one.
Hiking or Hunting Boots:
These boots are on average from 6 inches to 12 inches in height and often used for upland or mountain hunting. Just like the rubber boots mentioned above you will want the boot to fit properly. These are boots that you would wear on an elk or mule deer hunt in the mountains, a prong horn hunt in the prairies, or a pheasant hunt in the CRP grass. There are many different applications for the hunting boot and is the most adaptable for varied types of terrains.
Leather is the most durable and longest lasting material for boots.
When it comes to hunting boots I prefer all leather over Cordura for material. I have owned both types of material boots, and I got more life out of the leather boot than the Cordura. Leather is more flexible than Cordura, and when properly oiled leather will get you more years of use.
The problem that I have had with Cordura, is that after several years the Cordura begins to break down, especially in the crease where your toes bend in the boot. I also prefer leather because when properly oiled, the leather its self has water repellency giving you extra water proof protection.
A friend of mine has a pair of leather hunting boots that he has worn for the last twenty years, and my last pair of leather hunting boots lasted me over twelve years.
If you do decide to go with a boot that has Codura, it is strongly advised to make sure the area around the toe, especially ware the toe bends, be made of leather. This is often the first area of the boot that Codura begins to break down at.
Next let’s look at the soles. There are two main ways of attaching the soles to the boot. One is sewn on and the other is glued on. They both have their strong and weak points. I prefer sewn on soles because if I wear down the soles of my boots I can take them to a shoe cobbler and have them just sow on a new sole. The weak part of a sewn on sole has a tendency to feel like the boot is more top heavy while seated on the sole. What is meant by this is it feels like the bottom of your foot may tend to feel like they will roll over the sole on steep angles.
The glued on sole seems to provide more support on steep angles than the sewn on sole because most glued soles are molded to come up over the sides of the boots to provide more surface area for the glue. The negative of glued on soles is that the glue has a tendency to break down and not hold the sole on, causing the boot to leak or the sole to begin to come off.
You will also want to make sure your boot is 100 percent water proof, with no exceptions. I feel so strongly about this that not only do I look for a boot that is water proof but it MUST be Gore-Tex lined. When I see a tag on a boot that says 100 percent water proof, my first question is, for how long? By being not only water proof but also Gore-Tex lined, I know that I will get years of use out of the boots without them leaking.
Dont just trust that the boot is water proof. Make sure they are Gore-Tex lined for added years of water proofing.
When trying on a pair of hunting boots, just like the rubber boots, make sure they are very comfortable with zero discomforts. Often people will try on a boot with mild discomfort, but they still buy the boot any way with the mindset that they just need to be “broken in”. However it always seems that the discomfort never goes away, and if the boot is not comfortable you won’t wear them, and if you don’t wear them, why even buy them in the first place.
Next you want to make sure that your toes do not hit the front of the boot while on steep angles. You want a good boot that provides great ankle support and also a snug fit at the top of your foot and front of your ankle. By having a proper fit in this location your boot will prevent your foot from sliding forward and slamming the tips of your toes in the front of the boot while on a steep angle. If you ignore this while trying on a pair of boots, you better invest in a lot of mole skin and band aids on your next hunt in the mountains.
Also just like the rubber boots make sure you have enough room to wiggle your toes so that you don’t restrict circulation, and pick a boot that has good aggressive outer soles for traction in many different types of terrains.
Tips for taking care of your Hiking Boots:
•If your hiking boots are leather, keep them well-oiled after each hunt using a quality leather treatment or a product such as Sno-Seal.
•Keep mud off your boots while not in use. Get a firm bristled shoe brush to help wash off the mud from your boots after each hunt. If the mud is left on while in storage it will cause the leather of the boot to dry out and possibly crack.
•Just like the rubber boots, remove the insole of the boot to air dry from foot perspiration, and also place boots on a boot drier or allow a fan to circulate air inside the boot to prevent mildew and bacteria growth.
•Keep boots from direct sun light. The UV from sun light will break down and dry out the leather of the boot.
•With boots made of Codura, treat with a thin layer of silicone water proofing spray after each hunt to maintain the boots water proofing abilities.
Pack boots are designed for extremely cold temperatures. These types of boots are often used by deer hunters that spend hours on stand waiting. Because of the large bulk and weight of the boots for insulation against cold temperatures, these boots are not meant for long walking.
Pack boots can be large and bulky, however you will never wear a warmer type of boot.
When selecting a pair of pack boots, keep in mind that the rating of the boots does not mean they will keep you warm down to that particular temperature. For example, if boots are rated for -25 degrees, does not mean your feet will be warm in them when the temperatures plummet to -25 degrees. Use this as a rating system to compare to other pack boots. An example is, if you plan on using pack boots for extremely cold temperatures or if your feet get cold very easily, you may want to go with a pack boot that is rated down to a -150 versus a boot that is rated to a -110.
When picking out a pair of pack boots you will want a pair that has a removable liner. The reason for this is similar to the removable insole on your hunting boots. After each hunt you will want to remove the liner to allow to air dry and also place the boot itself on a boot drier. While hunting under extremely cold temperatures you will want your boots bone dry before each hunt. Any amount of moisture in your boots will result in cold feet no matter how insulated the boots are.
Because you will most likely be wearing pack boots in snow, they must be 100 percent water proof with no exceptions. You may also want some extra room in the boot for thick wool socks along with room to attach adhesive toe warmers inside the boots, also just like the rubber boots and the hiking boots, a proper fit with good ankle support is a must.
Tips for taking care of your pack boots:
•Just like the hiking boots, keep the leather uppers well oiled. If the uppers of the pack boots are made of Codura spray them with a light coat of silicone water proofing spray after each hunt.
•After each time you wear your pack boot, pull out the removable liner and dry the boots on a boot drier or have a fan blow fresh air into the boot. When wearing pack boots you will want them to have zero moisture inside the boot. If your feet are damp, they will be cold no matter how well insulated the boots are.
•Most pack boots have rubber bottoms, just like the rubber knee boots avoid direct sunlight on the boots to prevent UV damage to the rubber.
No matter what style of boot you choose they must be comfortable. Do not put up with an uncomfortable boot with hopes of it “breaking in”. If they hurt your feet you won’t wear them to break them in. You will also want good ankle support in your boots and they must be snug around the ankle with no room for “slop” however you don’t want your boots tight around the toes so that it restricts blood circulation in your feet. Also keep in mind that if it just says 100 percent water proof on the tag, asks yourself, for how long? Not only will you want your boots 100 percent water proof but you will want them to be Gore-Tex lined for many years of water proof durability. Most importantly get the best boots that you can afford, and you will get many years of comfortable hunting out of your next pair of boots.