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I came here to say one thing and one thing only:
“My dogs are barkin’!”
This was what my wife heard when I got home after every hunt before I decided to care about what boots I wore; especially during long hunting sessions. Sitting in a tree-stand is one thing, but when I’m stalk-hunting for elk or other game, my boots are my best friends. Nobody wants to be in pain for weeks on end because they took a hike in a bad pair of boots.
This article should be your guide on how to choose the right hunting boot. My goal is to outline the key information needed to go out and purchasing the best hunting boot on the market. And there's no denying that having a good hunting boot will lead you to success out in the field.
I’m sure every company makes boots with new “features” every year, but I’m gonna give you the five features that really matter when choosing your next hunting boot.
Let’s start with the number one most important feature: is the boot your size? I love a good REI yard-sale as much as the next person, but DO NOT sacrifice size for cost. Having a boot that fits properly is going to be the number one thing saving your feet from aching during and long after a hunt. Just because it’s open season, the temperatures are dropping, and you’re gonna be wearing thicker socks, does not mean you should buy a boot that your feet are sliding around in. A good boot should be warm enough, and although it’s out of scope for this article, a good cold-weather sock does not need to be thick anymore (more to come on that later).
Bottom Line: Get a boot that fits well. Don’t let your feet slide around at all, and if you can try-before-you-buy, I’d recommend it.
I’ve been barefoot in a puddle before. At least I thought I was barefoot — My boots were not waterproof, it was cold, and it was wet. I hope you can learn from my mistakes and get the right boot for the weather!
Not everyone can afford to have two or three boots, and if you can’t I’d recommend going waterproof, or at least weatherproof if there is any chance that you’ll be hunting in snow, rain, or any sort of wet, cold weather. Most boots these days are weatherproof, but I like to see it somewhere in the description before I make the purchase.
Along the same lines as weatherproofing, bad insulation on a warmer hunt can make your feet just as wet and uncomfortable as stepping in a puddle. Keep insulation in mind when the temperature can be variable. Sitting in a blind in below freezing temperatures will certainly require more insulation than a walking/stalking hunt. When you’re moving, your blood is circulating and your body will heat it’s extremities (your feet) a lot faster than when you’re sitting with a low heartbeat.
The sole of your boot should be made for the surface that you’re walking on. If you’re hunting on a tennis court, I reckon tennis shoes are going to be your best bet. All jokes aside, think about where you hunt the most. Some common terrain for me can be steep mountains with patches of snow here and there. Waterproofing is a must in my world, and I typically recommend GORE-TEX when you can afford it. I’m also pretty concerned with slipping on exposed rock, so mountaneering-focused boots with some tread are what I recommend locally. In a mountaneering-style boot with lots of traction, I’d recommend soles with little to no flexibility. You want maximum stabilization, especially if you’re carrying weight in a pack or otherwise.
These are often boots on the heavier side; so if you’re hunting in a warmer climate or on the water, I’d recommend lightening your load where you can; and a boot might be a good place to start. Flexible soles might be your friend if you can get away with them. This should lead to more comfort and the ability to take longer hikes; you could even opt for a good pair of shoes in this case. That said, if you struggle with stability and carry a lot of weight, keep that in mind and add some stability to your boot.
Let the boot do all the heavy lifting! Believe it or not, boot height can help with stabilization as much as the traction of a boot can. Typically, the taller your boots, the more support you’re going to get out of them. A mid-height boot is my favorite for everyday hikes or hunts without carrying too much weight, but once my pack goes on and I’m sligning a rifle (especially for overnight hunts), I wear a much taller boot.
I’ve alluded to this several times throughout the article, but I don’t know where you hunt, so I don’t want to recommend one boot to solve all of your problems. However, keep in mind, most hunts have some amount of moisture involved. Be it, from the dew on the grass in the morning, some snow melt that’s been there for weeks, or my personal favorite, rain. GORE-TEX is an amazing technology that allows for breathability and has great moisture-wicking properties, but leather & synthetic/fabric boots can be great options as well. Just be sure that your boots are treated to be weather-tight before you go out. Don’t forget how much movement you’re going to be doing is a huge factor as well.
When it comes to boot materials there's a lot to say here, but you're ultimately going to come to the realization that there are a few main template choices to go after: Leather, Synthetic, or Combination.
Of course, there are several other materials utilized when constructing a hunting boot, and for that information I'd suggest taking a look at our blog summarizing the best materials for hunting boots to steer you in the right direction.
Most hunting boots produced today are made well and can be great boots in the right situation(s). The biggest problems I see in hunting boots are people purchasing the wrong size (normally people buy boots that are too big), and buying the wrong boot for your hunting style. Like I said before, paying to have two boots for different seasons/situations is a cheap price to pay for hours and days of comfort.
Get boots that fit! This is the number one thing to consider. Different hunting boot brands and even different models from the same brand can vary slightly in size.
Although this guide on how to choose the right hunting boot will help, once you've narrowed down your options, make sure to go to a store and try them on. You don't want to end up ordering something that just doesn't fit to begin with... even though it might align with everything you need.
And if you can, try to find a hunting boot made in the USA!
For a blog about What Deer Poop Looks Like take a second and check it out!