Hunting boots are one of the key items in a hunter’s gear, but choosing the right ones can be tricky. Isolated or not? Waterproof or breathable? Lightweight or sturdy? Above the ankle or short? Rubber or Gore-Tex? Martin Leonard, hunting specialist at SAIL, is there to guide you in your choice.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to choose the right hunting boots, including:
- The most important factors to consider
- your hunting season
- Your hunting technique
- The different types of hunting boots
- camouflage boots
- Trouser boots
- The tactical boots
- rubber boots
- Try on your hunting boots
- Clean your hunting boots
- Pro tips
The most important factors to consider in your choice of hunting boots
Your hunting season
The hunting season you have chosen will determine your insulation needs. For example, those hunting wild turkeys in early spring will need warmer boots than those hunting deer in early September. When it comes to hunting boots, insulation is measured in grams of Thinsulate, which can range from 200g to 2000g (0.4 lbs to 4.4 lbs). A pair of boots weighing between 600 and 800 g (between 1.3 and 1.8 pounds) can be fine for most seasons, as long as you wear a pair of warm socks on colder days. Models aimed at women are often designed to provide additional insulation.
It’s worth noting that while it’s tempting to go for something warmer (just in case), your feet may sweat if they get too hot, which will ultimately make them feel colder. It is therefore essential to find the right balance.
Your hunting technique
Comfort is a key factor to consider, both for hunters who choose to bait animals by standing still or while stationed in a cache, and for those who remain mobile while calling animals to attract them. “If you’re not comfortable and your feet hurt, you’ll hate hunting,” says Martin Leonard.
Those planning to cover a lot of ground should look for a boot that provides proper arch support. Consider adding custom insoles to make them fit the shape of your foot even better. If you’re spending the day in a cache, comfort should be less of an issue, as you can always take your boots off, but you’ll still have to walk to and from your hunting spot.
Your hunting location will also determine the type of boots you will need. Swampy and wet or muddy terrain will require fully waterproof boots. These can be rubber boots or hiking boots with a waterproof lining. The most classic options (like those offered by the Browning brand) will include a leather or Cordura upper, a waterproof membrane and insulation inside the boot. Remember that leather may take some time to fully dry.
If you’re hiking in wet terrain, make sure your boots are high enough above your ankles so water doesn’t come over them in a puddle. If there is little chance that you will go out in the rain or in the mud, then favor breathability rather than impermeability. However, this is a risky approach, as any change in weather can leave you off guard with wet feet. Plan for all eventualities.
The different types of hunting boots
Are camo boots really essential? According to Martin Leonard, this is a more useful option than essential, since your boots are unlikely to be in the line of sight of an animal. This means you don’t need to buy multiple pairs of boots, each with a specific camouflage pattern, for every type of hunt you might be doing. Opt for a generic pattern or natural colors like brown, beige and dark green. The Irish Setter brand is one of the classics when it comes to camouflage hunting boots.
Waders are a combination of boots and overalls that reach the waist. They are 100% waterproof and made of neoprene (like drysuits) which allows you to venture far enough into the water when hunting waterfowl on the shores of a lake or in a swamp. Waders can be quite expensive so unless you really need them, a good pair of wellies will do. The brands LaCrosse and SAIL both offer camouflage models.
The tactical boots
A number of people ask in stores if their military-style tactical boots can be used for hunting. While this could potentially avoid having to buy a specific pair of boots for hunting, Martin Leonard is adamant that it’s not the best idea. Tactical boots are often heavy, not very breathable, and they’re not really designed for walking long distances. It is best to invest in a good pair of hunting boots.
Most hunters have a pair of rubber boots in their arsenal ready to tackle muddy or wet terrain. Some are insulated, some are not, but either way, wellies are a hunter’s best friend. Make sure they are high enough (as you may have to cross a stream or walk through deep puddles) and comfortable to wear. Check out LaCrosse for some great wellington options.
Try on your hunting boots
It is essential to try on your boots before buying them. Be sure to take the socks you are going to wear with you to make sure they are not too tight on your feet. Do you have to “break” them before you go out? This is no longer necessary these days, according to Martin Leonard. With the evolution of materials, design and waterproofing technology, boots today are much lighter and more flexible than they used to be and walking around the store should give you a good idea of the comfort they will provide you once you are in the forest.
Clean your hunting boots
Martin’s best advice? Be sure to let them dry properly after a day of hunting. Many hunters use a boot dryer to speed up the process and ensure their feet are dry when they put their boots back on the next day.
Clean your shoes between rides, and do it even more thoroughly before putting them away at the end of the season. Boots made of leather, Gore-Tex or any other material (other than rubber) need a waterproofing treatment once a year, but try to follow the manufacturer’s instructions before doing so. Remember that waterproof membranes such as Gore-Tex have a limited lifespan and your boots may leak after several years.
For more tips on caring for your hiking boots, read the article here.
What about socks?
Choose natural fabrics, such as merino wool, as they will keep your feet warm even when wet. “Avoid cotton at all costs,” recommends Martin Leonard, as it retains moisture and your feet will become wet and cold. Always carry a spare pair of socks in your backpack and change them as soon as your feet get wet. Learn more about how to dress for a hunting trip.
- If you’re looking for extra warmth, but don’t want to go broke buying a second pair of boots with more grams of Thinsulate, add an insole. You can even opt for heated insoles for even more luxury!
- A pair of hunting boots will probably last you a few years, so you’re sure to step into a puddle at some point. Go for waterproofing, even if you don’t think you need much protection from rain and mud.
- If you choose to buy rubber boots, invest in a good pair. The black rubber boots with a traditional red sole that we all have in our closets will not suffice, as they are made of PVC and will split as soon as it gets cold.