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Perhaps second to your weapon of choice, the next most important piece of hunting gear is a quality set of boots designed with the needs of the hunter in mind. Heading into the field without proper footwear is a sure fire way to have a miserable time, especially during the colder months of the year.
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Hunting Boots
- SOLID CONSTRUCTION: Irish Setter
- SUPER LIGHTWEIGHT: Under Armour
- VERY AFFORDABLE: Rocky Men’s
When it comes time to get new gear, a pair of the best hunting boots around should be near the top of your list. Your feet, and probably your knees and back will thank you!
For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.
Hunting Boots vs Hiking Boots
While there is a lot of overlap and blending amongst all outdoor footwear, getting the right set of features in a boot that is purpose driven to the activity and weather a hunter is likely to be in will give you the absolute results. Hiking boots are perfect for their intended niche but may be lacking in areas that make them the best boot for a hunter.
What is a hiking boot specifically? By intent, they are a boot made for covering long distances as a primary goal. This means they will often be lighter and have a more flexible sole. Usually, they will be breathable to keep feet dry with constant exertion and have less insulation than boots of other types.
Frequently a hiking boot will cut off below the calve muscle, sometimes well below. There are a few hiking boots that are full height boots but most will end somewhere just above the ankle. This lends its self well to walking but isn’t the best at protecting the lower leg from thick brush and cold, wet conditions.
If we take that as a hiking boot, how would a hunting boot differ? For one they are usually taller, sometimes as much as knee height or close to. This provides more protection to the hunter. They may also have more insulation. As a hunter, you will not be walking all day to help keep warm blood circulating through the feet so having a warmer boot is often a necessity.
Hunting boots are often heavier and offer more support with either a shank in the sole and heel area or at least some form of reinforcement to provide the maximum of support when walking under a load. Some hiking boots to have a shank but it’s often more flexible and lighter weight than the shank of a hunting boot.
Lastly and of least importance really is that hunting boots are often patterned to blend into the environment. Various camo patterns are common on hunting boots where hiking boots may be either naturally colored or even brightly hued as a fashion statement.
What Makes the Best Hunting Boots
While there are some situation-specific needs for a pair of boots, there are more needs that are universal when picking the perfect boots for your needs. Before buying a pair of boots based on their water resistance, insulation, or weight you need to pick a set of boots that are of the proper construction.
In no particular order, here are some considerations on what makes a good hunting boot:
- Traction – Your boots should provide sure footing on a variety of terrain from rock to lose earth and even wet vegetation. Until you are in the field it’s impossible to know what conditions you will have your feet on so make sure you are going to be able to retain firm footing no matter where you are. This is especially true in your deer stand which may be very slippery, especially if wet.
- Support – The area around the toe box and heel should be ridged with the majority of the flex of the boot occurring around the arch area. Similarly, you want a boot that has support around the ankle to keep it from rolling or twisting. Boots with a shank and extra ankle support are preferable to any other boot. They will offer the best support.
- Fit – The fit of a boot is probably the most important consideration. Feet are almost as unique as fingerprints so getting a pair of boots that fits you well can be a trial but one worth undergoing. With most shopping occurring online, it’s even more of a challenge. Find your proper shoe size and width before ordering a pair of boots, this can save a lot of time and aggravation. You don’t want a pair of boots that are too tight or that allow your foot to move inside the boot.
- Construction – Most hunting occurs in some of the worst weather times of the year and that can take a toll on a pair of boots. No matter how good, you will have to maintain your footwear but getting boots that are properly constructed out of quality materials will make your life a whole lot easier. Commonly this means that the boot will be made of full grain leather and double or triple stitched. Boots are an investment, the last thing you want are boots that last only a season or two.
Those are the four universal traits, depending on the area and season you hunt you will want to consider these remaining options:
- Water Resistance – While duck hunters know they need waterproof boots, it’s never a bad idea for any hunter that may end up with wet feet. Even walking through wet grass can be enough to penetrate boots that are not waterproofed and make a chilly day in the fall into an unbearable experience. If you live in dryer climates or hunt in warm weather you are lucky in many ways and would probably be better off with breathable boots.
- Insulation – Some areas of the country, deer season is a feat of endurance as much as a hunting trip while others its comparatively mild. Match your insulation to your climate and personal comfort level but opt for boots that are warmer than what you think you may need. When your feet start to get cold, it’s going to go downhill fast and it will be hard to get them warm again without some source of artificial heat.
As a closing on the idea of insulation and water resistance, Gore-Tex is a miracle material for the hunter and is probably the best single material to cover both of these needs.
9 Best Hunting Boots
I have worn literally hundreds of different boots and none of them have combined ruggedness and comfort like the Elk Tracker. Short of getting a pair of custom boots, I am not sure how you could get a better boot with a better fit.
Like any good boot, it starts with good material like a full-grain leather upper and a durable rubber outsole. When you start adding cork, which is the best natural shock absorber on the planet, you are just going overboard. Pack all of that into a boot with an EVA-supported memory foam footbed and you have made just about the most comfortable boot a hunter could ever wear.
Good for three seasons easily and possibly four depending on your climate and socks, the Thinsulate insulation is not too warm unless is the blinding heat of summer and keeps your feet warm down into the teens if not lower. The whole internal shaft from the opening to the toe box is covered in breathable Gore-Tex to wick away moisture. These are the complete package when it comes to boots.
They do take a little more care than some boots but its time well spent on a pair of boots this good. Keep them clean and dry them out properly and they will last a lifetime. It would be a shame to let something so good go down the drain for lack of proper care.
You have to take care of your feet and Irish Setter does that with the Elk Tracker. They are grippy with a solid shank to protect your feet on the trail and deal with snow and mud with equal ease.
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- Solid construction
- Ultra comfortable
- Keep your feet warm and dry
- Require extra maintenance
I have been a fan of Danner boots for decades, even their budget boots made overseas blow most boots out of the water and are much more affordable than their USA models. Of all the boots in Danner’s lineup, the Pronghorn are among the best, no matter where they were made. While they may not take home the gold medal in this category, it was a close call.
Made from chrome tanned full grain leather and 1000D Cordura nylon, one of the toughest flexible fabrics on the planet, the Pronghorn is a boot for a lifetime with a little TLC. Even the hardware on the boot is extra rugged to stand up to any condition you may find yourself in. The sole and shank support your foot well and the reinforced heel cap keeps your foot in place.
These are an uninsulated boot but will do well for two or three season use with good socks. In the summer your feet won’t overheat, even with the 100% waterproof construction. Full Gore-Tex lining wicks moisture and keeps your foot dry so they stay warm and avoid blisters.
Not only are these a solid boot made for the field in even the harshest climates but they are quite an attractive boot that could be worn day to day. Whether on a sidewalk or a mountain trail, they will keep your foot safe and provide solid traction. Not to mention Danner’s amazing warranty.
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- Very durable
- Amazingly comfortable
- Good warranty
- Somewhat expensive
- No insulation
- A little heavy
Most people have heard of the Muck Arctic Pro which is a damn fine boot but I am here to tell you that I will take the Woody Max any day! These are simply amazing boots and should be a part of every hunter’s toolbox for those days when no other boot can cut it. The Arctic Pro may be a little warmer and if you live in the Arctic, go for them. Otherwise, the Woodys are the way to go!
Muck boots have an interesting construction with their neoprene body, 5mm thick for these boots. They don’t look like they would offer much support or even a solid fit that would keep your foot in place. But looks are deceiving. These are awesome boots that are comfortable, supportive, and very warm.
With an extra thermal foam liner under the footbed and full fleece lining, anywhere below freezing to far colder than you are ever going to want to hunt, these boots will keep you warm and dry well below zero. They are rubber coated for extra waterproofing and a little more toughness for slogging through rough terrain with a calf seal to keep out anything you really don’t want in your boots.
If you have thicker calves or really long slender legs, sometimes these boots don’t fit as well. I would say that 90% of hunters will have no problem but for those of us with a little more or a little less meat, they could have some issues. Of course, for the rest of us, these boots are a little harder to get on or off if that matters.
Seriously, if you don’t own a pair of Mucks, you need to bite the bullet and get a pair. They will become indispensable in the field, around the farm, or just getting you to work on those snowy winter mornings. I am not sure where they get their ideas from but I hope they keep them coming.
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- 100% waterproof
- Very well insulated
- No maintenance required
- Fit can be temperamental if you have larger legs
- Harder to put on/take off
I am perpetually amazed at what Under Armor comes up with next, every time. If you have back, hip, or knee issues, you know the value of a lightweight boot but you can’t sacrifice support or you end up worse than you would with a heavy boot. Mile after mile, these boots will keep you going without wearing you out.
Weighing a measly 8 ounces per boot, it’s almost unbelievable how good these boots are. From the moment you put them on you will see the difference between these and every other pair of boots you have ever worn. Unlike leather, they have almost no break-in time and unlike other synthetic boots, you get a ton of support and a rigid sole heel and toe for extra durability and protection.
I would be concerned about how long the textile and anafoam upper would last in the woody briars of the eastern woodlands over time. For a season, I know they are perfect and they could end up out wearing leather if they hold the shape they seem to.
The only thing that keeps these from taking a top spot is the lack of any insulation which limits them to warmer weather, probably no lower than 40 degrees or so. That can be a huge limitation for those of use that hunt deer in the colder months, even with reasonable socks.
In the summer they are great with their Gore-Tex membrane to keep your feet dry. Time will tell but so far, these are a great boot and they look absolutely amazing! Probably my favorite boot as far as daily wear and for light use.
Back with a little more rugged boot but also a heavier one, Under Armor is once again proving that they can make some serious gear for serious hunters. Where their Infil Ops boot was made specifically to be light weight, these are quite a bit more robust with a leather and Cordura construction that you know will last.
Fully waterproof yet breathable, these are great for those early season snows or even a good hard rain. With plenty of support and a grippy sole, they are hard to beat on most any terrain. The hard shank and toe grab on and don’t let go while the middle sole flexes enough to keep your foot planted. They may say “hiking boots” but these are hard-core hunting boots for sure.
You won’t have to worry about issues with wet feet or odor with the anti-microbial sleeve that serves as extra padding to keep these boots comfortable enough for all-day wear. What I would consider a three-season boot or maybe just a little less in the northern climates, you could do a whole lot worse out of a set of boots.
In that fourth season, you are likely to have some cold feet. Warm socks help but if you are in the far north, you are going to need warmer boots for sure. They also seem to fit a little on the loose sight. The foot moves a little even when sized properly. After break-in, this may change.
For the price, these are a hard boot to beat and one that looks good and is comfortable with a very minimal break-in time. If you need a pair of boots this weekend that won’t wear rough in the field, the Bozeman are a good choice. I am not sure what they improved over the 1.0, but if this is the end result I am glad they did and look forward to the 3.0.
Rocky Boots have had a spotty reputation in the past with some of their boots being nearly unwearable with awkward pinching and a very hard insole. Gladly, the Retraction are far better than some of those budget boots while still managing to come in well under the price of most quality boots. If you are on a budget and need a good three season boot, you need to give these a look.
Starting with comfort where Rocky used to be at its weakest, these boots have a mid-calf cut with plenty of padding to keep them from biting into your leg and a memory foam footbed that cradles your foot nicely. The toe box is roomy without letting your foot slide around and the rigid heel support works great to hold the boot in place.
The outsole of the boot is quite hard which makes the boots hard wearing but also makes them a little harder to wear over distance. It takes a long time for them to break in and get some flex to them but they will get there. There is not any stitching on the sole which can cause them to delaminate after several seasons but it also means they are easier to repair.
With plenty of Thinsulate insulation to keep your warm from spring to fall, these do a good job in poor weather. They are waterproof but don’t wick moisture as well as some higher quality boots. Still, for the budget conscious consumer, these are a pretty good boot, great for the price.