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.
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!
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- 1 Hunting Boots vs Hiking Boots
- 2 What Makes the Best Hunting Boots
- 3 10 Best Hunting Boots 2018
- 3.1 1. Irish Setter Elk Tracker – Best of the Best
- 3.2 2. Danner Pronghorn – Best Summer Boot
- 3.3 3. Muck Boots Woody Max – Best Cold Weather Boot
- 3.4 4. Under Armor Infil Ops – Best Ultra-Light Boot
- 3.5 5. Irish Sitter Vaprtrek – Best Three Season Boot
- 3.6 6. Under Armor Bozeman 2.0 – Best Bang for your Buck
- 3.7 7. Rocky Retraction – Best Budget Multi-Purpose Boot
- 3.8 8. Kamik Nationplus – Best Budget Cold Weather Boot
- 3.9 9. ArticShield – Best Budget Wetland Boot
- 3.10 10. Timberland White Ledge – Best Ankle Boot
- 4 Hunting Boots Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Conclusion
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.
10 Best Hunting Boots 2018
|Irish Setter Elk Tracker||Leather||4.9|
|Danner Pronghorn||Leather, Cordura||4.7|
|Muck Boots Woody Max||Rubber||4.8|
|Under Armor Infil Ops||Leather||4.6|
|Irish Sitter Vaprtrek||Synthetic||4.5|
|Under Armor Bozeman 2.0||Leather, Textile||4.6|
|Rocky Retraction||Leather, Textile||4.5|
|Timberland White Ledge||Leather||4.3|
1. Irish Setter Elk Tracker – Best of the Best
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 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.
- Solid Construction
- Keep your Feet Warm and Dry
- Require extra maintenance
2. Danner Pronghorn – Best Summer Boot
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.
- Very Durable
- Amazingly Comfortable
- Waterproof and Breathable
- Good Warranty
- Somewhat Expensive
- No Insulation
- A little Heavy
3. Muck Boots Woody Max – Best Cold Weather Boot
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 an amazing boot and should be a part of every hunter’s toolbox for those days where 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.
- Best cold weather boot on the planet
- Surprisingly Comfortable
- 100% Waterproof and very well insulated
- Not cheap but affordable
- No Maintenance Required
- Fit can be temperamental if you have larger legs
- Harder to put on/take off
4. Under Armor Infil Ops – Best Ultra-Light Boot
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 light weight 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.
- Super lightweight
- Very Comfortable
- Keep your feet dry
- Like walking on a cloud
- May lack durability
- No insulation at all
5. Irish Sitter Vaprtrek – Best Three Season Boot
Not content with one, Irish Setter is back with a second amazing boot. This time it’s a lightweight boot that is perfect for hunting from spring to late fall but falls off when the weather gets down below freezing. Even with the best socks, I would hesitate to use this into the 20s or colder, its just not made for that.
What it is made for is warmer weather where a great, light weight boot that breaths well and will stand up to longer treks is what you need. The boot is synthetic which is somewhat abnormal for a hunting boot but works out great with this setup. It is comfortable and weighs much less than a leather boot while still maintaining season long durability.
There is no insulation in this boot but it does have a soft footbed and manages a lot of support for a low cut boot. The outsole is rugged enough for any weather you are likely to encounter from mud to rain-slick grass. For summer scouting, this is a near perfect boot that won’t sweat your feet off but will keep them very well protected. In the winter, you may want something warmer.
Match these up with a good set of your best wool socks and you will have blister free trips no matter the weather and even if you do sweat, it will get wicked away and leave no odor behind with the ScentBan impregnated interior. While not the boot you get out of the Elk Tracker, this boot is more affordable and still an amazing option.
- Quite warm and comfortable
- Great Traction
- Keeps your feet dry and fresh
- Very affordable
- Somewhat heavy
- May be less durable than other Danner boots
- Harder to break in
6. Under Armor Bozeman 2.0 – Best Bang for your Buck
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 boot but these are a hard core hunting boot 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.
- Money well spent!
- Somewhat Warm
- Great support
- Could be warmer
- Fit seems a little loose
7. Rocky Retraction – Best Budget Multi-Purpose Boot
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.
- Very Affordable
- Quite Warm and Waterproof
- Very Durable
- Tons of Support
- Hard Sole
- No Moisture Wiking
- Poor Sole Stitching
8. Kamik Nationplus – Best Budget Cold Weather Boot
I got my first pair of Kamik boots at a farm store one winter just for shoveling an over-abundance of snow. I was very surprised at how well they gripped, how comfortable they were, and just how warm they kept my feet. They may not be top of the line but believe me they are worth every dollar you spend on them and you won’t have to spend very many.
Kamiks are little awkward the first time you put them on. The higher heel makes them seem a little tippy but after a half hour or so, you will get used to them. They are very supportive and quite comfortable but I do recommend adding a good insole if you plan on much walking.
If I had to give them a mark against, it would be in durability. While the over molded rubber sole will last for decades, the split grain leather leaves something to be desired. I have had a pair of these boots for probably 4 years now and they are holding up well but I have never worn them rough. They get light use a few days of the year and they are perfect for that.
If you want to stay dry, these are top notch with 100% waterproofing and sealed seams but they still manage to breath well enough that sweat isn’t an issue. If you want warm, these are rated well below zero with a ton of Thinsulate insulation. All in all, they pull off more comfort than you would think but looking at them.
- Super Warm
- 100% Waterproof but Breathable
- Very Affordable
- Reasonably Comfortable
- Made of split grain leather
- Hard to get used to
- Not good for long trips
9. ArticShield – Best Budget Wetland Boot
Capitalizing on the design that make Muck famous, these budget friendly boots may not be a Muck boot but for seasonal wear, your feet may never know the difference. Made with a dense 7mm thick neoprene and semi-rigid over molded natural rubber, they hold up quite well and definitely provide you plenty of protection from the elements.
The thicker rubber and neoprene do a hell of a job keeping you dry and warm, even in the wettest and coldest temperatures, but they do allow your feet to move around in the boot so make sure you wear good socks. The calf fits well and most people will find it tight enough to seal around the leg to keep debris and water out of the boot.
They go on well and generally have a very good fit. They seem durable and with the few times you are likely to wear them every year, they will probably last nearly forever. They really do seem quite a quality product for a very good price. They just aren’t comfortable enough for more than occasional use on shorter trips.
Other than some issues with your foot movement, these aren’t a bad boot. I would like to see a liner in them for added comfort if you were to wear them for a full day and a sole with a little more contour would be helpful in keeping your foot planted for traction but otherwise, there is little wrong with these boots.
- Zero chance of wet feet
- Very Warm
- Good Fit
- Great Price
- Could be more comfortable
- Quite Heavy
- Stiff around the ankle
10. Timberland White Ledge – Best Ankle Boot
We would be remiss if we didn’t cover at least one low-cut boot for those that prefer a more shoe style fit. Over the years, these have become very popular for offering the maximum support for your ankle while not being overly heavy. Of course, they don’t offer the protection of an 8” boot but sometimes that’s not what you need.
If you want low-cut boots, its hard to beat these Timberlands. They have a padded collar and gusseted tongue for extra comfort and to keep any foreign objects out of the boot. The dual density footbed offers a lot of cushion while being very supportive your arch so long walks aren’t going to cause you any issues. They breath well and are 100% waterproof.
Timberlands are known for durability and these are no exception with full grain leather construction and complete double stitching. The leather comes oil soaked for moisture resistance mostly but that feature will do a lot to prevent damage from extreme temperatures or water from damaging the leather over time.
All in all, these a great boot in the right season. Done properly you could probably do three seasons out of this boot but they were made for warmer weather. Colder weather, even from mid-fall up north, these just won’t cut it. Stick to warmer weather and they are great but keep them out of the snow and freezing ground.
Otherwise, no matter when you wear them, they have good traction and grip well on most any terrain but have enough flex in the sole to be comfortable for every day wear. One of the better all-around footwear choices available.
- Light Weight
- Plenty of Support
- Very Comfortable
- Rock Solid Durability
- Somewhat Expensive
- Warm weather only
- Stiff and hard to break in
Hunting Boots Frequently Asked Questions
Q: No matter how well my boots fit, I always get blisters.
The answer is good socks. Wool or wool blended socks are your best bet. You want socks that breath well and wick away moisture to prevent your feet from getting soft from sitting in damp boots from your own sweat. The wetter your feet are the easier they will blister so keep them dry. I always carry an extra pair of socks and change them throughout the day, letting the ones I am not wearing dry out.
Q: I see boots like size 9E. What do the letters mean in boot sizes?
There are 7 letter designations in boots in the U.S. but only 4 categories to make it more confusing than it needs to be. Boots with a ‘B’ are narrow fit, boots with a ‘D’ or ‘M’ are regular fit, boots with ‘EE’, ‘EW’, or ‘W’ are wide with boots, and boots with ‘EEE’ are extra wide width.
Q: How do I ensure my boots fit correctly?
First, you have to wear them but beware that most companies won’t accept returns on boots that are worn. For the first few times, wear them inside and preferably on carpet to make sure you don’t scuff up the bottoms. Always try them out with the socks you will normally wear with those boots, otherwise, you may have issues down the line.
I have pull-on boots and they seem to slip on my heel, even when the rest of the fit is correct.
This is normal for pull on boots that need to slip a little in order to get them on. The movement on your foot should drastically decline and may even go away completely as the boots break in and the sole softens up.
Q: How do I break in a pair of boots?
Always follow your manufacturers recommendations first but if none exist, the best method is the slowest. You have probably heard of taking a shower in your boots or even putting them in the oven to soften the leather and speed up the process. Don’t do this, just wear your boots starting at lunch time for a few hours each day until they start to mold to your feet. If you try shortcuts, you can cause the boots to sag or bind in certain places or may even damage the boots beyond repair.
Q: How long will it take for boots to break in?
Following the method above, most boots will be comfortable after about a week but may take a couple of weeks if the leather is thicker or stiffer. Be patient, the fit you get this way will be superior to any shortcut.
There is no piece of gear that will affect how enjoyable your hunting trip is more than a pair of boots. A good pair of boots maximizes the fun you are able to have but if you make a poor choice, even the best trip can be miserable. In the past, most hunters were stuck with work boots or combat boots. Those were about the only options that existed.
Now they are a plethora of purpose built hunting boots that can make any trip you have so much more comfortable in any weather. Don’t skimp out and neglect your feet, you will regret it. Whether it’s one of the boots above or a quality offering from your favorite company, you owe it to yourself to get the best you can. After a rifle or bow, this is probably the next best place to spend your hunting budget.