Man has been hunting from the earliest of times, be it for survival, or as a recreational sport. We may have evolved enough not to depend on hunting for our everyday needs, but the instinct of our ancestors are still going strong in some of us, and all over the world, hunting remains a much-loved recreational sport.
Like with any sport, you need the right gear to ace your game, and hunting is no exception. When you think of hunting gear, you’ll probably think of what rifle you’ll need, or what vehicle to use in the woods, but hunting gear goes beyond that.
Beyond, and well, back to the basics. Take for instance, hunting boots. Yes, boots. If you thought you could use just about any sturdy pair of trekking shoes while out on a hunt, you’re mistaken.
Hunting shoes are a whole category of shoes by themselves, and your choice of hunting shoes can make or break your hunting experience. After all, it is all about being on your feet all the time – whether you’re following an animal’s tracks or keeping watch hidden behind a bush.
Why Are Good Boots Important for Hunting?
Without the right support for your feet, you’re going to find it difficult to be on the prowl, and the last thing you want is to be stranded in the woods, dragging your feet in a pair of ill-suited shoes, or even worse, hobbling around with a shoe injury.
Support And Comfort
Hunting boots are specially designed to give your feet maximum support and comfort – whether you’re walking long distances, or standing on your feet for a while. A good pair of hunting shoes is sturdy enough to withstand all of the walking around on uneven terrain, but still not heavy enough to tire you out after only a short distance of walking.
In addition, hunting shoes also give your feet protection against the rough terrain of the woods – walking on uneven surfaces can give you a lot of discomfort and even cause blisters and corns, but a good pair of hunting shoes will prevent these.
Think about it, really - if you can’t even walk or stand comfortably in a pair of shoes, how are you going to tag any animal at all?
Better Protection Against Rough Terrain
The other reason why hunting shoes are essential for you is to protect your feet from outdoor conditions. Whether you’re trudging through muddy terrain, walking on slippery, wet, moss-covered stones or even snow, you will be a lot safer in terms of balancing your body, and not slipping or sliding.
Keeping It Quiet
Hunting is one sport that is as much about stealth as it is about agility. Yes, you’re on the move all the time, but you can’t afford to make any noise – not will it only distract your prey, it also puts you at risk! Most trekking shoes, sturdy and well-gripped as they are, don’t really factor in the quietness bit.
When you’re walking through the woods, the last thing you want is to be thudding all over the place with a pair of heavy boots, or make stomping, crunching sounds as you walk over dried leaves, rocks and pebbles all over the forest floor.
A good pair of hunting shoes are always adequately padded to make your movements practically noise-free, but at the same time keeping your shoes light enough for you to move about comfortably in them.
Finally, you need a pair of shoes which look good and blend in with the colors of the woods. Camouflage is crucial to a good hunter, and there are too many predators in nature for you to take a cue from. Hunting boots give you this advantage and also add some style to your rugged hunter’s look through the hunting season.
Normal Boots Vs. Hunting Boots
You may have a pair of sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, or hiking shoes, or even winter shoes that you may be tempted to try while hunting, but before you do that, check your shoes to make sure they fulfill the requirements that all hunting shoes do.
If not, you’re better off investing in a pair of hunting shoes – not only will it keep your other shoes from getting ruined on a hunting trip, you will also realize it was a smart choice once you see the benefits they bring you.
Hunting boots are made of durable, weather resistant material, and are also made to be waterproof. Your normal shoes may be sturdy enough for your morning runs or leisurely walks, but they’re going to weather away much easier in the rough terrain.
Additionally, if you have hiking boots that are made for this kind of weather, they might prove to be useful while walking around but too heavy, or uncomfortable for when you have to stand in one place and stalk your game.
Insulation And Circulation
Most normal kinds of shoes aren’t made with much thought given to insulation, simply because they aren’t meant to be worn in harsher weather. Hunting boots, on the other hand, are specially designed to make sure your feet stay warm, but can also breathe.
This unique design of hunting boots keeps up the blood circulation to your feet, making sure you can stand in one place for hours or walk several miles with complete ease.
You may find that rubber boots are weather-friendly, sturdy and insulated, but they aren’t as breathable as hunting boots, and the last thing you want is to find yourself in the woods with some kind of a skin infection on your feet from having sweated too much or not having enough air circulating around them.
Mountaineering boots often tend to be heavier as compared to hunting boots, so do running shoes. Hunting shoes are meant to be light, despite being sturdy – they shouldn’t weigh you down when you’re trying to run or walk fast, or be a hassle when you want to carry them.
Noisy Or Quiet
There can’t be enough said about how important it is for hunting shoes to have soles that don’t make noise when walking. If you’ve taken a walk in your backyard with your normal shoes, you’ll realize the kind of noise they make when you step over pebbles and gravel or dried leaves - an absolutely terrible idea for a hunter.
You want padded shoes that will keep you quiet and discreet, much like any predator’s paws.
Types Of Hunting Boots
Now that you’ve understood the necessity and importance of hunting shoes, here’s the next step to understanding them a little better. There are different kinds of shoes even within the category of hunting boots, and these differ in terms of factors like their base material, their shape and the weather in which they must be used.
Hunting boots are made from different kinds of material, depending on where they are intended to be used. Commonly used materials for making hunting boots are nylon, mesh upper, or rubber and each of these materials has its pros and cons.
Rubber boots, for example, are a good choice if you’re hunting in marshy, swampy spots – they’re waterproof, non-absorbent, and they do not leave behind any scent, which means there’s no risk of an animal following you. However, they may not be best suited to particularly warmer temperatures since they tend to absorb heat and get a bit too warm at times.
Ideally, hunting boots should be able to adapt to the shape of your foot, and are ergonomically designed. There are a few different kinds though, and the shapes vary depending on the terrain they are going to be used in, as well as in terms of how high they sit on the calf.
There are also different kinds of shapes for men and women, for example, shoes made for women have higher arches to suit the shape of women’s feet.
Different kinds of hunting boots are designed for wear in different seasons. For example, rubber boots may not be the best option for a summer hunt since they get too warm, and a hunting trip in the winter may need shoes with a higher insulation, to give your feet added protection from the cold – a boot with 1,000 grams of Thinsulate lining would work best.
In addition, you’ll most definitely want to get boots that are waterproof if you’re hunting in the snow or in marshlands.
Materials Used To Make Hunting Boots
Other than rubber, leather is one of the oldest materials used to make hunting boots – in fact, early man used animal hides to cover his feet while hunting and most hunters prefer leather shoes even today. Leather hunting boots are preferred for many reasons, although their quality and suitability for hunting largely depends on the type of leather used to make them.
It is important to know that high-quality leather is an expensive material, to begin with, and only becomes more expensive depending on the various kinds of treatment it undergoes to become sturdy and waterproof before it can be turned into shoes of any kind, let alone hunting boots.
You may find cheap alternatives to leather, and while it may be tempting to pick up a pair of heavy-duty looking boots for less than half the original price, be warned that these lack the sturdiness and durability of actual leather, and may be made using low-quality processes, which will do more harm than good if used on a hunting trip.
For one, boots made with low-quality leather will creak, essentially giving you away from miles away. Plus they’re also not waterproof, which means you’ll be dealing with discomfort all through your trip.
On the other hand, using hunting boots made of high-quality leather will take your whole hunting experience several notches up, simply by the ease and comfort they bring you. Good quality leather is naturally stretchable, and you’ll see that this comes in handy when you need your hunting boots to fit your foot really well.
It’s true that leather takes a little more effort than rubber when it comes to cleaning and maintenance but wouldn’t you want to do everything you can to keep your leather hunting boots in top-condition, after all the money you’ve spent on them?
Gore-Tex is a synthetically produced material known for its extreme durability and is extensively used in outerwear as well as clothing and gear meant for outdoor sports. It usually works as a layer of lining between other layers of clothes or shoes.
This lining is made of various synthetic materials and has thousands of tiny pores, which make it durable and breathable at the same time.
This makes hunting boots made from Gore-Tex highly resistant to water, harsh weather conditions, mud and dirt. In fact, boots lined with this material are 100% water-proof; and, when coupled with other materials, you can pretty much create a boot that is practically hydrophobic. This makes Gore-Tex one of the best materials to be used in hunting boots.
Neoprene is like synthetically produced rubber. It is a material that has been created to make it particularly water resistant, but it is also extremely tough and tear-resistant, but also highly flexible at the same time.
This makes it a good choice to be used in making hunting boots, as it keeps away all kinds of moisture and water, and is also tough enough to withstand harsh weather conditions and rough terrain.
In addition, neoprene is also very effective at insulation – cooling packs and lunch bags are often made using some variant of neoprene, so if you’re fond of hunting in the winters, this is the material for you.
Thinsulate is synthetic fibre that is used to provide thermal insulation for outdoor clothing. The name “Thinsulate” stands for a blend of “thin” and “insulate”, and that’s exactly what Thinsulate is known for.
Most other insulating materials are heavy, and add considerably to the weight of your boots. Thinsulate on the other hand, offers you optimum protection against the cold while still keeping your boots comfortably light.
A Boot For Each Hunt
Apart from material and season, the type of hunting boot you will use also depends on what kind of animals or game you’re going for.
While rubber boots are great for things like duck hunting, you will definitely want to read more to pick the hunting boots best suited for you.
These are ideal for bird hunters, as one needs to hike or trek long distances to spot birds. They are also designed to be particularly light and more comfortable so as to protect your feet from constant friction with the insides of the boots.
Best suited for flat, grassy terrain and while hunting for game birds like quails and grouse, upland boots might not offer you the best traction, so make sure you use them only for conditions where they’re best suited.
High Country Boots
These are ultra heavy-duty boots, made specially to last in rough, high terrain such as steep slopes or rocky lands. These are a must-have for you if you hunt animals like elk, mule deer, wild sheep and bears, all of which live at higher altitudes.
Suited for a variety of hunting activities, multi-purpose boots will work for most terrain and offer different varieties in terms of isolation and durability depending on the weather.
If you’re going hunting in terrain that has snakes, these are a great buy. These boots sit much higher on the calf, and give you optimum protection against snake bites, while also protecting you from other insects and reptiles, especially if your trip includes wading through shallow rivers, creeks or walking through marshes and swamps.
Hunting Boots Manufacturers
Getting your hunting boots from a reliable brand is one of the easiest ways of making sure you end up with a product that is great value for your money. After all, some of these brands have been around for decades, and have consistently put out quality products that also use the latest manufacturing technologies around.
For over half a century, Irish Setter a leading US-based brand has been manufacturing hunting boots suited to various kinds of terrain and weather conditions. They have always focused on using the very best materials for their boots, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, delivering products that are preferred by hunters all over the world.
Under Armour is a brand that was born out of the need to create performance apparel – clothing and gear focused on giving athletes a cool, dry and light experience throughout any sport.
Founded in 1996 by Kevin Plank as a clothing brand, it soon went on to add hunting boots to its category of performance-focused footwear, creating hunting boots that are specifically suited to various seasons and offer unparalleled protection against all kinds of weather.
In 1999, Muck Boots started with the idea of creating comfortable, durable footwear for all kinds of terrain. Today, their hunting boots are among one of the most trustworthy brands out there in the market.
No matter which Muck product you pick, you’re assured of a high-quality product that will give you a comfortable, water-resistant experience that will help you make the most of our outdoor trip.
The oldest brand on this list, and probably one of the oldest brands in the market too, Lacrosse has been making rubber boots for a century now. All their hunting boots are high on toughness, durability and comfort and are suited to all kinds of terrain and weather conditions, making them a favorite with hunting enthusiasts not only in the USA but also all across the globe.
Founded by Charles Danner in 1932, Danner began as a brand manufacturing affordable, handcrafted work boots for the loggers in Chippewa Fall.
From then to now, the focus hasn’t wavered from sturdy footwear meant for rough wear; only now, Danner uses the latest technology to keep innovating with their various categories of hunting shoes, from those designed specifically for elk-hunting to others more suited to bird-hunting.
Keep Them Like New: Cleaning And Maintenance For Hunting Shoes
Whether they’re made of rubber, leather or synthetic material, all hunting shoes need some maintenance to keep them going for longer.
After all, you’re dragging them through all kinds of rough terrain and harsh weather and they need the well-deserved rest and care that you give yourself after a strenuous but satisfying hunting trip. Here are a few quick tips on maintaining and cleaning your hunting shoes.
Wash off all dirt, debris and mud from the surface of your boots – this is important before you proceed with treating or polishing them, as any dirt left behind could cause the material to spoil, or even react with the paste/polish you use afterward. If there’s dirt wedged between the nooks and stitches, use a soft toothbrush. Dry off all the water and let them air dry completely.
Polishing And Waterproofing (Leather Shoes Only)
Waterproofing your shoes is one of the simplest ways of caring for them, yet, most users fail to do this correctly or don’t do it frequently enough. While hunting boots are made of waterproof material, they end up losing their resistance after a few years of wear.
Look out for signs such as water being absorbed by the shoe (even if it doesn’t reach your feet), or the surface of the leather becoming dry and crust-like because of moisture loss.
There are oil pastes and chemical formulas available for this. Basically, polishing ensures two things – one, your leather boots continue to be water resistant as the polish replenishes the protective film over the leather. Two, the leather loses some of its oils with use and polishing will help restore these oils back to your boots.
Hunting boots will pick up the scent of your skin, as well as from the surrounding environment. Before you set out on your next hunting trip, it is important to get out any scent from your shoes, also called as e-scenting. You can either opt for scent-removing products available in the market, or use baking soda, commonly found in your kitchen, and any of the following ways:
Other than these, remember to keep your hunting boots in a dry spot, away from too much light once they’ve dried completely. Make sure there’s enough space for air to circulate around them, and that they aren’t stored under a heap of other shoes.
Now that you know everything you need to about hunting boots, the next step is to figure out how to buy the right kind of hunting boots for yourself. With a few tips and some trials, you’ll be able to pick up a pair that works wonders on your next hunting trip.
After all, it’s worth the time and money – with a well-made decision, you will end up with a pair of hunting boots that will last you for years and give you comfort, durability and protection, ensuring you put your best hunting foot forward.