Boot 101 – What To Look For In A Hunting Boot

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Quick question: do you love your feet? If you’re like me, you aren’t nice to your feet unless there’s a problem: blister, splinter, frostbite. By then, it’s too late, and you’re elk hunt will be consumed with the pain of each step. The solution is to find a good pair of boots and stick with them. The initial investment might sting the pocketbook, but with the proper care, those boots should last 10 years or more.

Upper
Referring to the part of the boot that covers your foot, the upper in hunting boots is leather, nylon or some combination. Look for “full-grain” leather, which means the material came from the top layer of the hide and has all of the grain, making it the toughest and longest-lasting option. By contrast, “genuine” leather is the lowest quality and won’t last all that long in a hunting boot.

Stitch or Glue?
Before space-age adhesives came along, boot makers hand-stitched the uppers to the sole. A stitched boot can typically be re-built once the soles are worn down. Glued boots are less expensive, but if you’ve ever put a pair too close to the fire to dry out, you soon discover the limitations of glue as it melts and separates.

Lining
Don’t forget to look inside the boot. You should see very few seams, which can lead to blisters. Many boots come with a waterproof lining such as GORE-TEX. My feet sweat more with any waterproof lining, which is why I go with an all-leather boot treated with a fresh coat of boot oil for much of the early season. Once the snow falls and temps hover around freezing or lower, I switch over to GORE-TEX-lined boots because I know my toes will stay warm and dry.

Outsole
If your hunting boots see more than the floor mat of your truck, then you know the importance of a good sole. In a shameless plug, Danner’s Bob self-cleaning sole throws mud and snow like a five-year-old. There are as many outsoles as there are boots; just look for an aggressive tread design and make sure its thick enough you won’t feel every little pebble.

Shank
Prison documentaries aside, the shank in a boot runs underneath the arch of your foot. It provides support and stability. Most shanks are made of fiberglass or even Kevlar. If they are made of steel (and some are) expect the boot’s weight to increase dramatically.

Double Up
Consider wearing a very thin (silk-weight) sock-liner along with your hunting socks. The liner serves as a second-skin once it attaches to your foot with a little bit of sweat. That way, any rubbing occurs between your sock, the boot and the sock-liner, not your skin.

If you’re looking to get new boots this season, make sure to check out the boot of #TeamElk, Danner Boots.