Will Jenkins, from TheWillToHunt.com, will be periodically providing articles on Gear That Works, an up-close look at the equipment outdoorsmen need and want. Here he shares his tips for choosing rubber boots for hunters that are reliable, comfortable and worth the investment.
Rubber boots can be tough to shop for. Originally they were more of a 'just in case' boot depending on your environment, but now they're used specifically by whitetail hunters for just about every hunt regardless of the need for waterproof footwear. Rubber boots are great at keeping scent down and feet warm along with their obvious ability to keep feet dry.
As with any footwear choice, you need to make sure the brand fits you. Everyone's foot is different and most boot companies have slight differences in shape between them. Some have narrow foot beds, some are wider, some have stiffer sides while others have much more give. It's also difficult to find rubber boots in varying widths, so trying them on somewhere first is key. Perhaps just as important as comfort is durability. If you see a rubber boot under $50, keep looking. Every inexpensive pair I've had has worn out in less than a year. Cheap rubber has a knack for cracking and piercing easily. I'm not talking about walking on nails and complaining of punctures, just normal wear from rocks, sticks and kneeling.
Read about some of the best hunting boot choices for reasonable prices.
There are several brands making rubber boots, and good ones at that.
While fit and durability are paramount, keep in mind your intended use. Will you be making short walks to a stand in cold temperatures, or maybe long walks in mild temperatures? Rubber boots, while great at keeping water out, are also great at keeping water in and making your feet sweaty. Pay attention to the insulation in the boot. There's nothing worse than sweaty feet in rubber boots on an all day sit while the temperature is dropping.
My quest for my most recent pair of rubber boots led me to these brands: Muck Boots, Irish Setter and LaCrosse. While everyone's experience may vary, the best comfort, features and price for me was the LaCrosse Aerohead. I generally wear an EE width boot and surprisingly, the standard size of the LaCrosse Aerohead fit well. The lower portion and front are solid rubber and it has a different feel to it. On the surface it's smooth but to compress it, it feels spongy. The spongy nature makes them incredibly comfortable even on long hikes, which is rare for a rubber boot. The rubber on the front promotes durability when pushing your way though brush, and where it comes to a point at the back, it helps your ankle move freely without the rubber bunching up.
The view of Will's LaCrosse Aerohead boots from his treestand
They slip on easily and the latch on the calf does an immensely good job of getting you a close fit at the top that won't loosen while walking or climbing. The thickness of the Aerohead is its insulation and they are available in 3.5mm and 7mm. I went with the 7mm and have been impressed with their ability to keep my feet warm as long as I'm wearing a nice pair of merino socks. Even in higher temps, the interior wicked moisture well when my feet sweat.
As for durability, you should be okay with any of the brands mentioned, but more specifically my experience with the LaCrosse Aerohead has proven them to be very durable. I've put a lot of miles on mine checking trail cameras, hanging stands and hunting, yet they still look brand new despite the miles and many swamp crossings.
If you're looking for new rubber boots after numb toes, cracked soles and leaky boots, keep these factors in mind and you should do well. Rubber boots have come a long way, and while you may have to spend $150 or more the comfort and performance is well worth the price tag.