Dog Boots Comparison Summary

Update: Check out our new favorite boots,¬†dogbooties.com, and the socks that have turned¬†around Robin’s blister problem.¬†

I was fortunate to be able to partner with Backcountry K9 for this boots test! They carry three of the four brands we tested (below) and are super knowledgable about brand differences and fitting. When trying to choose boots for Robin, it was tough to guess¬†which boots I’d like¬†best from online photos, so I decided to do an in-person comparison. We tested¬†Ruffwear Summit Trex, Hurtta Outbacks, and Ultrapaws Durable provided by Backcountry K9,¬†and also spent a couple days with Muttluks All-Weather back in the summer. We kept our favorites and will be passing¬†the other sets¬†on to our readers! Read on for detailed comparisons of these popular boot models.¬†

This introductory page includes some general information about boots, fitting, and troubleshooting. If you already know all that, scroll down to the bottom for a comparison table and individual brand reviews.

I’ll say up-front that we didn’t find a single pair of perfect boots, and all of the models in this comparison bring something unique to the table. I would love to cobble together a boot with Ruffwear’s straps, Muttluks’ cuffs, Hurtta’s soles¬†and Ultrapaws’ foam padding. Since that isn’t possible, I picked the set that fit¬†Robin best, but they’re not objectively “better” than the others. Look through the comparisons below for features you’re interested in, but bear in mind that fit and comfort will trump all the bells and whistles.

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Why boots? 

Dog boots sound like a funny novelty until your adventure is cut short by an injured foot. Here are a few reasons you might need a pair of boots, and specific features to look for:

Hot pavement:¬†Consider boots with lightweight uppers (the top, fabric portion¬†of the boot) for breathability.¬†On hot days, offer plenty of water and remove the boots periodically to let the feet air out; dogs sweat through their pads, so boots can cause overheating.¬†Ruffwear’s Summit Trex had the¬†lightest-weight uppers in our lineup, but Ultrapaws also makes a line of “cool” boots and¬†Ruffwear’s Grip Trex are short and breathable.

Sharp, rocky terrain: Robin lost a layer of pad skin to the barnacle beaches at the Salton Sea, and even on regular trails he’s noticeably less cautious¬†with boots on. When choosing boots for rough ground, look for grippy soles and¬†a tight-fitting cuff or a¬†strap right at the top to keep out small sharp stones. If there are drop-offs, be aware that dogs are likely to be less surefooted in boots.

Cold ground/snow:¬†Though cold doesn’t bother dogs’ feet as much as it would ours, boots protect against salted pavement¬†and ice. Look for tight-fitting cuffs or use socks, and make sure the boots stay on before heading into¬†deep snow. For sidewalks and ice, rubber soles will grip best and last longest, but for snowy trails, soft-soled boots are an economical option.

Ants: This might be a Robin-specific problem, but ants on the trail get tangled in his pad fur and bite. Any type of boot should do, but keep an eye out for adventurous ants climbing the feet and falling down into the boot.

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Sizing:

Many dogs have bigger¬†front¬†paws, so make sure to measure at least one front and one back foot. If that’s true for your pup, buy¬†from a retailer that will make up a custom set of four, or sells individuals. Check out Backcountry K9’s video¬†for measurement instructions.

Your dog’s boot size is the¬†width of the paw, with weight placed on it. When choosing a brand, make sure that the listed sizes are as close as possible to your measured size- different brands have different increments and sizing is crucial for dog boots.¬†All the nice features in the world won’t save a poor fit.

Dewclaws: Not all dogs have them, but if yours does, take them into consideration when choosing boots. Some models¬†have a velcro strap that fastens right over the dewclaw and can cause blisters. Look for¬†boots with¬†two straps like Ultrapaws, or¬†try fastening¬†Hurtta’s more flexible¬†strap to avoid¬†the¬†dewclaws. You may also be able to find boots that fit below the dewclaws, like Ruffwear’s Grip Trex (which we haven’t tried, since prior to the Spring product redesign they were too big for Robin). Padding in the form of socks, tape, or vetwrap can¬†help cushion the skin above and under the dewclaw.

Introducing boots: 

I try to put on Robin’s¬†boots right at the trailhead so he can start galloping around¬†immediately. If that’s not possible, I distract him with a favorite toy right after putting them on. Treats or fetch may help get your dog moving so he realizes¬†that his feet are still there!

Break in the boots¬†with short periods of wear, and keep nails trimmed. On the first few trips,¬†check all paws periodically for chafing or blisters:¬†Robin has short hair on his feet and tends to blister on his front toes¬†and dewclaws, so I check after the first mile. Dogs are very stoic and may not tell you they’re in pain.

If you can never seem to get your dog going on the trail even with no signs of pain or cramping, consider trying a different boot. Robin absolutely refused to walk in one style of boots, even though he tears around in other boots.

Keeping the boots on: 

None of the four brands we tested stayed on 100%, but boots that were closest to Robin’s paw width stayed on best. We had the best results when we put a cushioning layer underneath (vetwrap or liner socks) and really cranked the ankle straps. You can tighten them more than you’d think, but make sure you’re not cutting off circulation.

Comparison Table: 

The boots we tried have a surprising range of features. Here’s a summary of the basic designs model. Below, the table, click on each individual review to read more details about the boots.

Note: this table currently looks best on a larger screen. I’m working on a fix for this!

Brand Ruffwear Hurtta UltraPaws Muttluks
Model Summit Trex Outback Durable All Weather
Sizes available 1.5″, 1.75″, 2″, 2.25″, 2.5″, 2.75″, 3″, 3.25″ 1.25″, 2″, 2.25″, 2.5″, 3″ 1.25″, 1.75″, 2.25″, 2.75″, 3.25″, 4″ 1.5″, 2.25″, 2.75″, 3.25″, 3.75″, 4.25″, 4.75″, 5.25″
Size increment 0.25″ Irregular 0.5″ except for biggest size 0.5″ except for smallest size
Price per 4 $59.95 $60.00 $31.95 – $34.95 $48.00 – $56.00
Color Orange, Gray, Green (REI) Gray Black, Red/Black Black, Yellow/Black
Reflectors On ankle strap- front visibility only Toe cap plus piping on outside and top edges None On wraparound ankle strap
Waterproof-ness “Weather Resistant” “Weatherproof” “Water Resistant” “Water Resistant”
Fastener Single ankle strap Stretchy flexible position strap Double ankle straps Single ankle strap
Cuff Loose “Stretch Gaiter” No cuff No cuff Very stretchy, fitted sock cuff
Upper material Mesh-like fabric with interior coating Thick sueded nylon with microfleece lining Tough, tightly-woven nylon with interior coating Tightly woven nylon with smooth gray lining
Sole material Rubber Rubber “Toughtek” plastic Suede
Sole texture Knobbly tread Fine wave pattern Fine pebbling Suede
Sole flexibility Slightly flexible Fairly flexible Very flexible Extremely flexible
Traction Slippery on sandy, steep trails; otherwise good Slippery on sandy, steep trails; otherwise good Poor- snow, sidewalk, or indoors only OK; flexible sole allows foot to grip through boot
Unique feature Structured, oval-shaped ankle opening Flexible rubber soles, adjustable ankle strap Interior foam ankle pads Easy cinch system, effective cuffs
Made in Unknown China Unknown Canada
Best for Trail Snow,
Trail (on cooler days)
Snow,
Indoor traction, Flat trail
Snow,
Indoor traction, Flat trail

Robin’s favorite:¬†

All of¬†the boots have uniquely valuable features, so the best boots for Robin may not be the best boots for your pup. We chose Ruffwear, but I’ll miss¬†the¬†Hurttas’ reflectivity and split ankle design, and I was¬†disappointed that Robin hated Ultrapaws despite their genius ankle cushion. In the end, he¬†was a lot happier in molded-style boots, so we picked¬†Ruffwear out of close competition with Hurtta because the boots were closest to the right size and the fasteners were fuss-free.

Individual boot reviews: 

The basic, durable summer trail boot: Ruffwear Summit Trex Review

The adjustable and versatile trail/winter boot: Hurtta Outbacks Review

The simple yet genius padded-ankle boot: Ultrapaws Durable Review

The ultraflexible sock boot: Muttluks All Weather Review

(Separate review): The value-packed, won’t-fall-off boot: Dogbooties.com Review

6 Comments Add yours

  1. dustydesertdogs says:

    Such a great review, love the new blog layout!!! Maybe someday Ruffwear will come out with even smaller boots. But I really don’t use mine all the time either, the main intention when I got Goose boots was for sore/hurt paws and trail first aid.

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  2. Wendy Heath says:

    Yay Robin! Your pick has been our pick too, we really love Ruffwear products and are glad you enjoyed yours!

    Like

  3. Scarlet Aguilar-Martinez says:

    Your gear reviews are so helpful!!! I also have a small dog with similar body measurements to Robin, does surprisingly well on hikes, and we are hiking the Lost Coast Trail soon. As I get his gear list ready, your reviews have helped me figure out what boots he use on the black sand beaches on the trail. I’m getting him the Ruffwear boot liners to help with the fit of his boots. Have you tried them? They are made out of wicking material and I hope that with the VetWrap + wicking liners, this will prevent blisters and keep the front boots on. Maybe they could help Robin as well? -cheers from San Diego

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    1. Thanks for your kind words! I tried them and they were way, way, way too big, although the material is nice and tough. I haven’t written this up yet, but I recently dropped the vetwrap and baby socks and started using actual dog socks (I have one pair from RC Pets and one from Wexinbuy). They’re snug, so they don’t cause blisters the way the baby socks did. He hasn’t gotten a single blister since I got them!

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      1. Scarlet Aguilar-Martinez says:

        YAY for no more blisters! Thanks for the update on Robin’s paw gear, I’m checking out those dog sock brands right now, haha. Looking forward to your write up on it (or any of Robin’s gear in general – you have a great blog & IG). Thanks again!

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  4. Thank you so much! It’s coming soon!

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