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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
|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|
Trail (on cooler days)
Indoor traction, Flat trail
Indoor traction, Flat trail
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:
(Separate review): The value-packed, won’t-fall-off boot: Dogbooties.com Review