We’ve tried 8 style of boots so far- and despite having a standout favorite that earned a spot in regular rotation, we were still on the hunt for something grippy for indoor-outdoor errands and winter ice. We picked up a set of Grip Trex to try out for these scenarios since “grip” is literally in the name.
Sizing and colors: 8 sizes from 1.5″ – 3.25″ in 1/4″ increments, in black, aqua and red.
So we already have favorite boots. Dogbooties.com (review) are Robin-approved and stay on, no matter what. We love them for trails, hot pavement, and salty sidewalks. But they’re not waterproof, and they’re just tough fabric so they wear out, and don’t grip well on ice or slippery floors. Since Ruffwear’s older Summit Trex were our next-best option, I decided to grab a set of their newer, nicer Grip Trex to try out.
We always use socks with dog boots – for small paws, we like the inexpensive ones on Amazon that ship from China and take a few weeks to arrive. Read more about that here. Ruffwear’s socks are far too big for Robin’s paws (even though he fits their two smallest boot sizes) and probably wouldn’t work for paws under 2″ – loose socks are a recipe for chafing.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to have different-sized front and back paws. Robin’s front feet are 1.75″ and his back feet are 1.5″. Conveniently, Ruffwear offers their boots in pairs for this situation (no longer in singles, though, so don’t lose one). I happened to get a good deal on a set of 4 in his 1.75″ so we mainly tested them on the front feet, which are his “decider” feet anyway because he has dew claws. If we liked them, I planned to pick up another pair in the next size down.
These are the smartest boots on the market but they’re still not well enough designed to fit properly. We’ve tried a lot of boots – 9 styles at time of writing- and the Grip Trex are the sleekest and most functional. But they’re unfortunately not wearable for Robin.
Grip Trex are rubber-soled boots with a firm, grippy rubber Vibram sole and a mesh upper for breathability. We’ve tried three other pairs of rubber soled boots and these are in the middle as far as flexibility goes – Hurtta Outbacks were the most flexible and therefore the most grippy on uneven trails, but less durable feeling than these and the non-vibram Ruffwear Summit Trex. On the stiff end, MyBusyDog boots didn’t offer any groundfeel. If your dog has bigger feet (Robin wears the two smallest sizes of Grip Trex), this may be less of a concern, as the material is more flexible when it has more surface area.
The toes and sides of the shoe are wrapped in durable vinyl with reflectors on the toes and the hook and loop closure strap. The construction creates a good structure with a rounded shape that allows the toes to spread without being overly stiff or hard to bend. More reflectors would be preferable – I’d like to see reflector running all around the ankle strap, not just for nighttime visibility but because it can help you find a thrown boot.
Boots seem to come with one of two types of closures: either a cinch strap that feeds thorough a loop, doubles back and adheres to itself (like the Velcro shoes you had as a kid), or a wraparound strap that wraps fully around the ankle. Grip Trex use the former, which I prefer because wrap straps tend to twist the boot as you secure them, and are harder to tighten. However, the Grip Trex’s gusset the complicates the process, whereas the simpler Summit Trex had lightweight fabric that bunched itself up without issue.
The gusset exists to make the boots easy to put on, and it works. But it comes with a definite problem – the top of the boot is finished with a bulky vinyl trim, and the edges of the gusset have to overlap each other significantly to fit Robin’s ankles, creating a bulky overlap in the trim. This may be more of a small-size problem since in Ruffwear’s product photos, the boots seem to fit with the gusset edges matched up, yet we know another dog (Deer of @adeerandherfox) who wears her boots with almost as much of the label showing as Robin’s. Brands often size down bigger dog gear without considering the proportions, and in this case a wider gusset or a thinner material on the edging of the boots would create less of a pressure point on the ankle.
Robin knows not to take his boots off, so this just shows how uncomfortable he was. I missed most of the first bit where he was actually opening up the strap with his teeth – he stopped as soon as he noticed I was watching.
Robin’s feet seem to go numb in these boots. It’s the only explanation I can think of, since he starts out doing fine (even extra zoomy, because his feet are protected) yet after a few minutes, he starts chewing frantically at his legs. I hoped it was just an adjustment issue and we tried several times, but he was miserable – lying down the moment we stopped walking (NOT a normal Robin behavior, but one we’ve also experienced with other rubber-soled boots) and trying to tear the Grip Trex off his feet. He’s not necessarily happy to wear other boots, dogbooties.com included, but he doesn’t seem uncomfortable.
However, I do really like that all of Ruffwear’s boot styles come in so many sizes and in such small increments. A close fit is very important in structured boots to avoid tripping, and
I really wanted the Grip Trex to work for Robin because they’re so sleekly designed. As functional as his dogbooties.com are, they’re not the cutest and I was hoping for something a bit more city-chic. The gusset size is the main design flaw; they’re otherwise very functional. They’re very breathable – Robin’s feet were barely damp after wear, when in waterproof and waterproof-breathable boots his pads tend to be very damp. Dogs sweat through their pads so it’s important to use breathable boots and remove them periodically to prevent overheating in hot weather; waterproof boots should be reserved only for wet weather and cold. The mesh upper does a surprisingly good job of filtering out dust and dirt (better than my trail shoes): after being worn in the ashy moonscape of a burned out wildfire area, I didn’t even notice much dust inside Robin’s boots while my own socks were black and gritty.
We didn’t have any dew claw blisters with these boots (using socks)- it’s been one of our biggest boot issues previously. They do fasten right at that height, however, like most boots, so I can’t rule that out as a problem – if they fit better and Robin could wear them longer, we would have been able to fully test for that. My best solution for dew claw blisters so far has been the use of snug fitting socks to help absorb the friction, especially if loosening the boots slightly causes them to be thrown (Robin actually didn’t throw his grip trex at all, despite some crazy maneuvers on the trail).
The vibram soles are super durable (we bought our boots used but they look brand new, and they didn’t show any wear during our use), and they have good grip on dry trails and slick floors. There isn’t a lot of ice around in midsummer, but we have heard their grip isn’t amazing on ice, maybe because the rubber gets colder and stiffer. I’m waiting for someone to make puppy microspikes. We’ve noticed that Robin is more surefooted in soft boots than rubber-soled, especially on gravel and steep dirt trails, because he can’t feel the ground under his feet, but on larger sizes (where the sole is more flexible) it may be less of a concern.
Grip Trex are expensive – $15 more than Hurtta’s model, when they’re normally pretty comparable in price and quality (though the Outbacks aren’t breathable and are best for winter). However, you can usually find a 20% off sale on one of the major outdoor outfitter websites, or grab a set used on eBay. The Grip Trex are more expensive than Ruffwear’s more basic Summit Trex, but they’re more functional without the silly extra cuff, as long as the gusset fits your pup’s ankles. They’re definitely the best looking, best quality boot we’ve tried. Whether these are a good value really just depends on why you need them. Looking for a durable, breathable trail boot for hiking? Definitely worth it. Just popping on boots for a potty break? Maybe pick up a pack of rubber Pawz.
I’m very disappointed that the Grip Trex didn’t work for Robin because they’re well designed, durable, grippy boots that don’t fall off even with crazy activity (a victory previously only achieved with his stretch-closure Dogbooties.com). Unfortunately, the gusset design just doesn’t work for his ankles – the pressure point created by the overlap makes them unwearable. I still highly recommend trying these even on other small dogs, but it would be best to try them on before purchasing to see whether the boot fits well.
Best for: Larger dogs who fit/aren’t bothered by the gusset design, long treks, long term durability, foot protection in the city, sleek looks
Not ideal for: Small dogs with slim ankles, treacherous trails (better groundfeel needed), ice and snow