Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Dog Hiking Boots – Popular Brands Tested and Reviewed

in Outdoor Gear

One of my favorite things to do in the world is hike with my dogs. I love seeing how excited they get when we get ready to go! And it’s great exercise for them (and me.) There’s nothing better than a tired dog at the end of a beautiful hike.

And despite the beauty of the desert – the terrain and climate can also be harsh, so the right equipment is important. And while not every hike or walk calls for dog hiking boots – there will be times when you’ll want a quality set of dog hiking boots to make the hike or walk the best experience you can for all involved (you AND them!)

Boots!

For years we stuck with our old tried-and-true pair of Muttluks®. They’ve been great for those times we needed them to cover an injury or when pads were sore. But after 15 years – I thought there had to be some great improvement out there in the marketplace. After doing my research – I discovered that dog hiking boots haven’t changed all that much. There’s a few new variations, but I guess if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. However, even though the changes were small – I did find some products I’m pretty excited about.

I compared a total of five different types of foot protection on my two dogs – three on Roo and three on Maia.

Dogs

Roo is a 2 year old mini mutt (we’re guessing a poodle/terrier combination) weighing in at 9 lbs. She loves hiking, but is what I’d call a novice hiker (only actively hiking for the one year since we rescued her). She’s a spaz on trails and tends to veer off towards cacti and other hazards.

Maia is a 7 year old medium mutt (we’re guessing a border collie/chocolate lab mix) weighing in at 44 pounds. She is an avid and long time hiker. She’s steady and walks the trails with consistency. She’s great for keeping pace and has amazing stamina. Maia also has somewhat tender pads and has had raw spots many times in her life (mostly from her obsessive tennis ball fetching rather than hiking).

Dog Hiking/Walking Boot Styles

I went looking for dog hiking boots that would work in desert applications – sand, rocks, and high temperatures with bonus points for cactus spine/glochid protection. There seemed to be more choices out there for snowy conditions. So I chose and compared the types that would potentially work in the Southwest.

There are five main styles of desert foot protection for dogs on the market right now.

  1. Thick traction sole (more like a human boot)
  2. Soft sole (non-leather)
  3. Soft sole (leather)
  4. Waxy balm (used in place of a physical boot)
  5. Thin rubber covering (like a balloon for the paw)

Style 1 – Thick Traction Sole

Specific Boot – Ruffwear® Grip Trex™

Price Point – High (greater than $70 for four boots)

Best Application – Short, medium or long hikes or walks with difficult terrain where traction is needed; Great for sand, rocks, and extreme temperatures; Offers some protection from thorns, spines, and glochids

Would I recommend? Yes!

Ruffwear Grip Trex

Ruffwear in box

Ruffwear Unboxed

Handy carry bag that is included

Bottom of Grip Trex

Initial Thoughts

I got these dog hiking boots based on the glowing reviews I read online. I’ll admit I was skeptical. The price tag on these is definitely high compared to other options. I thought that the stiffness of the sole would make it so that walking was so difficult that Maia wouldn’t even enjoy hiking. Also based on how low these boots sit on the foot – I thought they’d flip off while walking (which is a common and annoying problem).

I relented when I found an open box deal for $52 and thought I’d give these a try. Like I said before – our old standby boots – Muttluks® – aren’t cheap either. I was hoping to see a quality of construction or design that would justify the price tag.

I was also super disappointed that they simply don’t make a size small enough for Roo. Even their smallest size is much too big for her. Ruffwear® – if you’re listening – go smaller! Tiny dogs need foot protection too.

Before I ordered these – I carefully measured Maia’s foot based on their directions. You take a piece of paper and place one paw on the paper. Then you lift the opposite foot of the same set (either front or rear) and mark the two sides of the paw that is still on the paper. You’re looking to measure the width of the weight-bearing paw. In Maia’s case – her front and back were actually two different sizes (bigger in front – smaller in back). And since Grip Trex™ are sold as a four pack, my only option would have been to buy four single pairs which made them even more expensive. So I ended up getting her the larger of the two sizes for all four paws so I could scoop up the open box deal.

The Hike Test

To my surprise these boots stayed on really, really well! Maia had a bit of an adjustment getting used to them initially, but after a short bit of walking around the house – she didn’t even act like she had any boots on. And when we took her out on the trails – she did great with them on.

At one point I had to adjust the strap and make it tighter since one boot began to slip down her foot and she tripped. But I attribute that to user error on my part. Once we pushed her paw back in and tightened the strap – the problem didn’t happen again.

Ruffwear on Hike

Ruffwear Standing Up

Pros

  • Sturdy and well constructed
  • Offered great protection from all desert hazards
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy on and off
  • Stays on!
  • Can purchase as singles so can replace one lost boot

Cons

  • More difficult to get used to walking in
  • Most expensive on the market
  • Need smaller sizes
  • Need to offer as pairs instead of four-pack (for differences between front and back feet without the price penalty of buying four singles)

 Style 2 – Soft Sole (Non-Leather)

Specific Boot – Ultra Paws® Durable Boots

Price Point – Medium (around $30 for four boots)

Best Application – Short duration hikes or walks on hot sand, gravel, or pavement; Foot wrap in case of injury

Would I recommend? Yes

Ultra Paws

UltraPaws Unwrapped

Ultra Paws Bottom

Initial Thoughts

I was absolutely delighted when I discovered that Ultra Paws® makes a dog hiking shoe small enough for Roo! A boot that is similar in style to my beloved Muttluks®, but without the leather bottom and at a much lower cost. I thought that maybe the waterproof thermoplastic material would wear better than leather (which is prone to ripping).

According to the Ultra Paws® product site, the Durable Boot is best for light-duty outdoors, while they offer a heavier product called the Rugged Boot for medium and heavy-duty outdoors applications. While the Rugged Boot looked a lot heavier (potentially better protection for spines and glochids), they didn’t offer it in Roo’s size (Petite).

The company provides a helpful sizing guide which is very similar to the Ruffwear® boots – you must measure width of the paws while they are bearing weight. I followed this guide to the T and came up with the perfect size for Roo.

The Hike Test

Roo is new to boots so it is a real testament to these boots that she adjusted fairly quickly to them. After about 20 minutes of indoor wear with lots of treats – she nearly forgot they were on her feet. And they fit her so well! I really like the padded top where the top strap attaches. Plus, they were easy to get on and off.

Once out on the trail – they stayed in place and caused her no discomfort. My only real concern with them is that they offer little to no ventilation. While the boots offers good protection from scalding pavement and sand on the pad, the top would be better served for desert use if it were a more breathable material. I suspect that with long-term use, these boots will break down more quickly than a leather soled version. But only time will tell!

Ultra Paws on pavement

Ultra Paws on gravel

Pros

  • Sturdy and well constructed
  • Good protection from hot pavement and sand
  • Easy on and off
  • Padded tops with two velcro straps
  • Can buy single replacement boot in case of lost boot
  • Stays on!

Cons

  • Poor ventilation
  • Only light protection from spines and glochids
  • Thermoplastic sole might not prove as durable as thicker sole or leather sole
  • No carrying case included
  • Poor traction due to smooth bottom of boot

Style 3 – Soft Sole (Leather)

Specific Boot – Muttluks® All Weather

Price Point – High (around $55 for all four boots)

Best Application – Short duration hikes or walks on hot sand, gravel, or pavement; Foot wrap in case of injury

Would I recommend? Yes!

Muttluks

Muttluks out of bag

Muttluks bottom

Initial Thoughts

Since we’ve owned a pair of Muttluks® Dog Hiking Boots for over 15 years – I am a huge advocate of how long-lasting they are. We originally bought them for snow conditions when we lived in Washington, but they have held up well with occasional use here in Arizona under drastically different conditions. They stay on well and are comfortable for Maia. The pair we own is very broken in so that might have something to do with how comfortable they are.

The Muttluks® that are sold today look identical to the pair we own – another testament to the quality of this brand. They also offer a more inexpensive version called Hott Doggers. I also just discovered that they might have a size that will fit Roo. It’s hard to find small sizes for tiny dogs.

The Hike Test

Maia does well in these boots when she needs light protection from heat or has sore pads. These boots do not offer much in the way of traction so we use them more on flat trails and pavement. I do like the leather bottoms because I think they feel more like wearing no boots at all (which is what most dogs prefer). However, the leather is also vulnerable to ripping on gravel and boulders or being punctured by cactus spines or thorns.

Muttluks Standing

Are you talking to me?

Muttluks Dog Hiking Boots

Pros

  • Sturdy and well constructed
  • Good protection from hot pavement and sand
  • Easy on and off
  • Decent ventilation (but not great)
  • Carrying case included
  • Reflective strip on straps
  • Works well in both desert and other climates (snow!)
  • Proven to be VERY long-lasting!
  • Stays on!

Cons

  • Only light protection from spines and glochids
  • Leather sole very vulnerable to rips and tears from cactus spines or thorns
  • Poor traction due to smooth bottom of boot
  • Expensive compared to alternatives

Style 4 – Waxy Balm

Specific Formula – Musher’s Secret™

Price Point – Low (around $13 for one long-lasting container)

Best Application – Proactive protection against raw pads from sand, dirt, or other irritants

Would I recommend? Yes, for some purposes

Musher's Secret

Musher's Secret Inside

Initial Thoughts

Because I just kept reading about how great this stuff is for paw protection – I had to see what it was all about. It’s cheap, portable, and lasts forever. And if you’ve got a dog like I do who leans towards sore paws (Maia) – it seems like a great idea.

The idea behind this thick, waxy balm is that it forms an invisible barrier against irritants and helps to keep pads moisturized under harsh conditions. Since there isn’t any boot to wear – dogs won’t object or have to get used to it and the waxy coating actually lasts longer than I expected it to.

The Hike Test

We tried this out on Roo first since it’s allergy season and she’s been licking her pads a lot. Hiking seems to make it worse – I assume because she’s walking on the allergens. I thought she’d squirm and refuse to walk and just try to lick it off. I was surprised that it hardly seemed to bother her at all. In fact – she didn’t try to lick it off at all…and she’s a HUGE paw licker usually.

Obviously this isn’t as serious of protection as other foot protection – it offers no heat protection, no spine or thorn protection, and no protection from rocks/gravel/other abrasions. But I have to say – it seemed to do a great job protecting against sand rawness. And it’s a handy moisturizer to have along for us people as well – a nice little balm to help protect cuts and scrapes while you’re on the trail.

The label claims that it helps protect against hot asphalt burns as well – but I didn’t even attempt that because our asphalt is hotter than most parts of the country. I suspect the wax would simply melt on the dog’s paws.

Maia didn’t mind this wax either – just looked bored when I applied it. She didn’t bother to lick it off after the fact either. The wax is food grade so even if she had licked it off – I wouldn’t have cared.

Overall – this is an interesting alternative that might prove handy to have along on hikes for more than just it’s intended use. I would definitely recommend it.

Initial application on Roo

After application on Roo

Musher's Secret in action

At hike's end

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Serves as both protection and a healing salve for raw or lick spots
  • Easy on and off
  • Breathable
  • Long-lasting (although it does melt in heat so don’t leave this in your car in summer)
  • Dogs didn’t mind it – feels like bare paws
  • Possibly has other uses

Cons

  • No protection from rocks, spines, thorns, glochids
  • Minimal protection against temperature extremes
  • Offers no traction
  • Attracts dirt and dust

Style 5 – Thin Rubber Covering

Specific Boot – Pawz Protex®

Price Point – Low (around $10)

Best Application – Foot protection due to injury, allergy, or hot spot; Traction on slick surfaces; Wetness protection

Would I recommend? No

Pawz Protex Dog Hiking Shoes

Initial Thoughts

I originally bought these since they had Roo’s size (which was unusual) and was simply curious. They look like little balloons for paws. I’ve heard of people using them for injury protection (since the injury stays dry). I read many reviews where people raved about how their dog didn’t mind them one bit. And the labeling on the product says that they protect against sand rashes, hot pavement, red clay, allergies, and offer traction control. Plus, they’re inexpensive and disposable. They come in a pack of 12 so if you lose one or two – it’s no big deal.

The Hike Test

The problems began immediately after we tried to put them on Roo. They fit like a tight little glove. Roo hated them! I could not get her to keep all four on at the same time. Plus they were crazy hard to put on!

We didn’t even get close to a hike with these boots on. She wouldn’t walk – she just sat and tried to rip them off with her mouth. I’m writing these off as a huge fail for her. Other dogs might be easier going – but I doubt Maia would tolerate them either.

They’re just a bit too much like a balloon. Would you want to wear a tight rubber balloon on your foot? I know I wouldn’t.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Could serve as a cover for an already injured foot – for example keeping a bandage in place
  • Disposable – no big deal if you lose one

Cons

  • No protection from rocks, spines, thorns, glochids
  • Minimal protection against temperature extremes
  • Not breathable
  • Difficult to get on and off
  • Dogs HATED them!

 

Overall – I’m still a huge Muttluks® fan, but I am now a fan of Ruffwear® too! It’s good to have choices.

Here are two quick videos of the dogs in action – the first is Maia wearing Ruffwear® and Roo wearing Ultra Paws®. The second is Maia wearing Muttluks® and Roo wearing Musher’s Secret™.

Remember – fit is the most important key to success with your dog hiking boots. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on measuring your dog. And allow your dog time to adjust to the feel – lots of praise and some treats go a long way towards boot acceptance. Happy hiking!

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RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.

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