Rubber Boots vs Leather Boots; Which One is Right for You?
As a hunter my boots are one of my most crucial piece of gear in my arsenal. A good pair of boots allows me to log more miles to cover more terrain and be more comfortable in the tree stand allowing for extended sits. The question is “Do I invest in rubber boots or leather boots?” Here are the considerations for that question.
Keeping your feet dry. A good pair of boots needs to be able to keep your feet dry. Once your feet start getting wet their dexterity will quickly deteriorate. At first glance rubber boots are the obvious choice here. They normally extend to the mid-calf region providing you with an impermeable barrier to the elements. This is great for swampy conditions, or even for dewy mornings. A good pair of leather boots will offer comparable results especially when coupled with a pair of gaiters. They will not offer the same impermeable layer when trudging through swamps, but they will allow for dry creek crossings and protection against heavy dew. Additionally, leather boots are more breathable, allowing your feet the opportunity to dry out, and the boots themselves will dry out in the field quicker than the inside of a pair of leather boots.
Scent control. Rubber boots are the clear winner here. Rubber will leave significantly less human odor behind for game to smell. Leather boots require a deliberate effort to keep as scent free as possible, but once your feet start stinking in the field the odor will inevitably penetrate the boot.
Longevity. Leather boots hold the clear advantage for longevity. Over time rubber boots tend to become dry rotted and will fail in high stress areas. Typically, this will happen at the ankle area where they are being stressed with every step. The main problem with this, is that it’s not preventable. Over time they will develop cracks. For me personally, a pair of rubber boots lasts no more than two seasons. Keep in mind that I log hundreds of miles each season. Leather boots will also begin to wear over time as well as lose their water resistance. This can be prevented with proper maintenance. There is oil based and natural products that are designed to be applied to leather boots to maintain their water repellent nature. My personal go-to is a product called “Sno-Seal.” It is made with beeswax and is apply to leather boots after they are heated up. It absorbs into the pores of the leather, restoring water resistance and longevity.
Warmth. This is a draw on paper. Both rubber and leather boots can be purchased with varying levels of insulation. With that being said, I would still choose leather over rubber when warmth is the primary concern for one reason. As mentioned above, rubber boots will not dry out in the field. If your feet sweat, that moisture will be in your boot until you are able to take them off for a substantial amount of time. Even if you change your socks, the inside of your boot will still be wet. Leather on the other hand will dry. Leather also allows you to easily change your socks even after your feet sweat because they absorb some of the moisture, so your fresh pair of socks won’t immediately become soaked.
Ankle support. The clear winner for ankle support is a good pair of leather boots. Having laces allows you to adjust the boot to provide proper ankle support. This is crucial when you are covering rough and uneven terrain. There are some rubber boots out there that provide decent ankle support, but odds are they won’t provide you with exactly what you are looking for because they don’t offer the same level of flexibility.
With all of the above points in mind, leather boots are the best of the two options in most conditions. I will still use rubber boots if swampy conditions are expected or if I know my stand isn’t far enough to make my feet sweat and scent control is a must. But if I could only have one pair of boots they would be a leather boot, properly maintained with Sno-Seal. Now that you have learned about which boot is right for you, head on over to our Field Journal page and check out our other tactics.
-If sweaty feet are inevitable before your reach your stand, glasses position, or blind always take an extra pair of socks. The main reason people experience cold feet is due to their feet sweating.
-Neoprene. Some companies now produce boots made out of neoprene and rubber. This provides significantly increased durability and longevity while still offering the same level of water proof barrier offered by rubber boots.