Many owners think using boots is stupid, while many believe it is necessary gear for dogs. Well, like with every other gear, the answer is: it depends.
Different boots can be used for various reasons like to protect the paws on hot or cold pavement or to prevent the paws from drying out while walking on salted roads over the winter. Many also use them on icy snow when the dog's paws would get cuts. It can also be used inside if a dog has arthritis, or just sliding a lot on the floor in the house. Some dog's paws are just more sensitive than others, so you have to know your dog and see how they can handle different terrain and temperatures.
We also wrote an article on using boots for the winter, while this article will only focus on summer hikes.
Many think that since people wear shoes for hikes, it's nice to provide the same comfort for dogs. We have to start by saying that ANY gear used incorrectly or from the wrong reason can cause issues - even a flat collar, a Y-harness, or yes, boots.
While we always hiked a lot, we haven't used boots before visiting higher elevation peaks in the White Mountains. We started bringing the boots along for hikes on rough terrain above the treeline because that was the first time Mia's paws would start wearing down after a few hours of sliding, climbing on uneven rocks. We regularly check her feet, and as soon as there is any early sign of wear, the boots go on. We are not talking about cuts or scrapes, but if you regularly check the paws, you will start seeing the signs before it would cause any trouble for the dog.
One of the main cons to consider is that even though most hiking boots have a grooved rubber sole, dogs lose traction when wearing them. They will try to jump on a rock or run up on a rock wall, assuming they can use their claws if they would start sliding, but they cannot. This is why you want to have 100% control over your dog on steep sections when wearing boots, even though having them on a short leash can make the hike less enjoyable for both of you if you are used to it off-leash hiking.
Some boots were designed to be softer and look more like a sock. These seem to provide a better grip on slippery, rocky surfaces, but it would still not provide the same traction as using claws.
There are many other potential risks with using boots:
• rubbing the dewclaws or the carpal pads,
• bruising the paws,
• decreasing the dog's ability to cool themselves (since they sweat on their paws),
• might change how the dog puts weight on the feet resulting in an unnatural gait or weight distribution, which isn't good for the joints and the spine in the long-run,
• most of the boots are water-resistant, which is good on the one hand, but it also means that most of them are not breathable, so the paws will get moist as the dog sweats, which can lead to more chafing.
It is always recommended to take regular breaks to remove the boots and check the dog's feet - especially if you are using those boots for hiking for the first time.
Long story short: boots are great for hikes, but using them introduces new risks that everyone should be aware of. They also come in handy for emergencies if your dog cuts their paw in the middle of a forest, far away from everything.
They are good to have with you, but always consider if they are truly needed before putting them on. Most dogs are perfectly fine and more comfortable without boots 99% of the time.
You can check out the reviews of the boots in this post by clicking on the “Boot” filter on our Review page. When writing this article, we only have the review up for the Truelove boots. We are currently testing the Non-Stop Dogwear Protector Bootie, their Long-Distance Booties (which are more for snow), and plan to write the review of the Qumy Boots.