I live in Minnesota and my dog’s paws get cold easily. So if we want to hike more than a mile in the winter, I need to bring a set of dog boots along on our adventures. Over the years, we have tried out a lot of different dog boots, so this year I put our top 3 winter dog boots to the test and compared them on a number of different qualities to see which style of dog boot performed the best.
Winter Dog Boots
There are many different brands of winter dog boots currently on the market. In this blog post, I am comparing the following three:
- Dog Booties (from DogBooties.com) – a lightweight and simple Cordura fabric boot originally designed to prevent snow from building up in sled dogs’ paws. The Dog Booties come in 3 different fabric types: 330 Denier Cordura, 500 Denier Cordura, and 1000 Denier Cordura.
- Muttluks Fleece-lined Dog Boots – designed for the winter, these boots have a fleece lining, stretchy leg cuff, and leather soles.
- Ruffwear Polar Trex Dog Boots – these boots are designed to be insulated, durable, and provide good traction with a Vibram icetrek rubber sole. For most sections of this comparison, the Polar Trex boots were tested in combination with the Ruffwear Bark N’Boots Socks.
In the image above, you can see each brand of dog boots on my dog’s paws. Below, you can see all of the dog boots tested in this winter boot comparison. First are the Dog Booties (all 3 different denier Cordura fabrics), then you can see the sock that goes with the Polar Trex boot, the Polar Trex boot itself, and finally, you can see the fleece-lined Muttluk.
For sizing information, the 500 and 330 denier Dog Booties are x-small and the 1000 denier is size small. The Bark N’ Boots socks are size 2.00/2.25″. The Ruffwear Polar Trex boots are size 2.25″. And the Muttluks are size small.
Here you can see the size of Glia’s paw for reference (looks like she was due for a toenail trim in this photo).
What Was Tested
We the dog boots in the following:
- Water Resistance
- How much water gets inside the boot?
- How long does it take them to dry out after getting wet?
- Ease of Application (aka, how long do they take to put on)
- How Well Do They Stay On (aka, do they fall off on the trail?)
- Comfortable (aka, do they bother the dog)
Okay, let’s start with our first test for winter dog boots and find out the answer to the question – “which boot will keep your dog’s paws the warmest?”
For this test, I heated water on the stove to a temperature of 140 °F, then I used a syringe to measure the same amount of water into 3 different sandwich bags. I then placed one sandwich bag in each boot, added a cooking thermometer, and cinched the top of the boot up.
For the first test, I compared the fleece-line Muttluk, 500 denier Cordura Dog Bootie, and Ruffwear Polar Trex Boot with the sock liner. You can see the results below.
Honestly, I was really expecting the Muttluks and Polar Trex boots to outperform the Dog Bootie, but as you can see all 3 boots performed pretty well. I didn’t calculate any p-values as part of this “research,” but you can see that the Polar Trex boot retained a little more warmth compared to the other two boots. After 2 hours outside at about 12 °F, the Muttluks were at 30 °F, the Dog Bootie was also at about 30 °F, and the Ruffwear Polar Trex with Sock was at about 40 °F.
Just to try and be a little more scientific, I did repeat the experiment with a control. For this round, I heated the water to 100 °F and compared a plain plastic sandwich bag to the 500 denier Cordura Dog Booties and to the Polar Trex Boot with a Bark N’Boots sock.
Both of the dog boots outperformed the plastic bag, which was nice to see. After an hour outside (as temperatures were dropping into the single digits), the plastic bag was at 30 °F and both boots were around 40 °F.
So there is no clear winner in the warmth round, although subjectively, Glia’s paws feel warmer when I remove the fleece-lined Muttluks or Polar Trex Dog Boots, compared to the Dog Booties.
But just for the sake of ranking the boots, based on the above “tests” combined with my subjective findings, I am going to rank the Polar Trex Dog Boots with Socks as #1, Muttluks as #2, and the Dog Booties as #3.
Alright, let’s move into the weight category. Weight is important for a couple of reasons. One, if you are like me and want to carry these boots around in your pockets until your dog needs them, then it is nice to have lightweight and packable dog boots.
The other consideration is that lighter boots make it less work for your dog to lift their paw/leg. Just like runners and long-distance hikers often like to have light shoes, your dog may prefer not to have heavy boots weighing their legs down.
For this section, I simply measured the weight of each dog boot on a kitchen gram scale. These are the results.
The Dog Booties are the clear winners here. They are very lightweight and super easy to carry around in your pockets or pack away until they are needed.
If you are truly using these boots in winter weather, water resistance is a necessary consideration. Often snow will melt against the warmth of your dog’s legs, resulting in some moisture near the cuff of the boots. Additionally, you may encounter soft snow, slush, or not fully frozen streams on a winter hike.
As a result, I wanted to answer the question of water resistance. For this, I tested two factors. First, how much water gets into the boot when dipped in water for 30 seconds (but not fully submerged).
I folded a paper towel and stuck it into the boots before dipping them in water for this test. I held the boot in the water for 30 seconds. Then after 30 seconds were up, I removed the paper towel and weighed it to see how much water it had retained. Here are those results.
The first time I tried it, I didn’t dip the stretchy cuff of the Muttluk boot in the water. When that wasn’t dipped, no significant water contacted the paper towel. I tried it again and submerged the Muttluk further and the paper towel did retain some moisture. The values above are the averages of both tests.
Next, I soaked all of the dog boots in water (the Polar Trex had the sock inside of it for this test) and weighed them after they came out of the water.
As you can see, all of the boots added a fair amount of water weight, but the Dog Booties all still stayed under 1 oz of total weight.
Also, for the first 4 hours, I did leave the Bark N’Boots sock in the Polar Trex dog boot. At hour 4, I took it out and weighed each separately, and then added the two weights together. But it was the sock that retained most of the water weight. At 4 hours, the boot itself weighed 2.5 oz and the sock was 0.5 oz. At 6 hours, the boot was 2.3 oz and the sock was o.5oz.
So, to summarize the results: The Dog Booties were completely dry within 4-6 hours. The other two boots were still drying. And even 12 hours later (the next morning) the Muttluk still felt slightly damp to the touch although I didn’t weigh it then.
The Dog Booties are the clear winner of this category.
This category was difficult to objectively assess. Subjectively, I feel like the Polar Trex dog boots have the best traction, but testing this was difficult.
I attempted to assess traction by freezing a block of ice on a baking sheet, adding some bouncy balls into the boots (to add weight), and then timing how long it took them to slide down an angled backing sheet of ice.
This didn’t work super well, as the bouncy balls aren’t that heavy and the Polar Trex and Muttluks boots are significantly heavier than the Dog Booties to start with. So the lighter Dog Booties had an advantage.
It took the Dog Booties about 1.9 seconds to slide down, the Ruffwear Polar Trex boots took about 1.7 seconds, and the Muttluks took about 1.4 seconds.
In practicality, out on the trail, Glia gets a better grip and paw protection from the thick Vibram sole of the Polar Trex, so I am going to give that dog boot the number one spot in this category.
On the trail, it’s hard to tell if the Dog Booties or the Muttluks offer better traction. It seems like the leather sole is a little better than the Cordura fabric, but the thinner fabric of the Dog Booties does allow dogs to use their nails a little more through the fabric. So it’s kind of a toss-up for 2nd place.
How Easy Are They To Put On?
The Dog Booties win another category here. It takes me on average about 11 seconds to put on a Dog Booties boot. That means that I can have a bootie on every paw within 60 minutes.
In contrast, a Muttluks boot takes me about 30 seconds to put on one of Glia’s paws (times do vary a little bit). And to put the Bark N’Boots socks AND the Polar Trex Boot one, it takes about 45 seconds (roughly 13 seconds for the sock and 31 seconds on average for the Polar Trex boot).
You might think that it doesn’t matter too much how long it takes to put on a dog boot. But I would like to argue that it can matter quite a bit in freezing temperatures as you stand around outside with your gloves off.
How Well Do They Stay On?
I’ll be honest. I could have tested this more scientifically by having Glia were each type of dog boot on all four paws for similar amounts of time, reporting back on how many times we lost each dog boot to the snow. But I didn’t and you will have to settle for my subjective results here
The dog boot I spend the most time picking up out of the snow is the Muttluks Fleece-lined Dog Boots. I will be honest, that the Muttluks are slightly larger on Glia’s paws than the other two types of dog boots (except for the 1000 denier Dog Booties), so that may contribute to the slippage. But these were Glia’s first pair of winter dog boots and both the Dog Booties and the Ruffwaer Polar Trex dog boots have been an improvement when it comes to staying on.
When properly adjusted, I rarely have a Dog Bootie or Polar Trex boot come off.
And finally, comfort. The Dog Booties seem to be Glia’s preferred dog boots, as they do not have a sole and allow her to have the most natural feel between her paws and the ground. While I don’t notice a big difference between the different deniers, I am going to assume that the thinner fabric of the 330 Denier Cordura is the most natural and comfortable for Glia.
Coming in next are the Muttluk’s fleece-lined dog boots. Glia can wear these comfortably for an entire hike as long as I don’t fasten them too tight over her front dewclaws.
And last on the list, are the Ruffwear Polar Trex Boots. The Polar Trex boots get last place for comfort mostly due to Glia’s dewclaws. She only has dewclaws on her front legs, and she seems to wear the Polar Trex boots without a problem on her hind paws. But when I use them on her front paws, she will stop after a bit of time and start trying to lick and chew at the area of the boot that covers her dewclaw.
This has happened each time I tried to have her wear the boots on her front paws, even with the socks. Since this is a sign of discomfort, I have stopped trying to have her wear the Polar Trex dog boots on her front paws. I have heard that wrapping the dewclaws in vet wrap or otherwise padding them may help this situation, but I have not personally tried that yet.
Overall Results for Best Winter Dog Boot
And the best winter dog boot is? Drumroll please…..!
The Dog Booties! Specifically the 500 denier Cordura Dog Bootie.
You can see how each boot ranked in each category below. When the Dog Booties have the same score it means that I only tested the 500 denier Cordura Dog Bootie and didn’t differentiate the different Cordura types.
Additionally, although the Muttluks Fleece-Lined Dog Boots and Ruffwear Polar Trex Dog Boots both ranked lower in this comparison, they are much more durable and will last longer than the Dog Booties. Such just keep that in mind.
And for those of you interested in seeing these boots in action, I have created a little YouTube video for each dog boot. And will hopefully be putting all of this information into video format in time for next winter season.