So you want to tread lightly through the world?
You must do, you’re looking for upland hunting boots.
Upland hunting boots are strong, protective, and above all, lightweight boots.
They allow us, as unusual bipedal mammals, to tread softly and lightly through the environment of some of the most spookable prey animals in existence.
Originally designed to lighten human tread in the realm of the pheasant, they’re catching on with a lot of other prey-hunters.
Like cloaks of semi-visibility for human feet, a good set of upland hunting boots can be an absolute game-changer for hunters of nervous prey.
But how do you tell a good set of upland hunting boots before you’ve worn them, used them, got them caked with mud and probably invalidated their returns policy?
How do you tell the hunting boot from the hyperbole?
Tread very carefully, but come with us. We’ve rounded up the best upland hunting boots on the market today.
Best Upland Hunting Boots - Comparison Table
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Best Upland Hunting Boots - Reviews
Irish Setter is a much-loved and market-leading brand in the world of hunting gear. It would be a strange round up of the best upland hunting boots indeed that didn’t include at least one pair from them. We have two, and we’re refusing to feel even slightly bad about that.
Top of our tree is the Men’s 808 Wingshooter Waterproof 9”.
Well, Wingshooter is the classic design that put Irish Setter on the map – as well as on lots of feet. And the 808 Wingshooter 9” is a perfect example of why the Wingshooter is up there with the likes of the Big Mac, Coke and the iPhone in terms of iconic ‘versions’ of a thing.
With its combination of a leather upper and a rubber sole, it’s a waterproof upland hunting boot, with speed-lacing, a prairie sole and a removable footbed for extra comfort. Oh and the 9”? That’s the distance from the arch to the shaft.
It’s worth really noting the word “waterproof.”
So many boots, curse their lying leaky hides, claim to be waterproof.
Meet the real deal.
Irish Setter has a patented “Ultra-Dry” system, which uses four layers of defense against water. Meanwhile, in case your feet get over-toasty in the Wingshooters, there’s a sweat-wicking layer to keep you comfortable and dry.
The footbed’s easy to remove, replace with any particular orthotics you use, or leave in for extra support over longer trips if you prefer.
Either way, you’ll have warm, dry, comfortable feet, even on longer hunts.
The 808s aren’t in any sense a particularly camo boot, unlike some others on the market. But that gives them the potential of a life outside hunting too.
Waterproof, lightweight, multi-functional rapid-lacing upland hunting boots from a company with a reputation as good as Irish Setter’s?
Shut up, take our money, and we’ll see you when we get back from the hunt.
Are you a woman?
Need a pair of fabulous bird hunting boots?
The Muck Woody PK boots were made with you in mind.
Made of high-grade rubber, you can get them with a warm weather or cold weather package. In the warm weather variant, a mesh lining keeps your feet cool and comfortable, while the boots are breathable. For the cold? Fleece lining for comfort and warmth.
As you’d expect from rubber boots, they’re completely waterproof in any weather. What’s at least as impressive is the EVA foam midsole, which is constructed so as to minimize the likelihood of you getting blisters while you’re out on your hunt.
Because bringing a shoe horn on a hunt is an enormous drag, there’s a pull loop at the back of the boots for easy pull-on and removal.
That might seem like a small thing – but only if you’ve never struggled to get boots off and on.
Enormously comfortable boots, with exceptional waterproofing for the most intense hunting expeditions are a no-brainer.
If there’s an issue with the Muck Woody boots, it’s more aesthetic than functional.
While camo’s not fundamental to upland hunting boots, the Muck Woody’s have some on the upper half of the boots.
But they also have bright pink piping around the top of the boot and zigzagged along the bottom above the sole.
That feels like a nod to the social convention of pink being a ‘feminine’ color, rather than anything that might make the boots useful in the field.
In fact, it might even be considered counterproductive, given you’re likely to be hunting prey that’s easily spooked.
Aside from the vivid pinkness of the accenting, these are excellent hunting boots though.
Whether the aesthetics destroy their effectiveness in the field is probably a question to be answered case by case.
If you’re getting a pair of boots, Danner is a maker that’s right up there among the best you could wish for.
The company’s Pronghorn Gore-Tex hunting boots go a long way to showing why so many people turn to Danner when they can, and when they need to. When the choice of boot makes a real difference in their hunting.
Built with a rubber sole for lightness of tread, then constructed upward in full-grain leather and Cordura textile, these are boots that will last you through years of hunting in tough terrain.
That rubber sole gives you prodigious grip on muddy or uncertain ground, which is job #1 of a good hunting boot – falling on your butt in the mud will alert anything with ears to your presence in their environment.
Waterproofing in the Danner Pronghorn comes through the patented Gore-Tex fabric which lines the inside of the boot.
Gore-Tex has a reputation of its own in the all-weather clothing market, and it’s a reputation for unparalleled excellence.
Put some unparalleled excellence on your feet, keep them warm and dry. They deserve it if they’re taking you out hunting easily spookable animals.
The crucial difference between traditional hunting boots and upland hunting boots of course is the lightness of tread upland hunting boots need if they’re to succeed.
Traditional hunting boots get mileage out of their strength and sturdiness, but that can leave them feeling like you’ve strapped two house bricks onto your feet.
For its Pronghorn boots, Danner has created ‘Terra Force’ technology.
What’s Terra Force technology? It’s a lightweight platform which combines rugged durability, comfort and stability.
Somewhere between a house brick and a carpet slipper, there’s Terra Force.
Adding in an Ortholite footbed gives the Danner wearer long-term cushioning to balance comfort and responsive performance.
Result? A lighter boot that doesn’t sacrifice stability.
Naturally, the combination of comfort, world-class waterproofing and a lightweight responsiveness doesn’t come as cheap as some other upland hunting boots.
And there’s a sense in which you’re paying for the name.
But the name in the case of the Danner Pronghorn translates to a different class of boot. A boot that combines advanced technology and some of the best sure-footed responsiveness around.
Yes and no.
Never let anyone tell you 2” doesn’t matter enough to change the game entirely.
Yes though, the 807 Wingshooter 7” has a lot of the good things that led us to recommend the 808 9” version of Irish Setter’s most famous boot.
The rubber sole is here. The EVA weight-reducing midsole is here. The full-grain waterproof leather is here too.
There’s a nylon liner for comfort and softness in the 807s, which also lets your feet breathe while you’re out on the hunt.
The 807 7” is notably shorter than the 9”, being more of an ankle boot than going any distance up the shin.
But it knows its job – this is not a cut-off 9” 808, it’s crafted specifically to give you stronger ankle support through its padded collar and close ankle fit.
That EVA midsole is crucial to the Wingshooter’s reputation, helping to balance and distribute the weight of your footfall.
That means a lighter tread as you hunt, but more importantly, it helps fight fatigue in your feet, even after hours in the field.
Less fatigue means less pain, means sharper hunting instincts, because you’re not focusing on your feet.
That’s the Wingshooter bonus – they let you get on with the job.
Lightweight, breathable, waterproof boots in a shorter ankle boot edition, that let you get on with your hunting. What’s not to love?
Upland hunting boots are by their very nature special boots.
The things they need to be able to do – staying lightweight to minimize prey-alert, being ruggedly waterproof, etc – all bump up the price you pay for them.
Absolutely, upland hunting boots are an investment. All the boots on our list, for instance, should give you years of service over some of the roughest terrain there is.
But still, with all the pricey add-ons and weave-ins and midsoles, sometimes you feel the need to cry “Won’t somebody think of the purse-strings?!”
R RUNFUN will.
The R RUNFUN Lightweight Anti-Slip Waterproof Hunting Boots are by quite some way the most budget-friendly boots on our list.
But – and this is the important thing – they still deliver the quality of upland hunting boot of some of our other contenders, without breaking your bank.
How is that combination possible?
One word: nylon.
Nylon is combined in the materials that make up the R RUNFUN boots. That means they’re the only boots on our list to ditch the leather.
But don’t make the obvious mistake of that equation and think they can’t be as waterproof as our other listed boots.
They’re just as waterproof and just as breathable as many of the boots higher up the list, but the nylon construction makes them available at a fraction of the cost. The boots are insulated with 200G 3M Thinsulate for waterproofing and warmth.
Of course, once you’ve solved the waterproofing question, nylon can give you a lighter boot-weight than most leathers can even dream of.
That’s why, quietly, one item at a time, the R RUNFUN boots creep up on some of the leading boots in the industry.
R RUNFUN is a newer company compared to those who’ve been in the business for handfuls of decades. But that doesn’t mean it can’t deliver the goods – the Anti-Slip boots prove that it can.
The EVA midsole, as we’ve seen in more expensive boots, cuts down the stress on your feet over the course of long hunts.
And the anti-slip sole that R RUNFUN uses in these boots means you should be safe on harsh, muddy or otherwise dubious terrain.
It would be a brave hunter who claimed the R RUNFUN boots were the most stylish creations they’d ever seen. You’re not going to many cocktail parties in these boots.
But they’re fully camo, which makes them a ‘getting down to business’ upland hunting boot, rather than a multi-purpose boot.
That’s the kind of boot you need.
R RUNFUN might be a relatively new kid on the block. But it clearly has its head screwed on, its business worked out.
And ultimately, it delivers an upland hunting boot that does everything you need – but for a price that won’t give you nightmares.
Best Upland Hunting Boots - Buyers Guide
When you’re about to buy a pair of upland hunting boots, there are a couple of questions to ask yourself before you commit.
Trust The Classics Or Try The New Guys?
Buying a hardcore pair of upland hunting boots from one of the older, more established companies can be a ritual.
It can certainly give you everything you need in an upland hunting boot.
But it will cost you a lot of money.
Buying a pair of boots from a newer company might cost you a lot less. And if you choose the right company, there’s no reason to think you’ll get a necessarily inferior product.
The question is one of your gut instinct – do you play it safe and pay through the nose for a trusted brand? Or are you open to trying new things?
Science Boots Or Traditional Craftsmanship?
Arguably, in some of the best upland hunting boots on the market, patented science and traditional craftsmanship go hand in hand.
But how much is the science worth to you?
Are you prepared to pay extra for four-layer waterproofing systems? Or do you feel more at home with old leather?
What about rubber boots? Can they offer you a midway option, or do you feel weird wearing them?
Is nylon a cheaper option for you or would it feel like copping out?
Ask yourselves these questions about your instincts – and use the answers to guide you to your perfect pair of upland hunting boots.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need upland hunting boots to hunt skittish prey?
You could argue that you don’t.
You’d be wrong, but you could argue it.
Why you’d be wrong is because upland hunting boots are designed to give you advantages over traditional hunting boots.
In particular, they give you a lightness of tread which doesn’t disturb nervous prey to the same extent as normal, heavily constructed hunting boots.
Result? Less prey warned off, more prey successfully hunted with lighter boots.
Why is waterproofing important on upland hunting boots?
Waterproofing is important on any hunting boots. A hunter’s feet are a big weak spot – they can get wounded, rubbed raw, blistered, bloated, you name it, all from water getting into the hunter’s boots.
In upland hunting boots particularly, their lightweight construction means they’re often thinner than clunky, traditional boots.
To prove their usefulness over the traditional boots, they have to be able to offer waterproofing technology that makes them the go-to choice.
So waterproofing has become a key metric of an upland hunting boot’s usability.
Also of course, lots of the more skittish prey live in watery or muddy environments. Go hunting them in their home without effective waterproofing and you’ll have useless feet in no time.
What should I look for in an upland hunting boot?
Waterproofing, lightweight construction, moisture-wicking and a sturdy sole with a good grip are must-haves in an upland hunting boot. They allow you to keep your hunt going until it’s successfully completed.
Beyond that, look for comfort, any midsole that can relieve the stress of walking long distances, and ideally effective camo so the prey won’t see you coming.