Top Elk Hunting Boots According to Seasoned Hunters

View of an elk hunter's legs with his boots kicked up while resting in a field
The Best Elk Hunting Boots of 2023

It’s never too early to think about the best elk hunting boots for the upcoming season. Next to your weapon, it’s the most essential item on your checklist. Take it from me, a lifelong elk hunter and a backcountry hunting guide; your footwear is something you don’t want to skimp on.

Whether you’re a hardcore archery hunter trying to stalk quietly through the elk woods on a warm September day, or a rifle hunter chasing winter wapiti, you need the proper footwear to match the weather and terrain.

Early or late season, men or women, you’ll find the right boots on this list for your specific hunt. I‘ve only included brands I, or other guides and hunters I know, have personally worn, tested, and reviewed from trusted companies like Zamberlan, Crispi, Danner, and more.

While I caution against buying cheap boots, I’ve included options for every budget. I’ve seen many elk hunting trips come to a devastating end thanks to blisters, cold feet, and rolled ankles. Get the best elk hunting boots you can afford in 2023.

Let’s get started.

Why Picking The Right Pair Of Boots Can Make Or Break Your Elk Hunt

Boy, have I seen it all? After a lifetime of haplessly wandering through the forest in pursuit of the wild and wacky wapiti, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two. The thrill of the chase has revealed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

I’ve learned that if it can go wrong, it’ll go wrong. It’s not that I’m anal about buying the most expensive gear and the fanciest gadgets, but I simply don’t skimp on quality when it comes to my boots. Nothing can make your hunt go south faster than a twisted ankle or soggy feet.

Hunting elk is different from hunting whitetail deer. Fair chase mountain hunting can be grueling, rugged, and put your feet through hell. Ensure you have footwear that holds up under harsh conditions, and get boots designed to provide ankle support while carrying heavy packs.

Take a page from my book of blunders: good boots are non-negotiable. 

Remember – not all elk boots are created for the same purpose. Ensure you choose the right design for the season you will be hunting – early-season, all-season, or late-season.

Best Early Season Elk Hunting Boots

By its very nature, archery hunting can be a grueling experience that requires much preparation to execute successfully. Dedicated bowhunters and backcountry guides spend countless hours preparing their bodies and equipment for opening day.

September can be unpredictable for bow and muzzleloader hunters. 80-degree days can quickly turn into freezing temps in the high country. Having the proper footwear to get you back to camp is essential. Here are my top picks.

Best Overall Bowhunting Boot
Zamberlan 4014 Lynx

Craggy high country stands no chance when you lace up a pair of Zamberlan Lynx. Rain, sleet, snow, and shale – it’s all gravy for our favorite bow-hunting boots. Damn dependable; we trust the Lynx when backpack hunting deep into the woods.

You’ll hear me echo this sentiment throughout this post: Zamberlan means quality. Their meticulous attention to detail is apparent when you lace up a pair of Zambos. Each set is handmade and carefully inspected before being put in the box.

Lightweight but breathable, your feet will be an afterthought when you lace up the Lynx. I prefer the 4014s over the 1214s because they have the BOA lacing system, but I’m just splitting hairs here. They’re essentially the same boot.

Yes, the camo leather is a gimmick considering elk won’t get close enough to see your feet. But trust me when I say the leather provides a sleek and stylish aesthetic. You’ll turn heads in a sea of bland brown leather.

Do you want to learn more? Check out our full-length and in-depth review.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $440/ Ankle Height: 9” / Materials: Gore-Tex, Camo Leather, Rubber Rand Toe

Insulation: Uninsulated / Outsoles: Zamberlan Vibram® 3D

Benefits: Tough, rugged, and reliable. Downhill brake. Breathable in the early season, but versatile enough to wear late into the year with the proper socks. Stylish. 

Drawbacks: A good pair of Zamberlans will last many years, but they’ll cost you some serious $$. They are not cheap boots by any stretch of the imagination. They’re remarkably agile but may not be ideal for someone who prefers a trail runner style for bowhunting. 

Comparisons Main Differences
Crispi Briksdal Crispi is slightly less expensive, and has a stiffer feel & full rubber, rand.
Zamberlan Leopard The Leapord has a Similar look and feel to Lynx but with a low-mid ankle.

Runner-Up
Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Grey/black hunting and backpacking boots

I bring you one of my all-time favorite boots: the Salomon Quest 4. You don’t have to look further when searching for the best archery elk hunting boots. The Quest series has a hiking boot feel that keeps you light on your feet and lets you get close to elk without making much noise.

Salomon has never let me down and makes comfy footwear built to last. If you plan on putting in serious miles, going into the backcountry, doing a drop camp, etc., these are your go-to‘s.

I own a pair of Salomon’s. They’re incredibly comfortable to wear on long hikes and scouting for elk early in the year. I wore Quest 3’s while guiding a tour of Patagonia. That trip was 76 miles in 10 days, but my boots held up well. (Also, no hotspots.)

I wouldn’t recommend the Quest 4 GTXs to late-season hunters who anticipate trudging through heavy snow and muck. However, they’re more than suitable for those hot September days while searching through the woods for the elusive Wapiti.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $230/ Ankle Height: 6.5” / Materials: Gore-Tex, Leather/Textile, Rubber 

Insulation: Uninsulated / Outsoles: All-terrain ContaGrip® 3D

Benefits: Reliable and comfortable. They keep you stable and grip well on a variety of surfaces. Breathable. Gore-Tex keeps your feet dry. 

Drawbacks: You’ll want to look elsewhere for a late-season boot. The mid-ankle height is undesirable in deep mud and snowy conditions.

Comparable Boots Main Differences
Lowa Renegade Very similar ankle support; Lowa is all leather and has a stiffer sole
Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX Ultra is more sporty and narrow than the Quest, which tends to be stiffer but broader in the forefoot.

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Run-and-Gun Sneaker Style
Under Armour HOVR Dawn

Camo Under Armour hunting footwear for elk and deer

I debated having Under Armour on this list. Like many hunters, I still haven’t forgiven this brand for caving to pressure and dropping Sarah Bowmar’s sponsorship for spearing a bear in Canada. But enough time has passed, and I think I’ll give them a second chance.

I was first turned on to Under Armour’s sneaker-style boot in the military. Nothing compared to this boot style’s flexibility and comfort, two attributes I valued above all else when spending 10 hours a day on my feet.

For the same reasons, the HOVR Dawn has caught my eye. Under Armour has created a waterproof boot with ultralight yet durable uppers combined with their HOVR running shoe cushioning system. You get something that fits more like a gym shoe than an elk boot.

A combination of durability and comfort means you can put some serious miles on these puppies before your feet get sore. Run-and-gun style hunters will love how they feel while spotting and stalking elk from ridge to ridge.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $190 / Ankle Height: 6” / Materials: Lightweight Textile, Rubber 

Insulation: Uninsulated / Outsoles: High Traction Rubber Lug

Benefits: Unbelievable comfort, waterproof, breathable, running-shoe style cushioning. Their lightweight design allows you to move with more stealth through the woods.

Drawbacks: Not a late-season boot. They’re less durable than leather boots. My not provide quite enough stiffness while carrying heavy loads.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Zamberlan Anabasis MID Both are lightweight & agile, but Zamberlan is considerably more durable. (And expensive.)
HOKA Anacapa MID Both HOKA and UA strike an outstanding balance between boot and shoe. HOKA may be more durable with lightweight leather uppers, though.

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All-Season Elk Hunting Boots for Rugged Mountain Terrain

I hunt year-round and run several types of boots depending on the season, the weather, or the mood I’m in. Admittedly, I’m a bit biased in my opinion here. After all, I’m a gear reviewer and love getting my hands on as much of it as possible.

I realize that only some people are as big of a gear nerd as I am, and many prefer to run with one pair of versatile all-season boots–so I made a whole section just for you. Here are my favorite go-to boots to wear in every condition.

Broken In Right Out of The Box
Danner Pronghorn

Danner Pronghorn

Danner Pronghorns are lightweight boots that have been a staple of the elk-hunting world for over two decades. And the new generation of Pronghorns still holds its own when comparing top-quality elk hunting boots.

Danners last a LONG time. I have regularly seen guides and hunters with the same pair of Pronghorns, year after year. For this reason, I rank them among the best elk hunting boots on the market.

My feet tend to run cold in these boots. I recommend following this guideline for insulation: 400g for early seasons, 800g for the later rifle seasons, and if you anticipate hunting in subzero temps for many hours, I’ll go with 1000g+.

No matter what you choose, insulation-wise, my favorite thing about Danners is that they’re broken in out of the box. Of course, putting some miles on your boots before the hunt is always wise, but their ability to conform to your feet quickly is unmatched.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $270 / Ankle Height: 8” / Materials: Lightweight Textile, Rubber, full grain leather, Gore-Tex 

Insulation: Uninsulated / Outsoles: Terra Force NEXT platform

Benefits: Easy to break in, versatile year-round footwear, flexible outsole, and footbed, waterproof, breathable

Drawbacks: Get enough insulation and wear good socks if your feet run cold like mine. Pronghorns require lots of cleaning and care; expect them to require new waterproofing often.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Irish Setter Elk Tracker Irish Setters have more meat to them and a stiffer outsole but require a longer break-in period
Meindl Hunter Meindl Hunters are all-leather and provide superior ankle support but are significantly more expensive.

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Time-Tested Mountain Boots
Rocky Bear Claw

Brown shin-high boot for hunting, working, and everyday winter wear

Out of the box, the Rocky Bearclaws look and feel top-notch. Made here in the USA, Rocky Brand boots have long been known for their toughness, protection from the elements, and durability.

A rigid boot deserves a solid break-in period, so give these bad boys a few days to loosen up before you lace them up for your hunt. After that, they’ll be as comfortable as an elk-hunting boot can get.

Bearclaws will keep your feet warm and dry as temperatures drop into the single digits (when paired with a suitable set of hunting socks.) If you plan on hunting in sub-zero temperatures, look at the Rocky Arctic Bearclaws instead, which boast 1,400 grams of insulation and keep your feet toasty in the most frigid conditions.

They’re made from 100% leather with a GORE-TEX lining and are fully waterproof. Treat them with Sno-Seal or mink oil for added protection from the elements. Take care of the leather, and these boots will take care of your feet.

Outside of elk hunting season, the Bearclaws are stylish and comfortable enough to be worn for work or as an everyday boot. They’re versatile, so rest assured they won’t be sitting around gathering dust for 11 months a year.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $237 / Ankle Height: 9” / Materials: Full Grain leather, nylon, Gore-Tex, Rubber

Insulation: 200-1000 g / Outsoles: Rocky® Air-Port® cushion footbed

Benefits: Made-in-the-USA, super rugged steel shank in the footbed provides unbeatable strength.

Drawbacks: Rocky Bearclaws are really heavy and bulky boots. If you need a lightweight boot to sneak around in, look elsewhere.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Irish Setter Elk Tracker Very similar feel and break-in period, but Irish Setters are known for being a bit more durable and comfortable once broken in.
Danner Pronghorn Pronghorn boots will feel slightly more comfortable out of the box, but Rocky is a bit more rugged.

Excellent Ankle Support for Pro Hunters
Zamberlan 980 Outfitter

Working multiple seasons as a guide, ranch hand, or meat packer requires investing in quality footwear. Trail runners may be sufficient for occasional use, but cheap boots eventually lead to ankle injuries in these demanding settings.

Don’t leave things up to chance if you anticipate carrying heavy loads in the backcountry. Full ankle support with a reliable footbed and outsole is not a luxury when it’s your business to stay healthy for your clients or to get back home safely to your family.

Zamberlan Outfitters are the boots I trust when guiding elk and mule deer hunts in the mountains, and I can confirm that they’re incredibly reliable. They keep my footing secure over any terrain and are warm enough to wear deep into the winter months.

My pair of Outfitters fit great right out of the box, and the break-in period was minimal. Zamberlan’s unmatched quality control and artisanal approach to bootmaking means you can sleep easy knowing your footwear comes from the upper crust of boot brands.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $490 / Ankle Height: 11” / Materials: full grain leather, rubber, textile. Gore-Tex

Insulation: 600g bottom, 400g uppers / Outsoles: Vibram Star-Trek ™  

Benefits: Solid grip and ankle support make this the best boot for guides, packers, and outfitters. Attention to detail and reliability come standard with the Zamberlan brand.

Drawbacks: These are expensive boots. Also, if you’re searching for a sporty fit, look elsewhere. Outfitters are large and in charge.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Crispi Nevada I’m splitting hairs here, but I prefer the breathability of Zamberlan over Crispi. Both are fine Italian boots that will last forever.
Zamberlan Wasatch Wasatch is an insulated boot similar to the Outfitters that’ll keep your toes warm when you’re on snow and ice.

Warmest Boots for Late Season Elk Hunting

Mark my words, pal– if you get cold feet, your hunt will suck, big time. Don’t sell yourself short if you’re planning an elk hunt where you know there will be snow and ice. Adequate insulation is a must if you’re going to be spending long hours in the elements.

Check out the following boots if you struggle to keep your toes warm during those late-season winter hunts in which you anticipate arctic temps. Here are my favorite options.

Super Warm but Remarkably Lightweight
Schnee’s Extreme 10”

Mid-shin leather hunting boot

Purchasing a set of boots rated for polar conditions typically means lacing up a pair of what seems like 20 lb clod-hoppers and trudging slowly through the snow while making tons of noise. Well, knock off all the racket and check out the Schnee’s Extreme.

My guide friend Ryan wears Schnee’s Extreme, and he says they’re incredibly protective of your feet as they have a complete rubber boot design akin to a pair of Sorels. Combine that protection with an inner insulation liner, and you have footwear that can withstand arctic conditions.

These boots keep your feet warm even in sub-zero temperatures; you can wear them ice-fishing, trapping, or on the snowmobile. The Scnhee’s brand means quality, so sleep easy knowing they’re durable enough to withstand more use than just your elk hunt.

What boots does Steven Rinella wear? Schnee’s Montana. That’s an endorsement if you ask me. ‘Nuff said.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $379 / Ankle Height: 10” / Materials: Nubuck leather with Hydrobloc, Gore-Tex, Rubber

Insulation: 600g bottom, 400g uppers / Outsoles: Goodyear Advantage™ 

Benefits: When it comes to a versatile cold-weather boot, it’s hard for us to find anything that matches the quality, durability, warmth, and agility of Schnees Montana. 

Drawbacks:  Unless you’re on a budget, any critique of these boots is just nitpicky–they’re there that good.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Sorel Caribou If you’re on a budget, Sorel has been making affordable pac boots for decades. They typically MSRP for ⅓ of the cost.
Kenetrek Northern Set a pair of Northerns next to a pair of Extremes, and good luck telling them apart. One major difference–Schnees is made in the USA.

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Late-Season Boots for Rugged Terrain
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme

Light brown mid-shin leather hunting footwear for elk

Okay, I’m sure your head is probably spinning at this point, and that’s okay. You might be just as lost as when you started when you gotta choose between top-flight brands like Crispi, Zamberlan, and Kenetrek.

And here’s the thing: I’m not here to convert any of you or persuade you to pick one brand over the other. I’m just laying it out there and letting you decide.

All the options above are quality choices that’ll prepare you for the demands of wapiti hunting. I picked Kenetrek Mountain Extreme for this spot because I’ve experience with them, and they used to be my go-to boots for several late seasons.

I’ve since moved on because I value quality, and Zamberlan, in my opinion, has unmatched attention to detail. Kenetrek is now manufactured overseas, and for what it’s worth, some report that the quality is not what it used to be.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $520 / Ankle Height: 10” / Materials: Full Grain Leather, Nylon, Rubber, Wind-Tex

Insulation: 400g thinsulate  / Outsoles: K-Talon™ 

Benefits: Tough & rugged, warm, and they’re ready for high mountain adventures. Kenetrek makes professional footwear for hardcore hunters. 

Drawbacks: Kenetrek Mountain Extreme is one expensive boot. Some have complained of minor issues recently, but I’ve never had any problems.

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Meindl Comfort Fit Extreme If you value comfort over strength, then take a hard look at the Meindl Comfort Fit Extreme. They’re similar in ruggedness to the Kenetreks but much more padded and comfy.
Crispi Guide Similar feel and quality, but Crispi Guides have a slightly stiffer sole. Kenetreks are a little heavier and clunkier, thanks to a steel shank.

Best All-Season Elk Hunting Boots For Women
Crispi Briksdal GTX

Crispi brand women's Briksdal

Well, first things first, I’m not a woman, and I’m no expert in women’s footwear. But I can tell you that women need ankle support and to have their feet protected from the elements every bit as much as men do.

When I approached this subject with the best woman “hunter” I know (my wife), she was quick on the draw to point me towards Crispi. She has a much narrower foot than I do and has a hard time with boots that run a little wide as her feet have too much play in them.

My wife says Crispi boots keep her feet snug as a rug, and less wiggle room means fewer hotspots. The Briksdal model is new for 2023, and I picked them because they’re the most rugged all-terrain and all-season boot in Crispi’s women’s lineup.

Specs / Benefits / Drawbacks / Comparisons

MSRP: $435 /Ankle Height: 8”/Materials: Nubuck Leather, Rubber, Gore-Tex

Insulation: 200g Gore /Outsoles: Vibram™ Dual Density Polyurethane 

Benefits: These boots will help keep a more narrow or petite foot from getting blisters. 

Drawbacks: There are very few downsides (if any) to owning a pair of Italian leather boots; when it comes to Crispi, any drawbacks are just splitting hairs. 

Comparable Boots Main Differences 
Danner Wayfinder If you aren’t looking to break the bank and still want a reliable woman hunting boot, look no further than Danner Wayfinders.
Zamberlan Lynx WNS I run a pair of Lynx (see above) for all my early seasons. Zamberlan makes the same boot in a woman’s fit.

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Pair Your Boots With The Right Pair Of Socks

It doesn’t matter what boots you are running; if you’ve sub-optimal hunting socks, your feet are going to suffer. Blisters and hotspots come from poorly fitted socks rubbing against your wet feet.

The phrase ‘cotton kills’ is completely appropriate when it comes to choosing the right set of socks. Wool socks are the way to go because they keep your feet dry while keeping them warm and toasty.

My All-Time Favorite Hunting Sock: Darn Tough Hunter

A couple of pairs of Darn Tough socks, and you’re good to go. I buy them because they have a lifetime warranty. But to be honest, I’ve never worn a hole in a pair. You’re more likely to lose one to the dryer monster first.

Check out our complete lineup of the best hunting socks.

Important Decision-Making Factors

There is a lot that goes into choosing the perfect hunting boots that work for you. You want to strike a perfect balance of comfort, protection, and support. When compiling this list. I used the following criteria to pick footwear for this list.

Comfort

Hunting is hard enough without having to worry about your feet hurting. Make sure you have a comfortable pair of boots and socks so you can focus on the hunt. Some boots are rugged, but they’re also uncomfortable. We didn’t include those on our list.

Durability

If you’re anything like me, you’re tough on your hunting gear. After all, hunting can be a demanding activity, requiring you to cover a lot of ground while carrying heavy loads. That’s why you need boots that can keep up with you, no matter the terrain or weather conditions.

The boots on this list are made for the toughest hunters, and they’ll stand up to anything you throw at them. So if you’re looking for boots that will help you bring home the bacon, look no further than this list.

Breathability

Soggy feet are the quickest way to ruin a backcountry hunt. They are not only uncomfortable, but they can also cause blisters and other dangerous situations. That is why we have excluded products that do not allow for breathability and airflow.

If you naturally have sweaty feet, try these sock liners. They effectively wick away moisture from your feet, keeping them dry and comfortable all day. So you can focus on the hunt, not your feet.

Support

Hunting boots with good ankle and arch support are a must-have for protecting your feet from injury and making hunting more enjoyable. Sturdy ankle support can help you avoid rolling your ankles, while a firm arch can reduce fatigue. A cushioned insole can provide comfort and shock absorption. So get yourself a good pair of hunting boots with a lot of support, and your feet will thank you!

Main Materials

Hunting boots should be made of high-quality materials, such as thick, sturdy leather, a durable sole, and a soft, comfortable lining. These materials will ensure that your boots last for many years and provide you with the performance you need in the field.

Which Boots Will You Chase Wapiti in This Fall?

Above view of a man wearing two elk hunting boots standing on the forest floor
The choice is yours…

In a nutshell, it’s never too early to start thinking about the best elk hunting boots for the upcoming season. After all, your footwear is one of the most essential pieces of gear you will need, second only to your weapon.

As a lifelong elk hunter and backcountry hunting guide, I know from experience that you don’t want to skimp on your boots. Whether you’re an archery hunter trying to stalk quietly through the elk woods on a warm September day or a rifle hunter chasing winter wapiti, you need the proper footwear to match the weather and terrain.

Early or late season, men or women, you’ll find the right boots on this list for your specific hunt. I’ve only included brands I or other guides and hunters trust, worn, tested, and reviewed from companies like Zamberlan, Crispi, Danner, and more.

Don’t sell yourself short because of blisters, cold feet, and rolled ankles. You put in a lot of work to give yourself the best chance at a successful harvest, so get the best elk hunting boots you can afford in 2023.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2024

1 thought on “Top Elk Hunting Boots According to Seasoned Hunters”

  1. Don’t overlook Meindl as a brand here to consider. They really make some great boots and have some real top quality European craftsmanship you won’t find in other brands. The one thing that separates them from others for me is just how dang comfortable they are – one of those you get what you pay for things. I’ve been wearing the brand for over 20 years now and if you are looking a for a good elk hunting boot I can’t recommend the Meindl Vakuum Hunter enough – you won’t be disappointed. I think it is the best built most comfortable mountain boot on the market today. Prost!

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