When backpacking or hiking a 14,000′ peak, basically anywhere a paw injury would mean more than a simple stroll back to the car, we always carry booties for Bella. The brand we had been using was working out fine, but we noticed that they didn’t have any tread, and they didn’t have a very close fit to allow for maximum dexterity on rocks. Bella had only really used them on snow, and slipped a bit when at full speed. My fear was that if we put them on her on rocky terrain, she could slip on steep or slick rocks, which she is used to navigating with the agility of a mountain goat with her bare paws. This usual confidence on rocks could mean a devastating injury if wearing treadless booties.
When we contacted Backcountry K-9, they suggested we try Ruffwear’s Grip Trex. These boots actually have Vibram soles for maximum traction, and fit like a glove to dogs’ paws. Backcountry K-9 also suggested that we re-measure her paws, as we mentioned that she frequently got tripped up on her “back boots,” which seemed to fit a little on the larger side. It is very common for dogs to have smaller back paws than front paws! Sure enough, Bella’s front paws were about a quarter inch larger than her back paws.
With her new measurements, Backcountry K-9 sent us a set of four “custom sized” boots. All Ruffwear brand boots are available in singles to allow for different matched sets (or to replace a lost boot). Like human boots, we didn’t want Bella’s first experience with her brand new kicks to be on a major excursion. So, we took her on a few 6-10 mile trail runs in Chautauqua Open Space in Boulder first to test out the boots. Here is what we found:
What We Liked:
- We were most astounded by how FAST Bella ran in these. She is noticeably more animated and excited when running in snow, but we assumed that this was mostly due to temperature differences. When she ran in these boots, she was markedly faster and more energized, even in 80 degree heat. We took this to mean that her feet were more comfortable on rocks and gravel, allowing her to run faster. Her shear speed when wearing the Grip Trex earned them the nickname of “Bella’s magic boots.”
- The tough, vibram soles allowed for worry-free running over scree, sharp rocks, gravel, and boulders.
- The boots fit like a glove over Bella’s feet, and were easy to get on and off.
- Like any boots we have tried, Bella walked strangely with them at first, but quickly forgot her concerns as she became distracted by her favorite activity: running!
Be Aware Of:
- Your dog running so fast to the point of exhaustion! Particularly in heat.
- If your dog runs through a water source, grit and gravel easily become attracted to paws. This junk tends to get inside the boots, at least in our terrain. You will probably need to take the boots off, brush them out well, and put them back on if this happens.
- Dew claws! Check your dogs’ paws regularly if you use these boots. Bella’s front dew claws (she doesn’t have back dew claws) became rubbed raw the first time we used these. With her particular anatomy, her dew claw was positioned right at the point where the boots were tightened with velcro onto the paw. We tried the Ruffwear boot liner socks, but her short, slick fur caused them to immediately ride down and bunch up inside the boots. We’ve heard these have worked well for others, but Bella’s fur made them difficult to use. After contacting Ruffwear, they suggested that we wrap over and under the dew claw in vet wrap to help reduce chaffing. This helped, however we probably wouldn’t go through wrapping her paws and using the boots if we didn’t absolutely have to (for example, in the case of injury). However, we did find that just the back boots alone helped her increase her speed on trail runs.
- We wouldn’t use these boots every time we ran, as Bella already has tough paws, and continuing to expose her paws to our rocky terrain helps to keep them tough and wear her claws naturally.
The Bottom Line:
A great product if your dog requires boots for any reason, and requires tread. This may be a great product for elderly dogs, dogs with paw injuries/deformities, dogs whose paws are sensitive to rough terrain, or dogs completing a long backpacking or other endurance journey. Closely monitor your dog’s dew claws for irritation when using this product.
We didn’t end up needing these boots on our longest backpacking trip this fall, however we brought them with us for the peace of mind that they could offer when many miles out in the wilderness!
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