Abrasion-resistant fabric designed for wear in snow or brush—performance-built for rugged, cross-terrain activities. Bugs stay out. Features sturdy buckle, hook, loop closure. Gaiters stay put, crafted to keep socks and boots cool, dry.
Tricky sizing over calves, winter boots, summer boots. Rip-prone if incorrectly fitted.
Knee-high lightweight nylon gaiters stay up when fitted correctly. Durable instep strap adjusts quickly. Nice fit over larger calves. Alloy steel supports, protects in cold, wet weather. Features dust-proof, insect-proof design for multi-functional safety.
Instep strap is surprisingly short for some. Doesn't support rugged adventures for others.
Unique Velcro wraparound design. Elastic bottom easily fits over any sized boot. Adjustable underfoot closure feature allows for tight or loose wear, creating a customized fit. Comfortable against bare skin during summer hikes. Warm in winter.
Underfoot adjustable strap is too short for some, flops around for others. Sizing issues for larger calves.
Durable, waterproof Cordura material. Keeps snow and debris from entering the shoe, protects pants from getting wet. Fabric provides extra layer of warmth and is virtually indestructible. Professional grade buckle, closures.
Customers say the underfoot strap can come loose. Velcro loosens with repeated use.
Rugged, waterproof nature makes them good for all seasons. Runners love them for obstacle racing and ultra racing. Snug fit and reflective material to keep hikers and runners safe, comfortable. Durable, protective, easy-to-use gaiters.
No lace connection, so they tend to ride up. Tricky sizing for larger shoe sizes.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Beginning hikers have been known to ask, “What are gaiters?” Experienced hikers don’t have to ask that question. They know exactly what they are and what they’re for, and more often than not they’ve used them on a trek.
Gaiters are an indispensable hiking accessory for anyone tackling muddy or snowy conditions in the backcountry. They help keep trousers and boots cleaner and, more importantly, drier in adverse weather and tricky terrain. Gaiters can also keep pebbles, twigs, burrs, and dirt from making their way inside footwear, an uncomfortable circumstance that can force you to stop frequently to empty out your shoes. They can even protect against accidental scrapes and strikes from crampons and walking sticks.
Because there are so many sizes and fabrics available, selecting the right set of gaiters can be a puzzle even for experienced hikers and mountaineers. Do you need knee-high gaiters or something mid-calf? Are they worth the investment for trail runners?
Choosing gaiters requires answering a few questions about what you will use them for. Are you planning a day trip in relatively good weather? Are you a trail runner looking to protect your lower legs from low branches or loose scree? Is a multiday adventure on varied terrain in the works? Are you dreaming of snowshoeing on a powdery hillside? Are you hunting in the backcountry, well away from blazed trails? Each of these situations calls for a different type of gaiter. Consider these details before deciding on the type of gaiters to purchase:
Outerwear: Winter snowshoers and climbers wear more layers and thicker clothing that can prevent gaiters from closing tightly.
Footwear: Mountaineering boots, hiking boots, hybrid approach shoes, and trail running shoes are built differently, and their shape affects how gaiters fit. Cross-country ski boots and snowshoeing boots offer sizing challenges, too.
Fabric type: Coated nylon is a fabric commonly used in gaiters, but hikers need more technical fabrics if they’re tackling a multiday hike, ice climbing, or snowshoeing.
Water resistance: Some gaiters are water resistant while others are waterproof. Water-resistant gaiters are breathable, allowing sweat in trousers and boots to evaporate; waterproof gaiters are not.
Terrain: Consider the terrain in which you’ll be wearing your gaiters. A muddy path presents a different challenge than deep snowdrifts.
Weather: The climate matters when it comes to picking the right set of gaiters. You probably don’t need knee-high, waterproof gaiters when hiking in the desert in summertime.
Gaiters come in three basic lengths: ankle, mid-calf, and knee.
Ankle: These gaiters measure 6 inches or less, extending from the shoelaces to the top of the ankle.
Mid-calf: These gaiters measure 8 to 12 inches and provide coverage from the laces to about the middle of the shin.
Because gaiters need to fit snugly and not slip around the shoe, their construction has some small but important features, including the following:
Hook-and-loop closure: This usually runs the length of the gaiter and allows you to securely wrap the fabric around your leg or ankle and remove the gaiter quickly.
Adjustment tab: Located at the top of the gaiter, an adjustment tab or string allows you to get a more precise fit to keep water and debris out.
Lace hook: A small metal hook at the bottom of the front of the gaiter attaches to the lowest lace on your boot and prevents the gaiter from sliding around.
And, of course, gaiters have optional features that can make your outing more comfortable:
Insect repellent: Some gaiters are made with fabric saturated with insect repellent, like permethrin, to keep ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects away.
Buckled instep straps: Sturdier than lace straps, these leather or synthetic straps adjust using a small metal buckle.
Breathable, all-nylon gaiters offer the best utility among mid-calf and knee-length models and start as low as $15.
A wider variety of breathable and waterproof fabrics, as well as durable gaiters for trail running, can be found within the $21 to $47 price range.
Gaiters built for extreme conditions command the highest prices, from $79 to $150 or more.
Layer correctly for rain. On rainy days, wear gaiters underneath your rain pants so that water doesn’t run down into the tops of the gaiters.
Put the correct gaiter on each foot. Just like shoes, gaiters have a left and a right. If you’re having trouble getting new gaiters to fit comfortably, make sure the lace hook is located front and center on the bottom cuff and the buckle or pull adjusters for the instep strap are on the outside of your ankle. If not, switch the gaiter to the other foot.
Spray insect repellent on the outside of gaiters before putting them on.
Tape the lace hook. If the lace hook tends to come loose while hiking, secure it to the lace with a small piece of duct tape.
A. Gaiters add extra weight to a hiker’s overall load. Granted, it might be just a few extra ounces, but on the second day of a tough mountain hike, you feel every ounce of extra weight. Gaiters can be annoying to put on and take off, which should be done during each extended rest break to allow boots and trousers to air out. Waterproof gaiters prevent moisture from evaporating from boots and trousers, so these can take longer to dry during rest breaks. Trail runners may find that ankle gaiters make their feet and ankles sweat more, which can cause hot spots and blisters. Most of these issues can be minimized by selecting the right type of gaiter for the activity.
A. On properly fitted gaiters, the hook-and-loop closures should hold just fine even when branches and briars are scraping past them. Hikers complain more often that the outer seams become worn and frayed after miles of hiking through scrub or rocks, and they may fail long before the hook-and-loop closures do. Seams can be treated with a multi-purpose seam sealer to extend their life. Hook-and-loop strips should be kept free of dirt and debris to perform at their best.
A. Look for an ankle gaiter with three points of attachment: An abrasion-resistant stretchy instep strap, a lace hook, and a hook-and-loop tab at the back. A bottom opening that is wider and sits lower on the shoe is also helpful because it provides more coverage, and even if it shifts slightly, it won’t expose the ankle collar or tongue of the shoe. Low-cut ankle gaiters are an option; they’re designed with trail runners in mind and feature lightweight, breathable materials and a secure wraparound fit. If debris and burrs are bigger concerns than sweaty feet, consider longer ankle gaiters or even mid-calf gaiters, which are larger overall and made of more durable materials.