Hiking Essentials: Choose Gaiters to Protect Your Feet and Trousers

The winter months are quickly approaching: it’s time to ensure you’re protected from the elements on your next hike, as nothing is worse than getting damp socks. Besides making you feel uncomfortable and cold, this dampness can cause blisters and pain, and nobody wants that. For walkers, gaiters are a helpful hiking accessory since they protect your shoes from damage, keep your feet and pants dry, and prevent them from getting muddy. And they’re a must if you plan to go to locations with streams or tall, wet grass.

What Is a Gaiter?

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A gaiter is a protective piece of cloth that sits between your walking shoes and pants. Imagine it as a cut-off sleeve with a loop you attach to one end that you can quickly hook by a strap under the heel of your foot. The upper part then belts your calf or ankle. In addition to being able to be tightened at the top, gaiters typically feature drawcords that allow for customisation. This design helps prevent more moisture from entering while you’re outside having fun.

What Is the Purpose of Gaiters?

They serve as a protective layer against moisture, such as rain or snow when walking. They prevent your lower leg, ankles, and feet from being exposed. In addition to offering moisture protection, these coverings keep dirt and other debris from your boots, including branches, stones, and thorns. Many outdoor lovers don’t consider gaiter hiking essential. 

Yet, they can be extremely beneficial, as it can be challenging to dry out your boots when moving, particularly in damp conditions. By serving as a barrier between the edges of your pants and your walking boots, comfortable gaiters made of premium materials protect your legs. Additionally, they cover the area at the top of your boot where the laces may become looser as you walk.

How to Choose the Right Gaiters for Your Hiking Needs?

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While gaiter shopping isn’t complicated, it’s best to learn the different types, materials, and features available to pick the best pair for outdoor adventures. While checking them out, consider the trips you usually plan, what conditions you’re likely to face, and the features you need.

Gaiter Styles

There are two main types of gutters: ankle and full-length (knee-length).


Ankle guards will protect the bottom of the pants and the top of the shoes. For individuals who walk in dry weather, they’re especially helpful in preventing small stones and twig fragments from getting inside their shoes. Fell and off-road runners can benefit from this style for similar reasons. They fit much looser than running gaiters, typically composed of softshell or neoprene. When paired with appropriate footwear, they provide reasonable protection against water intrusion.

Full Length

People who hike are more likely to use full-height gaiters. As they cover a larger part of your legs, they provide the best protection against debris and thorns, water and dirt for the lower legs. They’re also the best defence against snakebite injuries!


The gaiters are available in several sizes, which are often determined by the size of the footwear. Larger sizes fit slightly more generously around the calf. If you have large calves, it’s worth trying them on to ensure they fit around your legs.


Most gaiter options today employ synthetic fabrics and have two finishes: 

  1. Water-repellent (DWR);
  2. Waterproof and breathable membrane inside, typically combined with an outer DWR finish.

Basic gaiters typically come in nylon coated in polyurethane and are incredibly light. This fabric is ideal if you plan to fast-pack over talus, sand, or wet bush, or go on a quick day trek. Rugged, abrasion-resistant nylon is sometimes used for the lower part of gaiters. It is made to resist the wear and tear of pebbles, ice, and the occasional crampon point nick. Soft-shell fabric provides superior weather protection together with elasticity and suppleness. 


While higher-spec gaiters also have zipped closures covered by a storm flap (often fastened with Velcro to prevent dirt from clogging the zip), cheaper alternatives will only fasten with Velcro. The waterproof zips that secure some of the best walking gaiters are frequently anatomically formed. That makes it possible for them to open and close more smoothly, fit and feel better while wearing.

Most options are elasticated where they fit against the boot and feature a lace hook to fasten them at the front of the boot. For a tighter fit, they may additionally have an elasticated ankle. Usually, a press-stud fastening and an elasticated pull cord for tightening them are located at the very top. The best—and priciest—coverings now come with an adjustable strap and a click-lock buckle closing to avoid overtightening, which can occasionally happen with elasticated models.

Stirrup Strap

The stirrup strap is a feature of a few adventure-style gaiters. This nylon or rubber strap goes under the foot and fastens on both sides to keep the gaiter in place and near the boot, creating a tight seal that keeps water and debris out. The mechanism for adjusting the stirrup strap is supposed to be on the outside of the boot. If the strap is composed of rubber, it can be cut after the correction is performed. Remember to allow extra for alterations in the future, such as when utilising different boots.