It may be tempting to see if you can go on your next hike with a pair of duck boots. Perhaps, this is the only shoe you have that is somewhat waterproof.
So, the question is – Are duck boots good for hiking? Duck boots are not good for hiking. Although they will perform well in wet and muddy conditions, they are not specifically designed for hiking miles and miles. You can wear them for casual walking and getting around camp but they lack sufficient traction and stability for traditional hiking.
Really, it comes down to your definition of “hiking”. If you are planning on just doing a mile or two in wet or muddy conditions, then they will work just fine. However, if you are planning to do a 5 plus mile hike with a good amount of vertical gain and loss, I would not recommend wearing duck boots as they are just not made for that kind of punishment.
Pros/Cons of Duck Boots for Hiking
Comfortable – Comfort is primarily achieved because of the boot’s waterproof features. Preventing water from penetrating your duck boots prevents and relieves your feet from wetness, dirt, and coldness that could otherwise occur when wearing ordinary shoes that are not waterproof.
Easy to put on – Duck boots are very easy to put on and remove, compared to other boots. This is because of the spacious toe box that does get tightened by lower shoelaces.
Waterproof – Because duck boots are waterproof, you can walk on muddy and wet trails without worrying about getting your feet soaked. Getting your feet wet while hiking is not only uncomfortable. Prolonged exposure to wet conditions can result in trench or immersion foot, which can damage the skin, tissues, and nerves of your feet.
Also read: How Do You Waterproof Hiking Boots?
Fit – The rubber sole of the duck boots are designed to be spacious to compensate for its lack of breathability. Moreover, laces are usually restricted to the leather upper part of the boots.
The spaciousness inside is not ideal for long-distance hiking because the constant movement of the feet will rub it against the inside and cause friction. This, in turn, will generate heat causing your feet to sweat or even blister when hiking over long distances.
Ankle support – Duck boots provide ankle support to your feet up to a certain extent. However, the support is not sufficient, especially when climbing steep terrain and walking through craggy areas when feet are most flexed and arched.
In fact, support is a little weak at the ankle area where the rubber and leather part of the boots are attached. Your standard hiking boots will have much more support and padding in this area.
Breathability – The waterproof features of duck boots become useless if you are hiking on dry trails. It becomes a drawback because the duck boots lack breathability. Due to the lack of air ventilation, your feet will sweat when hiking. When air is trapped inside the boots, it becomes hot and uncomfortable in the long run.
Traction – The soles of duck boots are designed for wet, muddy and slippery conditions. However, it is not designed for dry and jagged terrain. The boots will not have enough grip to handle uphill climbs, scaling rocky terrain, and clambering sharp rises that are needed by serious mountain hikers.
What exactly is a duck boot?
Duck boots are a blend of rain boots and work boots. They have a lower part which is made of rubber and an upper part made of leather. They were invented by Leon Bean in Freeport, Maine in 1911. Bean, an avid hunter, designed the boot to keep his feet dry and warm when going hunting.
The rubber sole of the duck boots would prevent feet from getting wet when you step in muddy or damp areas. Meanwhile, the upper leather area gives you better flexibility to be agile with your movements. Duck boots are primarily designed as hunting boots.
Why they are called “duck” boots
Leon Bean called the hunting boots he invented “Maine Hunting Shoes”. This is because Bean was from Main. Later on, it was called “Bean boots” when he established the L.L. Bean Company in 1912 to market and sell the shoes.
Duck boots are called “duck” boots because they are primarily used by hunters especially duck hunters, who often go to muddy and swampy areas to chase and hunt wild ducks and other waterfowl. The association of the boots with duck hunters eventually christened the bean boots as duck boots, especially when other companies started manufacturing similar boots with the same concept.
The popularity of the boots made its way to ordinary people, who use the boots for other outdoor activities that involve travel over wet areas. Just like ducks who love the water and mud, people can now safely and comfortably trample on damp and slushy grounds and thus, the term duck boots became famous.
Sperry brand duck boots:
Sperry brand duck boots follow the archetypal duck boot concept and the traditional marine lifestyle of the Sperry brand. Sperry is known for inventing the iconic boat shoes more popularly known today as Topsiders. With over 80 years of experience in making shoes, Sperry are one of the best of their kind in terms of quality, comfort, style, traction and weather protection.
Are Sperry duck boots waterproof? The waterproof nature of rubber, which forms the lower part of the Sperry duck boots makes the shoes technically waterproof. The leather part of the boots, however, is not waterproof. It is water-resistant and water friendly. Sperry leather shoes are designed for marine outdoor activities.
They are designed to get wet. Sperry duck boots are not absolutely waterproof but you don’t have to worry about getting your Sperry shoes wet. Water won’t damage them but only makes the leather stronger and improves its aesthetic appeal.
More Duck Boot Manufacturers:
If you absolutely must buy a pair of duck boots, here’s your best bets:
LL Bean – As the original maker of duck boots, LL Bean remains one of the best and most popular brands when it comes to duck boots.
LaCrosse – Known for specializing on top-notch rubber boots for work and sports, the Lacrosse duck boots are best for hard-wearing grubby and icy areas.
London Fog – Because duck boots today have become part of the casual fashion wear especially during wet and cold seasons, London Fog provides voguish designs for duck boots that people can use daily in the outdoors while looking chic and stylish.
A good alternative to duck boots for the serious hiker:
A great alternative to duck boots for hiking are the Zamberlan 1996 Vioz Lux GTX RR Hiking Boots. They are waterproof because they are made with the Gore-Tex waterproofing material – a breathable fabric and a full grain leather with Hydrobloc treatment. They also have 3D outsoles with excellent traction for climbing rugged and steep terrain and downhill braking.
They also have a nylon collar lining for ankle protection, and a flex system for easier forward and lateral movements. These boots are perfectly designed for backcountry backpacking and hiking and would make a great alternative to duck boots.
Can I wear duck boots in the rain?
You can definitely use duck boots in the rain. In fact, these boots are actually designed for rainy and wet seasons. The boots are waterproof in its lower part because they are made of rubber or plastic.
While you can wear duck boots in the rain to prevent your feet from getting wet, it is not advisable to wear duck boots in flooded areas. Leather can resist water but water will eventually penetrate it if soaked or fully submerged.
Do duck boots keep your feet warm?
Yes, duck boots can keep your feet warm for three reasons. First off, the waterproof rubber sole prevents water from seeping through the shoes to keep your feet dry. Keeping your feet dry helps maintain warmth. Secondly, duck boots lack breathability. They do not allow cold air to get inside and traps warm air generated by your body and the friction inside the shoe.
Finally, some duck boots are designed with insulation i.e. micro-fleece lining. These insulators are specifically made to keep your feet warm. Insulated duck boots are designed for use during cold winter seasons.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.