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Gaiters vs. Rubber Boots

Learn the difference between rubber boots and gaiters and why you need both. These items keep your feet safer and protect you from cold, chemicals, snake bites, and insects.

People wearing plastic gaiters and rubber boots walking on wooden platforms.

Let’s clarify that title. It is no contest. Gaiters and rubber boots work together not against each other. You wear them with each other.

Slip on your rubber boots first, then attach the gaiters on the outside of the boots. Sounds simple, right? Now, why would you want to do that? Because these boots work as a hunting boot, rain boot, winter boot, snow boot, hiking boot, snake boot, deep snow boot.

Gaiters and Rubber Boots

Okay, let’s be honest. This is not a fashion look. Forget the articles on little black dresses and how to style your fashion looks for winter. You were neprene rubber boots in inclement weather, industrial work situations, and while hiking or fishing. You wear high gaiters while fishing.

These Boots Were Made for Walking

These boots of rubber or plastic go on over thick socks. They typically come in three heights – mid-calf, below the knee, or above the knee. Gaiters fit around the ankle to the knee and provide added protection. Both pieces of clothing are considered personal protective equipment (PPE). Some work situations require these under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

As far the boots go, most come in black or gray. These are rubber boots, keep in mind, so they aren’t meant to match your outfit. You can find some in festive yellow and occasionally red, but these aren’t for fashion reasons either. You should wear these colored rubber boots when working in dangerous conditions that require you to remain highly visible. The color of the boots makes it obvious where you stand and easier for other workers to spot you.

How Rubber Boots Protect You

This is a close look at a child wearing a pair of rainbow rubber boots.

Footwear made of rubber prevents you from slipping on floors and in natural conditions such as mud and muck because they have slip-resistant soles. The same feature helps prevent trips and falls. Many industries require their workers to wear these shoes, including construction, mining, and manufacturing.

The same three industries require protection from falling objects. They experience a high rate of accidents compared to other industries. Most rubber boots feature steel toe caps to provide added protection for your feet.

They may not look fashionable, but the rubber soles of these boots provide a lot of comfort. They prevent fatigue by using Vulcanized rubber which is no relation to Spock. If you have to spend long hours standing, these shoes can make the time more comfortable and can help increase your productivity.

In the construction and manufacturing industries especially, burns remain a danger. Rubber boots protect you from cements, chemicals, and acids used in these work environments.

Rubber safety shoes also protect you from high temperature environments. Especially important in mining and manufacturing, Vulcanized Rubber boots withstand heats of up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius). They do not buckle, melt, or warp.

They keep your feet warm in cold environments. Waders, a type of rubber boots, provide a favorite “fashion” item of those who love to fish. Fish don’t live in a sauna. You can find yourself standing pretty cold waters to catch the big one. Rubber boots keep your feet and legs warm and dry.

Okay, How About Those Gaiters?

This is a close look at a snow hiker wearing a pair of gaiters.

You might think as tough as rubber boots sound that would be all you need to wear. You’d be wrong. Throw on a pair of gaiters over the boots. They provide added protection by making sure that nothing gets inside your boots. The gaiter cinches or ties around the top of your boots blocking the ability of anything entering them from acid to dirt to insects to snakes and everything in between.

In addition to wearing gaiters over work boots, those who fish, camp, and hike, also wear these handy fashion item. They aren’t for looks although in some religions, the priesthood wears gaiters as a part of their formal religious attire.

Rather than coming in numeric sizes like most clothing and shoes, gaiters come in small, medium, large, and extra-large. The size you choose is based upon the shoe size you wear.

These devices typically consist of PVC, nylon, or spandex. They aren’t meant to look cute. They may close via cinch ties, shoelace type ties, Velcro, or snaps. Occasionally, you can find those that zip shut.

Gaiters come in varied heights. You can find them that end at mid-calf to go over shoes or hiking boots, knee height, and thigh height. These aren’t to be confused with waders which go on like pants but are made of rubber.

You can find gaiters in a number of colors. Black and gray provide the most common choices. You can find them in fun colors like yellow, orange, and red. This is so people can easily see you on the hiking trail, in the forest, etc. and because these make a snake proof boot You can also find these items in camouflage because hunters favor wearing them for protection.

Where to Buy Rubber Boots and Gaiters

This is the REI Co-op Backpacker Low Gaiters.

Source: REI

Shopping for these items might sound tough but you can find them in many stores. sells a large selection of waterproof boots and thick socks. You might want to shop for those you can count on to work in specific situations such as hiking in mountains. Yes, they make gaiters just for mountaineering. You can find them at REI. Combine a thick sock with this muck boot type shoe

During the beginning of both fishing and hunting seasons, you can find a limited selection of both items in most department stores. This includes Belk’s, Dillard’s, Foley’s, and Kohl’s. You have a better chance of finding them at a store in the far north or Deep South areas of the US.

In areas where the fishing industry has ensconced itself, you can find these items year-round. Think Maine or Rhode Island. You will never have a problem finding these items in a store in those states. Workers in the fishing industry must have these items.

Most individuals mail order these shoes and PPE via the Internet. You can obtain better prices and buy in bulk. What? You did not realize you need more than one pair? You should have at least three pairs of gaiters, so you can wear a fresh pair each day. This way you only need to wash clothes twice per week.

Servus Comfort Technology 14" PVC Steel Toe Men's Work Boots, Black - Steel Toe, 8

You need to wear clean gaiters because when you spill something on them, it affects their viability. They stopped the substance from reaching you, but you need to clean them before wearing them again. You also need spares in case something ate through the material. That can happen.

If you buy these shoes and shoe coverings for fun, such as wearing around a farm or ranch, or for hiking or fishing, you can purchase any color you want. Get some bright yellow or racy red rubber boots just to show your personality while cleaning horse stables.

If you work in an industrial, construction, or manufacturing environment, check with your supervisor or union representative. Your workplace may have requirements it must follow, and OSHA may mandate certain colors in certain areas. As silly as that may sound, it is for safety purposes. Just as you must wear reflective gear in certain work situations and a hard hat, the color and composition of your rubber boots matters in specific situations. Not all rubber boots have steel toes, for example, and your workplace may require steel-toe boots for safety.

Gaiters for hiking differ from gaiters for industrial use, so keep in mind that you cannot wear fun gaiters in work situations. They are made of different materials and for different needs.