The 10 Best Men's Gaiters
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in December of 2016. With a pair of gaiters strapped to his legs, a man is ready to brave anything the elements can throw at him ... from the knee to the ankle, at least. These handy accessories can keep snow, mud, debris and rainwater from seeping into your footwear. Many will even defang biting wind chills and guard against poisonous snake bites, thanks to insulated, puncture-resistant materials. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 13, 2020:
During this round of updates, while the Oumers High Thicken and Tuban Gear Hiking and Snow were removed due to availability issues, we made several new additions to our rankings, including the Razer Gaiters Snake Protection – a puncture-resistant model comprised of 13 polycarbonate panels, the Altra Shoe Covers – a good choice for cardio enthusiasts looking to beef up the protection offered by their trail runners, and the Pike Trail Mountain Climbing – which come in two camouflage patterns and offer ample splash protection for your shins, but aren’t tough enough to guard against a snake bit.
A few things to think about for this category:
Coverage: There are two basic style of gaiters, in terms of the coverage they offer. Although, within each style, the amount of coverage offered can still vary considerably between models.
The primary style that comes to mind for most people when they conjure an image of “gaiters” is the tall style – like the Maiyu Outdoor Windproofs or the Outdoor Research Crocodiles – which offer coverage to your ankles as well as some, or all, of your shins. Models like the Unigear Waterproofs are even offered in multiple sizes, so you can select an option that’s wide enough for your calves and tall enough for your shins.
The second style is a shorter style, primarily aimed at users who enjoy running or light hiking during winter. Selections like the Altra Shoe Covers and Salomon Low Trails are great for just this purpose, as they guard against the nuisance of snow getting lodged in your shoes as you tromp through a trail full of fresh powder, but do little to restrict your movement.
Protection: This isn’t necessarily a case of more is better, but you will want to make sure that you’ve got enough for your purposes. For example, if you’re galavanting through the bush on a hot summer day, and you’re just looking for a bit of splash or wind protection, a non-insulated model like the Maiyu Outdoor Windproofs might work nicely for you. But, if you’re layering up for a bitter winter day, you’ll likely want an insulated model like the Black Crystal Snows, which will help hold your body heat in, and keep water and windchill out. If you’re working around aggressive animals, or moving through a rattlesnake habitat, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing a puncture-resistant model like the IC Clover Snake Guards.
Style: You might feel like you look a bit goofy in your gaiters, if you’re not used to having them on, but this doesn’t need to be the case. With so many styles available, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to pick a pair that looks great with your ensemble, regardless of what you’re gearing up for. While many users favor a simple black aesthetic like the Unigear Waterproofs, others working in the construction industry often prefer a highly visible option like the Maiyu Outdoor Windproofs over top of their insulated bibs. Hunters and wildlife photographers are likely to be interested in camouflage models like the Pike Trail Mountain Climbing, and runners who like to look flashy should surely check out the eight color options offered by the Altra Shoe Covers.
Jackets For Your Footwear
Over-the-ankle styles are the shortest of all three and primarily designed for trail running and summer hiking activities.
Depending on where you live and the types of weather patterns you experience, certain outdoor elements seem to have a relentless knack for sneaking into your boots and shoes where your feet are the most vulnerable. I can't tell you how many times I've walked the streets during a torrential downpour only to have my sneakers soaked by the rain and my feet nearly frozen by the time I've reached my destination. Now, I'm not trying to say that all conventional footwear is worthless when it comes to protecting your feet from the outdoors and extreme weather, but a handy pair of gaiters will certainly provide some additional protection and warmth in a situation like this.
Gaiters are protective garments typically worn over the ankles and legs below the knee. They cover the tops of most shoes and boots for the purpose of preventing foot exposure to mud, water, snow, thorns, underbrush, and other debris that gets picked up while a person is hiking, skiing, walking, or mountaineering.
Common components for men's gaiters include an entry system, secured by long strips of Velcro on either side; a top closure, equipped with toggles and elasticized drawcords for fastening around the lower legs; lace hooks, designed for attaching to boot laces for added security; and instep straps, used to secure the lower edge of the gaiters when walking. Gaiters are usually constructed from durable, flexible fabrics and other materials like nylon, Gore-Tex, and eVent, among others. Many of these materials offer improved breathability and resistance to abrasions or punctures from sharp objects.
Men's gaiters are available in one of three height categories, including over-the-ankle, mid-calf, and knee length. Over-the-ankle styles are the shortest of all three and primarily designed for trail running and summer hiking activities. Mid-calf gaiters reach up to 12 inches in height from the ankle and are ideal for moderate walking activities and environments where wet underbrush, trail debris, and light rain are likely. Knee gaiters reach a maximum height of 18 inches and are perfect for hiking through deep snow and for traversing streets during heavy rainstorms.
It All Depends On The Adventure
The gaiters you choose will depend upon the terrain on which you plan to travel and the types of weather conditions you're likely to experience when performing physical activity. That said, the more rugged and extreme your environment becomes, the taller the pair of gaiters you should have to ensure maximum protection. In other words, don't go cheap on a simple pair of over-the-ankle gaiters when your ultimate goal is to climb Mount McKinley. Just the same, you don't need a pair of knee-length gaiters for a simple running trail on a sunny day. Practicality is key, and your intended use for the gaiters will inform the best decision.
Next, consider how the gaiters fit. Many men's gaiters are designed to fit relatively snug over most boots and shoes, so make sure to bring the specific pairs you plan to use with you when trying gaiters on in the store. It doesn't make a lot of sense to try on these accessories wearing an everyday pair of sneakers when you actually plan to go hiking with boots. Gaiters should close and fasten easily over your pants, as well. If you plan to use gaiters for extreme mountaineering adventures, look for a pair with durable and adjustable instep straps that are easy to tighten, as they'll help to minimize tripping hazards on steep inclines. When using lace hooks, try hooking the laces as close to the toes as possible to ensure maximum stability. Finally, any hardware with which the gaiters are equipped should be made from a resilient and weatherproof material like aluminum, minimizing the risk of the hardware breaking when you need it most.
When using gaiters in particularly cold conditions, always opt for a pair with multi-layered insulation, so you don't come back from your trip with icicles for feet.
A Brief History Of Men's Gaiters
The earliest gaiters date as far back as the 17th century. Referred to as spats (or spatterdashes) at the time, these accessories were simple leather or cloth coverings worn by both men and women for the purpose of protecting shoes and stockings from mud and water splashes. By the early 1700s, many European nations made gaiters part of the official military uniform with a focus on style and safety, as soldiers could protect their lower legs and ankles, while keeping dirt, sand, and mud from entering their shoes.
Reaching just below the knees, these gaiters were fashioned from black cotton, wool, or silk and buttoned up their sides.
Gaiters were later specialized in the 19th century for horseback riding as a means of protecting riders' legs from dirt and debris on the trail.
By the early 20th century, gaiters were considered less fashionable due to the popularity of men's boots, however the desire for gaiters increased around 1910 when shoe styles assumed a boot-like appearance representing a status symbol for well-to-do men. Gaiters were also used by the American army during both World Wars. Up until the middle of the 20th century, gaiters were included as part of the clerical wardrobe for bishops of the Church of England. Reaching just below the knees, these gaiters were fashioned from black cotton, wool, or silk and buttoned up their sides.
Thanks to a variety of weatherproof fabrics and sturdy attachments, modern men's gaiters can be engineered with safety and durability in mind, allowing them to accommodate virtually any kind of rugged outdoor activity or adventurous lifestyle.