HOW TO CHOOSE... Gaiters

Date Posted: 1 August 2016

Gaiters: armour for your legs. What classifies as a gaiter, when should you wear them, and how do you choose which ones to buy? We break it down for you in this simple guide.

What are gaiters?
Gaiters are fabric sleeves that sit over your ankle (and sometimes all the way up your calf) to seal off the entry to your trail running shoes and hiking boots. They serve several very useful purposes:

  1. Preventing trail debris from falling into your shoes
  2. Shielding your pants and legs against scratches from brush, gravel, thorns, etc., as well as from stings by nettles, ivy, and other poisonous plants.
  3. Helping to stop water from entering your shoes and making your feet wet
  4. Protecting your lower leg from mosquitos, biting flies, leeches and snakebites (please note: this is entirely dependent on gaiter materials. Do not assume gaiters will protect from snakebites unless product descriptions confirm it as a feature)
  5. Providing some extra warmth in cold conditions.

When should I use gaiters?
Whenever you're walking, running or trekking on terrain that's wet, dusty, scrubby...we could go on! If you think you'll encounter any of the following on your trail, we would advise wearing gaiters:

  • gravel - small stones in general have a nasty habit of spraying up underfoot and falling down into your shoes, causing painful stone bruising
  • scrub - all those little twigs and foliage get very spiky and can really cut your legs up!
  • mud - it's slippery, it's heavy, it's hard to clean out... it's everything you DON'T want slopping around in your shoes
  • heavy rain, dew, rivers, creeks, and other water - who likes having wet feet? Nobody, that's who. Even if your shoes are waterproof, rain and other water can splash over the top and sneak in through the shoe opening
  • snow - the same as water, with the extra joy of making your feet icy cold.

That's a lot of mud and small stones...these runners would really benefit from some gaiters!

Which gaiters should I buy?
These ones here! In all seriousness, though, start by determining what you mostly want from your gaiters. What are you using your gaiters for: orienteering, trail running, hiking in heavy scrub? What trail conditions are you likely to encounter? With that in mind, would you prefer lighter, stretchier gaiters or heavier, more durable gaiters? Are you hiking in long pants or shorts? How much protection do you need; do you want shin gaiters or calf gaiters?

I'm a trail runner that needs lightweight, breathable gaiters to keep mud/dirt/sand and trail debris out of my shoes.

  • Choose Altra for a tight, highly stretchy and breathable fit.
  • Choose Salomon for lightweight ankle bone padding that protects your tender spots from bruising.

I'm a hiker with high-cut boots that needs durable, versatile gaiters long enough to cover my boots.

  • Choose Sea To Summit Overland for quality hard-wearing bushwalking gaiters that keep out grit, scratches and bites alike, including an adjustable front opening, water-resistant Ripstop Nylon, lace-up underfoot strapping and stainless steel lace hookes.

I'm a hiker with low-cut boots that needs durable, versatile gaiters.

  • Choose Sea To Summit Tumbleweed for all-round protection with strong yet breathable fabric and a grippy elastic top and bottom complete with secure press studs.
  • Choose Salomon if you prefer lighter-weight gaiters with quick and easy Velcro closure plus ankle bone padding.

I'm an orienteer / rogainer that needs calf and shin protection against the scrub I'm wading through.

  • Choose Bryzos or Moxie Shin for lightweight, knee-length protection that combines protective shin panels with form-fitting stretch fabric that keeps trail debris out of your shoes.
  • For total protection, add on the Moxie Ankle to totally prevent any dust or dirt from grinding at your feet. Or, use it on its own for a lower-cut, more lightweight solution against grit and small sticks.