Monday, April 6, 2015

From Barefoot to Booted: Reviewing Kurgo's Step 'n Strobe Boots

For all the gear we have, I have only ever used boots when Ty wrecked her paws, believing the natural instincts of bare paws on the ground are unmatched.  I feel most balanced and confident in minimalist footwear myself.  This winter helped me see another point of view; the temps were so cold, I started trying footwear for Ty so that we could go for walks and hikes at all.  Thankfully Backcountry K-9 stepped in with a set of Kurgo’s Step ‘n Strobe boots to test out. 

It was regularly in the single digits this winter and Ty was doing the back leg hippity-hop on our walks around the neighborhood.  That’s when I started jogging and taking less/shorter breaks on hikes, all to keep her body temp up and feet moving.  They still weren't ideal solutions so I considered sled dog booties.  I have no idea how folks have such success with them. Just before placing an order, I had a flashback to using them years ago and them wearing out or getting soggy quickly.  Then I tried PawZ with synthetic blend socks underneath and those did alright. They’re a decent solution for winter/snow - $20 for a pack of 12, stay on relatively well, and are waterproof, but no adjustment for tightening/loosing and trap all the moisture from the dogs’ paws as they sweat.  I know several folks for whom this setup works well for winter hiking.  Shortly after trying those, our Step 'n Strobe boots arrived!

The first week was trial week.  Turns out, despite my best efforts, I didn’t size the pups well.  Sizing is essential for the boots' effectiveness and dogs’ comfort.  They will pop off if too big or too small and it is important to remember that a dog’s paw expands as s/he pushes against the ground.  Tango high stepped his way out of having to test them but he was the least affected anyhow so I spared him and focused my attention on Ty.  On leash or in the house, she is perfectly pitiful, freezing or moving with sloth-like "grace."  Over time, she began to accept them on leashed jogs but I/ we really got to test them when she was set loose on the trail.

The boots’ design, neat features, and winter & low light applications make me a boot-believer.  Unlike any other boot we’ve tried, these stayed on, so serious kudos for that!  The boot’s sole is round but the upper tapers to go a little further up the leg than Ruffwear’s Grip Trex model (which we've had in our first aid kit for years and Ty has done four thousand footers in).  It has one Velcro strap supplemented by a cinching cord.  The tread is respectable but a little slick and the rubber is solid.  The boot in general is durable.  The only thing I question is the longevity of the cord.  The other highlight of these is the LED lights that are triggered when the boot hits the ground.  So cool!  The neighborhood we walk is depressingly tiny and some residents treat it as their own giant driveway, putting me on edge often.  I absolutely love the lights and reflective material.  The down side to the lights is that are expected to last for approximately 18 months of regular use and the batteries cannot be replaced.  There is no on/off switch for daytime use either.  So low and behold, there is a place for boots outside of the emergency kit!  For us, it’s winter.

**REVISION: Between finishing this write-up and posting it, I attempted to get a video of Ty in the boots to show them off.  We went to the beach and, while I failed to accomplish the task at hand, I did discover the boots are no match for the sand.  I’m not sure under what conditions a dog might be off leash wearing boots on the beach but, if s/he is barreling towards seagulls, boots will be airborne!  For the most part, at least one front boot would come off and the back ones would remain but it all depended on physics that are beyond my knowledge.  In the past, I took a leashed foster dog to the beach following a paw laceration, thinking that it might be better than the mud-(possibly) poop mix at the dog park and the soft-soled boot she was wearing failed miserably by becoming soggy.  I think that the Step’n’Strobes would be beneficial and do well in that scenario since the dog’s only going as fast as one can walk. (As an aside, the overall concept of going to the beach was successful.  The laceration was naturally washed out by the salt water and I wasn’t constantly worrying she would further agitate or inflame the wound running in the mud and over the rocks at our normal park and she still got plenty of stimulation.)


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