What are Packer Boots? Benefits Explained (+3 Best Packer Boots)

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by  Jon Wadsworth | Last Updated: 

Packer boots look like streamlined cowboy boots, with many of the same features you’d expect to find on a cowboy boot. 

While both types of boot have similarities, a packer boot is ideal for walking long distances over difficult ground, thanks to the raised heel that gives them their unique look.

Remove the raised heel, and you’ve got a fantastic-looking work boot, re-attach the heel, and you’ve got a functional riding boot. As a hybrid boot, can the packer boot be a great work boot and a great choice for riding? 

If you were wondering whether packer boots were a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, I’m here to set you straight; packer boots offer the best of both worlds.

What are the Benefits of Packer Boots? 

Whites Packers

Packer boots offer the best of both worlds; they’re great work boots that provide stability and incredible comfort, with the added bonus of being a great riding boot.

Without losing any of the functionality of either a work boot or a cowboy boot, packers were designed to keep you on your feet and in your saddle whenever you needed.

From packing mules and horses, moving overland with the pack animals, farming, trailblazing, and ranch work, sometimes a cowboy boot wasn’t the best boot for the job, and that’s where packer boots came in.

Hybrid Design with a Unique Look

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Clambering over rocks and walking long distances in cowboy boots is tough, but packer boots are perfect in this kind of situation thanks to their hybrid work boot/riding boot design. 

Packer boots look like hard-wearing, comfortable work boots. With stiff upper leather, they can take a lot of abuse and will keep your feet safe and secure.

Being a lace-up boot means that, unlike cowboy boots, packers are a tighter fit, which is better for working in while on foot; you’re unlikely to roll an ankle over a boulder, and the high shaft offers you excellent ankle support.

These boots were made for walkin’

Whites Packer boot walking on log
Walking in my White’s Packer boots.

With their ankle-high shaft and lace-up front, packers are already sounding like great work boots, but when you add in the raised cowboy heel, they come into a league of their own. 

Packer boots are ideal for walking long distances in thanks to the cuban heel they use, which is designed to offer greater support when moving around. The way you walk in boots changes your gait, sometimes imperceptibly, but over time this can make you feet and calves ache. 

A cuban heel allows for a more natural gait, so once you’ve worn them in, a pair of packer boots with a cuban heel will feel incredibly comfortable, no matter how long you’re on your feet.

In much the same way that logger boots have a high heel to make moving over uneven ground safer, packer boots have the same benefit.

While logger boots are designed for muddy ground, with a heel that helps you dig in for improved grip, the raised packer boot heel helps you not only keep on your feet in the mud but helps your posture, making them incredibly comfortable.

A high arch keeps your sole supported, which is ideal for long trips on foot. Walking uphill or scrambling through woodland, a packer boot is far superior to a cowboy boot. 

Great for Horseback Riding

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Most packer boots have a high shaft, usually around 8” to 10”, which is more than enough for periods in the saddle. And with a raised cowboy heel, jumping in and out of the saddle is made incredibly easy. 

Being able to spend hours on your feet in complete comfort and still be able to ride safely, knowing your boots won’t slip out of the stirrups, is a huge benefit to choosing packer boots. 

Thanks to a cuban heel that’s tapered at the back, but with a straight front, your packer boots will sit perfectly in the stirrup, and as they’re often around 1” to 2” tall, are easy to release when needed.

If you’ve ever tried to ride wearing standard work boots, you’ll know that they feel clunky, slip out of the stirrups (if you can even get your feet into the stirrup in the first place), and are generally unsuited to the role. Likewise, if you’ve ever fallen flat on your face trying to hike in cowboy boots or hobbled home with blisters, you can see why packer boots are so popular. 

Lace-up benefits and Kilties

Whites Packer kiltie and laces

Having a packer boot that can lace up isn’t just a fashion statement, it makes wearing them all day long a lot more comfortable. The tighter fit prevents your feet from rubbing against the leather, especially when your feet and ankles are moving in multiple directions.

In colder weather, you can wear thicker socks to keep your feet warm, and still be able to get your packer boots on easily, and tying the laces as tight or as loose as is comfortable. Another plus to having lace-up boots is that packer boots usually come with a kiltie attached.

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A kiltie not only adds a nice aesthetic to your packers, it’s also very functional. You’re packer boots can take some serious knocks when they’re being used as work boots, and a kiltie over the softer tongue and lace area can prevent sharp objects from breaking through. 

It took some research on our part, but the benefits of a kiltie aren’t restricted to making you boots look more fashionable, their real purpose is to keep your feet safe. If you’d like to learn just how safe they can make your feet, our Pros and Cons of a Boot Kiltie guide has all the information you’ll ever need on this clever boot addon.

History of Packer Boots

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Packer boots have been around for a long time, since just after the Civil War, and are just as relevant today as they were when first introduced. 

Not every frontiersman was in the saddle all day; there would have been plenty of hard work to do at ground level. 

From the frontiers of the Old West to the Rockies, packer boots became widespread in the 1800s and beyond. Before the U.S was covered by railroads and automobiles, packers (essentially porters with attitude) would need to move materials by mule or horse. 

The shift from the Wellington boot, which had been the most popular boot of the era, towards a cowboy boot more suited to the frontier, gradually became more widespread. 

It wasn’t a massive leap of the imagination for bootmakers to combine the best of both old and new, especially given the incredible amount of materials that needed to be transported.

Taking the best of the cowboy boot, riding boot, and the Wellington, a boot that had seen widespread use during the Civil War, the packer boot was born. A boot perfect for switching between horse and foot and one that could handle the often difficult frontier terrain.

3 Best Packer Boots for Men

Now that you know why I think packer boots are so awesome and hopefully agree with me about these versatile, good-looking boots, I’ve looked around for three of the best packer boots available today. 

What I look for in a great packer boot is a traditional look, robust materials, and incredible comfort. I don’t want to be surprised; I want a fantastic-looking packer boot that I can wear all day long. Having worked in packer boots before, I also like the fact that they can look just as good as a smart or casual wear boot.

Best Overall: Nicks Packer

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The Nicks Classic Packer boot looks good enough to eat your dinner off; they look so good I would be loath to work in them. Perhaps a glass case taking pride of place in the kitchen would be their best spot. 

It would be a shame not to wear them, though; the Nicks Classic Packer is a quality boot made with the thickest premium leather. It may not sound that important, but each boot is made using the same hide, so the color and texture of each boot look uniform, making these some of the most attractive packer boots available.

What I Like

  • Hand-made in the U.S, and it shows; these boots look great.

  • Multiple toe options; rounded, semi-pointed, and pointed.

  • Vibram sole for superb grip and longer lasting before a resole.

  • 10” shaft adds solid ankle support, added to the thick leather used in crafting, making these boots incredibly robust.

  • Arch support for all-day comfort, whether working outdoors or for dress use.

  • Available in half sizes.

What I Don’t Like

  • I struggled to find a weak point; although the price is high, I think it’s justified.

Nick’s Packer Boots

The Packer is a workhorse giving you comfort and support all day long for tough, demanding jobs. 

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Best Runner Up: Whites Packer

whites packer

A close runner-up is the White’s Packer Boot, a hand-crafted, 8” full grain packer boot that has been around since 1936. There’s a lot to like about this lovingly-created packer boot, the quality of the craftsmanship is superb.

One thing I was happy to see from the White’s Packer is that it’s available in a D and EE; finding boots for wider feet can be a nightmare, so kudos to Whites for this bonus. Available in half sizes and built with a high arch for maximum comfort and support, this packer boot is an excellent choice.

What I Like

  • Leather midsole & Shank for added comfort.

  • Vibram sole and heel make these packer boots last much longer.

  • Insanely comfortable thanks to the high arch.

  • Handsewn, superior build quality.

  • Available in D & EE, which is great for those with wider feet.

What I Don’t Like

  • The upper is less appealing than the Nicks’ boot, although that’s a personal preference.

  • The 8” shaft is slightly on the smaller side.

White’s Packer Boots

The White’s Packer is a tough and rugged boot that’s maybe a little too beefy for my needs. But I still love it.

If you need a boot that’ll last through years of tough work, the Packer is a fantastic choice. If you’re looking for something more for everyday casual wear, I would stick with White’s casual line.

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Best Budget: AdTec Packer

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For almost a quarter of the price of our two leading picks, there’s a lot to recommend the AdTec Packer boot, which comes in several different styles, all with a 9” shaft. The AdTec Western Packer, with brown Crazy Horse Leather, is a superb boot at an incredible price.

Adtec’s packer boots are surprisingly durable and very comfortable to wear, with a rubber sole that won’t need replacing for some time. Another plus for this budget packer range is that they’re available in EE sizes too, which makes boot hunting easier for those with wide feet. 

Like most packer boots, the AdTec comes with a kiltie attached to the front of the tongue, offering even greater protection if you’re wearing your boots in the great outdoors. You can remove the kilties if you don’t like the look.

AdTec Packer Boot

These packer boots provide maximum comfort and absorb foot pressure using applicant tracking system technology.

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What I Like

  • Pricewise, these boots are outstanding value for money.

  • Incredibly robust, they’re great for trekking, motorcycling, and riding.

  • Available in many different colors, a big plus if you’re using them as a dress boot.

  • Long-lasting; made using full grain leather

What I Don’t Like

  • I’m not a massive fan of the Chestnut/Black style.

  • Not hand-crafted, but the price would be three times higher if they were.

Conclusion

Understanding why these boots evolved to fill a need explains a lot about why Packer boots are so versatile.

It’s that versatility that makes them such a handy boot to own today, especially as the cost of living is rising; a pair of boots that excels in several situations is always welcome in my collection.

Nick’s Classic Packer boot is a magnificent boot, and a worthy winner, though I wouldn’t be ruining these beauties on any mule train. The AdTec Packer is the right price for a quality packer boot that I would happily work in all day. 

Nick’s Packer Boots

The Packer is a workhorse giving you comfort and support all day long for tough, demanding jobs. 

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FAQs

What is a lace-up cowboy boot?

While you’ll have to pull on a cowboy boot like a Wellington boot, some people prefer to lace up their boots for a closer fit. If you are looking for a lace-up boot that still offers the same style as a cowboy boot, then a packer boot or a roper boot is probably the best way to go. Packer boots have a raised heel, a longer shaft, and a cowboy boot look to them.

What is a cowboy packer?

A cowboy packer is just another term for a packer boot; due to the fact that packer boots are a hybrid of a cowboy boot and a riding boot. Packer boots are similar to cowboy boots, though they are much better suited to walking in, especially over long distances or rough terrain.

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