Should Dogs Wear Shoes?

Short answer: Yes

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Sure, dog shoes are cute, but are they necessary? “Sometimes!” say experts. Indeed, dogs should wear shoes when the stuff they’re walking on will do significant damage to bare feet. After all, canine paw pads are designed for the outdoors and can weather a lot of, well, weather. It’s when the elements get out of hand that you want to put shoes on your dog. If your dog could get frostbite, paw pad burns, cuts or scrapes, put shoes on them. And some breeds may require more care than others. Whether this is due to their genes or personality, check with your vet to make sure you’re protecting their paws as best you can.

Meet the Expert:

  • Dr. Lindsey Wendt, DVM, is the Chief Veterinary Officer at Antelope, a one-stop shop for high-quality pet products like Bocce’s Bakery and Ark Naturals. Dr. Wendt is an intuitive, holistic veterinarian based in Los Angeles. She’s also a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT), a Certified Veterinary Food Therapist and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA). Her Instagram page is full of holistic tips and tricks for pet parents everywhere.

What do dog paw pads do?

A dog’s paw pads are pretty incredible. An intricate mix of muscle, tissue, ligaments, tendons, collagen and keratin, paw pads protect doggy toes and feet from getting torn up. They provide support for joints and muscles, absorbing the shock of impact as your dog walks and runs. Paw pads also help with canine circulation! A study from Japan recently published in Veterinary Dermatology says there’s basically a “heat exchange system” in canine feet that keeps them warm during winter. Paw pads also keep dogs cool in the summer by sweating out heat.

Should dogs wear shoes?

Thanks to the miraculous paw pad, dogs don’t need to wear shoes indoors or on a daily basis. In fact, Dr. Wendt says covering paws for an extended period of time could lead to overheating or exacerbate any existing infections.

But, while paw pads do protect your dog’s feet from harsh terrain and intense temperatures, there are occasions when dogs should wear shoes. These instances include extremely hot or cold weather, extended time on rough terrain, when healing from an injury or if extra traction is needed.

Should dogs wear shoes in the snow?

Dogs who weren’t bred for freezing temperatures (think: Chihuahuas or Australian Kelpies) probably need boots in the snow. Breeds like Siberian Huskies and Akitas can get away with more snowy outdoor time as they were built to withstand cold weather. However, snow or not, if temperatures are really low, even Black Russian Terriers will need boots to prevent frostbite. The American Kennel Club says once temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the risk of frostbite increases.

Dr. Wendt also notes that sidewalks are often treated with things like salt or chemicals during winter months that might bother a dog's paws. If you’re in charge of salting your sidewalk and driveway, look for pet-friendly options, like Safe Paw PetSafe Ice Melt ($25 at Chewy). Neighborhood dogs without booties or shoes will thank you.  

“Another category of dogs that can use the extra support that shoes provide is those with mobility challenges,” says Dr. Wendt.  “Snow and ice can make it harder for them to get a good grip while walking and could potentially lead to injury.”

Should dogs wear shoes in the summer?

Folks living in hot climates should test sidewalks with their own hands or feet before heading out with their dog. Dr. Wendt says if you can’t hold the back of your bare hand comfortably on the ground for seven to 10 seconds, you should put shoes on your dog or stroll on grass instead. Don’t rely solely on your thermometer; it doesn’t have to be that hot for the sun to really cook asphalt.

Even breeds that can withstand hot weather need some protection every once in a while—and not just for their feet! Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit mean your dog is at risk of heat stroke. Aim for shorter, less intense walks, shoes or not. “It's essential to consider your dog's comfort,” Dr. Wendt adds. “Avoid prolonged use to prevent overheating, as their paw pads have sweat glands.” 

If it’s raining, there’s no real need for boots unless the sidewalks have become particularly slick in your neighborhood.

Should dogs wear shoes while hiking?

Trekking through the woods or on rocky hiking trails presents lots of opportunities for cuts and calluses. Toss some shoes on your dog! Dr. Wendt says sturdy boots with good traction can protect against painful rocks and slippery areas. If you plan on taking your dog hiking regularly, The Farmer’s Dog recommends introducing them to boots early and giving their paws plenty of time to acclimate to rougher terrain.

When else should dogs wear shoes?

Dogs recovering from surgery or injuries to feet or paws should wear shoes outdoors (and sometimes indoors if necessary). The last thing you want is stitches coming out or an infection creeping in as your pup heals. Senior dogs suffering from arthritis may need to wear shoes for added joint support, too. Talk to your vet if you think this is the case!

Does your dog have an allergy to certain grasses or weeds? Dr. Wendt says that while dog shoes won't prevent airborne pollen exposure, they can help prevent paw irritation from contact.

What could happen if your dog doesn’t wear shoes?

Without shoes, some dogs could develop a condition called pododermatitis, says VCA Ark Animal Hospitals. This is when the paws become inflamed. While fungus or parasites could certainly cause pododermatitis, some dogs experience inflammation after running on concrete or gravel. Look for red, swollen paw pads. Take note if your dog licks its paws constantly or is losing hair on the feet. If your vet concludes your pup’s pododermatitis is the result of too much running on hard ground, investing in a protective pair of shoes might be part of the treatment plan.

Depending on the environment, dogs can pick up nasty chemicals when out and about. Areas where lawns have been chemically treated or sidewalks with sharp de-icing salt can wreak havoc on dog paws. Dogs with very furry paws have a higher risk of getting salt and pebbles stuck between toes. If your dog isn’t wearing shoes, it’s wise to wipe their feet with a damp towel whenever they come in from a walk. This gives you a chance to check for any injuries and prevent your pup from licking or further inhaling irritants.

How to choose the best dog shoes

Prepare yourself for a lot of trial and error when it comes to choosing the best shoes for your dog. A good fit—not too tight, not too loose—is crucial to success. 

  • Dog shoes should suit your dog’s needs (aka don’t buy winter boots for a hot summer outing).
  • Buy the right size for your dog, and don’t try to make it work if they’re too big or small. Send ‘em back and get the right pair.
  • Make sure your dog can actually walk in them without tripping or slipping. This could take time; be patient as your dog gets used to wearing shoes!
  • You shouldn’t be able to fit a finger between the shoe and your dog’s leg.
  • Consider buying different pairs for different occasions, especially if there’s lots of snow in your area and one pair will need to dry out between wears.

“If your dog doesn't take to boots or appears uncomfortable wearing them, it's crucial not to force them,” Dr. Wendt advises. “Instead, consider alternative methods to safeguard their paws.”

She says applying a specialized paw wax, balm or salve before outdoor activities in extreme weather creates a protective layer for dog paws. “This can be an effective alternative to boots, preventing dry and cracked paw pads.”

Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax ($16 at Chewy) is a good, breathable option. Prevention is better than treating a painful issue later on.

Signs Your Dog Needs Shoes

When in doubt, look for these telltale signs that your dog needs shoes.

  • Your dog seems anxious to go for walks outside when there’s snow or avoids sidewalks with salt.
  • Your dog licks her paws excessively to clear them from debris, salt shards or to clean a wound.
  • Your dog has trouble finding traction either outdoors (for agile hikers) or indoors (for elderly or ill pups).
  • Your dog’s paw pads are cracking or blistering or causing them pain when they walk.

Our Three Picks for Best Dog Shoes

Again, the best dog shoe for your dog is the one they can wear comfortably (or at least tolerate) and that fits them well. Start here if you’re unsure!

brown boots for dogs.

Best for Hot Weather

Hcpet Breathable Dog Boots

What We Like

  • variety of sizes and colors
  • non-slip
  • works well in lots of weather conditions

What We Don't Like

  • not water resistant


As Dr. Wendt says, you don’t want your pup’s paws to overheat in the summertime, but you also don’t want the sidewalk to scorch their feet! We like Hcpet’s Breathable Dog Boots for such occasions. While these reflective shoes work in many types of weather, their mesh material makes them ideal for hot weather. They’ve got rubber, non-slip soles and two straps to keep them in place. These shoes also come in a small size for tiny breeds.

black dog boots.

Best for Cold or Snowy Weather

Muttluks Snow Mushers Winter Dog Boot

What We Like

  • durability
  • easy to put on
  • water resistant
  • molds to fit dog's paw

What We Don't Like

  • expensive


These snow boots for dogs are a fan favorite. Lined with fleece, designed to form to your dog’s paw and adjust around the dew claw, the fit is hard to beat. Made with rubber soles and polyester on the outside, these boots are water resistant and will protect from cold, snow and salt. Yes, they are pricey. But, they are durable and pet parents love them. One reviewer says, “These boots were easy to put on, fit great and stayed on the whole time during a two-hour hike.” 

colorful dog shoes.

Best for Hiking

Bark Brite All Weather Reflective Neoprene Dog Boots

What We Like

  • wide variety of sizes and colors
  • lightweight
  • reflective

What We Don't Like

  • some reviewers say the water resistant label is a stretch

Bark Brite

Hiking requires flexible boots with excellent traction. These dog shoes from Bark Brite are said to have a “barely-there” feel. Not only will they protect your pup’s paws from rough rocks and tough trails, they are water resistant and reflective, so night walks are safer. Bark Bite says the lining ensures good paw temperature regulation and this iteration is a new-and-improved version with more durability. They come in five sizes and three unique colors.

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...