Behold the lowly gaiter, which resides both figuratively and literally at the intersection of pants and footwear. Gaiters have been around for centuries, helping people from Anglican deacons to range-riding cowboys prevent dirt, dust, pebbles, twigs bugs, snow, and other undesirables from entering shoes and boots or traveling up pants legs.

Gaiters not only stop those annoying objects from getting into your shoes, they can also save a hike, a hunt, a run, and even a weekend. A thorn that slips into your boot can pierce your skin and hobble you. Same with briars that penetrate your otherwise unprotected pants legs. And if you’re walking through wet brush or deep snow and moisture enters your boots, you’ll be looking for a way back to home or camp very soon.

Gaiters prevent all that by sealing up the opening between pants cuff and boot, or between shoe top and leg, and by providing an extra layer or protection to the lower legs. There are numerous styles of gaiters, and where and when you’ll wear the gaiters determines the best kind for you. Here’s a guide:

Top Pick

This product is designed with hikers, backpackers, and campers in mind. Azarxis

If you’ll be hiking or walking through fields, brushy areas, dusty or rocky regions, or through light snow or in wet conditions, an uninsulated calf-length gaiter is best for you. The length is necessary to protect your shins and calves and keep your pants legs dry. Get a pair that’s waterproof and breathable so they’ll prevent moisture from penetrating your pants legs, but won’t trap perspiration.

Great Value

This model is ideal if you don’t want material stretching all the way over your calf. ALTRA

The pleasure of walking or running on a trail in low-topped shoes is quickly mitigated by having to stop every once in a while, take off a shoe, shake out a twig or pebble, put the shoe back on, and start again. Trail gaiters eliminate this problem by sealing the area from lower laces to just above the ankle. Pick a lightweight and breathable pair so they won’t interfere with your walk or run.

Tight Fit

This product attaches to footwear with metal hooks. Triwonder

The best cold-weather boots in the world won’t prevent ice and snow from forming giant white cocoons around your lower legs, where your body heat will eventually melt it and contact your skin and possibly travel down into the boots. If you’ll be walking through deep snow, invest in a pair of gaiters that are both waterproof and warm.