Boots are a reasonible solution if you want to keep your horse barefoot. My horse are barefoot and I can ride ANYWHERE for a day. But I can't ask my horses to ride 2-3-4 days straight over rocky terrain. So if you are just doing 1-2 trail rides a week, with a day or two off between rides. You should be fine.
But if you trailer out and want to ride several days in a row. I strongly suggest you get some boots. At elast for the fronts. Easycare is introducing a new line of more competetively priced trail boots on April 25th. I would wait to see what they are before buying new boots. The Easyboot gloves are a good boot also.
My barefoot horses always walk the edge of the trail. Trying to get off the gravel in the center of the trail. This means that I'm often getting brushed into trees and shrubs. Drives me crazy that they won't walk up the center of the trail. But thats the trade off. With boots or shoes they use the trail. Barefoot they use the edge.
My problem with boots is that I spend more money on the boots than if I just got the horses shod. I am always tearing gaiters, breaking buckles, loosing boots. I've got 4 horses and it seems I buy a new gaiter and spend a half hour rebuilding the boot every few rides.
If you walk and trot along the trails. The boots work well. But if you do much laterial movements, (chasing cows through brush comes to mind ) or faster speeds suck as cantering, the boots seem to come off and I tear the gaiters. Also if you are bushwacking much, you have a higher risk of the boots being pulled off. Crossing dead fall trees can catch a boot and pull it off. I've never lost a boot in mud, but I've lost a lot of boots in tangles of brush.
The other issue with barefoot horses is that you need to keep them trimmed up short. With shoes, your farrier comes out every 6-8 weeks. A barefoot horse will need to be trimmed every 2-3 weeks in the summer and every 4 weeks in the winter to keep the hoof wall short enough to prevent flaring. Not a big deal if you own a rasp and do it yourself. But if you are paying a farrier to come by and trim them, You will probably pay as much for two trim jobs as what one set of shoes would have cost.
In general I do believe in keeping my horses barefoot as much as possible, And boots are a way to keep them barefoot and still ride them in rough conditions. But I've come to the opinion that when the time come that I need to use the horses for a week or ten days straight, I will put shoes on them for that period. My horse are always more willing to move out on rough ground when shod than barefoot. They go right down the middle of the trail instead of trying to get on the softer edge.
These horses are all barefoot