Tactical Boots – the Complete Guide
There’s a saying that a lie would be halfway around the world before the truth even gets its boots on. All we can say about it is that the truth probably doesn’t know how to pick a good pair of boots.
So yes, we finally gave in to your requests, and decided to write the ultimate guide on tactical and combat boots. We know we’ve been postponing this for a long time now, and we apologize, but it’s only because we wanted to take our time and present a guide that’s going to answer all of your questions.
Time to make good on our promise, right?
Here is what you can expect to learn in this guide:
- Basics of the intricate mechanism that is our foot – the section titled “Meet Your Feet”
- If a tactical boot is right for your needs – in the section “Tactical Boots Are Your Top Choice If…”
- If tactical boots a good choice for an outdoor enthusiast – section “Tac Boots and the Great Outdoors”
- Parts of a tactical boots and how to assess their quality – section “Tactical Boots – Basic Parts”
- Tests and techniques for choosing the perfect fit for you – section “Choosing the Right Fit…”
- About conditions that a wrong choice might bring on – section “Foot Health Concerns”
- Types of tactical boots in the section surprisingly titled “Types of Tactical Boots to Choose From”
- We’ll wrap things up in the “Few Final Tips”
Meet Your Feet
Before we tighten up those laces and start stomping around, let’s take a moment and check the inner-workings of our feet.
The human foot is an intricate mechanism of:
- 100+ different muscles
- 26 bones
- 33 joints
In their fragile complexity, they act as a propulsion enabler for our entire body as well as shock buffers.
Any footwear is an addition that’s man made, so we want it to be as less obtrusive as possible. The best way of avoiding that “I just dipped my feet into cast concrete” feeling is getting the best boots for the occasion. If every day (ED in the further text) is the occasion, a well-chosen pair of tactical boots might be your best bet.
Because these boots are built to protect your feet under extreme stress, so imagine what what they can do for you in ED “gentle” conditions They’re not strangers to civilian feet for a long time now thanks to their unique combo of light weight, comfort and optimal protective properties.
Tactical and other types of service boots are designed for rocky terrains, so a good fit that cradles your feet and support your ankles, probably like no other boot, is a must fit these boots.
Tactical boots are your top choice if…
Here are some situations where IMO a good pair of tactical boots should feel as “home”:
- We’ll start with your ankles. If they’re prone to injuries or were already injured before, tactical or combat boots will keep you well protected with added stability and support
- The load you’re carrying is heavy for your body type
- You’re taking a slow hike over challenging terrain. The longer the hike, the more these boots look like a great idea
- Tweaked knees are a concern for you
- The muscles in your legs need some extra support since they’re not strong or developed enough. This is a common problem for beginners in outdoor activities
- There’s a very real possibility of encountering some creepy crawlies out there (like snakes) and want to make sure their bite can’t penetrate your footwear
Tac boots and the great outdoors
You now have a specific set of criteria that will help “hide” your Achilles heel and allow you to get the most out of the grand outdoors.
Surroundings dictate everything!
“One size fits all” is a pipe dream when it comes to tactical footwear.
The terrain you’ll be facing in your activities is what generally tells you what kind of boots suit you. We’ll talk different types a bit later; I’ll just give you some options to illustrate a point.
What is your “playground” exactly:
- The urban labyrinth made of concrete or a suburban sprawl?
- Are you facing against rugged mountains or rural flatland?
- Maybe you’ve ended up in a swamp or a desert-like area…
You see where I’m going with this, right? Mismatching your surroundings and footwear will come back and bite you sooner or later so pay close attention once we start laying out the options to choose from.
Climate isn’t far behind
It’s a very wise practice to account for the weather you’ll be encountering during your time out.
We’re talking extreme heat and cold, precipitation and other calamities your area might be known for. Simply put – when choosing a tactical boot, you’ll have to think about your daily routines.
Let’s get a bit more specific
Waterproof tactical boots are, most of the time, your best bet. They’ll keep most of the potential scenarios well covered. GTX (Gore-Tex) is a Teflon-coated membrane riddled with millions of microscopic openings in charge of keeping your feet perfectly dry. It’ll keep the outside moisture where it belongs, but also get rid of the sweat from within the boot. This makes it a viable choice even in warmer climates.
GTX should be kept away from direct sunlight if possible. Prolonged exposure will deteriorate the boots and cause a temperature build-up.
Tactical boots – Basic parts
Let’s take a look at these bad boys inside and out.
Uppers of the boot
Upper is the whole top portion of the boot. The materials it’s made of directly affect its weight, breathability, durability and abrasion/water-resistance.
Most of the time – the uppers are made of:
- Full-grain leather – Also known as just “leather”, it scores well in resistance to abrasions and water. Max durability is a part of the package as well. It will lack breathability and breaking it in could take a while. Rough terrain, heavy loads and long hikes are the circumstances for “real-deal” leather. the downside might be the fact that it dries out slower than synthetics and you might need a good boot dryer.
- Split-grain leather – Leather and nylon combo for lighter weight and improved breathability. It’s considerably cheaper, but it looses in water/abrasion resistance
- Nubuck leather – Buffed leather for suede resemblance. Pretty much the same thing as full-grain, only with a bit more flexibility to it
- Synthetics – Polyester, nylon, synthetic leather… They take less time to break in than leather; they’re lighter and will dry faster. They’re cheaper as well but will start to wear much faster. Waterproof tactical boots are usually made modern synthetic materials.
They improve the cushioning, act as shock buffers and determine the overall stiffness of the boot.
They’re usually made of one of the two materials:
- EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) – Feels lighter and cushier. It’s the cheaper and more used alternative. It’s also shock absorbent, waterproof and offers good protection from sharp objects
- Polyurethane – Sturdier and firmer than EVA. It’s more durable but also more costly
It’s the modernization in the materials used that allowed for the boots to be used even for hiking – you can see some of the similar models listed as top-rated women’s hiking shoes.
Soles for tactical boots are mostly made of rubber. Some other materials such as carbon might be added to provide extra stiffness, but that’s not a regular occurrence.
Vibram soles are a high-quality option made in Italy and have almost become an industry standard. Their main benefits:
- Resistant to a great number of industrial substances
- Resistant to oil and slipping
- Durable and lightweight
So, if you see that yellow “Vibram” emblem on the bottom of the shoe, it’s definitely a good thing.
Some additional aspects of a quality tactical boot worthy of our attention are:
- Heel break – “Clean” outsole part that slows you down during steep descents
- Lug Pattern – Most people don’t know what these are. I just call them crampons that are built in. They’re there for better traction or “grip”. In swampy or areas filled with debris, we want them to be smaller so they could shed all the build-up as we walk
- Toe protection – a number of tactical boots feature either steel or composite toe protection, with the later becoming the industry standard in recent years
Choosing the right fit in a tactical boot
In my book, a tight fit is simply asking for trouble.
I know it’s being advocated left and right, but nobody counts for the fact that our feet naturally swell throughout the day. Not to mention the stress from the activities. All this calls for a bit of extra room in our boots unless we’re really going for an all out blister bonanza.
Foot Health Concerns
Some of the common conditions caused by tight footwear choice:
- Blackened toenails
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress on your joints and tendons
- Ingrown toenails
- Hammer or crossover toes…
Plantar Fasciitis and the choice of tactical/hiking boots
Of the ones listed above, Plantar Fasciitis is the one condition that deserves some special attention because it’s pretty common in “serious” hikers and one that’s the most impairing. In a word, it’s condition brought on by an inflammation of a tissue band at the bottom of your foot. The fascia that connect your heel to your toes gets inflamed in results in a stabbing pain in the heel or a consistent and dull pain. The pain is worst in the first few morning steps.
A few rules of thumb to choose a tactical or a hiking boot that will prevent Plantar Fasciitis:
- if possible, go for a boot that has deep heel cups
- go with a rubber sole, it provides extra cushioning and absorbs a lot of the forces that would otherwise be absorbed by your feet
- go with a boot that provides added support in the midsole region and does not easily bend
Checking the fit of the boot the right way:
- While trying your new tactical/combat boots out for size, you should wear you favorite type of sock since you’re most likely to wear them during you hike/hunt/bug out…You might think otherwise, but the thickness of your socks can play a major role in the overall experience
- Put them on and don’t tighten up the laces. Your index finger should slip effortlessly between the back part of your leg and that of the boot
- When lacing up, you should feel your heel moving toward the back part of your boot
- Give them a quick test by walking a bit
- Your toes touching the front of the boot is a big red flag
- One of the most important points is your heel. It should move together with the boot. If the two rubbing against each other, keep walking towards another model (or size)
Another great tip is to go shopping later in the afternoon. As I’ve already said, our feet WILL swell during the day so boots bought that were a perfect fit in the morning might be squeezing the life out of your feet by the end of the day.
types of tactical/military boots to choose from
Now we’re getting to the specifics. Here are the most common options:
- Standard issue combat boots
- Jump boots
- Tanker boots
- Tactical boots for extreme weather conditions (jungle, desert and waterproof boots for extreme cold)
Tac Boots for Low Temp.
These are your basic iteration of army boots. They’re waterproof and made of black leather that’s usually hardened. The overall design is envisioned with extra ankle/foot stability in mind. In other words, they’re made to handle rough terrains you’ll usually encounter in training or combat. Additionally, this type of tactical or combat boots is pretty universal and can be used as a comfortable hiking boot.
Their roots go all the way to Ancient Rome when they used to be known as caligae.
They are your regular army boots, a Jack-of-all-trades of sorts and all the prerequisites I listed above apply to these as well. The military is very picky about the brands they allowed as “standard” issue, they cchoose brands with the highest standards, like Danner.
Nicknamed “paratrooper boots”, they’re a standard piece of equipment for parachute units since the 1940s.
They feature a number of reinforcements, the most important of which being in the ankle area. Tall shanks are reaching the calf, heels are “airborne optimized” and the soles are rubber. Toe caps are later added for additional protection.
You might hear them being called “Corcorans”, nicknamed after the original manufacturer.
If your outdoor scenario includes frequent jumps and overly uneven terrains, these will provide all the necessary support and protection.
Developed after General George S. Patton, Jr. established Tank Corps in the US to fit the specific needs of a tank crew.
They don’t have laces, rather, they feature leather straps. Meaning, there’s nothing to tangle with the moving parts of a tank, or tree roots, branches, wild foliage… They’re also very heat-resistant, so everything short of napalm is no sweat. The package also includes the gusseted tongue, steel toe guards, steel or plastic guards for heels and shanks, as well as metal inserts.
So, if you find yourself in a forest-heavy area packed with step-impeding branches and tree roots, you want a pair of these babies. They also handle sharp rocks well due to the assortment of steel reinforcements.
Tactical boots for weather extremes
We have three different options for inhospitable climates:
- Jungle boots – The need for this kind of footwear arose even before WW2. They feature uppers made of canvas paired with rubber soles and weigh approximately 3lbs. You might think they’re excellent at preventing water from getting inside, but the key to these combat boots is allowing it to get out and then drying out as quickly as possible. Water drainage is achieved through specialized eyelets while woven mesh foot beds allow air to circulate freely and get rid of the leftover moisture. Less time your feet remain wet, fewer possibilities for blisters and tropical ulcers arise. It’s as simple as that
- Desert boots – Made after the Saudi Arabian recipe by Norman Schwarzkopf. They’re made of rough suede paired with nylon laces/siding. To quickly get rid of excess heat, steel protective inserts were thrown out. Drainage vents were eliminated too in order to stop the sand from getting in
- Combat boots for cold climates – This is where Gore-Tex comes back into the picture. The point I want to get across here is that there are three different “modes” these boots come in. We have ones that are solely waterproof, ones made for harsher weather and ones made to tackle up to minus 20 degrees F. As we go, they’ll feature additional insulating layers made of wool, felt and rubber
Few FINAL TIPS – Test your boots on the spot!
If you’re not ordering online, you can take a couple of extra steps to make sure you’ve found your match made in heaven.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
- Be mindful of the connections throughout the boot. How are sole and upper connected? Glued, welded, stitched? Does the part where they meet look flimsy? Stitches look firm or loose? Does glue stick out anywhere?
- Wring them like a towel and see if you needed to put some effort into it. If they twist with ease, it means the midsole doesn’t have enough rigidity, indicating poor mid support
- Press the outsole with both of your hands (one inside the boot, other on the outsole) Do you feel them touching? If so, they offer a very poor foot protection
- Is the heel floppy? We need it stable and quite rigid
If You are buying online – read reviews of the boots
Shopping for any footwear online is not what it used to be. Today, there’s plenty of information that you can use to made a decision. And who is a better source then the people wearing the boots you have your eye on.
The advice I can give you here is pretty obvious – take your time, read what other people are saying about the tactical or combat boots in their reviews and, especially, read the “small print” about the fit. Be diligent and find a person that wears the exact same size as you and read if they have to say something about the fit and the comfort of the boot. If you approach the task carefully and get your information from trusted sources, there’s very few ways to go wrong.
You are officially ready
To get out there and make an informed choice about the best tactical boots for whatever purpose you have in mind.
I hope my guide helped out, and I will direct you to a bunch of other articles I’ve written on the topic in the upcoming posts. You can check out some specific models and see which of them suit you the best. I always have that feeling I should say something smart about boots or shoes at the very end, so here it goes…
Before judging a man, try walking a mile in his shoes. What happens after? Who cares? He’ll be a mile away, and you’ll still have his shoes 🙂