Which Boots Work Best?
Which Boots Work Best?
How to Choose the Right Pair for You
A lot goes into choosing a pair of tactical boots. What kind do you need? What will you use them for? Hiking? Marching? Tactical operations? Everyday wear on patrol? Boots come in all sorts of styles, so what features should you look for when choosing your next pair?
Questions to ask:
• How long will I wear them each time?
• How far will I walk in them?
• Will I need to run?
• Do I need to take them off and on quickly or will they be on all day?
• Do they need to match my uniform?
• How will I adjust them if they aren’t comfortable?
• How do I make sure they are comfortable in the first place?
Boots are not something to scrimp on, especially if you wear them a lot or in critical situations. The last thing you need is for your feet to hurt or a sole to break loose in the middle of a mission. So don’t go cheap. There are a lot of low budget boots that offer the basics, but if you want a boot you can depend on when you need it, you’ll probably need to pay a little extra. For example, because everyone’s feet are slightly different, some high-quality boots include additional insoles in the box just in case the boots aren’t quite snug enough out of the box. You won’t find this level of customization in cheaper models. You don’t want your feet to slide around while you march, walk or run, so the fit is critical. Also, just like good running shoes, boots should be comfortable, whether you wear them for an hour or all day.
Comfort starts at the ground and works up from there. The outsole is the rubber part of the boot that contacts the ground, and it provides the first layer of comfort – or pain if it’s not designed well – not only by the way it is constructed but also by the density of the materials and grip of the tread. It should be wide enough to provide good lateral support when you turn corners and move sideways. The outsole also serves as the grip, with a lugged pattern that mimics the tread of an off-road tire. Not only should the lugs be deep, the rubber should be oil- and slip-resistant to help keep you on your feet during the operation.
Next is the insole, also called the footbed, where the bottom of your foot rests as you stand and walk. The insole should provide plenty of cushioning but be firm enough to offer stability and support, similar to the seat in a race car. Top quality boots come with either additional inserts that can increase the cushioning and improve the fit or have removable insoles that you can replace with ones that fit your foot better, such as custom orthotics. This is where it really pays off to spend the money on a good pair of boots.
The upper is the last major component to consider. It consists of several components:
Look for one that is gusseted to help keep dirt and small rocks from getting inside and causing discomfort.
Typically made of leather or a synthetic lookalike, the upper in a tactical boot typically comes in two sizes: 6” and 8”. This measurement denotes the distance from the insole to the top of the collar. The collar height determines how much ankle support and protection the boot provides, similar to a high top basketball shoe. It should be soft yet supportive, with a bit of cushioning for the ankle and lower calf and mesh for cooling.
Either open-sided or closed eyelets work well depending on your need. For taller boots (8” and more), you will likely need to re-lace the top part of the boots each time you take them on and off, so open-side eyelets on the top half of the upper will come in handy. However, for shorter boots or boots with a side zipper that complements the laces, closed eyelets can work fine because you’ll likely only need to untie the laces in certain situations. Whichever style you choose, be sure to keep the laces even all the way up for best fit and maximum comfort.
Some boots come with a hardened toe cap for added protection, but whichever style you get make sure there is ample room for your toes to move around inside the boot without your foot sliding around too much. Also, look for a toecap that fits your uniform standard. For instance, many black tactical boots created mostly for law enforcement have a smooth toecap perfect for shining, whereas a military uniform boot may have a texture toecap not designed to be polished.
Not every boot works for every purpose. For example, do you perform a lot of fast-roping? If so, you’ll need a boot with an outsole designed not only to take the added stress and friction of the roped descent but also one that has a reinforced notch or groove in the mid-foot area to help guide the rope and keep you centered as you slide down. When selecting a boot, ask yourself where you will be using it and what specific needs you have that a catch-all boot might not offer.
Some law enforcement agencies have regulations requiring boots to fall within certain specifics or parameters in regards to height, color and other criteria. The military has had regulations like that for decades. Recently, the Army updated their regs to a new standard called AR 670-1, clarifying the coyote color match, collar height, sole design and upper requirements. Before you purchase your next pair, check with your organization to see if they have regulations governing boots.