Combat Boots 101
The term ‘combat boot’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people.
However, I think that most of us envision the classic polished black boots soldiers wear when we hear the words ‘combat boot.’
For a long time, those classic high-ankle combat boots were the only option for anyone wanting to purchase a set for themselves.
In 2023 however, dozens of companies manufacture tactical footwear that would be considered combat boots.
Where To Buy Combat Boots
Many people will head to the local army surplus store when they start looking for a set of combat boots.
While this option has merits, it is better to go to the local outdoor store or online.
Related: The Ultimate SHTF Plan From An Army Vet
This way, you can take advantage of the latest technologies rather than whatever was built into the used boots you would find at a surplus store.
When purchasing combat boots, there are several factors that you need to consider.
The terrain you plan on operating in will be a significant driving force in your decision when purchasing your boots. Boots appropriate for the rocky slopes of mountains will not fare well in the desert or swamps.
A waterproof stiff-soled boot with excellent ankle support is great for the high mountains, while a breathable, lightweight and flexible boot is better for the more arid regions.
The good news is that finding a boot well suited for the terrain you want to use it in is quite simple. Manufacturers build boots with a specific landscape in mind, so there is probably a tactical or combat boot that is ideal for the environment you want to operate in.
The climate will also be a major driving factor in your decision-making process; whether desert or tropical, breathable boots will be the best option if you live in a hot environment. However, waterproof boots should be considered if you live in a temperate rainforest.
Even though I live in the Pacific Northwest, my boots are desert boots and not waterproof.
When I use them in wetter conditions, I use a Gore-Tex sock. This way, I can have a lightweight boot for September hunting trips while also having the ability to wear them when it is raining.
Related: How to Supplement Your Potable Water Supplies by Cheaply Harvesting Rainwater
You cannot get away with one set of boots in many areas. You will need two or even three sets of combat boots, one for the hot summers, another for the cold winters and maybe one for the wet weather.
Most traditional combat boots are made from leather which is a fine option for you to consider. However, many other options are available, sometimes just as effective and durable as leather.
Other material options include nylon, polyester, Gore-Tex, and Kevlar. A boot for hotter climates is best constructed from breathable fabrics instead of leather. On the other hand, in wet climates, Gore-Tex will give you a boot with excellent waterproofing.
One thing to watch out for is quality stitching. The stitching in a boot will often be the first failure point, so make sure everything is at least triple-stitched with high-quality thread.
A significant advantage to combat boots is that they provide a higher level of ankle support which is vital regardless of where you plan to walk.
A rolled ankle is bad at the best of times, but post-SHTF, it can be deadly.
Boots meant for the high mountains will have much more support in the ankle than other boots.
They are designed for use on uneven, rocky terrain while carrying a heavy load.
Lighter combat and tactical boots will also have good ankle support but be designed with more mobility in mind.
The soles of your boots are the only part of you making constant contact with the ground. They are also the thing that will keep you from slipping and sliding all over whichever terrain you happen to be traversing.
It may seem that all boots would have equally decent tread, but this could not be further from the truth.
The rubber your boot soles are made from will make a significant difference in not only the comfort the boots will provide but also their ability to grip surfaces and how fast they will wear out.
Related: How to Make Your Boots Last Longer
Harder soles will wear slower while not absorbing as much of the impact of each step, but softer soles will be more comfortable but wear much faster. It is best to find a boot that falls somewhere in the middle.
The pattern of the tread is also important to consider. Deeper treads are best for muddy or sandy terrain, while shallow treads are ideal for hard-packed surfaces.
Should You Buy A Boot With Steel Toes?
It may seem like a promising idea to have a combat boot that has a steel toe and steel shank.
Especially in a post-SHTF world where you will be moving through areas that have seen a lot of destruction, not worrying about taking a nail through the sole seems like a good investment.
The problem is that steel toes and shanks will absorb the cold, which will, in turn, make your feet cold. They will also make the boot much stiffer and may hinder your ability to move your foot effectively.
If you decide to buy a boot with these features, choose carbon composite instead of steel because they will not make your feet cold and will be far lighter and more comfortable to wear.
Color Or Camouflage
The combat boots that most soldiers have been issued over the decades have been black, but when we purchase combat boots for our use, we have many color or camouflage options to select from.
Personally, I am not a fan of camouflaged boots. I have never seen much value in them, especially as they get dirty and covered in muck and grime.
I have found that tan or khaki boots blend into many different environments more effectively than standard black boots, which often stand out like a sore thumb.
Choosing a combat boot is very personal, and it can take some time to find one you like. While in many cases, there will not be a one size fits all boot for every scenario you may encounter, you should be able to find boots that will fit a variety of scenarios quite nicely.
The best advice is to choose wisely because bad boots can sideline you quickly, and post-SHTF is not the time to have your feet fail you.
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