Military-style combat boots have been a favorite of many outdoorsmen for decades. Be they the rugged, hot, black leather boots from the Vietnam era or the modern well-ventilated tan designs that blend in better with dirt and brush, combat boots have earned themselves a reputation as reliable footwear. Combat boots can last through hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain with a heavy pack on your back. But are they truly any better than civilian-grade hiking boots that may come in a much broader array of fits and styles?
Advantages of Combat Boots
Every branch of the United States military has its unique regulations on acceptable boots to be worn with every soldier's uniform. While their design goals and expectations may differ, one element that remains consistent across all military-style designs is durability. Soldiers expect their boots to last through years of daily use, multiple deployments to foreign countries, and extreme terrain. Thus, all but the cheapest options on the market have thick, durable leather and various rows of stitches that help keep both the boots and their soles intact. They are well-fitted through even the trials of combat.
With the modern military expanding and increasingly remaining present at home in garrison environments, companies have also started to create much more comfortable footwear options that retain the same durability and weather resistance found in boots from decades past. With millions of soldiers clamoring for inexpensive and comfortable options that still meet strict regulations, modern boots have become both stylish and enjoyable to wear on a day-to-day basis.
Disadvantages of Combat Boots
Soldier footwear may not be the best option for everyone seeking a durable pair of work or hiking boots. While current regulations increasingly permit more flexible designs and allow for better comfort options, many civilian offerings can provide superior comfort through alternative materials and different measurements than the military's strict requirements.
For example, combat boots must reach relatively high above the ankle to provide better support and uniform compatibility, but civilian hiking boots and shoes have no such requirements. Military options are often worse for both heat dissipation and comfort without having a pair of long pants or long socks to prevent direct skin contact. Plus, high-end civilian options may be just as durable as military-style boots, although they are often priced higher for the same level of durability and weather resistance.
Make sure to read up on reviews and opinions of any pair of boots you wish to try, and look around for reviews from individuals who have worn many different pairs of boots in their lifetimes. You should always go to a physical store to try different sizes and options as some manufacturers can size their footwear as much as two sizes above or below what you might expect. However, for those looking for durable, comfortable, and inexpensive footwear, combat boots may be just what you need.
I wore the Bates E01450 M-8 Men's Hot Weather Desert Tan Tactical Boots while deployed in Iraq and countless training exercises in multiple training environments. They are great non-issued military boots. I still have them, and they still look great!
If you are like me, you might have a few military-issued combat boots lying around. You might want to change the insoles to make them more comfortable and continue using them. Just remember to break them in if you haven't done so already. How about jumping in the shower with them and then going for a 12-mile foot march with a 35 lb pack to remember the old days?