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Matt and I have gone through a lot of boots over the years. Some have been surprisingly high quality for the money while others have disintegrated in 6 months. Our topography and lifestyle are hard on boots. We walk a lot, especially during the growing season. Each time we spray the grapes, we each walk several miles within an afternoon.
This article is going to concentrate on tactical boots. Sometimes these get called military, police, or combat boots. While we may be used to seeing just a few basic styles, there are actually many options from boots that seem more like a hiking boot to the khaki hot weather combat boots that are increasingly common.
While women’s specific sizing is offered on many tactical boots, buying the men’s version can save you money if you are like me and have a large foot. Some men’s boots start out at size 7 or 8 so if you wear at least a 9 or 10 in women’s you can find some amazing deals on the smaller men’s sizes.
Military surplus is getting harder to find but it is still around.
I have always shopped at military surplus stores. We have one in our county and use it as a source for boots fairly often. I managed to get the last pair of original Vietnam Jungle boots recently because I happened to wear the one size they had left. They are the only pair of boots I have that were actually made locally at the old Wellco plant.
I like this style and they are very comfortable in a Southern climate. The originals that were made in the 60s and 70s can be found but they are difficult to find without ordering and they are considered collectible.
There are companies that make replicas but I would be careful about buying the cheap ones. I got Matt a pair and they fell apart in months and even had a darn wooden block in the heel!
Even the surplus from the modern army is getting harder to come by. What sizes are left are often smaller sizes made for female soldiers.
Tactical Boot Characteristics
A tactical boot offers the following advantages.
- Comfortable support and protection for those that are on their feet a lot throughout the day
- Non-slip sole
- A more custom feeling fit due to the adjustable lacing
- Easy on and off. Remember that it is important to air your feet out when you can.
- Compatible with many work dress codes.
- Good ankle support. Most tactical boots are 6″-10″ tall.
- Often made of multiple materials rather than full-grain leather like some boots. While this can be more comfortable for regular wear and hot climates, the boots are not necessarily as rugged as a leather logging boot.
- Waterproof characteristics can vary. Treating boots with waterproof sprays can help. Some jungle boots have vents that allow water and air to flow in and out.
- Many less expensive yet high-quality brands are not insulated so if you live in a colder climate, your options are more limited. I have never seen military surplus boots that are insulated.
- Limited amount of colors and styles. Let’s face it. A lot of tactical boots all look the same and come in two or three colors. I don’t mind that but somebody else might.
Brands That Stand Out For Quality and Performance
While I am going to feature some choices I feel that are good quality in this post, I want to offer you a list of brands that are worth giving a chance.
- 5.11 Tactical
Danner has been around for a long time. They make a very good quality boot. I used to own a pair of their hiking boots and they were comfortable and lasted longer than usual.
This model is a full 8-inch boot that offers good ankle support and a classic tactical design reminiscent of what I see at military surplus stores. This is a good boot for warmer climates with regular socks but it can definitely be used when it is cold as long as you buy them large enough to accommodate a good cold-weather sock.
As I have said before, Smith & Wesson seems to make just about everything nowadays from knives to boots. This is an affordable tactical boot with a loyal following of satisfied customers.
Like many tactical boots, there are compromises between being lightweight and tough. The mesh makes it easier for this boot to breathe which is always important.
This tactical boot made the list for being a lot like a hiking boot but offering some of the advantages of a tactical boot as well. For people that tend to go towards a hiking style boot rather than some of the heavy-duty boots out there, this is a great choice. Merrell is a trusted brand with a lot of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
I like that the boot has good arch support, a rugged sole for nonslip traction, and a reinforced toe.
Danner does a good job of offering a variety of women’s boots. This tactical boot features a more rugged sole than some tactical boots and it has a side zipper for easy off and on.
This boot offers a more waterproof and warmer solution to tactical boots. I am considering this boot for my next pair of snow boots. I don’t go through many snow boots because the winter weather is usually pretty mild in Western North Carolina but once in a while, it is nice to have something made for serious snow and freezing temperatures.
I have a love-hate relationship with Columbia products. A lot of them are really good but since we had one bad experience with their rubber boots a few years back so that makes me wonder if the quality varies more than it used to.
This boot in particular though seems to be very popular and continues to sell well so I am not hesitant to recommend it. Everyone gets a dud once in a while and as many Columbia products we have bought over the years, it was bound to happen once.
I felt the need to put one Ecco boot on this list because I remember my husband wearing a pair for several years back when we were in college. We hiked some very tough terrain on the Art Loeb Trail for a week and he was comfortable in them even though they were more than a year old at the time.
This boot is nice enough to wear out on the town. I like that it has a good heel and sole that is similar to the logging boots I have worn for years. The reinforced heel is a major bonus. Oh and the boot has a side zipper for easy off and on.
Sketchers is not just a skateboard shoe or tennis shoe brand for hip kids. I can attest to the quality of their shoes and would like to point out that they are a shoe that my Dad wears to provide good support. Matt and I have owned the leather Sketcher logging boots too and used them to work many a day.
While it is best to avoid areas where snakes are a major threat, that is not always possible. This boot by Rocky offers a light olive color for those that are tired of black and brown boots. The tallness of this boot provides some extra support and allows for snake resistance up to the knee. The sole is rugged enough to take on whatever terrain you may find yourself in.
Snake boots may be a good idea for those that may possibly bug out or go on some camping trips in places where snakes may be lurking. I know that where we live there are several species of venomous snakes but they are pretty rare in some places. For example, we have seen just one copperhead on our property. Having chickens and not leaving big piles of debris around helps out a lot.
Danner’s solution to a women’s snake boot is pretty snazzy looking. I would strongly consider these if I was in snaky areas a lot. The full lacing helps offer a customized fit. A good arch and enough bite to the sole for different terrain are additional features that stand out.
5.11 Tactical makes a lot of styles of tactical boots but I am just going to share this classic design with you. This is a good alternative to buying military surplus since it is very affordable and made with plenty of reinforcements in the heel and toe areas.
Bates is a brand used by a lot of law enforcement and security agencies and it is quite easy to find in men’s and women’s styles. This boot has a heavily reinforced heel and a side zipper for easy off and on. A combination of leather and synthetic materials offers strength and breathability.
Belleville is one of the few brands you will find that are still made in the USA. This combat style tactical boot offers comfort and a level of ruggedness that is trusted by the military and by a lot of law enforcement. For the quality, you get they are very affordable. If you ever catch a sale on any Belleville boot, it may be a good time to put an extra pair of boots back for hard times.
This style of Belleville is an excellent leather option for those that want the best of the tactical and work boot worlds. If you are like some folks and used to wearing a leather work boot, this boot may be a good compromise or transition boot. This model is also made in the United States.
I bet you could even get away with wearing this boot to a lot of office jobs, especially if your pant legs cover up the top of the boot so for those that have to dress up a little sometimes but want a rugged boot, the wet weather Belleville could work.
These are some tough-looking boots from a good brand. The heavily reinforced areas include the toe but in the case of this boot, it covers a lot more of the toe area than most boots do. I think this would be an excellent boot for hiking long distances and general work.
The mesh is reinforced so it is not as much of a weak point as it is with some boots. The tread is a little different on the bottom, offering a unique honeycomb-like pattern rather than your standard hiking sole or lug sole.
This boot is an all black and modern version of the Vietnam Jungle boot. If you like that style, then this is the high-quality version you should consider. This style offers the Panama sole so if you like the tread from earlier Vietnam Jungle boots then you need to look elsewhere. I have a pair of jungle boots with a Panama sole and they perform well.
This boot is made of leather and synthetic materials. Like all Belleville branded boots, they are made in the USA. The reviews are generally good with just an occasional complaint about the quality of the laces but that is bound to happen with any boot.
This style is recommended for those in hot and humid climates or for use during the summer when you want something tough and lightweight to get through the workday.
A boot can only take so much. Some bad reviews are just because people can have too high of expectations.
Matt and I are both really rough on shoes, especially boots. We have come to the conclusion that sometimes you have to decide to get a boot that offers more comfort and convenience even if you know that it is not going to last as long as you full leather logging boots that weigh 7 lbs per pair.
When you read reviews or get hear feedback from buddies about boots, keep in mind how much wear and tear can vary based on the person and their lifestyle.
Matt and I are not folks that keep 5 pairs of shoes in rotation for each person. If you wear a pair of boots daily for work that is a lot different than throwing them on once or twice a week.
I have run into people that claimed that their boots were 5 years old and been shocked because I will wear out the same pair in less than a year no question. The difference is that they were working in an office most of the week and wearing dress shoes, not those boots.
Wearing boots and shoes until they are basically falling apart and off your feet is not always the best plan either. Over time boots will wear in some places more than others, lose tread and become less slip-proof, and lose their support which can lead to sore feet and other issues.
Insoles help adjust the size of boots and can help revive an old pair of boots that you have grown to love.
You can get some extra mileage out of a pair of boots by purchasing a good set of insoles. We buy Dr. Scholl’s line of insoles. After trying other brands, we have concluded that store brands and generic insoles fall apart in about half the amount of time.
We have started getting the Big and Tall Active Man Insoles that are made for guys over 200 lbs. They have solid arch support which is nice for someone that is as flat-footed as I am or anyone that is on their feet a lot.
There is something to be said for finding a few different pairs of boots you like and sticking to those.
If you find a boot that suits your foot well, then you might consider buying it again once you wear out the first pair or if you have a little extra money, buy another pair and put them away for future use. Matt and I do this military surplus boots and Carolina logger boots.
What brands of boot do you like? What is the most comfortable tactical boot you have ever owned?