Boots are good for your feet.

So your thinking of buying boots for deployment. Let's talk about some things to consider and some things to avoid.

One thing to consider is color, but you really don't need to consider it at all since the NDMS/DMAT regulations stipulate boots must be black. Now we can move on to the real choices we have. But first let me make a disclosure statement. The recommendations made in this blog are based on personal experience, personal preference, and personal bias. Don't rely on only one source to make your decision. Talk to other experienced teammates to help you decide on a good option.

How tall should your boots be?

Boot height should be at least six to eight inches. This should allow the boots to be above your ankle which provides protection and adds to your stability when walking on uneven surfaces. Boots of this height also allow you to blouse your pant legs to prevent debris from infiltrating your boots and insects from migrating up your pant legs.

Leather, nylon textile or a combination?

Leather can be a very durable and resilient material if it is of good quality and well cared for. The leather should feel relatively stiff and firm. If it feels too soft or thin then it probably is and could tear or puncture more easily. Also the stiffness of the leather means the boot will not stretch out too much with wear and provides more stability over time. Smooth leather takes polish (to maintain color) and leather conditioners better than rough out leather. Some boot makers make boots in a combination of leather and a Cordura type nylon. In most cases the leather is the lower portion of the boot (toe cap, sides and heel) and part of the ankle and the nylon is used in the shaft and instep. This allows some more breathability and reduces the overall weight of boot. As with the leather, if the nylon feels stiffer and firm then it is more likely to be durable. Unlike thin feeling flimsy material.

Like water off a duck's .......Waterproof.

Some boot makers advertise "waterproof leather". In most cases this means the leather has been treated to resist water but does have a saturation point that once exceeded means your foot gets wet. Others offer a waterproof sock liner (the sock liner is the inner most portion of the boot which is essentially a boot within a boot). Goretex is the most well known brand but there are many other similar products on the market now. It provides a membrane which prevents water infiltration but allows perspiration to vent. I prefer the "Gortex" waterproof boot. Any advantage I can have over wet feet is better. I will note that the waterproof liner may begin to fail before the boots begin to wear out.

What's the deal with zippers on boots with laces?

Zippers on duty boots are a bad idea for at least two reasons, maybe more. One, if your zipper fails when it is open then your boot is loose and sloppy then you can't do much about it unless you wrap duct tape around your leg. Two, if you paid money for Gortex waterproof boots, your boots are only waterproof up to the level of the bottom of the zipper. Zippers are not waterproof.

Shank, what's a shank?

Well I'm not talking about prison slang. The shank of your boot is the portion of the boot that is located below the insole and above the outsole. For deployment purposes the shank should be a rigid protective component. A protective shank will reduce the risk of a sharp item puncturing the sole of your foot. Some are made of steel and others are of some proprietary "non-metallic" material.

Sole, you ain't got nothing if you ain't got sole.

The sole of your boot is what keeps you grounded. It gives you traction and support. If it is durable then you will get a long life out of your boots. There are a lot of boots out there with a "sneaker/running shoe type sole" they are soft and comfortable and feel great out of the box. But after time they become spongy and lose their support. Their traction is fine on smooth clean surfaces but can quickly clog with mud and dirt. Another thing to consider is longevity. These soft soled boots tend to be cheap, throw away boots. The sole wears out way before the upper. A better choice is to look for a boot that offers a "lugged" sole which offers good traction on smooth and rough surfaces and easily releases mud and dirt. The best know of this type of sole is the Vibram Kletterlift. They are a long wearing replaceable sole. Most boots that use this sole use a process known as " stitched down" where the upper of the boot is stitched through the sole. This process allows the boot sole to be replaced and extends the life of your investment.

How much should I pay........?

That is somewhat of a question of personal choice, though with this item the more the spend the higher quality of boot you will generally get (with a better warranty too!) Ask yourself, what are my feet worth, what features in the boot am I looking for, what level quality and craftsmanship am I looking for, is it important to me that my boots are made in the U.S.A. etc etc....

What about insulation?

Well if it's 25-40 degrees the meager amount of insulation you can get in a duty boot will provide some comfort but those same boots on an 80 degree day may be sweltering. Really cold weather deserves special consideration. Let's digress a moment while we're on the subject of cold weather. Dedicated "cold" weather boots are appropriate if you expect to spend time in a really cold environment.

The best cold weather boots incorporate a waterproof rubber bottom along with a leather or nylon upper. The insulation is what sets most boots apart. Thick synthetic felt liners that are removable to allow for drying are optimal. There should also be a fair amount of insulation incorporated into the insole and midsole of the boot to minimize convection from below. A couple brands to consider are Sorel and Cabela's. For Sorels a google search may yield the best results when looking for a bargain. Cabela's is only available via their retail stores and web site.

Now back to duty boots.

A few of the brands that are producers of quality, durable boots:

What ever style, brand or price you choose the most important thing is fit.

You will have to rely on these boots for a prolonged deployment, day in and day out. If they don't fit well it may impact your ability to remain functional. Once you have your new boots and have determined they fit well you need to wear them, wear them and wear them some more. The best way to break in new boots is to wear them for increasing periods of time and in a variety of settings such as mowing the lawn, running errands, wear them to work. Get as much time in them before you have a deployment. 

Some reputable online sources:

By Barry Worthing for DMAT Gear Junkie