Take a good look at your feet right now…
Now imagine darting through metropolitan labyrinth followed by a slow, long hike to your bug out shelter. We’re talking urban concrete, rugged rocky terrains, rural flatlands, maybe a swamp…
A smart prepper is always ready for anything (man-made or natural) and if your current footwear isn’t up to the task you’ll be the maker of your own “Achilles heel”.
Furthermore, people keep focusing on their BOB way too much, forgetting that our main tool for facing (and surviving) calamities is our body, especially feet. To put it into perspective, a rolled ankle is a far more devastating obstacle in a bug out situation than not packing enough ammo.
So, before I start handing out some essential tactical footwear tips, let’s take a moment to deal with an intricate mechanism that is our foot.
What lies “under the hood”?
Our feet are a perplexing mechanism consisting of 100+ assorted muscles, 26 bones and 33 joints. They’re a very delicate piece of machinery that acts as a shock buffer for our body as well as a propulsion enabler.
That being said, getting the best tactical boots for complementing them rather than tying two bricks to your feet might include more pondering and research than you’ve bargained for.
Tactical boots are no stranger to civilian feet due to their protective properties and comfort. They’re optimally designed for fitting the needs of soldiers, hunters, hikers, and, of course, smart preppers.
So, let’s cut to the chase and see how to choose the best tactical boots for a “bulletproof” bug out plan. You want a head start when things like “fair fight” jump out the window, right?
Different kinds of tactical boots
The first, pre-enumerating tip is, “Don’t confuse fancy parade tactical boot and “real” tactical boot made for the situation of war”.
The latter will help you hit the ground running “when it all hits the fan”, the former will just look festive and leave you twiddling your thumbs while an earthquake is tearing through your neighborhood. Enough said.
Before we move on to talk about the types of tactical boots for you to choose from depending on your potential scenarios, let’s make sure we know the basic terms I’ll be using – the “anatomy” of a hiking boot.
Now that we armed with the basic, let’s get to the “meat” of the article – types of tactical boots and how to choose the best for your needs.
They first appeared in the 1940s as a part of standard parachute unit’s outfit.
They’re officially known as “paratrooper boots”, and feature reinforced ankles for injury-prevention alongside tall shanks reaching the calf. Depending on the size, they have 11-13 eyelets followed by heels optimized for airborne units and rubber soles.
Modern versions also feature toe caps for extra protection. You might know them as “Corcorans” after the company first contracted to make them.
So, if your survival scenario involves a lot of jumping over nasty terrain (maybe even a parachute jump), these are your “weapon” of choice.
They were conceived after the establishment of US Tank Corps by (back then) Captain George S. Patton Jr. as a standard issue for members of the tank crew.
Their biggest advantage is using leather straps for fastening to the feet of the wearer, rather than ordinary laces. This nullified the potential danger of laces coming undone and then tangling in the many moving, exposed parts of the tank.
So, if you’re navigating a forest-filled area with branches and tree-roots impeding your every step, need I say more?
With tanker boots, canvas or nylon panels were never an option, simply because canvas and nylon are flammable, and that’s the last thing you’d want while trapped in a metal box. So, if extreme heat is a potential scenario in your bug out, these might be your best bet.
Furthermore, they’re all-leather, so in case of a toxic spill, they won’t absorb toxic chemicals and expose your feet.
The tongue is gusseted (sewn to the boot preventing debris from getting in). They also feature steel toe guards, plastic or steel guards (both in the heel and shank) and protective metal insets. As a result, sharp rocks won’t pierce/slice through your boot.
Extreme weather-“friendly” tactical boots
For a good prepper, war is a state of mind even before it gets real. Against nature, other people, the government, economy, odds…
War in the more conventional context, however, is all about location, and it doesn’t always choose the most hospitable ones.
That’s why combat boots for extreme weather circumstances merit a mention. Here are the most commonly used types:
Jungle boots – These tactical boots predate WW2 since they saw the light of day when a small band of Panama-stationed US soldiers was issued a canvas-upper, rubber-soled boot for testing purposes.
They weigh around 3 pounds and weren’t envisioned as boots for preventing water from coming in, but allowing for optimal drainage while keeping sand, mud and insects out.
Ventilating woven mesh insoles were later added for trapping air and “forcing” it to circulate within the boot by the very act of taking a step. The eyelets serve for both water-drainage and extra breathability.
They can also be used in cold weather since breathable insoles will insulate your feet from the ground. Soldiers used them successfully in Venezuela, Panama and many other countries (it was reported they also reduce the outburst of tropical ulcers and blisters).
Jungle boots witnessed the battlefields of WW2, First Indochina War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, so if you’re up against a jungle-like terrain and climate, these are the best boots to increase your chances of survival.
Combat boots for high temperatures (Desert boots)
The story of desert combat boots in the US begins with CENTCOM’s Commander Norman Schwarzkopf.
He added the following features to the original design from Saudi Arabia:
• A tan rough suede with nylon laces and siding
• 10 Speed-lace eyelets to enable faster tying
• Utilization of Panama-sole pattern of threads
• Steel protection plates were eliminated (these tend to retain heat)
• Drainage vents were also eliminated for preventing sand getting inside the boot
For US forces, these were a staple for battlefields such as Iraq or Afghanistan. They require far less maintenance than regular all-black tactical boots and will provide a comfortable mobility in high-temperature areas.
So, if you’re facing the ugly beast that is a bug out situation in dry, warm, or desert-filled areas, these boots are your ticket out.
Waterproof cold weather tactical boots
Inclement weather can affect the overall performance of your feet in more ways than one, all of them negative. The proper approach is a pair of insulated combat boots.
Their main difference compared to regular weather boots is a layer of GoreTex added. GTX is a special fabric that’s Teflon-coated, yet with millions of microscopic pores for air-exchange.
The main caveat here is getting the right pair for the job, meaning you can get a pair that’s simply waterproof, one that’s optimized for colder climates as well, or one that’s intended for ubercold weather (we’re talking down to -20 degrees F here).
You and you alone know what awaits in YOUR fight ahead, so these will be a perfect choice if the disaster scenario finds you in a rainy, cold or my-good-is-it-cold climate.
Nothing is set in stone – a tight fit in particular
Let me just rattle a few cages here: TIGHT FIT ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE!
Our feet swell up during the day, which is a perfectly normal occurrence. So, a pair of combat boots that was a tight fit in the morning becomes an absolute terror as the day progresses.
Just imagine trying to tug your BOB through a painful terrain (or ANY terrain) with your toes slowly becoming increasingly compressed as you go. Not a very good survival recipe from where I stand.
I made the same misstep once trying to hike the Angel Rock – Chena River trail and ended up regretting the day I was born. My main point is, do your combat boots shopping in the late afternoon and you’ll be comfortable from the get go.
Here are some other essentials regarding trying your new boots for size:
• Wear your favorite type of socks while you try them on. Their thickness can affect the overall fit like you wouldn’t believe
• See if the insole matches your foot once you’ve taken it out. It should fit your foot in both size and ergonomics
• The feeling your boots provide should be snug, not tight. Try walking around a bit and see if they rub some of the pressure points the wrong way. Take a look at the image below as a reference for pressure points
• Before lacing the boots, there should be enough room behind your heel to fit your index finger
• During the lacing, you should feel your heel slowly being pushed backwards, filling that gap
• There should be extra room in the front, so your toes don’t touch it
• When you’re all laced-up, your heel and the boot should move as one. Any rubbing in that area will bring on a blister-bonanza
I hope I’m crazy, but what if I’m not?
I’ll illustrate my thoughts on preparedness with a single quote from Abraham Lincoln: “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 6 sharpening the axe”.
Preparedness for as many disastrous scenarios possible is the key of smart prepping way. A right choice of footwear can make or break your success chances should any calamity strike, so spare no expense (money and time-wise) to turn the tables in your favor.
In a word, don’t wait for the rain to start building your ark.
I hope we never have to put this information to the ultimate test, but we’ll certainly have much better odds of survival should such times arrive.
James Menta @ SoleLabz.com
This is a guest post.
This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.
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Great article ! I may need to have more than one type of boots for different times of the year. I hadn’t thought of that before. Some pics of each type would be appreciated. Thanks.