Everyone needs a good pair of boots if they want to be prepared. We all get used to wearing whatever we want. I’ve met plenty of people who don’t own a pair of shoes appropriate for walking a few miles or doing manual labor.
There are some excellent American-made boots available, and I encourage you to buy a pair if you can afford them. Remember, you get what you pay for—unless you happen to catch a good sale. Some companies sell American-made and foreign-made versions of the same boot. My husband and I have found that the American-made version is usually made with better materials and construction.
There are boots for hot weather and boots for cold weather. Remember, you can wear an extra pair of socks if you buy boots ½ size larger, but it’s really uncomfortable to wear winter boots in the heat of summer. We live at 3,000 feet on a mountain in North Carolina. Despite the elevation, it’s never so cold that we need boots with a lot of insulation. Some years, it can get down to −10°F, but even that is just a rare day here and there. Be careful not to buy boots that are warmer than you need.
Soft, hiking-style boots might be more comfortable, but they wear out faster than full-grain leather boots.
Many who live an outdoor lifestyle or do a lot of manual labor have several pairs of boots for different activities. You may need three types if you live somewhere with severe winters.
The Belleville brand is familiar to anyone who’s been in the military or law enforcement. Belleville makes boots in the US and abroad, so if you’re determined to buy American, make sure to read the fine print. Their boots all seem to be of decent quality and designed to be comfortable even if you’re on your feet all day.
I like the USMC boot because it’s tall and laces tight. This boot is made to be comfortable in even the worst circumstances. Another plus for me is that it has a bit of a heel. I’m not in the military or law enforcement, but I sometimes wear logging boots with a heel. So, I’m used to about a one-inch heel. Any more than that and stability is an issue. The Belleville style is waterproof and made for warmer temperatures, but wearing thick socks with them will get you through many winters. The Vibram sole has an aggressive tread pattern for safety and stability.
Bates is another boot company that provides boots for law enforcement and the military. They are mostly made in the USA, and for the money, they are fantastic. They’re comfortable even if you’re on your feet all day. I especially like the ankle support they provide. Many models have a zipper, so you can get them on and off quickly when the situation calls for it.
The Velociter stands out because of its incredibly well-cushioned and supportive sole. The upper is made of waterproof leather and mesh for durability and ventilation. The toe protection is thick rubber, a fantastic alternative to steel or safety toes.
This is a pretty standard design urban tactical boot. Saloman designed and fabricated this boot with extended wear and comfort in mind. One of the first things I noticed was that the upper allows for good airflow. Ventilation is all too often overlooked in a good boot. The lower is full-grain leather, which seems to be increasingly rare nowadays.
I encountered White’s Boots in college because the forestry professionals who trained us to fight wildfires and use a chainsaw wore these boots. They are not inexpensive, but they are known for comfort and quality. Although some might not consider them “tactical,” I think they deserve to be on this list because White’s makes a range of work boots that are designed for optimum comfort and performance. Unlike most shoes nowadays, these are made to allow for repairs, including resoling. The advantage of White’s is that they are designed to be rugged and comfortable in extreme working conditions.
Hikers and backpackers consider Vasque a top brand. The Breeze is their 6-inch tactical hiking boot. The unique tread pattern is designed to grip like no other. If you’re like me and hate finding a nice looking boot with a sole made for pavement, the Vasque Breeze will not disappoint.
The Breeze has a Gore-tex waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry while the synthetic microfiber mesh upper provides decent airflow.
When I first used GoRuck products, they only made high-quality backpacks for rugged daily use. Now, they have a full line of tactical clothing and boots. I love the boots most recently added to their lineup because they are based on the Vietnam jungle boot design that I’ve been wearing daily for most of the last year. I have a pair of the originals from the late 60s, and when they wear out, I will be looking for a quality replacement that will stand up to all of the working and walking I do around our farm. A good jungle boot design is great for hot and humid climates.
The 5.11 brand has grown in popularity because they make a wide range of affordable tactical gear for men and women. They offer hiking boot style tactical boots as well as the tall and tightly laced classic boots many of us buy and wear.
The ATLAS caught my eye because, living in the South, I’m always on the lookout for a lightweight yet sturdy boot for general tasks. Honestly, I wouldn’t use this boot to do a lot of shovel work because it’s suede, but for walking and working, it seems like it would perform well. The abrasion-resistant nylon and suede can handle rocks and rough terrain, and the lightweight footbed cushions and supports your feet throughout the day.
Over the years, I have found Keen to be one of the best shoe companies out there. Their footwear is tough, and even the more delicate looking women’s hiking sandals hold up to more abuse than I expect from any shoe. Keen makes a wide variety of boots. You can choose between safety or soft toe. The major feature that stands out with Keen is that the toe area is always reinforced. This has saved my feet more times than I can count, and it means their shoes last.
Here are a few of the Keen styles that stand out for tactical purposes:
Like me, you might associate this brand with workout or athletic gear. However, I found an Amazon open-box deal on a pair of tactical boots for my husband. I got a pair of $169 boots for $38. What was there to lose even if they only last a few months?
They turned out to be good boots that my husband has found comfortable. They allow his feet to breathe, and they look good enough to wear out to dinner.
After this experience, I am more inclined to try tactical boots from companies that are not known for their tactical gear, especially if the price is right.
I saw Danner in the logging stores I went into as a kid growing up in a small logging town in western Washington. They always seemed expensive, but when I got older and bought a pair, I realized why they cost a bit more. Danners are very comfortable, and they last and even stand up to abuse.
Danner has a full line of tactical boots to suit every need. I prefer an 8-inch boot, so I was happy to see that Danner offers many 8-inch boots with good ankle support.
The Dromos is their flagship military and law enforcement boot. They’re made of lightweight and strong synthetic materials. They breathe well, so your feet will stay dry and comfortable throughout the day.
For those who prefer a full-grain leather boot and a zipper option for easy on and off, the Striker is the boot for you. This is a tough boot with a breathable Gore-tex inner liner to keep your feet dry. The speed lacing system saves time and helps lace your boots tight for a good fit. The sole is slip- and oil-resistant Vibram. Although the tread pattern is not as aggressive as on some boots, it is rugged enough that I would not be afraid to walk around in even the slickest conditions on our farm.
Always keep an extra new pair of shoes.
While I don’t advocate having a ton of shoes, it makes sense for adults to have an unopened pair on hand. Staying ahead of shoe purchases insulates you from supply disruptions or other factors that could make it hard to get a good pair.
It doesn’t cost that much either. Catching sales on Amazon or online outdoor retailers could mean paying under $50 for a really good pair of boots. It’s especially easy if you wear a less common size.
Women should consider men’s boots.
In the past, the smallest men’s boot size that was commonly available was a 7.5 or 8. This is equivalent to a 9.5 to 10 in women’s. Thanks to military boot manufacturers making boots in a wider range of sizes because of the number of women in the armed forces, you can find outstanding deals on smaller men’s sizes. The rule of thumb is that you subtract two sizes from your women’s size to get your men’s size.
Men’s sizes run a little wider than women’s, so you may want an extra set of insoles or buy a narrow width, depending on your foot shape.
Boot repair and maintenance kit
Any boot will last longer if you take care of it. I am not the best at using my boot care kit, but I have one on hand for repairs and maintenance. This could be especially important if it were to become difficult to get a replacement pair. With the cost of shoes rising every day, a kit can help you get the most out of your investment. Here is what we keep on hand. It all fits in a single plastic shoebox, so you don’t have to sacrifice a lot of space.
- Extra shoelaces
- Boot polish
- Snowguard Waterproofing
- Old t-shirts for polishing rags
- Shoe Goo
Most boots lose their water repellent or waterproof properties over time if you don’t recoat them. No matter how much you pay for your boots, if you don’t waterproof them, you will eventually end up with a soggy situation.
Remember, insoles are your friend when it comes to issues like a boot being slightly too large. Around our farm, we use Dr. Scholl’s insoles for active men over 200 lbs. Insoles made for heavier people offer the best support regardless of your size. They also last longer.
Tactical boots tend to stretch out over time, so don’t assume boots that are a little snug won’t fit great after a slight break-in. They shouldn’t be painful, but a little snug at first is nothing to worry about. Break-in time for boots varies based on the materials they are made from and how much you use them. Full-grain leather can be softened with a good boot grease before wear.
Regular vs. Safety Toe
Some people find boots with safety toes uncomfortable to wear daily. I have a love-hate relationship with them. It’s great to have the safety toe protection for light to moderate impacts, but I have found that safety toes can actually cause more harm than good if something truly heavy or strong impacts your foot. A perfect example is a cow. I had a cow step on my foot while I was wearing steel toes, and the steel smashed down a bit. The pinching of the metal could have been serious compared with a few broken bones.
Safety toes have advanced beyond metal, though. Some are just hard plastic. What it comes down to is considering your needs, not just automatically buying a safety toe shoe. More isn’t always better.
Tactical boots are comfortable and durable for work and everyday wear. A good pair of boots doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you do a little research. It definitely doesn’t pay to buy cheap boots because they won’t last. Choose a quality brand if possible. Keep an extra pair of boots on hand at all times. Keeping and using a shoe repair and maintenance kit will help you get the most for your money. Boots made specifically for women tend to cost more. Many tactical boots either come in a women’s version or smaller men’s sizes. Insoles can help correct minor sizing issues or provide extra support.