Go ahead and raise your hand if you’ve ever had bloody, blistered, or swollen feet after a ruck march. Well, the good news is, your feet will get used to the punishment of military life. But the bad news is that if you cannot find the right boot for your feet, you’ll be walking with blisters for the remainder of your contract. Ruck marching is one of the brutally necessary tasks soldiers, Marines, high speed airmen, and sailors perform that is seen as a “great equalizer.” Why? It doesn’t matter how many pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups you can do or how fast you can run around a 1-mile track, a 45 pound bag gets really heavy for everyone.
Aside from proper uniform fit and ruck for a march, the only really important things are a decent pair of socks and an excellent pair of boots. First, are you going to be rucking for time or for completion? On road or off trail? Dirt or paved road? All of the above? These are questions you should be asking yourself as to what kind of footwear you’ll be fielding that day. The list we’ll present today will cover two categories: 12-milers and objective-based boots. 12-milers are boots that are best suited when carrying a strict 35 pounds over a single type of terrain, usually road, in a set amount of time. These are boots that you can run in with little or no risk to your ankle stability. Then there’s the objective-based boots. These boots are designed to carry you and 100 pounds up a mountainside in the rain. You probably couldn’t run very far or fast, but you can walk forever in a pair of objective-based boots.
Top Five 12-Milers (in no particular order)
- Garmont NFS: What an incredible boot. Using the same upper as the beloved T8, the Garmont NFS has everything you love about the T8, without the Vibram sole. Instead, Garmont produced an in-house sole that looks more like a running shoe than a combat boot. The sole is extremely soft and forgiving, making it an ideal boot for running on hard packed dirt roads or paved roads. If you’re going to Ranger School or SFAS, these are the ideal pair for long “boots and utes” runs, road marches, and O-Courses.
- Reebok Dauntless: A newcomer, but a solid performer with great heritage behind it. This new Reebok line of tactical boots boasts increased durability, an athletically-minded sole, and ventilation for days. The Dauntless has a decreased heel-to-toe drop, ideal for running, and a great heel cup for ruck marches. These perform best with an ALICE pack on your back and a rifle in your hand on long ruck marches.
- Nike SFB Field Leather Boots: Extremely lightweight, built for speed. These boots have an incredibly unique sole that make them an ideal choice for paved and hard packed dirt roads. Traction has never been an issue for me while wearing these and the extremely low heel-to-toe drop keeps your feet balanced without the risk of rolling an ankle or losing an edge while side-sloping. The lightweight performance offered by Nike in their new model is near second-to-none and performs well in all weather conditions.
- Danner Tachyon: The lightest of the light without sacrificing stability. These honestly feel like a pair of slippers, making them an excellent choice for a ruck run. If you’re on Fort Benning when Best Ranger rolls around, you’ll see two man teams striding it out on Sunshine Road and they’ll probably have on pairs of Tachyons.
- The SWCC/SOP-C/SFAS Special: Two parts unconventional but all parts comfortable, just about any soldier on Fort Bragg knows about the “Combat Moccasin.” It will require a bit of work on the individual’s end though. If you’re not at Fort Bragg, getting yourself a pair of these might take a little work. These boots were the pioneers of lightweight comfort before Nike or Garmont ever entered the tactical boot scene. First, dig out a pair of the most uncomfortable issued boots you ever had. Take them to a cobbler and ask them to remove the heel cup, toe cup, and replace the sole with either a wedge sole or a minimalistic flat sole. Take out the insole and replace it with whatever fits your foot the best. Congratulations, you’re now on the way to wearing a Rolex watch and a Randall knife. I won’t go into too much detail on why these are popular, but many Q-Course veterans swear by them.
These boots are what you would wear into combat. No, they’re not ideal for a timed 12-miler or running through an O-Course. What they are great for is getting you there, wherever there is. In the rain, sleet, hail, mud, swamps, wherever. They’ll make sure you get to your objective to complete the mission. All of these boots perform to the highest degree in the field, and are numbered in no particular order.
- Rocky S2V: They’re the best selling combat boot in the United States for a reason. With several extremely viable variants like the cold weather and non-compliant jungle versions, the S2V has carried me through streams, up mountains, through the swamps of Florida, all without a single blister. Ever. Even with upwards of 100 lbs. on your back, the S2V makes you feel like you’re walking with tank treads on your feet, thanks to a very unique and durable Vibram sole that wraps around the entire boot. The jungle variant is also extremely lightweight and breathable and could be included on the “12-miler” list.
- Garmont T8 Bifida: We’ve already covered the Garmont T8 NFS above, but we can’t give it enough praise for the value you’ll get out of a pair of these. Built for the elements, the Garmont name has been proven over the years as a brand tested for the mountains. The Vibram sole provides unparalleled traction and stability over any terrain and despite the full leather upper, dries surprisingly fast.
- Garmont T8 Extreme: The T8 Extreme is just different enough to warrant its own listing. Even in hot climates, the Extreme performs well. Don’t let the GoreTex lining keep you from wearing these out in the field if you’re at Stewart, Pendleton, or Benning. The Vibram sole is extremely lightweight and the upper breathes well despite the GoreTex lining. A rock-solid choice for year round wear.
- Belleville One Xero: Combining ultralight construction and durability, the One Xero is an excellent boot for field marches and carrying heavy loads under a variety of conditions. I’d never heard of these boots until several Ranger students were bragging on how well they performed in the mountains. Extremely breathable and tough, Belleville has crafted yet another excellent pair of boots to get you to the objective.
- Rocky S2V Enhanced: No, this is not the S2V your dad wore to Iraq in OIF-1. Rocky has just launched an updated version of the S2V that is sure to set the standard for future operations. Featuring a redesigned Vibram sole with a more aggressive tread and defined heel, the Enhanced S2V is sure to turn heads. PTFE treated for flame resistance, a snake-proof upper, a fiberglass shank, and a Dri-Lex liner scream “I dare you to try and break me.”
We at Authorized Boots hopes this list will help you decide how to best outfit yourself for whatever your needs may be, from smoking the EIB or Air Assault 12-miler, carrying 85 pounds up Hawk Mountain, or hauling the 240b through the Hindu Kush. If there’s another pair you feel deserves to be on the list, add it in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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