Infantrymen have depended on good quality boots since the days of the Roman Legions, and that’s just as true today. Modern tactical boots are outstanding compared to what was available even 10 years ago, with new materials making them tougher, lighter and more comfortable than ever. But to get the best out of them and keep your feet in good shape, they need some care and attention. Here are 4 things you can do to care for your tactical boots so they last longer!
Remove Dirt Regularly
No matter how tough boots are, they’ll last a lot longer if you keep them as clean as you can. Sand and dirt contain sharp particles, and once they work their way into fabric and stitching – or the seams in all-leather boots – they start abrading things as the boot flexes. There’s no way to stop boots from getting dirty in the field, but whenever you get the chance you should clean them thoroughly. Mud is especially destructive because the water it contains can carry grit deep into boots. Oil will help keep leather from being soaked, and there are waterproofing products for fabric that work well, but it’s still essential to brush or wipe off as much of the muck as you can.
Keep them Dry
Moisture is also bad news. Leave boots damp for a long time, and they’ll grow a nice colony of bacteria (as well as damaging the stitching). Feet get smelly in the field, but anything you can do to minimize that is a bonus. Whenever you get the chance, dry your boots out. Don’t try to rush it though – leave them to dry at room temperature. Overheating can cause damage, and leaving them close to a fire or heater will definitely dry them too quickly. Leather will dry out and crack; fabric can be damaged, especially waterproof linings like Gore-Tex. Instead take out any insoles, slacken the laces and pull the tongue forward, and let them dry naturally. If you’re in a hot climate leave them in the shade to dry, not in direct sunlight.
Have a Backup Plan
Obviously it can take a while for soaked boots to dry, so to really keep your footwear in good order, you need two pairs. Good quality tactical boots can be expensive, so there’s always a temptation to pick up a cheaper pair as backups. You need to resist that. If your second pair isn’t as good as your main ones, you’re not going to wear them as much, and when you do, they might let you down. Get two pairs of the best boots you can afford, get them well broken in and rotate them regularly; that way you’ll always have serviceable boots available and in the long run you’ll save money by making them last. Ideally, you’ll have two pairs of identical boots so they will feel the same after they’re broken in.
Break them In
Breaking in your boots is a vital step in your comfort! A new pair may cause blisters or even more serious issues, up to ligament injuries. There are plenty of folk remedies for new boots that range from the masochistic – running along a shallow river is a common one – to the disgusting (filling them with urine and leaving them to soak overnight has to be the winner). The sensible option is to treat them properly with whatever protection you plan to use in the long run, whether that’s leather oil or a waterproofing spray, then just wear them. Start off going for short walks in them and build up the time until they’re properly molded to your feet. Some boots like the Nike SFB and Garmont T8 break in really quickly, while for some others, this can take a couple of weeks to do it right. But then good boots shouldn’t be a last-minute purchase before you deploy or go on a big exercise.
Boots aren’t glamorous, but they’re one of the most important pieces of equipment any warfighter owns. Tactical footwear absolutely isn’t the place to save a few dollars; the cost of a pair of the best tactical boots is easily justified by their durability and performance. Wherever you go, it’s your boots that will take you there, so choose them carefully and give them regular attention; that way they won’t let you down.