SHOT Show: Propper Boots

Propper is the largest official supplier of the military and, in fact, has been supplying the military with gear almost since day one. The company was founded in 1967 by William Propper who won the first government contract manufacturing caps known as “Dixie cups;” the Dixie cup is the classic white US Navy sailor cap with a soft crown and the tall brim folded up all the way around the edge. The company’s main focus is supplying the military’s standard issue uniform to service members; to date Propper has distributed more than 120 million articles of clothing for the various branches of the military and sells its products through more than 2,500 specialty stores an websites. For decades the name of Propper has been synonymous with military uniforms, but there is one thing they haven’t manufactured before: Army boots. In 2015, that’s going to change.

The boots are coming out in three series: 100, 200, and 300. Propper has put quite a bit of work into these boots; they clearly decided if they’re doing boots, they’re going to do it right.

Propper’s new boots

First, the “last”

Among the many carefully thought out features is one that has to do specifically with the way the boots are made. During the manufacturing process for all boots a last is created, and if the last isn’t properly made or sized it has a negative effect on the fit of the boots. So what is a last?

A last is a 360 degree molded form made in the shape of a foot. They come in pairs and are the forms boots are made around. Over the years they’ve been made using a variety of materials including hardwood, cast iron, and many kinds of plastic. Today hardwood lasts are typically only used by bespoke shoemakers, and in China, where a great many shoes are made for distribution all over the world, lasts are made from high-density polyethylene plastic (HMW-HDPE). One of the common problems with shoe sizing has to do with the lasts. Often they’re not made according to US sizes and there are significant differences between the molds, so even lasts that should be the exact same size vary, meaning shoe size varies – within one size, and within one company. It’s those inconsistencies that create the differences between shoes and why you find yourself faced with shoes in what should be your size – but aren’t. Most companies don’t invest the time or money necessary to create a truly superior fit, one you, the wearer, can count on to fit as expected each and every time. But Propper isn’t just any company, and they understand the importance of fit.

Propper’s new boots are made with US-sized lasts, meaning they’re sized specifically to fit your feet, and they’re also made for a consistent fit. That means the size 8 that fits me in the 300 series also fits in the 200 series; that means I can order a pair down the road without worrying about whether or not it’ll fit right out of the box. These lasts took four years to create, and that’s precisely the kind of dedication to quality Propper’s reputation is built on.

The Team

The team behind the new boots is headed by a pair of names that carry weight in the boot industry: Pavan Singh and Roger Dutilly. The former is celebrated in the shoe-making industry for his designs while the latter has significant experience in many aspects of production. In fact, Dutilly is fluent in three languages – English, Spanish, and French – and has more than 35 years of experience in management in the industry. And when it comes to the shoes themselves, he’s overseen the production of more than 80 million pairs of men’s and women’s shoes of all styles. He’s also been responsible for setting up multiple new factories in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic which comes in handy here because Propper purchased an entire factory in Puerto Rico just for the production of these boots. Now you know about the time, skill, and lengths that have been gone to creating these boots, so it’s time to take a look at the features.

The Details

First and foremost, the Series 300 are AR-670-1 compliant boots; not only that, they’re also Berry compliant, meaning they are 100% made and assembled in the United States of America. And perhaps one of their greatest features is this: they can be worn right out of the box. That may seem like a bold claim, but it does seem to be true. The rep I spoke to at SHOT Show at the Propper booth had pulled his boots out of a box, brand new, just that morning, and he’d been on his feet for more than seven hours at that point. Not only did he have zero complaints but he said his feet actually felt good, and that’s not something you can usually say when you wear brand new boots for hours on end without a break-in period.

Propper Series 300

These boots have excellent arch support and custom-molded inserts for superior support and stability. According to Singh the boot is specifically designed so there won’t be any “focus of pressure on the arch or other points of the foot.” It’s all about proper weight-distribution which is achieved in part through load-bearing ribs on the aforementioned internal plate. Those ribs help the boot distribute your weight evenly rather than concentrating it in one spot in a technique referred to as spreadloading. Spreadloading also lends to greater stability, especially when climbing on uneven terrain, and helps keep your foot properly aligned. This support system also lends to better shock attenuation, which is the process by which the impact of your foot striking the ground is absorbed by the boot, directing the force of collision away from your joints and into the boot instead.

And if you need another reason to be wishing to get your hands on these boots, there’s the way the sole is made. As a service member or first responder there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be hard on your boots, and when you’re hard on your boots, that use and abuse tends to be transferred to your feet. Propper understands the need for extra-tough boots, so they’ve taken a cue from Goodyear Uniroyal and the incredibly heat-resistant compound they use in their tires. The polyethylene compound is molded apart from the boot and added later to make the boot as resistant as possible to activities such as fast-roping. We all know what kind of heat fast-roping generates, so the fact that the Series 300 Propper boots are designed to resist that heat during braking is more than a little impressive; Propper really has thought of everything.

Propper Series 300

These boots are made for a nice, secure fit in the heel while simultaneously leaving room to spread your toes in the toe box – but not too much room. Striking a balance between the need for a snug fit and the need for comfort can be difficult to manage, but it looks like Propper has done just that. And then there’s the Vibram outsole, which prevents slipping, and the raised panels on the sides of the boots, which protect you from the kind of injuries you might sustain thanks to flying rocks, sharp sticks, and anything else that might attempt to impale your ankle. On the inside the boot is lined with Dri-Lex, a breathable, moisture-wicking material, and also has two drain holes for those times you have no choice but to slog through some sort of body of water. The waterproof version is lined with Gore-Tex, which is an impressively thin fabric with more than 9 billion pores per square inch that is durable and waterproof yet still manages to be breathable. And because we all know what happens to our boots after lengthy, sweaty wear, the Series 300 boots also have an Aegis lining, which is anti-microbial and anti-fungal.

Bottom line: This may be Propper’s first shot at Army boots, but after taking a look at these boots hands-on (feet-on?) and hearing about the intense work and innovative features that have gone into them, it’s clear they’ve hit the bullseye. The Series 300 boots will be available in September of 2015; MSRP is not yet available.

Propper Series 300

Series 300 Features:

  • AR-670-1 Compliant
  • Berry Compliant (Made in the USA)
  • US MIL-SPEC full-grain flesh-out cattle hide leather – 5.0-5.5 oz.
  • US MIL-SPEC, low density PU mid-sole
  • Shock Density Poly Ethylene Compound utilizing V-40 technology in fast rope area to prevent rope burns
  • US MIL-SPEC Vibram Outsole, Oil and Slip Resisting with self-cleaning lugs
  • Constructed using true USA sizing resulting in superior fit, all-day comfort and weight distribution
  • Custom fit available through the use of additional insole provided with each pair
  • Poly Ethylene Stability Plate contours to foot cavity for excellent support
  • Anatomical athletic fit footbed to stabilize arch support
  • Strobel construction provides added flexibility in a lightweight package
  • GORE-TEX lining for a complete waterproof boot
  • Dri-Lex lining, utilizing two drain holes (non-waterproof version)
  • Aegis anti-microbial and anti-fungal lining
  • NATO speed lace system quickly provides a custom fit
  • Serrated toe and heel outsole aids in vertical climbing and crawling
  • US Men’s whole and half sizes 5-12.5, whole sizes 13-15
  • Medium widths available in all sizes
  • Wide widths available in sizes 5-14

Also coming from Propper are the Series 100 and 200 boots. The 200 has quite of few features in common with the 300, it just isn’t going to be made in the USA. The 100 are also good quality boots with two models designed for LE and one for Army members. According to the company rep I spoke wit,h the Series 100 and 200 boots are closer to hitting the shelves than the 300, so you can pick yours up by summer 2015, if not sooner. We will absolutely keep you in the loop.

Propper Series 200

Series 200 Features:

  • F4510 – Black 6” Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4509 – Black 6” Waterproof Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4513 – Black 8” Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4511 – Black 8” Waterproof Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4514 – Coyote 8” Military Boot – AR-670-1 Compliant
  • F4512 – Coyote 8” Waterproof Military Boot – AR-670-1 Compliant
  • Top-of-the-line materials come together in the Series 200 boot to provide superior comfort from day one and long-lasting durability. A Vibram outsole, Aegis anti-microbial lining and full grain cattle hide leather come together in a high-performance package. It’s a level of comfort and performance that you need to try on to believe.
  • AR-670-1 compliant full grain flesh-out cattle hide upper (Coyote)
  • Full grain polishable leather upper (Black)
  • YKK side zipper with hook and top loop zipper guard (Black only)
  • Aegis anti-microbial breathable lining prevents odor and extends the life of the boot
  • Vibram composite rubber outside
  • Durable, coated speed lace hardware with 550 paracord lacing
  • Fast-rope compatible arch resists wear from ladders and fast-roping
  • Washable open-cell foam inserts contour to your foot for weight distribution and arch support
  • Oil-and-slip-resistant outsole for excellent traction

Propper Series 100

Series 100 Features:

  • F4506 – Black 6” Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4507 – Black 8” Side Zip LE Boot
  • F4508 – Coyote 8” AR670-1 Compliant Army Boot

Propper footwear was designed for long-lasting comfort and durability. All of their boots are based on true U.S. sizing to provide perfect fit. The leather and 1000D nylon upper can be pulled snug with a quick and easy speed lace system. The rubber foundation and an arch made from even more durable compound will hold up to the rigors of fast-roping. The Series 100 is a great value in footwear.

  • Polishable cattle hide leather (black) with 1000D nylon upper
  • Water-resistant suede (coyote) with 1000D nylon upper
  • YKK side zipper with hook and loop zipper guard for easy on and off (black only)
  • Durable, coated speed lace hardware with 550 paracord lacing
  • Fast-rope compatible arch resists wear from ladders and fast-roping
  • Washable open cell foam inserts contour to your foot for weight distribution and arch support
  • Oil-and-slip-resistant rubber outside for excellent traction and impact absorption
  • Open cell air mesh foam provides full foot air circulation for maximum comfort
  • Anti-microbial breathable lining prevents odor and extends the life of the boot

The Propper Series 100 coyote boot can be ordered here.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth

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