Recommending gear is always a difficult proposition. Why? Because everyone is different, has different tastes, is built differently and certain gear that may work perfectly for one guy, won’t work a bit for someone else.

Caveat aside, one thing that we’ve harped on is having comfortable, tough, versatile boots on your feet. In Special Forces, your boots and your feet are your lifelines. Without a great pair of leather personnel carriers, you won’t get very far. That’s why, for me, the Merrell MOAB mid is the best boot on the market.

I’ve been using them for more than ten years, this is my second pair of MOABs and they are tough, comfortable and I can say with thousands of miles underfoot, I’ve never had a blister wearing them.

Mine have run the gamut of different types of terrain that I’ve worn them in. Here in the states, we hike and I’ve climbed in and out of a local place, Purgatory Chasm that is as rocky and tough as it sounds although the trails are short in duration. I’ve hiked the White Mountains of NH around Mount Washington, taken them into desert environments in several countries in the Middle East. They’ve also carried me into a more tropical place in Senegal and a mixed bag of wet, urban and semi-desert environments in Mexico.

Taking a break for some late night tea in a Bedouin tent coffee shop.

The sizing on these run (to me) about a half size smaller. I wear an 11 or 11 ½ depending on the manufacturer but the size 12 fits like a glove. And that is the thing about these boots that just jumps off the page. These fit like a favorite pair of slippers right out of the box. I don’t have a wide foot and the MOAB fits like a running shoe. The weight on them isn’t much more than a good pair of running or trail shoes and the mid has the height to give just the right amount of support.

I’ve always liked the lighter, snug boots, back when working in SFAS, my go-to boots on dry days were the old Adidas GSG9 boots. They were more running shoe than boot and were extremely light. I did several 20-milers with a heavy ruck in those and again, never got a blister. The MOAB boot is similar. It required zero break-in time. I got a new pair right before jumping on a plane for work in Morocco. I took them out of the box, put them on and went for a three-mile hike with absolutely no discomfort.

Merrell puts out on their website the following information:
UPPER/LINING
Waterproof Dura leather and mesh upper
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• Synthetic leather toe cap and heel counter
GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Footwear lining protects feet and keeps them dry
Breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis® Antimicrobial solution maintains foot comfort
Ortholite anatomical footbed

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MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE
Molded nylon arch shank
Compression molded EVA foot frame provides cushioning
Merrell Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
5mm Sole lug depth
Vibram® Multi-Sport Sole/TC5+ Rubber
Weight: 1 lb. 15 ozs.

The Ortholite anatomical footbed insoles that come with the boots are tremendous factors in their comfort. Working as the security advisor for a film in the Middle East required long hours of standing. At times on concrete, on hard packed dirt and on the top of buildings. I removed the Merrell footbed insoles and replaced them with an aftermarket one designed for standing. After two 12 hour nights, my feet hurt. I went right back to the Merrells.

Working as a contractor in a woodland environment, the MOAB with the Gore-Tex lining were superb three season boots. Living in the Northeast United States, I wear a taller pair of boots in the winter due to the depth of the snow, but this boot will keep your feet warm even in very cold temps. What stands out is the balance between lightness and support. Again, my preference has always been on a lighter weight boot. For really rough, broken and rocky terrain, I’ve always kept a pair of Merrell Sawtooth but unfortunately, those are no longer in production.

The Gore-Tex lining is a better value than the Waterproof and breathes much better if you’re going to be rucking for distances. The other nice feature is the footbeds slide out easily and allows the boot to air dry much more effectively and quickly. The snug fit doesn’t allow for any sliding around inside the boot which cuts down on hot spots or blisters.

These are excellent for all-around use, you can wear these anywhere and not look like you’ve just come back from an operation, but they are rugged enough to stand up to the abuse on rocky, uneven trails. The Vibram soles give an excellent grip and the molded nylon arch shank provides maximum comfort.

These are some tremendous lightweight hiking boots. If you’re like me and want a comfortable, running shoe type feel for your boots while rucking, give the Merrell MOAB a try. They are a tremendous value. They seem to be quite popular with the Special Operations guys and for good reason. When this pair wears out, it will be time to purchase pair number three.


Originally published on Special Operations.com and written by