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With all the tactical gear out there these days, it’s easy to look past your feet. But whether you’re an operator on a mission or just a grey man staying vigilant, having the right pair of combat boots is important. How important? Well, think about it this way: millisecond differences and fractions of an inch can mean life or death in a firefight. Anything that distracts, slows you down, or fails to perform when needed could cost you those fractions and inches. On the flip side, having the right footwear means not having to think about your footing on the slippery deck of a boat or while fast-roping down the side of a building.
But nowadays there are more combat boots than you can shake a stick at. It’s hard to know which are quality and which have simply been marketed as such. That’s why we built this guide from recommendations from our team of former operators and spec ops guys. Every entry on the list comes from a different SOFREP team member who’s actually worn the combat boots in the battlespace. From SWCC fast boats to the jungles of South American, these five footwear options will cover you in just about any situation.
Best All-Around Combat Boot
Salomon Forces Quest 4D GTX
Saloman has a whole lineup dubbed “Forces.” It’s a collection designed from top to bottom to be performance combat boots for the modern soldier. Offering a range of price options, the Forces line is well suited for any budget. But, the Salomon Quest 4D GTX is probably the best of the lot. Its secret sauce is the combination of good grip and comfortable flexibility giving you great support and traction for days on the roughest terrain.
The Quest has an aggressive lug pattern and the outsole is made of 100 percent rubber which helps it perform in just about any weather condition. It’s also got a GORE-TEX membrane which helps keep your feet dry. The upper is a mid-ankle style that is padded and feels more like a sneaker than a combat boot while still offering moderate ankle support and protection. The Quest 4D GTX only comes in one color — “Coyote Brown” — but if you want to go more tactical with an all-black boot, check out the Quest 4D Forces 2 EN, a close cousin of the GTX with similar properties.
Best Boot for Rough Terrain
Lowas Zephyr GTX Hi TF
Lowas is a close contender for the best all-around boot, but the Zephyr GTX really shines off the beaten path. While it has similar attributes to the Salomon Quest — GORE-TEX membrane, aggressively lugged sole, and comfortable sneaker-like feel — the Zephyr GTX Hi offers a bit more ankle support. This extra ankle support makes it great for long rucks on uneven terrain. Unlike a lot of other high top combat boots, most of the back of the Zephyr’s upper is soft padded fabric supported by the proprietary MONOWRAP frame construction.
What does this mean? Well, if you’ve put in the miles with a heavy ruck you know how a high top can chafe and constrict blood flow, two things that can slow you down and even lead to injury. The Zephyr’s soft yet supportive design keeps your feet happy, dry, and well protected. They also come in four colors — Sand, Coyote Brown, Sage, and Black — making them a great option for a range of environments and tactical kits.
Best Boat Boot
Converse “Combat Chucks” Chuck Taylors
If you’ve been around the SOF community or know anyone who is a SEAL or SWCC, they’ll probably wax poetic about their Combat Chucks. Though not the prototypical combat boot, Chuck Taylors are a perennial favorite of special operators. Why? Simple. Combat Chucks are comfortable and they dry much faster than a typical combat boot which is a major plus when you’re in and out of the water a lot. Though lacking the thickness and lugging of a rugged hiker, Combat Chucks’ flat outsole performs better on slick boat decks.
But the real secret is that Combat Chucks fit nicely inside OTB swim fins. Converse recently came out with a more expensive waterproof Chuck Taylor that they’re marketing as being more combat boot-like. But that is mostly hype. The original canvas high tops are where it’s at. They come in black and will last longer than you think. And once they do wear out, you won’t think twice about buying another pair.
Best Tactical Combat Boot
If you’re of a certain age, the name Adidas will conjure one thing: the Samba. But if you think Adidas is just a brand for mid-90s soccer star wannabes, think again. For decades Adidas has been making tactical footwear favored by SWAT and tactical teams the world over. Produced exclusively in black, the GSG9 is built from top to toe with urban operations in mind.
The abrasion-resistant leather upper is constructed like a performance sneaker while the rubber outsole is intensely grippy on everything from smooth cement to brick facades. The GSG9 hides a highly comfortable interior with a cushioned heel. This design is well suited for hard landings on unforgiving surfaces and makes you less noisy in CQB. If you’re operating in urban terrain, the GSG9 should be at the top of your list.
Best Budget Boot
The Good Ol’ Jungle Boot
A lot has changed since we were sending commandos into the jungles of Southeast Asia. But the iconic Jungle Boot, the choice footwear of jungle commandos, continues to be a great budget option for modern operators. The original design had a deep-lugged sole and a light canvas or nylon upper with mesh vents for easy drainage. Over the decades, this classic look has been redesigned and rebuilt many times over, but the basic silhouette remains.
While you won’t find the immediate comfort that you’ll get from a sneaker-like combat boot, once you break ‘em in they’ll feel like a pair of socks you can kick ass in. Coming in a range of colors and designs, it’s easy to find a pair that will match your kit. Our favorite is the classic black on black or OD green variants. And, with so many options out there, you shouldn’t have to pay a lot for a solid pair, making them a great budget option for anything from everyday wear to bug-out bag readiness.