I don’t think I have ever NOT owned a pair of Merrill MOAB’s. They are widely worn and used in the military. The entire military, not just in SOF. It’s like Merrill means boot in operatoreese (SOF operator language). They’re available everywhere. The Merrill MOAB is a dominant force in the shelves of most shoe stores that sell hiking boots. I am unable to say outright – these are bad boots. At the same time, I can’t say these are the best boots you can get your hands on. They’re affordable, dependable, won’t break down on your right away, offer a short break in period if one at all, and can do just about whatever you need to do.

You know how the Toyota Hilux is the preferred terrorist vehicle. The Merrell MOAB Ventilator is the default Special Operator boot. Overall, they’re an incredibly reliable boot. So, whenever you hear “boots on the ground” do what I do, envision a Merrill MOAB walking around wherever they’re saying there aren’t boots. Even dogs endorse these boots (see below).

Image courtesy of Backpacking Culture.

As you can see in the photos posted throughout the article, the Merrell MOAB Ventilators are used by military service members in the field and at war. However, I do have some complaints with the boot. Some features hindered my performance over the long haul in usage. Here it is – the tongue is large and long. It runs all the way up the boot and is very thick. My feet are like bananas – if there are other banana footers out there, you know what I mean.

They’re long and slender. That means I have to lace up my shoes very tight. Because of the large tongue and the uninterrupted lace design that goes up the boot, it can become tight on the front of your ankle. When you’re traveling distance and especially if you’re running, it’s painful. I can wear these boots for daily activity. But whenever I put weight on my back, I avoid wearing these boots. But, this might be unique to me and my banana feet. Although, it’s important to note that these boots show up relatively slender. They have a thin sole similar to Nike running shoes.

Image courtesy of Nic Couillard on Flickr.

Also, when there’s a significant amount of weight on you, these boots feels like a sponge. They’re very forgiving, and you can feel the rubber soles giving way to the weight. But, for most loads and your average patrol, they seem to work for a great many operators.

The MOAB Ventilator is reasonably priced at around $100 a pair, and they can last for a long time. They do not last forever, however. These boots are good for one tough deployment but, no more than that. If you’re allowed to take them to Robin Sage, they will work fine, but you’d probably want to switch out for the real deployment when you get to a team.

Image courtesy of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.

These boots are called Ventilators because they’re designed to allow your feet to breath. If you don’t choose the insulated variant with GORETEX, they are somewhat true to name. Your feet won’t get so hot that they’re uncomfortable. However, these boots have fabric cushioning inside and aren’t thin. Because of that cushioning, you won’t be feeling the breeze on your feet, and you’ll still experience much of the heat. Expect your feet to sweat.


Image courtesy of Backpacking Culture.

The most appealing aspect of this boot is that they’re ready right out of the box. If you receive last-minute orders to go abroad and need to buy a boot… this is the one. If you’re downrange and you think your current boots are unraveling, unlikely to survive the deployment… these boots are ready to go upon arrival. That makes these boots clutch in a pinch. They perform well and considering there is no break-in period, they’re extremely convenient.

In all, these are solid boots. They’ll deal with harsh conditions for a six month to 1-year deployment and can handle the mountains of Afghanistan. They aren’t built for technical mountaineering, but general hiking. They can handle most any ruck, but are not designed for that function. They do dry fairly quickly, and you don’t have to be too afraid to get these boots wet. They’re good boots, categorically sound, and ready to wear in combat out of the box. They won’t fail you – and it’s not a purchase you’ll regret. They’re a good boot to buy for a deployment because they’re unlikely to fall apart on you, aren’t heavy, and won’t break the bank.

Featured image courtesy of Merrell.