10 Best Tactical Boots Reviewed in 2019 ( For Law Enforcement, Hiking etc )

tactical boot submerged in water

Anyone who needs or wants to engage in serious activity outdoors needs a good pair of boots.

Tactical boots are the modern descendants of the army boots of yesteryear. They accomplish many of the same goals while being much more comfortable.

Often available in black, tan, and a green color, such as sage, a good pair of tactical boots will help your feet feel at home whether or not the color matches the environment.

But comfort isn’t the only reason to wear tactical boots. They protect your feet from environmental hazards while supporting you and all the gear you need to carry.

Choosing the wrong pair of boots can cause blisters and leave you in agonizing pain. Good boots, however, will carry your weight for many years.

In this guide, you’ll find tactical boots to match all budgets and needs.

 

The 10 Best Tactical Boots of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best cheap #1: Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0
  2. Best cheap #2: Rothco GI Type Jungle Boot
  3. Best for the money#1: Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5
  4. Best for the money #2: Merrell Moab 2
  5. Best overall #1: 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C.
  6. Best overall #2: Danner Tachyon
  7. Best law enforcement #1: 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Storm
  8. Best law enforcement #2: Bates Ultra-Lite Tactical Sport
  9. Best for hiking: 5.11 Union
  10. Most comfortable: Belleville Tactical Research MiniMil

 

CategoryBest cheapBest for the moneyBest law enforcement
ProductSmith & Wesson Breach 2.0
Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0

Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5
Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5

5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Storm
5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Storm

Height8 in6 in8 in
MaterialLeather and nylonSyntheticLeather and nylon
BreathableYesYesYes
WaterproofNoNoYes
Side ZipYesNoYes
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Cheap Tactical Boots #1: Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0

Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and nylon
  • Colors: Black and Coyote
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? Yes

Overview

Smith & Wesson produces more than just guns. Their Breach 2.0 boots are affordable, comfortable, and durable, similar to their renowned M&P Shield pistol.

These boots are available in two colors, black and coyote. Both versions have predominately leather uppers with padded nylon panels. Those will provide some ventilation, but not much.

The normal Breach 2.0 is not waterproof, though a waterproof version is available for a little more money.

A gusseted tongue helps seal the top of the boot without adding bulk. An EVA midsole offers support and comfort. The sole is made from non-marking and slip-resistant rubber with a high-traction pattern.

A YKK side zipper lets you put on or take off the boots in a hurry, so you don’t have to fuss with the laces.

There is a steel shank for additional arch support. It’ll also protect your feet from ladder bruising and can protect against injury, like stepping on a nail.

S&W did have to cut some corners to get these boots so cheap, so you may run into two issues. The leather’s finish is thin and damages easily. Also, they won’t last as long as more expensive tactical boots.

Pros

  • High-quality side zippers
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • The outside of the leather is easily damaged
  • Relatively short lifespan

Recommendation

Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0 boots are comfortable and inexpensive but won’t last you forever.

 

 

2. Best Cheap Tactical Boots #2: Rothco GI Type 8″ Jungle Boot

Rothco GI Type 8″ Jungle Boot

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather, canvas, and nylon
  • Colors: Black, Desert Tan, and Olive Drab
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? No

Overview

The Rothco GI Type 8″ Jungle Boot is a copy of the USGI jungle boot developed for Vietnam. I’ll go ahead and say that these boots should be considered disposable items. They do what they’re supposed to do well, but they’re cheap boots and won’t last that long.

Oh, and they don’t come with insoles.

That said, they are still pretty good boots for certain uses. If you know you’re going to put your boots through a torture test, wearing these will save your more expensive boots.

They are made from leather, canvas, and nylon. This keeps them lightweight and allows your feet to breath, at least if you also have good socks.

There is no side zipper, but the lace holes are metal grommets which lace up very quickly.

The soles are made from soft rubber with large lugs. They offer good traction but will wear quickly.

These boots tend to run large, sometimes two sizes large, so keep that in mind when ordering.

Pros

  • Breathable
  • Cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Speed-laces

Cons

  • Don’t come with insoles
  • Run very large
  • Won’t last long

Recommendation

Rothco GI Type 8″ Jungle Boots are cheaply made and cheap to buy, so they are great for when you know your boots will get beat up.

 

 

3. Best Tactical Boots for the Money #1: Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5

Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5

Specs

  • Height: 6″
  • Material: Synthetic
  • Colors: Black, Coyote Brown, Desert Sand, and Ridge Reaper Camo
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? No

Overview

Under Armour makes gear for athletes. Tactical movement involves athleticism. It’s a perfect match.

Sort of like an upgraded sneaker, the Valsetz RTS 1.5 is a 6-inch tall boot good for tactical operations, all-day policing, and even hiking.

There is no leather in these boots. The upper is made from textiles and synthetic leather that weighs less and dries out quicker than genuine leather.

The available colors are black, coyote brown, desert sand, and Ridge Reaper Camo. I hope you like black and brown!

The Micro G EVA midsole is comfortable and lightweight. A TPU outsole provides support without weight, and the rugged rubber provides traction on a variety of surfaces. Abrasion-resistant polyurethane covers the perimeter of the boot to protect against rocks.

There’s no zipper on the side, though a speed-lacing system helps you put on the boots quickly. Under Armour does make a side-zipping version for $5 more, but it’s only available in black.

As for sizing, they run a little small. Also, the Valsetz RTS 1.5 is only available in a limited selection of sizes. If you have particularly small or large feet, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Pros

  • Comfortable like a running shoe
  • Small and lightweight
  • Speed-laces

Cons

  • Not available in small sizes

Recommendation

Under Armour Valsetz 1.5 boots combine the comfort of running shoes with the protection of tactical boots.

 

 Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5 is also available at:

Cabelas

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

 

4. Best Tactical Boots for the Money #2: Merrell Moab 2 8″

Merrell Moab 2

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather, fabric, and ripstop nylon
  • Colors: Black, Brindle, Coyote, and Sage Green
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Side Zip? Yes

Overview

Merrell makes great hiking boots. It’s a small hop from hiking boot to tactical boot, and the Moab 2 Waterproof Boot makes that leap.

It’s available in the normal tactical colors of black, coyote, and sage green, along with a color they call “Brindle” that’s basically grey.

Merrell claims these boots are 8″ in height, but I suspect they’re measuring them differently from other manufacturers. It’s probably the overall height.

These boots are waterproof because of the M-Select DRY waterproof membrane, but don’t expect them to keep your feet dry if you walk through more than ankle-deep water. Thanks to the nylon mesh, they are also breathable despite the waterproofing. Still, the Moab 2 boots are on the warmer side and so are best for colder weather.

Vibram TC5+ outsoles provide adequate traction under most circumstances. An abrasion-resistant toe cap protects the front of your foot from rocks, concrete, and other dangers, though it’s not as protective as a steel toe cap.

Pros

  • Comfortable, and most users report no break-in period
  • Waterproof and still breathable

Cons

  • The waterproofing won’t last as long as the rest of the boot

Recommendation

Merrell Moab 2 8″ boots are a good choice when you need to wear tactical boots in cool, wet conditions, but they won’t keep your feet dry in deep water or high snow.

 

Merrell Moab 2  is also available at: 

Cabelas

Sportsman’s Guide

 

5. Best Overall Tactical Boots #1: 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 8″ Jungle Boot

5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 8″ Jungle Boot

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and nylon
  • Colors: Black and Coyote Tan
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? Yes

Overview

5.11 Tactical’s A.T.A.C. Jungle Boot is not a cheap clone of the historic jungle boot. Instead, it’s a new imagining, built using 5.11’s tactical expertise.

These boots, whether you buy the black or coyote tan color, are designed to keep you cool. Nylon panels provide ventilation, the leather is durable yet not lightweight, and there are holes in the arches for extra air flow.

The liner is designed to keep you cool as well. It wicks moisture to the nylon panels and is antibacterial to combat foot funk. The boots aren’t waterproof, but they are designed to dry out quickly.

However, these tactical boots are not good for colder weather. The manmade sole may lose traction around freezing temperatures, and the construction does little to insulate your feet from the cold.

A.T.A.C. jungle boots are also on the lightweight end of tactical boots and are lighter than some shorter boots, but that 8-inch height keeps debris out.

There’s even a small, hidden pocket on the side of each boot!

Pros

  • Antibacterial, moisture-wicking liner
  • Very lightweight
  • YKK zipper on the side

Cons

  • Poor choice for cold climates

Recommendation

If you need a lightweight boot that will keep your feet cool and comfortable, the 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Jungle Boot is great for warmer temperatures.

 

5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. is also available at:

Cabelas

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

 

6. Best Overall Tactical Boots #2: Danner Tachyon 8″

Danner Tachyon 8″

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and fabric (Polished Black and Coyote colors) or completely synthetic
  • Colors: Black, Polished Black, Coyote, Sage, Sage Green, and Tan
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? No

Overview

The Danner Tachyon 8″ Military and Tactical boot is meant for combat training and daily wear. It comes in a wide variety of styles. The coyote and polished black colors are made with leather, while all of the rest have completely synthetic uppers. They look and feel like leather but are lighter and dry out faster.

The synthetic uppers also have an abrasion-resistant toe cap since the upper would not be as tough as leather without it.

That statement basically encapsulates these boots. They’re lightweight and comfortable but not as tough as many of the other boots on this list. But, they won’t weigh your feet down.

The insole is made from open cell polyurethane to allow air to flow and keep your feet cool. Nylon panels let your feet breathe. Drainage holes let sweat and water escape.

There’s also the Tachyon GTX if you need a waterproof version, but you’ll spend a bit more money.

Pros

  • Lightweight construction
  • Speed-laces
  • Wide variety of styles to match your environment

Cons

  • Lacks insulation for cold weather
  • Waterproofing requires buying the more expensive GTX version

Recommendation

Danner Tachyon 8″ Boots are great for all-day wear when you don’t need the most protection possible.

 

Danner Tachyon is also available at:

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

 

7. Best Law Enforcement Boots #1: 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 8″ Storm

5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 8″ Storm

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and nylon
  • Colors: Black
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Side Zip? Yes

Overview

The 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Storm is the best boot for police and EMT personnel because, in addition to its other qualities, it has a membrane that’s resistant to bloodborne pathogens.

Most boots can protect you from physical hazards. Few protect you from biohazards.

That membrane is also waterproof, so you can walk through puddles and snow without soaking your socks. It’s also antibacterial and breathable to keep your feet cool and dry.

5.11 Tactical claims these boots require no break-in period. There’s also a Shock Mitigation System to keep your feet comfortable even when running on hard concrete. The rear of the boot has a soft area to avoid pressure on your Achilles heel. An oil- and slip-resistant outsole keeps you from slipping.

There’s also a small pocket in the nylon side panels ideal for a small knife or handcuff key!

If you want the same boot with a steel toe cap, then 5.11 Tactical has you covered with the A.T.A.C. Shield.

Pros

  • Comfortability features, such as an Achilles heel flex zone, Ortholite footbed, and Shock Mitigation System
  • Concealed pocket
  • Membrane to resist water and bloodborne pathogens
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Not indestructible
  • This is a personal preference, but I don’t like the sloped rear cuff

Recommendation

The A.T.A.C. 8″ Storm boot by 5.11 Tactical is a nearly perfect police boot. It’s comfortable, long lasting, and will protect you against bloodborne pathogens.

 

5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. Storm is also available at:

Cabelas

 

8. Best Law Enforcement Boots #2: Bates Ultra-Lite 8″ Tactical Sport

Bates Ultra-Lite 8″ Tactical Sport

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and nylon
  • Colors: Black and Sage
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? Yes

Overview

Designed for police, postal workers, and normal people who want a good boot, the Bates Ultra-Lite 8″ Tactical Sport boot is a very well-designed tactical boot and is good for most uses.

The two colors available are black and sage. Nothing on the boot is made of metal. The upper is made from leather for durability and ballistic nylon for ventilation. A mesh lining wicks away sweat.

The tongue and collar are padded, though the tongue is gusseted only halfway up the boot. It’ll keep some debris out but potentially not all.

The sole is oil- and slip-resistant, while the footbed is made from comfortable lightweight EVA.

There’s a zipper on the side, but you’ll still need to untie your boots because there are no pull-tabs to help you get your foot in there.

Make no mistake: though lightweight, these boots are tough. One user reported a motorcycle accident where his foot was trapped under the bike for 50 feet. His foot was fine and the boots, though beat up, survived!

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Can be hard to put on due to the short laces and lack of pull-tabs
  • The side lace holders dig into some people’s ankles

Recommendation

The Bates Ultra-Lite 8″ Tactical Sport boot is a classic tactical boot that will continue to adorn feet for years to come.

 

Bates Ultra-Lite Tactical Sport is also available at:

Walmart

 

9. Best Tactical Hiking Boots: 5.11 Union 6″

5.11 Union 6″

Specs

  • Height: 6″
  • Material: Suede and nylon
  • Colors: Black, Burnt, Flint, and Dark Coyote
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Side Zip? No

Overview

Another crossover between hiking and tactical boots, the 5.11 Tactical 6″ Union boot is an excellent hiking boot which can also fulfill tactical purposes.

The Union is made from suede leather and nylon. Waterproofness comes from the eVent lining, which is also resistant against bloodborne pathogens. The Vibram Nuansi 2 soles are also excellent against water and can help you stand upright on moss-covered stream rocks.

The boot is padded all over for comfort. This is enhanced by using nylon loops as eyelets to minimize potential pressure points. Additional comfort comes from the Ortholite X-25 footbed.

Despite the comfortability features, the Union does require a longer break-in time than other tactical boots. The same is true of most hiking boots, though.

The padding also keeps your feet warm in the snow in winter, while the lining wicks away sweat for coolness in the summer.

A rubber toe cap protects your toes from kicking rocks. Though there’s no side zipper or speed-lacing system, but both the cuff and the tongue have pull-tabs, so these boots are easy to put on.

Pros

  • Good for both cold and warm weather
  • Very good traction

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Long break-in period

Recommendation

The 5.11 Tactical 6″ Union boot is a great all-terrain tactical boot with a serious hiking streak, but it is on the expensive side.

 

 

10. Most Comfortable Tactical Boots: Belleville Tactical Research MiniMil

Belleville Tactical Research MiniMil

Specs

  • Height: 8″
  • Material: Leather and nylon
  • Colors: Black (TR102) and Coyote (TR 105)
  • Breathable? Yes
  • Waterproof? No
  • Side Zip? No

Overview

The MiniMil by the Tactical Research arm of Belleville is what’s called a minimalist boot. It’s the only quality minimalist tactical boot, and it’s a pretty dang good one.

See, most boots have thick, clunky soles with a large drop from the heel to the toe. The MiniMil, however, has thin, flexible soles and only a 5 mm heel drop.

If your feet are used to traditional boots, then this won’t seem the most comfortable. After some time, however, you will start to reap some worthwhile benefits.

These boots are extremely light and comfortable. You’ll be connected to the ground underneath your feet, offering superb agility. Also, these boots are the lightest tactical boot available!

Padded collars, Achilles heel pads, and wide toe boxes improve the comfort. After wearing these for a while, trying out any other boot will make you feel like you’ve strapped concrete blocks onto your feet.

However, the leather around the heels can take a long while to adequately break-in. Also, I was getting only approximately one year out of each pair of these when using them every day. Tougher boots will last longer.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Provide superb agility and comfort

Cons

  • Long adaptation time if you aren’t used to minimalist footwear
  • Long break-in time
  • Shorter lifespan

Recommendation

Once your feet are used to walking without inch-high soles, the Belleville Tactical Research MiniMill is the most comfortable tactical boot you can buy.

 

 

Why Buy Tactical Boots?

tactical boots out of box

Some people gravitate toward wearing tactical boots. Other people don’t understand the appeal of this type of footwear.

For those who don’t, here’s why you should consider buying a pair of tactical boots.

1. First of all, when some people think of tactical boots, they think of the clunky all-leather boots worn by the military of yesteryear. Modern tactical boots are not like those! They are much lighter and more comfortable.

The current design for tactical boots came partially as a result of research by the military. The boots which were fine in Europe during WWII were completely unsuitable for Vietnam, which invited a reimagining of what military footwear should be. Eventually, comfort and utility won out over tradition, and tactical boots were born.

In fact, some people (such as myself) find modern boots more comfortable than shoes because of their height. The laces distribute weight over a wider area, from the foot up the leg, as opposed to concentrating all of the weight on top of the foot.

tactical boots upclose

2. Tactical boots also offer great traction, comparable to hiking boots and superior to sneakers. Most also offer ankle support for when your feet do slip, but not so much ankle support that your body decides to give up on and weaken those muscles.

3. Plus, tactical boots are durable. The can handle jagged boulders, broken concrete, and motorcycle crashes.

Not everyone needs footwear that can protect their feet. Those who do, however, should seriously consider wearing tactical boots. Though these boots won’t be as tough as, say, linesman boots or construction boots, they’ll be much more comfortable.

It may seem like these boots are only for soldiers or police officers, but that’s not true. Anyone who needs to be on their feet throughout their day and doesn’t need specialized footwear, from postmen to package handlers, should consider tactical boots.

In short, tactical boots provide all-terrain traction and defense against environmental hazards while being light and comfortable enough to wear all day, every day.

 

How to Choose?

rack of tactical boots

Most tactical boots have similar design features.

They lace up, have a high-traction sole, and have nylon panels between leather (or leather-like) portions.

But there’s a serious amount of variation within that definition. So, let’s look over some things to keep in mind as you’re shopping for tactical boots.

 

Fit

One of the most important things to keep in mind is how your boots fit. Poorly fitted boots are uncomfortable at best and can even cause injury. Well-fitted boots mean happy feet.

Here’s how to check new boots to make sure they fit properly:

  1. Try them on later in the day. Your feet swell during the day, so boots that fit in the morning may not fit in the evening.
  2. Wear the socks you plan on wearing with the boots.
  3. Put your feet into the boots, but don’t lace up yet. Nothing should feel too tight. You should be able to put a finger between your heel and the boot.
  4. Lace up and feel for grommets digging into your feet.
  5. Walk around a little, including a short sprint and some uphill/downhill movement if possible.

 

Watch out for these common problems:

  • Pressure against the sides of your feet
  • Toes touching the front of the boot
  • Your heel slipping in the back of the boot
  • Too much pressure against your Achilles tendon or down onto your instep

While light pressure can be fixed by breaking in the boots, and loose heels can be fixed by tightening down the laces, it’s generally a good idea to buy boots which don’t have these problems in the first place.

If everything still feels right, then you should be good to go!

 

Types of Tactical Boots

Tactical boots are a subset of combat boots, but it’s a wide subset. Basically, unless it’s specialized military footwear such as tanker boots or a paratrooper’s jump boots, it’s a tactical boot.

There are four basic types of tactical boots, though they often blur together. These are standard, desert, jungle, and cold weather boots.

Standard Tactical Boots

Standard Tactical Boots

Most tactical boots fall under this category. They are relatively lightweight, durable, stable, and have good traction.

The vast majority of these boots are black, so they don’t catch the light. They also tend to be tall, at least 6 if not 8 inches tall. This hides your socks and keeps out debris.

Most tactical boots have leather and nylon, with more leather around the foot and more nylon the higher you go. The leather is tough and conforms to the shape of your foot. The nylon allows moisture to escape, keeping your feet cool.

The sole is always a tough rubber, either natural or synthetic, which offers good traction and protection against sharp objects.

You’ll also have to lace up tactical boots. Velcro is quick, but if a Velcro strap breaks, then the boot is a loss. Laces are easy to repair or replace.

 

Desert Boots

Desert Boots

The hot weather version of tactical boots, desert boots need to keep out sand while allowing your foot sweat to escape.

Oftentimes, the main difference between a desert boot and a tactical boot is the coloration. Desert boots will be light brown or tan, often called coyote brown.

 

Jungle Boots

Jungle Boots

Unlike desert boots, which are used in dry places, jungle boots have to deal with heat and a lot of moisture.

So, they are often more nylon than leather, to maximize breathability. They are also never waterproof.

That can seem surprising to some people, but it makes sense. Waterproofing keeps water in as well as out. Once you’ve sweated into your boots, you might as well have walked through a puddle. So, jungle boots often have drainage holes to allow water to escape instead of being waterproof.

 

Cold Weather Boots

Belleville 775

Your footwear demands change when the temperature drops below freezing. You need improved traction on snow and ice, and since your feet won’t be sweating, you need to keep that moisture away from your feet.

So, most cold weather tactical boots will have a waterproof lining. They also tend to have more padding than other types for insulation, and others even have their own insulative lining.

 

Height

man fitting tactical boots

Most tactical boots are 6 or 8 inches tall. Unless you work for a department with certain height regulations, the choice comes down to personal preference.

Six-inch boots are shorter and lighter. Some people find them more comfortable. They can also be easier to put on.

Eight-inch boots are taller and keep out debris better. You can also tuck your pants legs into them for even better protection against debris. Waterproof 8-inch boots can also handle deeper water before it flows into the top of the boot.

I favor 8-inch boots, but many people are more comfortable with 6-inch boots. I would recommend trying out both heights to see which work best for you!

 

Material

black boots upclose

Tactical boots generally are made from leather and nylon.

Leather is tough, handles wear well, and conforms to the shape of your foot.

However, it also doesn’t breathe well and is sometimes uncomfortable before it loosens and adapts to your feet.

Nylon is also tough, but it’s very breathable. It’s also very lightweight but can’t maintain a boot’s shape by itself and so has to be supported by another material.

Synthetic leather is lighter and more breathable than genuine leather, but at a cost. It’s not as durable and won’t last as long.

All tactical boots will have nylon. They’ll also have either leather or synthetic leather. You’ll need to decide if you want to save on weight or wear more durable boots.

 

Breathability and Water Resistance

tactical boot on snow

Another factor is not only what type of material forms the boot but where that material is located.

The more nylon is down in the foot section of the boot, the more breathable it’ll be, at the expense of water resistance.

Some tactical boots are all leather until you hit the ankle. Those are better for people with colder feet, but hot-footed people will be sweaty and uncomfortable.

Also, adding a waterproof lining will make the boots less breathable. Modern waterproof membranes are much more breathable than a plastic sack around your foot. However, only a limited amount of moisture can escape at a time.

Unless you’ll be using the boots in snow, I would recommend avoiding waterproofing. That way, your feet will stay cooler, and if they do get wet, they’ll be able to dry out quickly.

 

Use Cases

Rothco tactical boots by a tree

When and where will you be wearing these boots?

Tactical boots generally are good all-around boots, but it’s still a good idea to keep in mind how you’ll be using them.

If it’s going to be cold and snowy outside, then you’ll want a warmer, waterproof boot.

However, those will cause your feet to overheat in hot weather.

Also, will you be wearing these in the city or in the wilderness? You don’t need to pay for hiking-boot-level traction in the city, and large lugs tend to collect mud out in the wild.

 

Laces and Zippers

boot lace and zipper

As mentioned before, all tactical boots have laces. Not all of them have the same types of eyelets, though.

Generally, some sort of speed-lacing system is a good idea. These are vertical eyelets through which you can pull the laces quickly or hooks to catch the lace.

Traditional eyelets offer more friction and will slow down tying your boots. This does, however, increase your lace’s ability to stay in position, so ignore fast lacing boots if that’s important.

Size Zipper

A zipper along the inside of the boot is a common feature of tactical boots. These can generally let you get into and out of your boots more quickly. Some even let you lace your boots up once so you never have to mess with them again!

However, size zippers can be uncomfortable for some people. They are also another point of failure, so make sure the boot in question uses high-quality zippers, such as those made by YKK.

 

Top Tactical Boot Brands

5.11 Tactical

5.11 Tactical

If you’ve been in security, the military, or law enforcement, chances are you’ve worn an article of clothing by 5.11 Tactical.

Oddly enough, 5.11 Tactical was first a rock-climbing clothing company. Royal Robbins, a rock climber in California, wore trousers unsuitable for rock climbing and decided to make his own.

Even the name is based on rock climbing; 5.11 was the most difficult climbing difficulty grade at the time.

Eventually, 5.11 Tactical noticed their pants were popular amongst FBI students at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and they decided to go full in on the law enforcement side of things.

Most 5.11 Tactical clothing maintains the goal of being durable and flexible, which makes them great for tactical use as well.

5.11 products are also used by recreational shooters and outdoorsmen who appreciate boots, clothes, and other gear that can handle demanding tasks.

 

Bates

Bates

Formed in 1885 by Andrew Jackson Bates, the Bates footwear company has been providing boots for police, soldiers, and civilians for over 130 years.

Bates wasn’t a small fry during this time, either. They manufactured over one million boots for the US during WWII and have continued to sell more since.

So, they know quite a bit about how to make a good tactical boot.

In fact, in 2003 they came out with the Ultra-Lite model. Though over 15 years old now, they are still one of the best-selling, most-used tactical boots in the world.

But they don’t just sell tactical boots. They also produce work boots and motorcycle boots for both men and women.

Bates is currently owned by Wolverine Worldwide, which also owns Caterpillar and Merrell boots. Bates, however, is the best of the tactical boot lot.

 

F.A.Q.

How do you lace tactical boots?

lacing up a tactical boot

Proper boot lacing can be an article of its own. However, here are a few methods you can use to lace up your boots. What’s comfortable for you will be different from what’s comfortable for me, so be sure to try several methods out before settling on one!

Criss-Cross

This is the standard lacing method known by most people. It’s when you cross the laces in the middle and push them through the eyelets from the inside out.

Cross-cross lacing is simple and comfortable.

Over-Under

A variant on the cross-cross, over-under lacing alternates between going inside-out and outside-in.

Boots with an even number of eyelets need to start by going inside the bottom eyelets. If your boots have an odd number of eyelets, then the starting section needs to go out the eyelets.

So, the lace goes outward through the first outlet, crosses the other lace, then goes inward. Make sure the other lace is at the same point in the pattern.

Over-under lacing provides less friction, so it’s faster to lace but also won’t hold as tight.

Army Lacing

This lacing method is intended for full-leather combat boots but can still be used when flexibility is very important.

Army lacing is the opposite of over-under when it comes to the first eyelet pair; start on the inside for an even number of eyelets and on the outside for an odd number of eyelets.

When lacing up your boots, cross the laces if they’re on the inside and move them directly up one set of eyelets if they’re on the outside.

Army lacing is harder to tighten and provides a looser fit, but it is also very flexible and less likely to get caught on the brush.

Gap Lacing

Sometimes you want tighter lacing with most of the boot but there’s one spot where you need extra flexibility. In this case, when the laces go out of the eyelets, send them directly up one pair before going through and crossing again.

I do this with my MiniMils for even better ankle flexibility. I’ve also seen it used to relieve instep hot spots.

Lock Lacing

On the other hand, sometimes you need a certain section to hold a bit tighter. In this case, when you cross the laces, twist the laces around each other an extra time or two. Friction will hold them in place better than other methods.

 

How do you clean tactical boots?

dirty boots upclose

Keeping your boots in good condition will save you money in the long run. Boots are expensive, but cleaning supplies are cheap.

Your boots should be cleaned whenever they become dirty from mud, salt stains, or other contaminants.

Here’s how to clean dirt:

  1. Remove the laces.
  2. Use a soft brush to remove most of the dirt.
  3. Use a damp towel to clean off light dirtiness.
  4. Use a leather soap if water doesn’t work.
  5. Recondition your boots.

Use the following to remove specific stains:

  • Salt stains—vinegar
  • Grease—corn starch
  • Ink—rubbing alcohol

After cleaning your boots with soap or removing a stain, you’ll need to recondition them. Follow the directions on your chosen leather conditioner. If your boots were a polished black, you’ll need to polish them as well.

 

How do you waterproof your boots?

boots in puddle of water

After cleaning your boots, you’ll want to waterproof the leather. This isn’t the same as making your boots waterproof but will keep your leather in good shape.

When you waterproof leather boots, you don’t necessarily make them waterproof in the “no water will get to your feet” sense. You need a waterproof membrane for that.

Instead, you’re waterproofing the leather itself to protect it from stains and rot.

Waterproofing sprays are useless. Ignore those. Instead, use a waterproofing oil or grease.

I favor non-animal oils because they are less likely to go rancid. My favorite is Huberd’s Original Shoe Grease, a beeswax-based blend with pine tar. It conditions and waterproofs the leather in one go and can be applied by hand.

Make sure to check out our full guide to cleaning and waterproofing your leather boots.

 

How do you break in tactical boots?

man breaking in tactical boots

Though tactical boots have less of a break-in period than do most leather boots, you’ll still need to break them in before you can wear them all day.

There are two methods of doing this: wet and dry.

Wet

This is the fastest method of breaking in boots if you have an entire day at home.

  1. Soak the boots in a bathtub or sink, inside and out.
  2. Pour the water out of the boots.
  3. Put on two pairs of socks.
  4. Put on the boots.
  5. Wear them all day while moving occasionally.
  6. After you take them off in the evening, remove the insole.
  7. Dry the boots outside or in front of a fan.

Wet leather will turn soft then both shrink and stretch.

 

Dry

Not everyone can commit to a full day of wet feet, though, so a dry break-in period may be required.

You also can’t use the wet method with high-gloss dress boots.

The dry method sees you wearing the boots for slowly increasing periods of time. Start with one hour then adding another hour each day until you reach a full day.

You may need to use moleskin to prevent blistering during the break-in period, though.

 

Can you hike in tactical boots?

man standing on wet ground

Some stores would like you to believe you need separate boots for hiking and for tactical purposes.

That’s not true.

Modern tactical boots are good for both urban and wild environments. They’re basically a hybrid of combat boots and hiking boots, so if you feel comfortable taking your tactical boots on the train, they’ll work well.

I hunt in my MiniMil boots. They work great on Alaskan mountains, even better than some hiking boots I’ve tried!

 

Additional information:

If you are mainly using boots for hunting, you might want to check out our best hunting boots guide instead.

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Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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