Let me guess, you’re on the search for a new pair of best tactical boots? Well then, you’re in the right place!
Traditionally tactical boots were for military personal but recently tactical boots have become a mainstay for the everyday worker as well.
Why? Because they are both comfortable AND functional.
They provide incredible support and insane durability even in the harshest of environments.
So the better question is,
“Why wouldn’t you want to own a pair of boots like that?”
That’s why today, I’m going to go share everything I know about tactical boots, specifically:
- What Makes A Boot “Tactical”?
- Why You Should Wear Tactical Boots
- Key Features To Look For In A Quality Tactical Boot
- 10 Best Tactical Boots On The Market Today
**Note: If you just want our top recommendations, feel free to SKIP AHEAD HERE.
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WHAT MAKES A BOOT “TACTICAL”?
Nowadays, you can find “tactical versions” of just about most survival gear on the market today. For example, there are:
But when people hear the term “tactical boot” or “combat boot” or even “military boot”, they immediately think of the bare-bones army surplus boots from the 1960s. These boots were the footwear of thousands of troops overseas for decades.
But advances in materials, construction, and design make today’s tactical boot much better.
They’re now a far cry from those your Dad (or Grandpa) wore in Vietnam.
Nowadays, a quality tactical boot gives you uncompromising support, protection, and stability.
For example, lighter-weight materials and more comfortable insoles reduce fatigue. Because weight reduction allows you to maintain a healthy pace throughout a long day on your feet.
Plus, anti-slip soles, waterproof liners, and quick-dry uppers all add to the capability.
Making tactical boots ideal for the most demanding conditions in the most unforgiving situations.
But at the end of a long day on foot, you’ll appreciate the engineering that went into these modern versions.
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WHY YOU SHOULD WEAR TACTICAL BOOTS
Tactical boots are still a mainstay of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies around the world.
These jobs require both physical endurance and agility. So they need a pair of boots to help withstand long days on patrol and be ready for a foot race.
But now people beyond military and law enforcement are wearing tactical boots. A large part of society now wears tactical boots to protect their feet on the go, such as:
- Mail carriers
- UPS drivers
- First Responders
Even many of the construction crew members down the block use tactical boots as well.
Because they like the stability that a tactical boot provides on uneven job site terrain. And the addition of a steel shank adds a layer of protection from stepping on a nail.
Hunting guides, adventure outfitters, and hikers all turn to tactical boots for harsh conditions.
Do any of these situations come to mind when you think about your daily life – or your emergency plans?
If so, it’s time for you to consider a pair of tactical boots as well.
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KEY FEATURES TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY TACTICAL BOOT
With so many tactical boots on the market today, how can you choose the best tactical boots for you?
Now, with the benefit of having a large selection to choose from comes a genuine challenge.
The challenge of sorting through all the options to find the best tactical boots for YOU.
That’s why we’re going to cover the significant features to look for to help narrow down the field.
When it comes down to it, you get what you pay for in most situations – and boots are no different.
If you’re interested in higher quality tactical boots, expect to pay a bit more for them.
But know that you can count on that quality to reduce costs in the long term.
Simply put, the math works out better with the more expensive boot.
You may need to choose between a ~$100 boot that will last a single season vs. a ~$350 boot that will last at least five years.
Now, some people argue that buying new, cheap boots allows them to adapt to changes faster. But in the long run, they’ll spend far more on boots than I have in the past 20 years.
Clean stitches, higher quality materials, and general attention to detail all count here. They’re all signs a manufacturer took the time to do their best work and didn’t cut corners.
These small details are what set high-quality boots apart from the rest.
You should always ask, “who was this boot designed for?”
An ultralight tactical boot is not ideal for the same scenarios as a tactical patrol boot.
For example, breathable desert boots clearly won’t keep you warm and dry in a snowy swamp. But insulated, waterproof ones won’t keep you dry in a desert wasteland either.
So make sure you choose the right tool for the job.
There are men’s tactical boots and women’s tactical boots. There are also high sturdy boots for stability vs. low flexible ones for agility.
The “upper” is the outside material of the top part of the boot – everything above the sole.
There are many choices of material for tactical boot uppers. Uppers can range from full-grain leather to synthetic materials.
Heck, some boots even use a mix of various materials in their uppers.
For example, breathable synthetic fabrics and durable leather are a popular combination today.
Why? Because this combo provides both excellent ventilation and high abrasion resistance.
In general, leather boots are more expensive.
This increased cost is due to material costs and the skill needed to work with leather. But the added expense translates into a more durable, abrasion-resistant, and waterproof boot.
Unfortunately, leather uppers are also more substantial and far less breathable than most synthetics.
That’s why synthetic materials are an excellent choice when breathability, weight, and quick-drying are necessary features. But the sacrifice in durability is a significant factor to consider.
The “liner” is the interior material of the boot (basically everything inside the shell).
This area includes any insulation, waterproof membrane, and the interior surface.
In choosing a liner, you need to consider the intended use and determine if you “really” need these options.
Insulation, waterproof membranes, and moisture-wicking materials will add cost and weight to your boots. But these features can be worth their weight in gold if you find yourself in certain situations.
The “sole” is the last major component of the boot – it’s the actual surface you walk on.
In this case, the sole includes both the midsole and the outsole.
The midsole is the cushioned footbed inside the boot. It’s the primary feature that determines how comfortable you are while wearing them.
Many boots use either EVA or polyurethane foam in the midsole.
EVA foam is lighter and softer to the touch, bouncing back after each step. However, it does stop rebounding eventually.
Leaving you with that flat, “packed out” feeling in your boots.
On the other hand, polyurethane foam is denser, making it more substantial and a little stiffer at first. In this case, the denser foam retains its shape far longer, giving your boots a better life.
The outsoles of most tactical boots use either natural or synthetic rubber.
The lug pattern of the outsole provides the traction and resistance to scuffing wear.
This rubber composition can be adjusted for different scenarios.
For example, oil or slip-resistance materials are prevalent. So are non-marking features, or even “grippy” materials for climbing on bare rock.
A protective toe cap isn’t always available in all boot models. But if you wear tactical boots for work, it may be a requirement.
Look for a composite cap instead of a steel one – it provides the same protection but isn’t as cold in winter weather.
Also, if you drop something heavy enough to bend a steel cap, it STAYS bent – possibly trapping your toes.
There are a lot of materials on the market that claim to be “waterproof.” But waterproof is more a function of submersion and time. For example, no boot is waterproof if you decide to go swimming in them.
Walking all day in waterproof boots may leave your feet just as wet as regular boots. Why? Because if your feet sweat, your socks will capture the moisture.
Water-resistant and waterproof materials will help in many situations. But be sure to wear breathable and wicking socks and change them frequently.
Swapping out to fresh dry socks is a necessary tactic if you want any chance at maintaining dry, comfortable feet at the end of the day.
Many people prefer a tactical boot with a zipper closure. Heck, there are even lace-in zippers to retrofit non-zipper boots!
To get zipper boots on and off, you unzip a side zipper and slip them on or off without touching the laces.
This zipper shortcut makes it faster and reduces wear on the laces. It also allows you to fine-tune the lace adjustments without having to redo it every time you put your boots on.
Whether you choose a zipper model or not is a matter of personal preference. But it is a fairly common feature with tactical boots, even if you don’t use it yourself.
Tactical boots are available in a wide range of both height and width.
Boot height choice is mostly a factor of how you intend to use the boots.
Higher boots provide more stability and protection against bruising or rolling an ankle.
Lower boots provide more agility and are easier to run in.
Boot width is more determined by the shape of your foot.
Those with a wider foot will feel pinched in a narrow or standard width boot. But narrow feet will slide around in a wide boot, causing friction and blisters.
For a long day on your feet, you need support.
Even without flat feet, arch support is crucial for anyone who stands, walks, or runs for long periods.
If you’re wearing a heavy pack, arch support is even more crucial.
The bottom line is:
Look for boots with excellent arch support. And consider purchasing aftermarket insoles to fine-tune fit and comfort.
Last – but likely among the most important – is the overall weight.
In backpacking, it’s often said:
“An ounce off your feet is like a pound off your back.”
After 35 years of hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering, I think that’s an understatement.
Lighter boots leave you with more energy, less fatigue, and FAR less pain. More so than reducing weight just about anywhere else.
Sure, lightweight boots don’t have the same durability ratings that heavier boots have.
But advanced materials often have high durability AND are lighter than traditional materials.
So there’s a compelling argument for cutting weight by buying higher quality boots. Ones made with more advanced materials.
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10 BEST TACTICAL BOOTS ON THE MARKET TODAY
So, where should you start? Here are a few boot choices to fit any budget.
These are all highly-rated tactical boots. These give you a good idea of what’s available at different price points.
Danner has been making top-of-the-line tactical boots for almost 90 years.
They’re American-made, and every pair comes with a 1-year warranty.
Their Striker Torrents boots are one of their highest-rated tactical boots.
They’re not the lightest boot out there at 54oz per pair. But these black tactical boots include full-grain leather and 1000 denier nylon uppers.
These materials help make these boots prepared for any abuse you can throw at them for years.
On top of that, the leather is polishable, in case you need them for a dressed up or uniform military appearance.
The flip side of the full-grain leather construction is it takes a bit of time to break in once you start wearing it.
Many people have noted the boots feel stiff and slightly under-sized on first wear.
But I’ve owned several pairs of Danner work boots over the past 20 years and can report that this is normal. Danner boots take some breaking in, but the leather does relax and slowly mold to your feet over time.
The GoreTex waterproof membrane liner is of the highest quality. The side zipper and speed lacing system are ideal for quick access.
- Solidly built and durable
- Comfortable (after break-in)
- Break-in period required
- Narrow toe box may not fit all users
Under Armour made their start in the athletic wear market. So it’s no surprise that their tactical gear retains some of that quality.
The Stellar tactical “sneaker” is a prime example.
It’s a minimalist black tactical boot, designed for moving fast and remaining agile.
Now, they’re not genuinely waterproof. Instead, it features DWR treated leather and a quick-dry design. This treatment helps keep you from having to hike in wet boots all day.
The wicking liner also features an antimicrobial treatment to prevent bad odors.
The leather takes a shine well for dress-up occasions, but it does appear to scuff easily.
Some of the early reviewers noted some durability concerns. Durability issues are more common in such a lightweight boot, but it may have been due to production issues.
- Lightweight and agile
- Quick dry and antimicrobial liner
- Not waterproof
- The side zip is not smooth
- Leather scuffs easily
This boot is available in the two most popular boot colors – Black and “Coyote” (tan).
The Breach 2.0 features long-wearing uppers with leather in high abrasion spots. And padded nylon panels to reduce weight and add breathability.
The leather is of decent quality, but the finish is thin and easily scuffed.
The Breach 2.0 Waterproof Boot has a waterproof membrane.
The EVA midsole is comfortable and lightweight but does tend to pack out after extended wear.
These include a non-marking sole of slip-resistant rubber with an aggressive lug pattern. These sole features make for “sure footing” in many conditions.
The side-zip entry is helpful for those who prefer a “set it and forget it” approach. Making it very easy and fast to get your boots on and off.
A stiff steel shank inside the sole provides arch support and protection from sharp objects.
- Durable YKK side zippers
- The leather finish is easily damaged
- Some stitching failures noted after heavy use
- Can be overly warm due to padding in uppers
Over the years, I’ve had several pairs of Merrell hiking boots and casual shoes. They’ve always been comfortable above all else. And it appears Merrell carried that theme over to their tactical boots as well.
The Moab 2 Waterproof Black Tactical Boot is an extension of their popular Moab hiking shoe and boot line. With tactical features added to the beef up the lightweight construction.
The Moab 2 Tactical Boot is both lightweight and flexible. These features help to maintain the agility of a much less bulky boot.
It also features a nylon shank to provide additional support. This nylon support helps keep the weight down and your feet a little warmer than a steel shank.
While Merrell claims this is an 8″ boot, I’ve always found that their boots are cut lower than average. This one is no exception. It’s slightly above ankle height, but certainly lower than my 8″ work boots.
The Moab 2 Tactical Boot features an exclusive waterproof membrane called M-Select DRY. This membrane will keep your feet from getting soaked when hiking in a rainstorm.
As with many waterproof membrane liners, it will “eventually” leak. Areas that see a lot of flex, like the sides of the toe box, will always allow a little water in if submerged for long.
Like all the Moab series shoes and boots, The Moab 2 Tactical Boot is reasonably breathable. But still runs a bit warm due to the padding and waterproof membrane. So don’t expect it to be a breathable summer boot unless you’re willing to change out socks frequently.
- Comfortable right out of the box
- Waterproof membrane performs well but remains breathable in dry conditions
- Waterproof membrane liner won’t last forever
- Not a full 8″ height
If you want a lightweight warm-weather tactical boot, The Danner Tachyon is a wise choice.
It features a nylon upper with large fabric panels for breathability. Plus, they have leather reinforcements at high-stress points for added durability.
Without any bulky insulation, these are close-fitting boots all around.
Thankfully, the minimalist construction doesn’t absorb much moisture. And the GoreTex liner keeps your feet from getting wet.
The speed lacing system is a fast and welcome addition in a boot that does not feature a side zip.
They come in several colors, but it’s worth noting that the “coyote” color is more green than it appears in photos.
- Dry quickly
- No side zipper
These are a solid all-around tactical boot. These boots include a nice mix of durability, lightweight, stability, and comfort.
They’re built more like hiking boots than old-school combat boots. So you can expect to put some miles on these without your feet killing you.
They’re more breathable than many other tactical boots on the market. The wicking liner helps transport moisture out and away from your skin. And moisture wicking helps to prevent nasty chafing and blisters.
A Vibram sole uses a non-slip synthetic rubber. This synthetic rubber ensures a good grip in even the most rugged conditions.
The uppers use a suede leather and durable nylon, so they’re quiet and made to last.
One side note, these are only a 6″ boot, unlike the standard 8″ height of many tactical boots. Not a deal-breaker, but certainly something to note.
- Very comfortable
- Durable boots
- Suede is quiet and stealthy
- 6″ height may not provide enough stability for some
- No side zip
The tactical boot market certainly caters more to the men’s side of things. But there are some solid choices out there for women’s tactical boots as well.
The Magnum Stealth Force is a well-built black tactical boot designed for women.
The full-grain leather and 1800 denier nylon uppers are sturdy and built to last. And the rubber sole is ASTM rated to protect from electrical hazards.
Despite the heavy-duty construction, these Stealth Force Boots are comfortable and lightweight.
The moisture-wicking liner and breathable nylon side panels keep your feet dry. And a sturdy YKK side zip makes it easy to get these boots on and off fast.
- Durable construction
- A moisture-wicking liner keeps feet dry
- Zipper is stiff
- Not a lot of arch support
Here’s another robust tactical boot model from 5.11. The ATAC Jungle Boot is a clean, no-frills design.
The full-grain leather and stout nylon uppers are well laid out and have a minimum of stitching. This favoring of simplicity helps to reduce the number of potential failure points.
The oil and slip-resistant outsole and cushioned Ortholite EVA insole make the ATAC Jungle boot both grippy and comfortable.
The ATAC Jungle features a tall cut, perhaps a bit taller than most 8″ boots, and provides excellent ankle support.
The side zip is smooth and well-built. Making for an easy option to get your boots finely adjusted and keep them that way.
Unfortunately, the ATAC Jungle boot doesn’t feature a waterproof liner. If it did, this tactical boot would have been nearly perfect.
- Durable and long-lasting
- Hidden knife/key pocket
- A clean, no-frills design
- No waterproof liner
Another solid boot from 5.11 is the Fast-Tac boots. These are a genuinely lightweight option that feels almost like a sneaker.
The Ortholite EVA insole and oil and slip-resistant outsole are a great combo. This combination gives you both comfort and traction in all kinds of conditions.
The uppers feature large nylon panels. This design makes for exceptional breathability, while strategic leather reinforcements help with durability.
The breathable upper is critical for warm weather conditions. So it can make these boots a little too cold for winter temps.
One major note:
While the boots claim to be waterproof, they’re only waterproof up to the level of the open boot tongue. Any higher than this and water can get around the tongue and down into your boots.
- Great for hot weather
- Excellent support from the insole
- Not fully waterproof to top of the boot
- No side zippers
Another budget pick, the Ryno Gear Tactical Boot is an excellent option for those who can’t spend a lot of cash.
The combo of leather and nylon upper provides a mix of durability and flexibility. And the padded collar and ankle give comfort and stability for a wide range of activities.
A slip-resistant rubber outsole provides traction in wet conditions.
These are NOT waterproof boots. However, they’re treated with a water-resistant conditioner. So you won’t soak your feet from light splashes or dew on vegetation.
They do have a full-length side zipper, which is an unusual feature at this price point.
Many people have noted that they run a little large.
- Slip-resistant sole
- Full side zipper
- Not waterproof
- Sizes run large
- The inner liner isn’t the most durable, particularly in the heel area
If you have any doubt that a pair of tactical boots is right for you, take a look around you. A lot of people wear them every day for work, recreation, and even casual wear.
A good pair of tactical boots are comfortable, lightweight, and sturdy enough for all-day wear.
But durable and protective enough to keep you from injury or fatigue after long periods on your feet.
Remember, footwear is a very personal choice. What works for someone else might not always work for you.
The bottom line:
A good pair of tactical boots can make your every day a bit more comfortable and help carry you to safety in a disaster.
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