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What's in a Boot?

It takes more than leather to make boots strong, sturdy, and comfortable enough to keep a cop moving all day and into the night.

October 01, 2002  |  by - Also by this author


Original SWAT’s 9-inch leather side-zip boot is made to last through any kind of weather, keeping your feet dry and comfortable.

What's in your boot? I'm not talking about your foot or sock. There's plenty that goes into making boots wearable around the clock and throughout the year. You're going to be stuck with them a while, so you better get the best type for you.

You probably know what you like, but you probably also see something new each time you browse your local uniform store, looking to replace your boots. Companies continue to come up with newer and better technologies every year. Here's a look at some of this year's offerings and the reasons some officers choose the boots they wear on the job.

A Boot for All Seasons

Most often one pair of boots is all you're going to have, so they better meet all your needs every day-no matter the weather.

Rain and snow can be pretty problematic if you don't have the right waterproof footwear. You never know when you might run into a thunderstorm, even in the summer, so most boots need to provide excellent protection from water.

"In patrol you have to run through snow, get out and direct traffic in the water, or whatever. A boot needs to have a lot of versatility," says Det. Randy Peterson of the Bloomingdale (Ill.) Police Department.

Luckily, there are boots out there that fit the bill. For example, Original SWAT's model 1174 has waterproof seam-sealed construction, a full-length YKK zipper, synthetic moisture wicking lining, rust-proof hardware, and a waterproof gusset on the inside to keep the wet out.


Original SWAT’s Swatmoc, a lightweight but sturdy boot, features a slip-on design as well as a full-grain leather upper and an outersole with multi-tread traction.

The Shield Side-Zip WP from Magnum features an all-leather waterproof upper and fully waterproof zipper gusset with zipper locking clip. So even if water did get past the zipper, it wouldn't get inside to your socks. The Shield Ultra also features a Dri-Lex Workhorse moisture wicking lining, as well as the new Magnum outsole designed with a wider surface area and extra tread depth to provide extra slip resistance.

According to Capt. Mark Hoffman of the Forsyth County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office, "If your feet stay dry that's half the battle. Once your feet get wet and cold, you can't warm them up."

Hoffman has a trick to keep his feet even warmer, too. He looks for boots that lace to the toe because "if it gets cold out I can just lace my boots to the toe for a wider fit so I have room to wear a pair of thick socks."

But what about wearing those winter shoes during the hot summer months?

"I'm wearing my boots today and it's 95 degrees, and I'll be wearing them this winter when it's in the teens or below," says Hoffman. "Materials like Gore-Tex and Sympatex keep your feet dry and then allow the vapor to escape on a hot day. So the boots breathe, but they won't let water in."


Boots with top-to-toe laces, like these from Bates, allow you to adjust tension to fit your foot.

The Right Boot for the Job

Many officers prefer an all-weather boot. But what if you work in Alaska or Florida, or even California, where you pretty much deal with the same kind of weather all year long? If you work in Alaska, how a boot fares in 100-degree weather probably isn't a concern. You need a boot for the weather you deal with most of the time.

And for those departments or individuals with the money to afford more than one type of boot, the luxury of season-specific or job-specific boots can keep you much more comfortable.


Danner’s Striker GTX has a Gore-Tex liner and 400-gram Thinsulate to keep feet warm and dry.

As a park ranger, Jon Liakos, stationed in Maui, Hawaii, at Haleakala National Park, is called upon to do a variety of tasks, sometimes at a moment's notice. His choices in boots reflect this split personality on the job. "I like one brand for outdoor boots, but I prefer another for fire and yet another for tactical boots."

Bloomingdale PD's Peterson is a member of his department's TRT (Tactical Response Team) team. For the days when he's called in for a tactical situation, he wears an athletic-type boot.

"It's ultra light. It gives excellent support and agility. In situations on the TRT team, speed is important. The boots have a nobby, almost like a turf-type shoe tread that gives excellent traction. With the TRT team, speed and agility and comfort level are my main objectives. I'm not as worried about being out for an extended period in the elements."

For SWAT teams, the Bates Special Ops line now offers lightweight comfort and flexibility found in athletic footwear with the non-slip ability needed for tactical situations.


Rocky’s TMC technology is designed to give more support to the wearer with a wider sole.

Thorogood's Force Recon line is designed for SWAT officers (although they're popular with all sorts of officers). This line of boots is available in a variety of shapes to fit your needs. It's available in an 8-inch or 6-inch waterproof version with Sympatex, a Trailrunner Oxford, or the 8-inch side-zip model. The Sympatex boots are breathable, but also have a blood borne pathogen resisting membrane for jobs that might bring you into contact with contaminated blood.

For lighter details or warmer weather, the Swatmoc moccasin shoe from Original SWAT is comfortable and lightweight and easily slips on and off. A zipper down the front of the shoe allows you to change into your SWAT boots in no time. And the toe is polishable, just like other uniform boots, so you can't tell the difference because your pants fall over the zipper. No one will know they're not full-height lace-up boots unless you take them off.


Drew Corp.’s Pioneer boot supports and cushions the foot with a sole construction several layers thick, as with all Drew footwear.

The Thorogood N.E.O.S. is a similar type of comfortable, lightweight shoe. It is made of waterproof nylon, so even if you find yourself near water-or spill coffee at your desk-you're covered. A rubber Vibram outsole provides sufficient shock absorption.

Another lightweight duty shoe, Rocky Shoes and Boots' flexible sneaker-style boots won't weigh you down on the beat. This can be especially appreciated in a warmer climate.

CONTINUED: What's in a Boot? «   Page 1 of 2   »

Tags: Tactical Gear, Duty Gear, Footwear

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