While they may not be the sexiest or most written about piece of equipment that you use daily, good boots can make a day more bearable and easier to deal with than bargain priced footwear from a discount store. Your boots support you, as well as all of the additional weight from your load of duty gear.
Good boots will cushion your feet from the impact as you walk a beat, keep them dry while directing traffic in a downpour, and will keep your toes warm on those blustery winter days. If you're going to wear them year-round, you need to look for boots that will do all of these things. But if you work in an area that has seasonal swings like in the Northeast, you'll most likely want to find multiple pairs of boots that are season specific.
When searching for duty boots to make the day better, you need to look for a few items. First, ask about the last (that's how the boot is cut). Is it an athletic-style or more traditional boot last? This makes a difference in how the boot supports your foot and how flexible the footwear will be. Your desired last type will depend on your mission and your personal preference. If the sales person can't help you in this regard, call the manufacturer. It's worth the delay to get a boot to meet your needs.
Next, is this a foul weather boot? If so, make sure that the boot has a Gore-tex or SympaTex type of lining that will keep the feet dry and warmer in moderately cold to freezing temperatures. Most major boot manufacturers provide several offerings with waterproof or water-resistant liners.
What type of sole does the boot have? This might sound like a non-consideration, but it is one that is important. Are you buying this boot for use in the field or on a concrete surface? Is the boot slip resistant? Are the soles oil resistant? These factors will keep you from an embarrassing fall or from having petroleum products eat away your boot's outsole.
To help you in your quest for the right boot for you, here is a glossary of terms.
Antimicrobial: resistant to growth of mold, bacteria, and other microbes; often used in boot lining and insoles
Arch: either of two vaulted portions of the bony structure of the foot that impart elasticity to it
Arch support: positioning of shoe insole to support arches and control the foot's muscles, ligaments, and plantar fascia to prevent fatigue and strain due to hyperextension
Ballistic nylon: thick, tough, 1,050-denier synthetic nylon fabric resistant to abrasion and tearing that was originally developed by DuPont as a material for WWII flak jackets; often used in boot uppers
Ball of foot: the part of the sole of the human foot between the toes and arch on which the main weight of the body rests in normal walking
Breathable:allowing air to pass through; porous
Cordura: high-performance fabric resistant to abrasions, tears, and scuffs that provides breathability and fast drying time; often used in boot uppers
D ring: a usually metal ring having the shape of a capital D; often used in place of eyelets for improved lacing at the tops of boots
Denier: a unit of fineness for yarn equal to the fineness of a yarn weighing one gram for each 9,000 meters (100-denier yarn is finer than 150-denier yarn)
Ergonomics: an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely
EVA: ethylene vinyl acetate, the copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate popularly known as expanded rubber or foam rubber; typically used as a shock absorber in boots and sports shoes, especially in midsoles
Eyelet: a small typically metal ring to reinforce an eyelet (small hole designed to receive a cord); grommet
Gore-Tex: high-performance waterproof and breathable fabric Gusset a usually diamond-shaped or triangular insert in a seam (as of a shoe or boot upper) to provide expansion or reinforcement
Hardware: eyelets and other parts traditionally made of metal; many boots now have "composite" or "non-metallic" hardware
Heel: the back of the human foot below the ankle and behind the arch; the part (as of a shoe) that covers the human heel; a solid attachment of a shoe or boot forming the back of the sole under the heel of the foot
Insole: the inside sole of a shoe; or an extra, removable inside sole put in for comfort
Instep: the arched middle portion of the human foot in front of the ankle joint, especially its upper surface; the part of a shoe or stocking that if it is over the instep
Lace(s): a lace or string for fastening a shoe
Last: a form (as of metal or plastic) that is shaped like the human foot and over which a shoe is shaped or repaired
Lining: material that lines or that is used to line especially the inner surface of something (as a garment)
Lug: a ridge (as on the bottom of a shoe) to increase traction
Midsole: a layer (as of leather or rubber) between the insole and the outsole of a shoe
Oil resistant: will not readily absorb oil or non-water soluble substances; usually refers to outsole
Outsole: the outside sole of a boot or shoe
Polishable: made of a smooth leather that can be polished to create shine; sometimes a boot has only a polishable toe to meet minimum agency uniform policy standards
Safety toe: protective reinforcement in the toe, often combined with a sole plate, that protect the foot from falling objects and punctures from below; traditionally metal or "steel toe," but can be made of a composite material, or a plastic such as thermoplastic polyurethane
Sealed seams: seams sealed to keep out water
Shank: the narrow part of the sole of a shoe beneath the instep
Shock: absorption ability to absorb impact of feet hitting hard surfaces
Siping: thin slits cut across a rubber surface to improve traction in wet or icy conditions
Slip resistant: materials and or design that provide traction to prevent sliding against a surface; usually refers to outsole's ability to provide sure footing and prevent falls
SympaTex: type of fabric branded as waterproof with "breathable" fabrics that is made or licensed by sympatex technologies
Thinsulate: a synthetic fiber made by 3m that is used for thermal insulation in clothing; the word is a portmanteau of thin and insulate
Tread: the part of a shoe or boot sole that touches the ground; also, the pattern on the bottom of a sole
Upper: the parts of a shoe or boot above the sole
Vibram: sole outsole made by the Italian company that invented the rubber shoe sole in the 1930s for improved mountain climbing
Scott Smith is a federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs and a contributing editor to POLICE.