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Fancy Footwear

New features in today's law enforcement boots provide enhanced fit, comfort, and performance.

July 25, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

5.11 Tactical's Taclite collection features zonal lacing for a custom fit.

It's not enough to make a black boot and call it a law enforcement model anymore. Police officers are sophisticated consumers, and they know what they like. They also know there are many new features out there that can take their footwear to the next level of performance to meet their needs on the job. Manufacturers realize this, and they're up to the challenge.

Every foot is different. Two people who generally wear the same shoe size might still prefer different styles of shoes because of how they fit specific parts of the foot. Now companies are finding better ways to make their mass-produced footwear feel like they were made for the individual. The secret is allowing customers to make their own adjustments to fit their feet.

Three years ago, Bates debuted its Individual Comfort System (ICS), which allows the wearer to turn a disk in the shoe to make adjustments that customize the fit by controlling firmness, cushion, and inward and outward stability. What's new is that it's now easier to access the disk to make the adjustments, even selecting different settings on different days, if desired. "Instead of the disk being on the bottom of the midsole internally, it now sits on top," says Bates' Director of Marketing Andrew Fowler. "All you have to remove is the sock liner or footbed and lift out the disk itself."

Bates' Individual Comfort System is now easily accessible and allows officers to adjust for firmness and inward and outward stability.

A comfort trend seen in several companies' footwear offerings is adjustable lacing, not the typical "lace to toe." Both 5.11 Tactical and Danner provide this type of construction. This allows you to adjust the tension of individual sections of your boot to best fit each part of your foot's unique shape.

This feature is currently only available on 5.11 Tactical's new Taclite boot, but it will be available on the entire series, including eight- and six-inch models in black leather and tan suede. Danner's "variable lacing system," found on the company's DFA boot, consists of nylon ghillies placed in between the eyelets. According to Ryan Cade, product line manager for Danner, the multi-part system is "climbing inspired."

Fast Roping

When it comes to climbing, for law enforcement that usually means walls or ropes, and features such as distinctive tread on the instep of a boot can aid in fast roping, especially important for tactical units and other teams that might need to rappel.

The GSG9S boot from Haix is intended for use by SRT or SWAT teams, so it's built with fast roping in mind. "It has a slimmer, more compact design and minimal seaming on the inside so you don't tear up the seams on the inside of your boots," says Sandy Longarzo, marketing administration manager for Haix North America. "The sole is constructed in such a way as to have fast breaking properties, too. It has a sharper edge so you can stop quickly when going down the rope."

To hold up to speedy descents, Danner's DFA boot features the company's patent pending V.I. outsole with Vertical Insertion Arrestor (VIA) technology, which utilizes the very hard Vibram V-4 ultra abrasion rubber compound that Cade says is "the highest abrasion-resistant compound they make." This material built into the medial side-arch of the outsole won't fall apart like EVA, says Cade. Danner also constructs its DFA boot with low oil-content nubuc leather. "Full-grain leather would foul the rope after multiple descents," Cade explains.

Magnum's biggest concern for operators fast roping is the heat created by friction between the boot and the rope, so its boots intended for this use feature a combination of a hard rubber compound underneath and a Superfabric upper to withstand the abuse. 

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