Not Getting Wet
Breathability is a concern for waterproof boots, as well. Many companies use breathable linings such as Gore-tex to create waterproof boots, which is popular and very effective. But Magnum's ion-mask technology takes the idea of waterproofing one step further, by impregnating the leather itself with hydrophobic ions. The boot is put in a chamber, where air is removed and the ion-mask material is injected into the space, where it adheres to the leather, nylon, and rubber at the molecular level and remains there. These ions repel water, keeping the boot lighter.
"Even with the old waterproof boot that keeps your foot dry, it doesn't do anything about keeping water from being soaked up by the fabric on the outside of the product, which makes it heavier and harder to walk," says Kaiser. "The ion-mask technology keeps a boot hydrophobic, and so lightweight."
Another advantage of this technology is that it prevents spilled oil, chemicals, or blood-borne pathogens from adhering to treated boots "to a large extent." Kaiser says Magnum will soon also offer ion-mask in other product categories.
With all of the improvements footwear manufacturers make to their product lines, the common goal is user satisfaction. Listening to law enforcement officers and considering their concerns and requests helps drive innovation in the industry, and might lead to developing a feature so popular it will please loyal customers and garner new fans.
Alarcon says a key feature of 5.11 Tactical's new Tactical Trainer 2.0 launching in July is a pull tab on the back of the boot engineered to stay flat. It's a detail specific to law enforcement that the company felt was important to include. "Often people want to yank on the heel to get shoe on or off quickly. The challenge is if you don't have some sort of mechanism to keep that tab flat, your pants catch on it, and that's a big problem with uniform professionalism," says Alarcon. "This tab will stay flat after you use it to pull on our boots."
Original S.W.A.T.'s Metro Traction outsole features strategically placed ladder tread to facilitate fast roping.
Original S.W.A.T. actually puts customization in the hands of tactical officers with its "SWAT id" Website. "This way you can create the boot and design it exactly to the specs you want," says Cynthia Hartwig, marketing assistant for Original S.W.A.T. "You can also have your department logo and name on the tongue." In addition to individual purchases from officers, Hartwig says an agency in Florida is currently looking to place an order for its team of six people.
Danner also listened to its users and developed a "lace garage" in the top of the tongue of its DFA boot. "In the past, you had to tuck laces in your boot, which would create hot spots [of friction] around the ankle, but now you can tuck them into the tongue," says Cade.
It can be difficult to make law enforcement boots new while still meeting agencies' requirements. But companies are finding ways, and will continue to make adjustments to better meet officers' needs.
"There's a challenge for the manufacturer to continually bring innovation to the market," says Fowler of Bates Boots. "That's why it's invigorating to bring out patented technology like ICS and C3, measurable comfort stories within the constraints of eight- or six-inch black boots."
Thorogood by Weinbrenner