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Published Sep 19, 2022 8:18 AM

Combat boots for women sound like they shouldn’t be in their own category. After all, how are they different from men’s combat boots? Either way, they need to be designed to protect and support you during the perils of combat, rucking with a full pack, or mopping the deck. But women’s combat boots are different because women are different. 

Scientific research over the years has shown that women’s feet aren’t just on average smaller than men’s feet, but are also shaped differently, so they require a separate category of footwear. To adhere to these standards, bootmakers consider characteristics like cushion and comfort, support, stability, and, of course, military standards. 

In this article, I’ll be comparing a few of the best combat boots that are approved for use by the U.S. military as well as a pair of duty boots that are more oriented toward law enforcement or security work.

Best Overall

The Lowa R-8S GTX are rated the best overall because they hit on most, if not all, of the characteristics that I consider to be important for a good pair of leather combat boots. They are pricey at $285, but I definitely think they warrant the price tag based on what I’ve experienced and heard from other users.

I was first introduced to Lowa boots back in 2012 when working in a gun/gear shop with a bunch of Marines. We were a dealer for Lowa and everybody in the shop had a pair they swore by. They primarily ran the Zephyr model and swore by them as the best boots they had ever used. It wasn’t until recently that I got around to getting a pair for myself and I can say now that I agree with them.

These boots offer excellent traction and I was able to walk on steep paths and climb up onto rocks with ease. Taking them out for full-day hikes didn’t leave my feet sore or blistered at all and they stayed at a nice comfortable temperature throughout.

The GTX patrol boots by Lowa are made specifically for women with a slightly more narrow construction to keep your foot nice and snug and not shift around while walking and running. They are Gore-Tex lined allowing for breathability for your feet while also keeping water out. They are slip-resistant, heat-, fuel-, and oil-resistant, and have a shock-absorbing heel built in making them, in my opinion, the best tactical boots for women.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 23.2 ounces per shoe
  • Materials: Leather/fabric upper, Gore-Tex lining, Lowa patrol outsole
  • Colors: Coyote, brown
  • Compliance: AR-670-1
  • Country of origin: Slovakia
Why It Made The Cut
  • I picked the Lowa R-8S GTX as the best overall because of their superb build quality and comfort right out of the box.
PROS

Very comfortable

Deep traction lugs

Gore-Tex lining

Shock-absorbing heel

CONS

Expensive

Heavy

The Reebok 8″ Rapid Response boots earned the title of best budget Army-compliant boots because of how well they perform, while also coming in at an affordable $149.99. They have plenty of cushioning inside and feature extra cushioning on the heel portion of the insole, similar to what you would find in running shoes. Reebok has been around for a long time and is arguably one of the most popular brands for athletic shoes, and it has taken what it learned from that style of shoe and applied it to these women’s tactical boots. While no military clothing is supposed to be stylish, these are definitely some of the cuter combat boots in the list.

Taking these boots out in the hot weather on hikes wasn’t ideal, as they are quite insulated, making them better for cooler temperatures. My feet did not develop any blisters even when wearing them for multiple days in a row. The insole works as intended with the gel-like cushion in the heel, and the outsole being made of different materials helps to add cushioning when running or landing on your feet. The traction lugs on the bottom of the soles are very deep and versatile when dealing with various terrains.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 16 ounces per shoe
  • Materials: Composite toe, leather/cordura upper, Tailex lining, dual-density outsole
  • Colors: Coyote, black
  • Compliance: AR-670-1
  • Country of origin: China
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Rapid Response boots by Reebok offer great features while coming in at a very affordable price tag.
PROS

YKK side zipper

Electrical hazard protection

Dual-density insole

Shock-absorbing heel

Affordable price at $149.99

Comes in black and tan

CONS

Plastic lace hardware

Thick bulky tongue

Honorable Mention

The Danner Reckoning boots are an honorable mention because, while they have a lot going for them in regards to what makes a good combat boot, there are a few downsides to these boots. The first is the laces that it comes with, which are thin and will wear out faster over time than some other options (I suggest swapping them out). The next issue I had with the Danner Reckoning boots is that the tongue was wide and awkward to get into a comfortable position when tightening the laces. For women with smaller calves and ankles, this could lead to discomfort due to hot spots if the tongue is not properly adjusted when putting the boots on.

The Danner Reckoning boots are designed with hot environments in mind with their soft internal moisture-wicking mesh lining and ventilation; they make extended wear in hot weather much more pleasant. So if you are in a hot environment, these boots are some of the best for everyday wear. While they are lightweight, they are still made with sturdy materials like suede leather and abrasion-resistant nylon. The laces go further down the toe than most other boots by just a little, but it helps get them nice and snug by adding that extra little bit of adjustment. For women with more narrow feet, this can really help with getting the perfect fit, leading to a more comfortable boot overall.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 26.5 ounces per shoe
  • Materials: Suede leather/nylon upper, mesh lining, Vibram all-terrain outsole
  • Colors: Coyote
  • Compliance: 150M24-001130-6HW EGA certified
  • Country of origin: USA
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Danner Reckoning boots offer great protection while also being resistant to hotter climates
PROS

Lightweight design

Soft moisture-wicking lining

Extra lace adjustment for toes

Wide heel prevents rolling

CONS

Tread lugs not very deep

Tongue is awkwardly shaped

Lace eyelets have sharp edges

Best Black/Duty Boots

As a departure from combat-oriented, military-approved boots, I’ll be going over the A.T.A.C. boots from 5.11 Tactical. Having had previous experience with a pair of 5.11 boots, I decided to give these a try as well to include an option more oriented for law enforcement or “duty” type roles. If this is what you are looking for, I can definitely vouch for 5.11 as an affordable, yet quality choice to suit your needs.

The A.T.A.C. boots are built to a high standard and have performed extremely well so far. They offer a slip-proof outsole that I have tested on tile, hardwood floors, and vinyl with no issues. Like the Reebok boots I tested, these boots have a side zip to make donning and doffing easier, but the A.T.A.C. boots go a step further and have webbing behind the zipper that prevents liquid or sand from getting inside, making the zipper seem like much less of an afterthought. These boots don’t have a reinforced toe, which helps with flexibility and makes running in them much more comfortable. Whether you are standing or walking for most of your shift, the A.T.A.C. boots are extremely comfortable and will serve you for years, as my previous pair did.

The 5.11 A.T.A.C. boots are definitely the best black boots on my list, which makes them better suited for law enforcement and duty use. While they are not approved for military use according to the 5.11 website, they excel in the role they were designed for. For women’s tactical boots, the A.T.A.C. boots are very comfortable due to their narrow width throughout.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 20 ounces per shoe
  • Materials: Slipstream waterproof/bloodborne pathogen resistant membrane, Ortholite footbed, Suede/840D nylon upper
  • Colors: Black
  • Compliance: N/A
  • Country of origin: Bangladesh
Why It Made The Cut
  • The women’s A.T.A.C. boot by 5.11 Tactical is one of the most versatile duty options on the market today for women.
PROS

Bloodborne pathogen-resistant

Slip-resistant outsole with deep traction lugs

Easy to don and doff with side zipper

Side zipper backed by webbing

Knife pocket on each boot

CONS

Only comes in black

Not approved for military use

Best Hot-Weather Boots

The Tachyon boots by Danner offer a great blend of comfort and breathability, while also being extremely lightweight. These boots are constructed with a leather upper that covers the toes and ankle in key areas to offer protection without being too bulky. The tongue, upper ankle shaft, and side panels are made from a thin, lightweight fabric that is extremely breathable and will keep your feet nice and cool even on the hottest days, making them the best hot-weather boots for everyday wear.

These boots are available in both a medium and wide configuration, and since I have more narrow feet, I chose the medium width. While they are narrow in the heel and middle sections, the toe box is a little wider, which works for me because I like to have a little bit of extra space for my toes to spread out. Just note that socks with a little thicker toe might work best with these particular boots. The ankle area on these boots are made from such a thin material to aid in breathability, that they don’t offer a whole lot of protection to your ankles. This is definitely something to consider if you are needing rigidity in that area.

Overall, these boots are definitely my top choice for hot-weather women’s combat boots due to their weight, minimalist construction, and breathability.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 13 ounces per shoe
  • Materials: Leather/1000D nylon upper, EVA midsole, 100 percent rubber outsole
  • Colors: Coyote
  • Compliance: AR-670-1
  • Country of origin: Vietnam
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Tachyons by Danner offer a minimalist boot that is extremely lightweight and breathable, making them perfect for hot weather.
PROS

Extremely lightweight

Thin material allows for plenty of airflow

Lace eyelets are smooth and free of sharp edges

Wide toe box

CONS

Traction lugs are not very deep

Thin material less resistant to punctures and tears

Things to consider before buying combat boots for women

Cushion and comfort

Some considerations when shopping for any boot that you are going to use in a military or duty role would be things like cushioning and comfort. This is always my top priority because there is nothing worse than wearing ill-fitting uncomfortable boots for an extended period of time with any amount of weight on your back. It is a delicate balance, however, as too soft of a cushion can wear out faster and cause the boot to become uncomfortable before the boots have reached their expected service life. While comfort is going to be different for everybody, starting off with a boot made by a reputable manufacturer is more likely than not to lead you to find something that works for you. 

Support

Support can look different in various boots. It can mean a sturdy midsole that’s designed to hold its shape and reinforced leather sides where the upper meets the outsole. Support in areas like the ankle can also help to avoid injury by rolling your ankles when carrying heavy loads. Support isn’t just limited to the outer materials, though. Good arch support that is the right height for you is also a sign of a good supportive boot. 

Breathability

For hot and cold weather, the appropriate amount of breathability is necessary to help regulate the internal temperatures and keep your feet dry. This will prevent your socks from getting too sweaty, which could lead to fungal infections and blisters.

Tread

The tread lugs on the bottom of the sole should also be a consideration. This is dependent on what your role is, but if you anticipate having to trek through uneven terrain, slippery surfaces, or steep inclines, a nice deep tread is going to keep you from losing your footing. 

FAQs about combat boots for women

Q: What are combat boots good for?

A: Combat boots are designed to give you stability and protection in hostile environments. Good quality boots offer a rigid ankle to prevent you from rolling your ankles when carrying heavy loads or walking on uneven terrain. Yet, they also have enough flexibility to move well. A reinforced toe box in combat boots will also aid in prolonging their life when doing things like fast-roping, climbing obstacles, or crawling. The type of combat boot you buy will be determined by the environment that you are going into — jungle boots have different requirements from boots designed for a hot desert climate. 

Q: Should combat boots be waterproof?

A: It depends. Combat boot designers try to make boots water-resistant yet breathable, which are conflicting features. You’d want to wear waterproof combat boots in areas that are cold and wet to protect your feet from the elements whereas, in hot and wet environments, you’d want jungle boots equipped with vent holes to drain excessive moisture. 

Q: Do combat boots have a steel toe?

A: Not always. Steel-toed combat boots are not issued to every servicewoman, but are issued to those in certain fields that require that type of safety equipment. 

Q: Should combat boots be tight or loose?

A: Combat boots should be snug, but have enough room to wiggle around. You’ll want to have enough room for your toes to spread out when walking so you don’t develop blisters and hot spots. They can be tighter around the ankle, but you’ll have to find what is comfortable for you so that you aren’t cutting off circulation. 

Q: Should you run in combat boots?

A: Once the boots are broken in enough and have formed to your feet, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take them out on a few runs to make sure they are as comfortable doing that as they are on a hike. Obviously, being in a combat zone can bring about the need to run, so making sure that your boots will work with you and not against you is important.

Final thoughts

Of all the boots I have tried, the best so far have been the Lowa R-8S GTX. They have been the most comfortable, allowing for a great range of motion when walking, running, kneeling, and climbing over obstacles. They offer insulation without being bulky, water resistance while being somewhat breathable, and plenty of traction.

Methodology 

When choosing a pair of any good shoes, you need to determine what they will be used for and go from there. For this review, I looked specifically at boots designed with combat/field use and duty in mind. Most of the boots I got for this review are approved for use by the U.S. military and are Berry-compliant, being made in the U.S.A., while some are more geared towards more of a law enforcement/security role. 

For this review guide, I put emphasis on several factors that I have found to contribute to what makes hiking boots, or combat-style boots, effective and comfortable. I graded each boot on comfort right out of the box, because if a boot needs to be broken in for a long period of time, it will obviously suck to wear them at first. I looked at stiffness, especially around the ankle and toe box meant to protect your ankles from rolling on uneven terrain and protect your toes from being stubbed or smashed. The tread, or lugs as they are commonly called, on the bottoms of the soles were also an important feature for me as with any boots that are meant for uneven terrain. Having an aggressive texture on the soles that won’t wear down quickly will make or break any boots. 

Taking each pair of boots on hiking trips lasting all day and into the night, I was able to really get a feel for which boots worked for me and what their strengths and weaknesses are.