Written By
Published Jan. 19, 2021

When operators hit the ground, they do so with their legs pumping, ready to achieve their objections with speed and precision. An operator’s feet are one of his or her greatest assets, so the proper tactical boots can literally make the difference between life and death in the heat of the moment. A solid pair of boots keeps you stable, mobile, and safe in a vast array of different environments, from urban terrain and scorching deserts to mountain passes and tangled forests. At high speeds, the right pair of tactical boots makes you a low-drag operator, resisting rocks, water, mud, and more and laughing off abrasions and other abuse as if they were merely marshmallows. Most importantly, good tactical boots keep your feet comfortable and dry, even in the harshest of conditions, so you can skip the footbath at the end of the day. 

Mission accomplished. Now here’s what will get you there. 

One of the best all-around pairs of tactical boots on today’s market has got to be the Propper Men’s Series 100, as these kicks combine versatility, durability, and affordability with an AR 670-1-compliant design. The flesh-out cattle hide upper comes in a coyote brown with 1000 Denier nylon panels arranged at various points on the upper. For quick and easy lacing, this design uses 550 paracord and durable, coated speed lacing hardware. The rubber outsole features an oil and slip-resistant construction and relies on relatively aggressive lugs to provide a solid grip on a wide variety of terrain features. The inside arches are specifically designed to handle the rigors of fast roping without wearing down at an unreasonable rate. The interior of each boot leverages open cell foam to provide a comfortable, breathable footbed for maximum comfort, and the extra insoles can help extend the boot’s lifespan.

Honestly, tactical boots can be a bit pricey, but for the operator on a tight budget, the Ryno Gear 8″ Coolmax Tactical Combat Boots may be the way to go. These eight-inch boots have what it takes to go the distance without breaking the bank. They feature a rough out leather and ballistic nylon upper to create a tough yet lightweight boot. The internal mesh lining makes these boots incredibly comfortable in all but the hottest conditions, yet the boot as a whole still provides good support on uneven terrain. The padded collar and side zipper provide comfort and convenience, and the removable insoles provide an extra layer of customization should you desire to BYOI (bring your own insoles). All in all, these boots by Ryno Gear provide plenty of bang for your buck.

The Salomon Quest 4D GTX Forces 2 is a six-inch field boot designed to conquer the Mojave Desert, the Hindu Kush, or anywhere in between. Whatever terrain the mission throws your way, these six-inch boots can handle it, thanks in part to an ISO-rated puncture-resistant outsole made with its aggressive lugs and tough, durable Contagrip MD construction. The uppers consist of an equally durable full grain nubuck leather. Inside the boot, your feet will keep nice and dry thanks to a combination of two linings: waterproof Gore-Tex and breathable mesh. The shaft features an anti-debris mesh to keep sticks and stones from breaking your stride, and the gusseted tongue pulls double duty keeping water and debris out. These Salomons provide plenty of comfort, support, and traction and leverage solid engineering to both maximize airflow and minimize break-in time. What more could you want?

Best Mountain

When conducting tactical operations in a cold, rugged environment, insulated tactical boots like the Garmont T8 Extreme GTX can take the edge off the misery. Unlike some competitors, these waterproof mountain boots are AR 670-1-compliant and come with Gore-Tex insulation to keep cold and moisture out while trekking through treacherous terrain. The extremely aggressive Vibram outsole will turn you into a mountain goat, and they are engineered and built to endure even the most grueling situations as if they had only experienced a simple one-mile ruck march. The uppers are constructed with a healthy combination of sueded leather, 600 Denier nylon, and nylon webbing to further enhance durability. The polyurethane footbed consists of quick-dry materials and is specifically designed to keep both foot and boot dry and comfortable. These boots are super comfortable, and at 1.5 pounds per boot, they will not drag you down.

Best Waterproof

Looking for a mountain boot that can handle just about anything? Gents, take a gander at the Merrell Tactical Men’s Moab 2, and ladies, please examine the Merrell Tactical Women’s Moab 2. These waterproof tactical boots come in both coyote and black and are engineered to tackle some of the world’s toughest terrain. The aggressive lugs on the Vibram TC5+ outsole provide excellent traction on rocky terrain, while the midsole takes advantage of Merrell’s shock-absorbing heel air cushion and a nylon arch shank for lightweight, flexible support. The toes sport abrasion-resistant rubber caps, and the heels hide stabilizing counters. The upper consists of waterproofed leather and ripstop fabric with Merrell’s M-Select DRY waterproof membrane. While these boots may not be the best for speed lacing, the side zipper makes them even easier to don and doff.

Best Hot Weather

Hot, dry climate can take a toll on your body, and the same is no less true of your feet. As such, the Danner Men’s Tanicus exists to provide you with a theater-ready, hot weather tactical boot designed to keep you mind on the mission instead of your feet. These boots feature an upper constructed with rough-out, full-grain leather and 1000 Denier nylon for durability and toughness yet are lined with mesh to decrease weight and increase airflow. The pentagonal lugs of Danner’s Tanicus outsole provide excellent traction in a variety of different terrain settings. Probably the most intriguing (brilliant?!) feature is the Lace Garage, a stretch fabric pocket inside the tongue designed for tucking loose lace ends out of sight. These boots also comply with AR-670-1 standards for optional wear and can accommodate both male and female operators.

While you may not be deployed to Vietnam anytime soon, there are still plenty of hot, wet locales that make the 5.11 Speed 3.0 a reliable partner in tactical operations. These jungle boots are made with improvements specifically designed to handle the rigors of humid swamps and similar settings. The outsoles feature aggressive, multi-faceted tread lugs designed to handle half-hidden terrain features with ease and are constructed with an oil and slip-resistant rubber for safety in more civilized contexts. To increase their flexibility, the toes on these boots also benefit from fence climbing lugs. The uppers consist of half suede and half nylon and employ dual drains/cooling vents on both sides of the boot. These boots use 5.11’s rapid-dry technology to further discourage extra moisture, while the Agion odor-control treatment and OrthoLite insole coordinate to create a comfortable, foot-friendly interior.

Sometimes, tactical boots need to withstand the dangers of operating in industrial or construction zones, so boots like the Reebok Rapid Response RB are a much-needed asset for some. The uppers on these boots consist of durable rough-out leather and ballistic nylon. These boots conform to ASTM F2413 safety standards, and they provide protection from electrical hazards, including live wires, circuits, and highly-charged electrical equipment. The non-metallic composite toe cap provides strong, lightweight protection from common industrial and electrical hazards, and it resists heat and cold while also making these boots friendly to domestic air travel. The removable Foot Force F2A insole relies on soft molded dual-density polyurethane to provide a cushioned, shock-absorbing bed designed to mimic the feel of athletic shoes. The Quick-Access Side Zipper makes them easy to don and doff, while the aggressively lugged, dual-density Mountain Trail rubber outsole resists oil, slipping, heat, chemicals, and abrasions, making these boots as tough as nails. Best of all, these boots come in both men’s and women’s styles, ensuring safety and performance for all.

Many runners have come to love and appreciate minimalist running shoes, so for runners looking for a minimalist tactical boot, Belleville’s Tactical Research Mini-Mil is here to save the day. Like the running shoes that inspired them, these featherweight garrison boots have a mere two-millimeter drop from heel to toe, and the thin sole provides excellent ground feel to keep you more in tune with your surroundings. These boots use an exclusive rubber Vibram Tarsus outsole that is both oil and slip-resistant for both safety and performance, and the arch interiors were designed with fast roping in mind. The upper consists of pure cattlehide leather and 1000 Denier Cordura nylon for long-term durability, and relies on the unlined design and dual side vents to increase airflow and comfort. Each seam is either double or triple-stitched to increase durability, and the removable single-density insole insert puts customization into your hands. These boots accommodate both male and female wearers with ease.

Related: Keep your gear close with the best tactical backpacks

Why should you trust us

As a compulsive researcher, sport shooter, and casual Rocky Mountain hiker, I have spent countless hours of both paid and free time learning the ups and downs and ins and outs of outdoor and tactical footwear. After living over 25 years in the Pikes Peak region, I have learned (the easy way) that bad boots can cost lives, both in the mountains and on the battlefield. I am always looking for upgrades and additions to my own gear, and I settle for nothing but the best. I’ve covered all kindsof gear for Task & Purpose, including hiking boots, tourniquets, eye pro, and ear pro.

Types of tactical boots

  • Urban / Garrison: Urban and garrison-oriented tactical boots provide wearers with a pavement-friendly option for operations both in and out of buildings. These boots can be incredibly lightweight and often bypass bigger tread lugs to minimize weight and drag on smooth surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, or tile. Those who spend most of their time inside city limits or in an office setting will appreciate the unique qualities of this tactical boot type.
  • Field: Field boots are the ideal tactical solution for non-urban settings with limited to no infrastructure. These tactical boots often include a number of unique features designed to handle unique environments. With roots in the Vietnam era, jungle boots possess the abilities to drain and dry quickly, breathe easily, deny entrance to creepy crawlies, and bite into slippery terrain. Mountain boots leverage aggressive tread patterns for excellent traction and often feature waterproofing, insulation, or both. Desert boots feature a breathable construction, usually including dedicated cooling vents, and sport aggressive tread lugs, although slightly less so than their high-altitude brothers in arms.
  • Work: Tactical work boots often look similar to desert boots and include a number of unique components. In addition to a relatively aggressive tread, these boots include a composite internal toe cap (designed to replace much heavier steel toes) for reliable protection against toe injuries when working around heavy materials or machinery. These tactical boots may also include waterproofing, insulation, and oil-resistant or otherwise slip-resistant outsoles.

Features to look for in tactical boots

  • Durability: More than anything else, tactical boots must be durable. A proper pair of boots must be ready to withstand the punishment dished out by a Marine Corps rifleman in Kunar. Boots that pop a seam the first time you squat to inspect the underside of a Humvee is not worth the money, hassle, and frustration they can cause, especially if an officer sees them.
  • Weight: Everyone knows that ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain. With the exception of jungle variants, tactical boots have a reputation for being quite heavy which can be absolutely punishing on long foot patrols. Finding a lightweight boot that can withstand the rigors of tactical operations is a gamechanger, but never trust the manufacturer’s claims if you want to reduce the misery of your next ruck march.
  • Tread: Finding the proper tread for your intended application will do wonders for both your mental and physical health. Need something for mountain use? Grab a pair of mountain-friendly kicks with plenty of aggressive lugs. Need something for urban SWAT applications (or garrison duty)? Look for a pair of boots with tame lugs. Need to qualify for fast roping operations? Yep, there are boot treads for that too. No matter what your intended application, the proper tread can make the difference between going full operator or falling flat on your face. The choice is yours.
  • Comfort: POGs may think you’re a sissy for wanting comfortable boots, but in many ways, your feet are your most valuable asset in a dynamic environment. Comfortable feet equals a happy soldier. A happy soldier can go longer, farther, and faster before becoming unhappy and making everyone else unhappy. So, look for plenty of cushioning in your boots of choice, but also look for footwear that breathes well, keeps water out, and/or insulates well. So, do yourself a favor: Make your feet comfy; make your life happy.
  • Support: Firefights and other tactical situations change incredibly quickly, and the last thing you need is to roll an ankle when lead starts looking for a target. On the flip side, infantrymen the world over know and dread the drudgery and demands of ruck marches, but as much hatred as a 60 plus pounds of kit may deserve, no one wants to be that guy who had to see the doc because he bought bad boots with no support.
  • Zippered sides: Let’s face it. No one likes lacing up a pair of eight-inch tactical boots. Sure, lace-only boots may look great while on parade, but when the lead starts flying, ain’t nobody got time for that. A pair of boots with zippers up the side makes throwing them on in the dead of night an afterthought instead of a headache because last we heard, the Taliban won’t wait for you to lace up your boots the next time they drop a visit. Just ask Specialist Zachary Boyd.

Why own tactical boots

While it may seem obvious to some, there is a very good reason soldiers, marines, police officers, and other tactically-oriented professionals leave their flip flops and Vans at home when they clock in. A solid pair of tactical boots provides a level of protection that no other style of shoe or boot can achieve. Tactical boots are tough and durable, absorbing and laughing off punishment like a berm opposite the firing line, but they also provide a comfortable environment for feet that relentlessly pound the pavement, skyline trails, and forest floor for days, weeks, and months on end. Padding, temperature regulation, and water resistance work together with proper lugs, water drains, and other specialized features designed to protect an operator’s most valuable form of transportation. Minimal weight can increase your performance in high-stress situations, while a well-engineered pair of boots provides a sturdy, stable platform to help you get the job done right.

Pricing ranges for tactical Boots

Tactical boots may not be the cheapest tools in the world, but considering the irreplaceable nature of your foot, buying the right pair of boots is worth the extra cash. With few exceptions, you can expect to shell out at least $100 for a pair of basic, quality boots, including even the most basic designs. Commonly, boots under this price point will skimp on materials in order to cut costs and offer you a “bargain”. In the grand scheme of things, all but the highest quality imitation leathers will not withstand the rigors of tactical applications. That said, most tactical boots will run you at least $150 with many options topping the $200 mark. These boots usually include environment-specific designs (mountain, desert, jungle, etc.) and composite toe work boots, although some all-purpose boots may pop up here and there.

How we chose our top picks

When reviewing new gear, we much prefer to go the hands-on route, but sometimes, a lack of resources may thwart our attempts to get our mitts on some cool gear. To make sure we don’t let you down, we take the time to listen to those who have firsthand experience, combing through reviews on Amazon, professional publications, enthusiast blogs, and more to bring you the best intel available. We sift through it all, keep the gold, and toss the rest.

Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.