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Which are the best all-around boots: combat, work, or hiking boots?

Not much of an outdoors person and I don’t know much about boots for a SHTF kind of thing. Would love to hear specific suggestions if you have them, but to get started I just wanted advice on what category to search through?

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  • Comments (39)

    • 9

      I don’t have useful advice but want to second this topic, some of the questions I’ve had:

      • Is water proof worth it or is it better to have breathable boots and spare wool socks?
      • How important is ankle support (the boots with high sides/back) and does it make a difference if you’re in a more urban/suburban setting rather than trekking through the woods?
      • What should you look for in fit that might be different from normal shoes (also, what kind of break-in period to consider for different material – i.e. some materials might get more comfortable over time so initial fit can be misleading?)
      • Pros and cons of different materials
      • Most reliable brands
      • What to avoid (i.e. cheap budget brands that will fall apart)
      • 5

        Always helpful to know what questions people have so we know where to focus the research!

      • 6

        Water proof can be nice, but there are trade-offs.  They are generally stiffer and heavier.  For hiking, I’ve used both w/o any real preference.  Fit and feel are more important for me on a hike.  If I’m walking through an urban/suburban area during or after rainfall, having waterproofing might be good.

        I do think ankle support is worth, especially if you’re carrying 50-60 lbs.  Plenty of times, turning an ankle with boots has meant only minor stumble vs. a sprained or broken ankle.  That said, I mostly use hiking shoes for day hikes.

        I like Keen.  They have wide width options and a wide toe box.  Salomon has some I like too, a little more stylish. Both brands are good quality in my experience.

      • 5

        I insist on water-proof/gore-tex in my good boots — that being said I live in the Pacific North West, and wet/damp is what we do. So I would say this decision would be based on where you live and the likely conditions you’ll be in (it does add to the cost).

        If you live where you’re feet are getting “wet” because of sweat more often than outside moisture coming in, I wouldn’t spend the extra to get water-proof ones.

        If you’re carrying weight and/or walking on uneven terrain ankle support is crucial. It’s amazing how quickly you can be taken out of “the fight” by a sprained ankle. Once injured, even if you can get the ankle wrapped and supported, you’re not going to want to put that pack back on. I like 8″ boots, I’ve found 10″ are generally too tall, and less than 6″ are too short for the support I like. Most military boots are 8″. Laced correctly you can tighten up either the area around the foot, or around the ankle separately if you need additional support.

        When I try on new boots, I make sure to bring the thicker socks I’m going to wear with them. Make sure you can wiggle your toes comfortably, and that your heel doesn’t lift out when you step. Also quality boots these days typically don’t require a long break in period, most are very comfortable from day one.

    • 3

      Don’t have experience with combat boots, but I prefer hiking boots instead of work boots. I keep hiking boots by my BOB for a quick evacuation scenario. They aren’t as tough as work boots, but I’m in a dense city where I might need to be on foot for a while and thought it made sense to favor long-distance comfort instead of something super tough but uncomfortable.

      • 4

        When I think of work boots, I think of steel toe. I don’t like steel toes unless they are needed for the job.

    • 8

      Nowhere near an expert on prepping (new around here) but have spent many days out on trails in mountains in all conditions and I have always preferred combat boots myself for all-around purposes. I have had two pairs from Oakley (costly) that I bought maybe 12-13 years ago that continue to serve me well. Those are the only things aside from their shades that lasted me more than 5 years! I’ve tried a few hiking boots but didn’t like how tailored they usually are for specific conditions, I like having two pairs, one for hot weather and one for cold/all conditions. As for how high, idk, my preference is higher to keep shit from getting into the shoes without wearing gaiters or tighter calf pants. When I moved to combat boots, my thought was “Well they train to be in SHTF situations for months, why wouldn’t their boots work for me?” As for brand, while I love my oakley all arounds, the hot weather ones aren’t the best, do research, there are a lot of brands out there, also helpful if you have a friend/family member in active duty so they can purchase boots for you more easily. My brother got me my all-around oakleys, the hot weather ones were just available to general public.

    • 9

      I like that you brought this up because, frankly, I haven’t settled on the issue myself.

      I have my combat boots, work boots, and hiking boots. Each seem to have some kind of benefit and each seem to have some kind of liability. Honestly, I’m undecided, so, input from others is really going to help me figure out which offers the most flexibility for the most situations. And even though I’m leaning toward just hiking boots, input from others may reveal something I’m not considering.

      Combat boots

      • PROs: Mine are well worn/broken-in. They’re somewhat breathable and provide modest support.
      • CONs: Not as sturdy or protective as work boots. Not as comfortable as hiking boots. Too tactical (appearance)

      Work boots

      • PROs: Toe protection, ankle support; safeguards against potential critter attacks and weather.
      • CONs: Not breathable. Water and sweat can damage them over time.

      Hiking boots

      • PROs: Breathable, flexible, comfortable; designed and built for walking/hiking and being outdoors (padding, ankle support); also, not tactical in appearanceCONs: Not as protective as work boots.
    • 2

      Wolverine work boots from Tractor Supply!

      https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/wolverine-dd-work-boots

    • 7

      Great question!  My $0.02… depends on the situation.  Like most gear, you can be more specialized or more general.  As others have noted, hiking boots/shoes tend to be more comfortable.  And, they are generally made to support the extra weight of a pack.

      I personally have not graduated to having dedicated ‘prepper’ gear.  That is, most of my items have a primary purpose for me at other times (e.g. camping).

      I have workboots for working around the house, etc.  And hiking boots for, well, hiking.  If I were to bug out, I’m wearing the hiking boots.

      I don’t own a pair, but from what I gather, the modern combat boot functions somewhere in between. And that would be great, except I don’t know that I have a use for them any other time.

      • 8

        I would argue that well-made hiking boots are totally appropriate. And, are, in fact, what a ton of Special Forces guys wear since they have the option to do so.

        Combat boots, while being pretty durable, are also part of a “uniform” requirement–they need to meet those uniform regulations.  Combat boots are also designed to be easily replaceable in bulk–service members don’t get an option with what they are issued (though in some cases they can buy their own assuming they fit certain guidelines).

        Like you, I have steel-toed boots for work around heavy/dangerous stuff.  My hiking footwear is either comfy Merrills or 5.11s (when I carry heavier weights) or lightweight minimalist sandals for most everything else.

        I donated all of my combat boots (that were still serviceable) to local homeless shelters.

      • 3

        Agreed. Also “combat boot” is such a vague term. The boots they issued when I was in were shit. As we’ve evolved into a mobilized military that doesn’t need to walk, comfortable or quality boots aren’t prioritized — also the military isn’t willing to spend $300 on each pair of boot they issue. Most of us bought quality “combat boots” that were still within regs.

    • 4

      My all time favorite boot is the Danner Rainforest Boot.

      image

      They are an 8″ military style boot, though I get the black ones that don’t look military anymore. They are gore-tex lined, non-insulated, plain toe (not steel), with Vibram soles.

      I wear these boots most days summer or winter. I’ve worn them in the military, in law enforcement, back in the military, as a paramedic, and as a bartender. Also 80k+ miles on my motorcycle. Whether I’m walking with a pack, or standing all day they are my go to.

      The Danner Rainforest are expensive ($350ish). Also I’m not advocating for any Danner boots, some are better than others.

      NOTE: This weekend, Father’s Day, Danner has a great sale of up to 25% off most of their stock. (They do this each year.)

       

      • 3

        What makes them such a standout / what do you get when you pay that much?

      • 4
        • They are comfortable out of the box, almost no breaking in period
        • They’re great for standing for long periods of time
        • They’re also great for backpacking, carrying 60+ lbs, on uneven terrain
        • They last for years and years, their full grain leather holds up very well
        • They are triple stitched most places (at all the stress points)
        • They can be resoled, and even rebuilt as needed
        • They are (and stay) waterproof

        They are the closest thing to a ‘last pair of boots you’ll have to buy’ that I’ve found. I do wear mine out, but it takes a long time. If I had 1 pair of footwear to grab and wear through a Collapse, this would be them.

        If you’re looking for something to wear “just in case” or have with your kit, then you would be wasting your money with these boots. These are meant to be worn and used, “you get what you pay for” definitely applies to these boots.

    • 4

      I have…way too many pairs of boots.

      • My Army surplus boots are too heavy, and by that I mean I can stomp all over branches and delicate plants without ever noticing it.
      • I have a hair of Red Wing work boots, which are great for so many reasons, but they’re slip on, which means they get suctioned onto my feet and can be hard to pull off, and the bottoms are totally smooth, which has turned out to be a deal killer.
      • I have a pair of waterproof boots from Tractor Supply, which are both too big and entirely too hot in the warm months.
      • My go-to pair are Herman Survivors from Walmart, which I bought in a Black Friday deal. They are amazing boots for the price.
      • I’ll throw a wild card out there: Crocs. My wife bought me a pair recently and I absolutely love them. Excellent traction, easy to put on and take off, and you can clean them with a hose. They’re awesome for walking in wet grass, because the the water drains out. Just don’t wear socks with them or you defeat the purpose.
    • 4

      I’m definitely a shoe wuss, so maybe take this with a grain of salt, but I’ve worked in construction almost 30 years and probably haven’t worn a work boot for 20. I generally demote running shoes or lightweight hiking boots for work. Currently my favorite hiking boots are Inov-8 Roclite in gore-tex. I’ve worn this for a lot winter-time stuff (presi traverse, tons of snowshoeing, micro-spike running), and they’ve also held up well in construction, which is a bit surprising for a <14 oz boot.

      I could definitely see wanting something a bit heavier duty for tougher conditions or extreme cold. It always feels like there’s a bit of missing market between lightweight hikers and mountaineering boots (aka the worst boots in the world).

      • 4

        The right boot depends upon your activity and environment.  I suspect that most of us wind up with some sort or another of work boot (esp.steel toes!) and hiking boot, probably of medium weight and height..

        I have at least four different pairs of boots, plus sneakers which I keep around for different tasks.  I don’t wear the steel toed work boots all that much any more, but I am glad i have them.  If I had to choose just one boot, it would be a non-waterproofed, but well maintained, medium hiking boot.

        The most important aspect of any boot is comfortable, non-abrading fit.

      • 3

        Winter Presi…in a day???

      • 3

        Yes. I’ve done it twice. Second time was a really mild day, so managed to nip under 10 hrs in these boots, microspikes, and minimal gear. Not very prepper though!

    • 4

      I live in the wet Northeast and go up/down scree, bouldering, and am above treeline a lot. We have snow from September until May. There was still snow in some valleys last week. My position on boots has evolved radically in the last few years. (Although I am female, I live on a farm, so boots are a thing.)

      I wear steel-toe, steel shank short cowboy boots for logging, sawing, fencing. I would not want to walk a long distance in them – they are too heavy and they don’t lace on, so they can’t be unlaced. They are excellent protection for heavy farm work.

      I grew up wearing regularly sno-sealed, all-leather boots for anything recreational outdoors – think Vasque Sundowner. Fewer seams mean they have a physical barrier to water. I’ve worn rub spots in the leather on bad hikes. They are heavy. They are (nearly) indestructible. I’ve worn out a few pairs, but they are tough and take a lot of miles. But when I wore out my last pair, I decided to give those newfangled trail running shoes a shot.

      I cannot believe how light trail running shoes are. For a stream crossing, they dry out. Worst case, they dry out overnight. Remember, water higher than the top of your boot/shoe will go in. My leather boots sometimes took days to dry which meant putting on wet boots in the morning (ugh). I haven’t missed the ankle protection, even when wedging my foot between rocks and clanking my ankle into things.

      For Winter running on road (slush), I had been using a pair of Innov8 Rocklites (goretex lined). Since trail runners were such fun in the Summer, I started wearing them in the Winter too. Last Winter, I switched to winter trail Hokas. The Hokas don’t dry out as fast as the Solomons, but they keep a bit more off my toes too.  I add gaiters for more snow protection.

      When it gets really cold (5F or below), I add overshoes for extra insulation. I can add crampons to my overshoes too. They are amazing. Nothing beats overshoes for Winter warmth. Since they go over my existing shoes, I don’t have to worry about fit and comfort.

      I may never hike in boots again. Seriously.

      • 4

        What brand overshoes do you use?

      • 4

        I use New England Overshoes (definitely measure your shoe before buying). I’m 5’7″, so I wear the Explorer. If I was taller, I would wear Navigators. They are surprisingly sticky on ice. I don’t have the stabilicers on mine because I want to be able to opt in/out of spikes. I can (and do) add my crampons on top when needed.

      • 4

        Looked up the NEOs on Amazon and read the reviews. Looks like a solid buy. Thanks!

    • 5

      I live in the Pacific Northwest and use Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot (also added inner soles with good heel/arch support). Darn Tough socks. Cimkiz ice cleats/crampons for ice/snow. Gaiters for rain/snow. I use Moerdeng Water Shoes/Aqua Socks for creek crossings, as well as TrailBuddy Trekking Poles. The poles double as tent poles for my Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape.

      Note: My pov is “I don’t pack for what I can’t survive,” so I don’t have hardcore SHTF gear, just a few practical well-made things to allow me to be walking for 1-3 days, if needed.

      • 4

        100% endorse Darn Tough socks. I literally don’t wear any other socks now.

        I do wear Chacos when I’m flyfishing. They get along great with my feet and I can wear them for miles. I just saw my first pair of Bedrock 3D sandals and they were pretty impressive on wet rocks. Neither is cheap but both are repairable.

        “I don’t pack for what I can’t survive” is a good POV. Mine has been “I don’t pack what I don’t use.” – I don’t want to be breaking in new gear on a bad day.

      • 4

        I’ve worn Chacos on short walking hikes, not more than 3 miles. They sure are nice on hot days and you’re right—they’re pretty good in water. Moerdeng’s have a better grip on slippery underwater rocks imo, but are no good for long walks. I only use them to cross creeks/rivers on long hikes. They’re super light to pack.

        As far as not packing what I don’t use, I have a few things, like my SOL bivy, rain cape/tent, and sleeping mat that I don’t use irl. I have a teardrop trailer and travel in comfort with a full bed, tiny bath, and kitchen. So my pack is for having to hightail it out the door with no time to hook up the teardrop. Also, irl it’s more likely to be used in an emergency shelter than escaping zombies…but ya never know, right?

        And because of that shelter scenario (wildfires, volcano, and earthquakes are all possible here), I pack an eye mask & earplugs + door jamb & sink plug, per friend’s recommendations.

        PS: Probably going to take the whole pack out for a dry run this summer to sort out what’s missing, what I like/don’t like.

      • 6

        @A2 @phiguru I’m about to put together the “best socks” page for this site and my draft so far is basically “just buy Darn Tough.”

      • 4

        [laughing]
        It’s true!!

      • 5

        thanks for that, i’v been using Minus-33 which seems to be the same idea (merino wool) but they’re more specialized for hunting and camping, not so much ‘active wear’ socks that I can take long hikes/trail running. Will need to try these!

      • 4

        JB Fields socks are a nice Canadian-made alternative. The Icelandic line of -30, -40, and -50 are all wool blends (more wool in the lower temp) and less tailored (fitting more feet). They are very thick and I think the thicker plush may provide more insulating power just like greater loft in a sleeping bag. At the farmers coop, they are regularly half the price of Darn Toughs. I get them for my ever-growing kid and I keep a pair of -40’s in my car in a waterproof bag as emergency mittens/socks.

        I’ve never tried their hiking-style socks and now I’ll admit that I’m quite curious to do so.

    • 4

      I like lace up guys boots. They have a bigger toebox than girls so you can wear extra thick socks or just have plenty of wiggle room.

    • 4

      I use a good pair of composite toed, waterproof work boots and replace the laces with paracord.

      • 2

        That’s a cool idea. Does the paracord stay tied? I hadn’t thought to use it for that purpose, but I’m into it now.

    • 4

      In my tribe, which is composed of hunters, hikers and people who put lots of weight on their body and walk for hours and hours tend towards Salomon and Zamberlan boots.

    • 3

      Yeah, they stay tied just fine and are super long lasting.

    • 3

      Footwear is a very personal thing.  Your buddy’s favorite boot could be the absolute worst on your own feet, so be a little leery of rushing out and buying something without taking the time to try them out adequately.

      I have a very difficult time finding shoes/boots that my feet agree with, so when I do find something that works well for me I stick with it and buy multiple pairs to keep in reserve.  The other thing I’ve learned the hard way is that I’ve got to junk the boots as soon as they’ve worn to the point where I’m starting to notice discomfort anywhere from the foot to the hip.  It sucks, because they usually still look and work great, except for where the soles have worn down, especially in the outside heel area.  For me it’s the right side that goes first and I just have to suck it up and move on to a new pair.

      My go to all around boots are the Asolo Fugitive GTX (I’ve bought at least a dozen pairs) and they must be popular enough because they have remained unchanged in terms of design and materials for over 15 years.  They don’t require much break in, are relatively light weight, have sufficient stability for carrying a moderately heavy pack, and the Gortex keeps my socks and feet clean in the desert environment I hike in and yet still doesn’t overheat my feet.  I rely on these so heavily that I usually try to keep two pair in reserve at all times.  If I watch the sales, or use my REI dividends and discounts right, I can avoid paying full price, which isn’t cheap.

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      For times when I really need more support and protection, either due to tougher terrain, snow/ice, or carrying heavier loads, I rely on La Sportiva Karakorum.  I have yet to wear out a pair, but once I figured out how great they worked for my feet I bought a spare to keep in reserve.  They are nowhere near as light and flexible as the Asolo, but that’s really the whole point.  Despite that they did not require the break-in period that most boots I’ve tried in this class require.  Another downside is that they don’t stay as dry as other climbing boots like this, but in my climate and terrain that’s of secondary importance.

      shopping

      The only combat boots I’ve tried are the Danner Acadia and, while they were well made, they were not the kind of footwear I could put many miles on at a time.  I wound up using them more as a work boot when I had the rare need to work in the mud.

      Interestingly, I’ve seen many pictures of soldiers wearing both these Asolo and La Sportiva boots in Afghanistan, which makes a lot sense to me based on my experience with them.

      I also have been putting SuperFeet insoles in all my boots for about 20 years.  They’re frightfully expensive but I can’t live without them.  Fortunately I don’t have to replace them as often as the boots.

      The final thing is you need to figure out what socks pair well with your boots and stock up.  For me, Smart Wool Hikers go with the Asolos and Smart Wool Trekkers go with the Sportivas.  If I’m not doing many miles, Costco’s Merino wool socks work fine in the Asolos and you can’t beat the price, although I’m finding that their more recent socks aren’t lasting as long.  I just started experimenting with Darn Tough and am very impressed but don’t have enough miles on them to judge whether they’d be better for me than the Smart Wool.  I definitely stock up on quality wool socks whenever I can get them on sale.  My wife complains bitterly about my sock stockpile, but it’s one of those things that you’ve got to have.

      Yeah, I know, all this adds up to a lot of money.  But being able to move efficiently on your feet is never more vital than when the SHTF.

      • 2

        Great comment, thanks!