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The primary purpose of combat boots is as durable, protective footwear for active service personnel—but they have been popular as fashion items since Dr. Martens (or Doc Martens as they are often called) first appeared in the 1960s. The grunge movement brought them back into style again, and today many designer brands make combat boots that are purely for casual wear.
There are crossover models too. Not full-on military combat boots but tough, durable footwear that can be used for trekking or hiking, and that also look good on the street. There is lots of choice, so in this article we’re looking at the best combat boots for a variety of purposes.
- Best Overall: Garmont Men’s T8 Bifida Tactical Military Boot
- Best for Women: Dr. Martens Women’s Combs W Combat Boot
- Best for Everyday Wear: Under Armour Men’s Stellar Military and Tactical Boot
- Best Army: Oakley LIGHT Assault 2 Boot
- Best Lightweight: Free Soldier Men’s Tactical Combat Boots
- Best Designer: Dr. Martens, Unisex 1460 Service Boots
Best Overall: Garmont Men’s T8 Bifida Tactical Military Boot
Why It Made The Cut: The Garmont T8 Bifida Tactical Boot is tough yet flexible, comfortable for long periods, and complies with the US Army standard as suitable for active military personnel.
- Materials: Leather and 600D Nylon
- Size Range: 4 to 15 (including wides)
- Purpose: Armed Forces, Rucking, Wilderness Hiking
- Extreme durability
- Meets the US Army AR 670-1 standard
- Excellent range of sizes
- Slow to get in and out of
- Premium price
Although Garmont now has U.S.-based manufacturing, they are originally an Italian company. It’s a country well-known for the outstanding quality of its footwear. According to the maker, the Garmont T8 Bifida Tactical Boot was originally developed at the express request of the US Special Forces. The current model complies with the US Army standard AR 670-1, meaning it can be worn by active service personnel as an alternative to standard military issue. It is also rated AFI 36-2903, suitable for US Air Force OCP use.
The upper uses a mix of split-grain suede leather for durability and resistance to abrasion with 600 Denier nylon weave which is strong, and lightweight. As a result the Garmont T8 Bifida Tactical Boot weighs only 19 ounces. It is water-resistant rather than fully waterproof, but is well ventilated, and fast-drying. There is added support for the heel and ankle, and the wide wrap-around tongue provides good closure to help keep out dirt.
Inside, a breathable polyurethane (PU) footbed helps manage sweat and prevent blisters. There’s an EVA foam midsole for cushioning. The composite rubber sole comes from specialist manufacturer Vibram. It combines durability with flexibility, and has a lug (tread) pattern that provides excellent traction in all conditions.
It is difficult to find anything to criticize about the Garmont T8 Bifida combat boots. They don’t have speed hooks for lacing, so getting in and out of them takes longer than it might, but as most people are likely to spend long hours wearing them, it’s not really a problem.
Best for Women: Dr. Martens Women’s Combs W Combat Boot
Why It Made The Cut: The Dr. Martens Women’s Combat Boot makes a great general-purpose choice. It is tough enough to put up with the great outdoors, and smart enough for office or casual wear.
- Materials: Leather and Polyurethane
- Size Range: 5 to 11
- Purpose: Working, Hiking, Backpacking, Streetwear
- Durable leather and poly combination
- Comfortable fabric lining
- Air-cushioned soles
- Only available black or white
- No wide fittings
Dr. Martens have done more to popularize the combat boot for casual use than any other brand. While they undoubtedly made it more fashionable, they never sacrificed usability. This Dr. Martens Women’s Combat Boot is a prime example. It is tough yet flexible, and tremendously versatile.
The upper is made of leather that has been covered in a polyurethane skin with a lightly embossed texture. It looks like fabric but it is tough, and highly water-resistant. There is padding around the collar for a snug fit, and extra support in the heel for those who put the boot to more active use. While the interior isn’t overloaded with features, it does have a cushioned, removable footbed to allow for orthotics to be fitted if necessary.
The sole has long been a feature of the Dr. Martens combat boot. It is hard-wearing, slip resistant, and composed of the now legendary air-cushioned compartments that add a whole different level of comfort that just has to be experienced. Sole and upper are combined using a cement welt construction, a combination of two techniques that bonds and stitches the components together to provide an almost impermeable joint.
The Dr. Marten’s Women’s Combat Boot is tremendously popular both for its comfort and versatility. While it might not have the specific features to take on the best hiking boots for women, it will nevertheless handle trails as easily as it does pavement.
Best for Everyday Wear: Under Armour Men’s Stellar Military and Tactical Boot
Why It Made The Cut: The Under Armour Stellar Military and Tactical Boot looks basic but is tough, highly water-resistant, and can be used hard all day without becoming uncomfortable.
- Materials: Leather and 900D Nylon
- Size Range: 8 to 14
- Purpose: Hiking, backpacking, motorcycling, working, streetwear
- Practical and smart
- Moisture wicking sockliner
- Reinforced shank for strength and support
- Limited sizes
- No wide fittings
The Under Armour Stellar Military and Tactical Boot isn’t about show; it’s about practicality. This classic black combat boot is made from leather, and tough 900 Denier nylon that has been treated with durable water repellent (DWR) polymer so water beads on the surface, and runs off without penetrating. The leather can be polished to create a warm shine if required.
On the inside, comfort is a priority. A sockliner from foot-care specialists Ortholite wicks moisture away from to help prevent blisters, and is anti-bacterial to stop the microbes that cause odor. There is a molded EVA midsole to cushion the foot, and absorb impact.
A thermal polyurethane (TPU) shank runs through the boot to prevent twisting and protect the arch area, while still allowing the foot and toes to bend naturally. The low-profile composite rubber sole provides good traction without appearing bulky.
The Under Armour combat boot combines subtle appearance with great versatility, and is suitable for a wide range of activities. It is hugely popular as a result. It is also competitively priced. However, the size range is somewhat limited, so unfortunately those with small or wide feet aren’t catered for.
Best Army: Oakley LT Assault 2 Boot
Why It Made The Cut: The Oakley LT Assault 2 Boot is a lightweight construction that complies with US Army and Air Force regulations, and offers terrific comfort.
- Materials: Leather and Cordura
- Size Range: 4 to 14
- Purpose: Army, Air Force, Rucking, Backpacking
- Abrasion-resistant upper
- Shock-absorbing midsole
- One of the lightest in its class
- No wide fittings
- Light duty
The Oakley LT Assault Boot is made from suede leather, and Cordura. The latter is a tough, synthetic weave that sheds water easily yet is breathable so it helps prevent the build up of sweat, and reduces the chances of blisters. The boot complies with US Army AR 670-1, and US Air Force AFI 36-2903 for OCP use. This general-purpose combat boot has an 8-inch shaft, offering good protection in undergrowth. A full leather 6-inch version is available for those who need a polishable boot.
At just 14 ounces this is very light for a tall boot, and is intended to provide maximum maneuverability. They are ready to go right out of the box with virtually no break-in period. An EVA foam midsole forms itself to the shape of the wearer’s foot for added comfort, support, and shock absorption.
Unusually the sole is also EVA, though a different compound to the inner. The almost flat profile is designed to maximize traction in all conditions, allowing fast directional changes without slipping. Although a very well made and durable boot, Oakley themselves do not rate it as fully combat-ready. For that they recommend the more specialized Oakley Elite Assault Boot.
Best Lightweight: Free Soldier Men’s Tactical Combat Boots
Why It Made The Cut: The Free Soldier Men’s Tactical Combat boot uses quality materials to produce versatile, comfortable footwear that looks just as good on the street as it does in the hills.
- Materials: Leather and Cordura
- Size Range: 7 to 11.5 (including wides)
- Purpose: Hiking, Backpacking, Working, Casual Wear
- Versatile all-terrain footwear
- Tough, full-grain leather
- Very affordable
- Modest size range
- Occasional quality control issues.
The big advantage that a model like the Free Soldier Men’s Tactical Combat boot offers is versatility. Military-grade combat boots have a focus that makes them an excellent choice for some people, but perhaps not for the majority. This boot is equally suitable for hikers, patrol personnel, warehouse operatives, and rucking enthusiasts, and it can do double duty as casual wear at the weekend.
The upper is highly-durable, full-grain leather and Cordura. The boots are waterproof, with a padded, moisture-wicking liner for sweat control and comfort. The cushioned insole is antimicrobial to tackle odor. They are also removable, so they can be upgraded if necessary. An EVA foam midsole offers good support, and absorbs shocks through the arch and heel area.
A composite rubber sole is fitted, which is slip- oil- and wear-resistant. The lugs have been designed for grip on all surfaces. The rubber extends around the front of the toe, providing bump protection, and allowing for what Oakley calls “tactical kicking.”
The Free Soldier Men’s Tactical Combat boot comes with a very attractive price tag. We have read occasional reports of stitching failures, and sole separations. We don’t know the circumstances that lead to problems, but they appear to be rare cases where quality control hasn’t been what it should be.
Best Designer: Dr. Martens Unisex 1460 Service Boots
Why It Made The Cut: The Dr. Martens classic combat boot never seems to be out of fashion. It combines durability with style, offers outstanding comfort, and is available in several funky colors.
- Materials: Full-Grain Leather
- Size Range: 4 to 14
- Purpose: Walking, Working, Motorcycling, Streetwear
- Timeless, stylish design
- Durable construction
- Air-pocket sole for comfort
- Premium price
- Slow lacing
Describing something as having an “iconic design” is often an overworked expression, but the Dr. Martens 1460 Service Boot is almost indistinguishable from the 1960s original. When something works this well, why change it?
The upper is full-grain leather known for its durability. While not 100-percent waterproof, it will put up with most things if waxed or oiled regularly. I have owned several pairs of Dr. Martens and really not looked after them as well as I should—but they still last years.
While the original had no high-tech liners or insoles, the modern version is more focused on foot care. There is a moisture-wicking ‘SoftWear’ sockliner that also contains strategically positioned memory foam pods to cushion the feet in areas most prone to abrasion.
The sole of the Dr. Martens combat boot has a near legendary reputation. It is made from a combination of PVC and composite rubber, and contains a grid of small air pockets. These provide outstanding impact absorption, and because each is self contained even if one or two are punctured (which is unlikely given the thickness of the material), the boot stays comfortable. The sole is also highly slip-resistant.
The 8-hole lacing pattern is part of the Dr. Martens style but the lack of speed hooks does make these combat boots a little slow to get in and out of. It’s not really a problem because despite the heavy-duty combat boot appearance, they can be worn all day without discomfort. Black boots are the classic choice, but the Dr. Martens 1460 Service Boot is also available in navy, red, purple, and pink.
Things to Consider Before Buying Combat Boots
With the enormous choice of combat boots available it can be difficult to focus on those that will suit you best. Here are a few suggestions that will help you narrow down your options.
In this article we’re looking at both full-on military combat boots, as well as crossover models that still offer good durability and performance but are also popular as casual wear. There are important differences.
Tactical footwear performs well in the field, but often most don’t look great on the street. They also tend to come with premium prices. By contrast, casual boots that look pretty tough in an urban setting might actually get torn to shreds in operational conditions. However, the latter are frequently more affordable. Taking time to decide what kind of performance you expect from your combat boots is the first step.
Many tactical combat boots use a combination of leather and textile (mainly woven nylon) that results in a hard-wearing boot that is also relatively light.
Interiors may have moisture-wicking liners to manage sweat, and padded insoles for all-day comfort. Nylon or steel shanks are sometimes used to stiffen the structure, reducing the chances of injury on difficult terrain. Soles often offer high traction, and are designed to absorb impact. Combat boots for actual US Army use must conform to the AR 670-1 standard, and for the US Air Force it is AFI 36-2903. They may be defined as alternative footwear options within certain categories—operational camouflage pattern (OCP), for example.
Crossover models that don’t need the same level of focus on performance are frequently of a less complex construction, and may not provide the same level of foot care. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily less comfortable, but casual boots aren’t subjected to the extreme conditions that tactical combat boots need to withstand.
Even the best combat boots aren’t just for military personnel. Some make good hiking or rucking boots. Some provide similar benefits to lightweight hunting boots.
When considering a particular pair of combat boots, it’s worth thinking about whether they can do double duty. That way you’ll get maximum value from your purchase.
Q: Which military boots are the most comfortable?
It’s difficult to say which military boots are most comfortable because there are so many variables. Leading brands Belleville, Danner, Doc Martens, Garmont, Oakley, and Under Armour all have excellent reputations for comfort, but the environment can have a big impact. The information above will help you choose the right model for the way you intend to wear them.
Q: How much do the best combat boots cost?
The cost of the best combat boots varies enormously. A lot depends on whether you are looking for a combat-style casual boot, or full-on military footwear. Prices for quality combat boots start at around $60 and rise to $250.
Q: Can I wear combat boots everyday?
Many combat boots can be worn everyday, but some are easier to wear than others. Comfort options are one of the things discussed in our article.
Q: What does wearing combat boots say about you?
Wearing combat boots can say different things about you. A woman who wears combat boots can be perceived as strong, and independent-minded. A man wearing combat boots might be considered rugged and resourceful. Of course wearing combat boots could just say you prefer practical footwear for tough environments.
Q: Are combat boots practical?
Combat boots can be very practical, and the variety of combat boots available means there are models to suit all preferences. The article above will help you decide which combat boots will serve you best.
Garmont’s T8 Bifida combat boot is military-grade footwear that offers outstanding performance and comfort in all conditions. However, not surprisingly a boot of this quality doesn’t come cheap. The Free Soldier tactical hiking boot may not meet the strict AR 670-1 army standards but it is tough, waterproof, versatile and very affordable.
Here at Field & Stream we see a lot of different boots, and whether that’s hiking boots, fishing boots, or the best upland hunting boots, mostly we’re looking at them purely from a performance perspective.
Combat boots are different because the term now covers such a wide choice of footwear. At one end of the scale are tough AR 670-1 compliant military boots. At the other end, high-fashion options from couture designers.
While we haven’t gone so far as to include the latter (not really Field & Stream’s thing), we have tried to select a wide range of combat boots so there is something here to suit the majority of people.
Although we always try to find the best value, we have not selected any of the cheap combat boots that are often available. Many don’t even stand up to street use for very long, so they end up costing more than if you invested in quality alternatives in the first place. Several of our top picks are very affordable, but even the combat boots that got our ‘best designer’ award have proven durability.