What to Look for in Your Duty Boots

Like many things in life, your job in law enforcement, the military or as an EMS requires a solid, sturdy foundation. The same way a strong family support system keeps you grounded, your duty boots provide the foundation you need to keep yourself protected on the job. Whether you’re a 20-year veteran or a newbie, knowing what to look for in your duty boots is crucial to making sure you have what you need to perform at the highest level.

You want a duty boot that’s strong, reliable, durable, and flexible and yes, comfortable. You’ll likely be on your feet for prolonged periods of time, day after day, so maximum comfort is key. You also want a boot that can stand up to repeated wear and tear. And you want all of this while staying within your uniform allowance. But what to look for? What key features are important to consider when choosing a boot that’s right for you and what you do each day? Let’s take a look at seven attributes to consider.

1. Waterproof
If you spend a majority of your day outside – and it’s likely you do – you’ll want to make sure you choose a pair of boots that are waterproof. Whether you’re sloshing through snow, streams or rain, wet feet can spell disaster, including frostbite and trench foot. Luckily, many duty boots come with waterproofing technology so your feet remain safe and dry.

If your job require you to be outside in all kinds of conditions, including possibly snow and other wet surfaces, make sure your boots are waterproof and not just water-resistant. Because of the type of material they’re made out of – rubber, plastic and other non-porous materials – waterproof boots can be submerged in water and your feet will remain dry, while water-resistant boots cannot be submerged without your feet becoming soaked.

Whether you work in a hot or cold environment, having the proper insulation in your boot will go a long way toward ensuring maximum comfort and safety. If you tend to work outdoors in cold, harsh environments, look for a boot that has high quality insulation to keep your feet warm.

Whether you work in a hot or cold environment, having the proper insulation in your boot will go a long way toward ensuring maximum comfort and safety. If you tend to work outdoors in cold, harsh environments, look for a boot that has high quality insulation to keep your feet warm.

What is high quality insulation? The most popular type is Thinsulate which is made with synthetic microfibers that provide durable, lightweight insulation that will last even after many times getting wet. Plus, as boots are normally heavy, Thinsulate is the lightest insulation so you can remain light on your feet even while being fully protected.

Many of us have to deal with cold and wet conditions together, so combining insulation with waterproof materials ensures our feet remain warm and safe. Conversely, if you’re required to work in a hot-weather environment, say a jungle, you’ll want to make sure your boots offer a breathable mesh insulation that will keep your feet dry and free of moisture like sweat.

3. Sole
The outsole is a critical factor to keep in mind when choosing a pair of duty boots. Most come with a thick rubber sole. Depending on the type of work you usually perform, the sole should be heavy-duty, yet also lightweight. Look for a sole that is stitched rather than glued, as glue can come undone easier than a stitch job. Plus, stitching can be fixed easier. You want to make sure you’ll have the traction and grip you need, no matter what the surface, from slick pavement to muddy ground.

Soles are constructed with various lug sole patterns which can help displace water and resist slippage on slick surfaces. Look for a midsole made of a material like polyurethane which makes it more shock absorbing for walking or running on hard surfaces.

4. Support
The more active your job requires you to be, the more support you’ll need in your duty boot. Think of it this way – a basketball player needs a shoe that’s supportive to prevent twisting an ankle, yet lightweight so they can be quick and agile on their feet. You should want the same thing in a duty boot.

In most cases, look for a boot that’s 6 – 8” in height as this provides the ideal amount of support for your ankles and feet. You also want a pair that are durable yet lightweight in construction. Features like a heel strike window are designed to reduce impact while the user is in motion.

5. Toe
 Protecting your feet is a huge factor to consider when picking out a pair of duty boots, and a solid toe protection is the first thing to look for, especially if your job comes with inherent dangers to your feet. The question is – steel toe or composite toe?

Steel toe has been around the longest and offers maximum protection. Moreover, steel toe boots are usually less expensive than their composite counterparts are. However, composite toe boots are made of materials like polymer, which mimic the strength and protection of steel, but are lighter in weight. You must take into account what your job requires of you on a day-to-day basis and decide which option is best for you. For example, composite toe boots offer less puncture protection, so if you’re an EMT or firefighter and your risk of something puncturing your boot is greater, steel toe may be the option for you. Conversely, composite toe boots help better insulate your feet, so if you work in a cold-weather environment, composite toe boots may be a better fit for you.

6. Hidden Pockets
An extra feature that some boots come with is hidden pockets which are used to hide a cuff key or other small piece of equipment while on duty. These can be invaluable should you find yourself in a compromising situation.

7. Insole & Lining
Boots come with a variety of insoles and linings, most designed to wick moisture away from your feet to keep them dry and cool. Insoles now have antimicrobial (an agent that kills microorganisms) and odor control capabilities, much needed for the amount of time you’ll spend in them. Look for a boot with these features as well as a comfortable insole.

However, not all insoles are created the same. Depending on the price you’re willing to pay, you may find an insole that’s getting by on the bare minimum. Or you may have a foot type that requires a special, custom insole. Don’t be afraid to shop for a separate insole and insert in place of the one that comes with the boot. When it comes right down to it, your comfort is of utmost importance, so having the right insole for your specific feet is key.

Specific Industry Needs
Besides the attributes listed above, take into account certain factors based on the specific industry you work in, from law enforcement and military to fire and EMT.

  1. Law Enforcement

You’ll want to make sure your duty boots meet your unit’s professional dress regulations. Boots typically need to be black in color. Look for a full grain leather toe which can be polished up nicely to keep the administration happy. Also, invest in good boot socks which can help provide comfort and support. These boot socks from Propper Patrol have a built-in arch support for added comfort, perfect for those long 12-hour shifts.

  1. Fire & EMT

Protection from foreign objects (chemical spills, bodily fluids, etc.) is crucial if you’re a firefighter or EMT. You must find a boot that is blood-borne pathogen resistant to ensure your utmost safety. Another key attribute to look for is a puncture resistant midsole board. This will help keep your feet protected from nails, glass and other dangerous debris.

As mentioned earlier, finding a boot with a safety-rated steel or composite toe is crucial to protecting your feet. Remember, a composite toe offers great protection, but is much lighter for moving about.

  1. Military

As a member of our military, you likely won’t be sitting around for much of the day. You’ll be on your feet traversing all kinds of rough terrain, so comfort is of utmost importance. That’s why finding the right size boot is so important. Your boots should feel comfortable and snug, but never tight.

Try on boots with a pair of socks you normally wear, and make sure to try them on in the afternoon, as your feet and ankles tend to swell as the day goes on. Also, before purchasing a pair of duty boots, ensure they comply with the Berry Amendment, meaning they are of high quality and produced in the United States.

So before making a purchase, think about your needs and requirements. Jot down some notes and do your research. Investing in a pair of quality duty boots now will ensure maximum comfort, stability, reliability, and save money in the long run.

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