Today’s patrol and tactical officers find themselves in many different scenarios. The correct footwear is essential to their safety as well as getting the job done. Deciding which brand of boot to wear often depends on personal preference. Tactical Response
sought 10 of its readers to test 11 different boots. The reviewers are current or former tactical or special operations group operators or supervisors from agencies throughout the United States. They came from a wide cross-section of law enforcement, including both rural and urban departments and both large and small departments. They came from all over the country, including: Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Montana, California, Arizona and Indiana. Tactical Response
magazine then asked 11 of the top boot manufacturers in the United States to submit boots for testing and review. The following boots were tested: 5.11’s XPRT Tactical 12201 Black; ALTAMA’s Black 8-inch Waterproof; Bates’ GX-8 Ultra-Lite; BlackHawk!’s Warrior Wear Black OPS; Danner’s Striker II GTX 8-inch Black All-Leather Side-Zip; Haix’s Airpower P7 High; Magnum’s Elite Spider 8.0 SZ; Original S.W.A.T.’s SEK 9000 Black; Redback’s Lace-Up Boot Black Waxy; ROCKY’s Oxford Alpha; and Wellco’s Black X-Force 8-inch Side Zip.
To be sure we were comparing the same type of boot, each company was asked to submit its standard tactical boot. Each company knew this was going to be a direct, head-to-head comparison, and that the boots would be rated and ranked. In addition, each company knew what the others were submitting.
The boots were used during SWAT training exercises, on patrol, and for day-to-day work. After the 60-day test period, the officers were asked to evaluate the boots. The boots were each specifically rated for the break-in comfort; overall comfort; weather tolerance; function; and durability using a scale of 1-5 (1 = Poor, 5 = Very Good). They were also asked for their overall opinion of each boot. The following is a detailed description of each boot and a summary of the results and how each boot ranked. 5.11 Tactical Series®
The XPRT Tactical 8-inch boot features 5.11’s patent-pending Kick-Toe; Cinch System™; Yoke Stabilizer™; and Sympatex® waterproof-breathable membrane. The XPRT is also blood-borne pathogen resistant and made of USA full-grain leather and 1200D nylon upper. Other features include: TuffTek abrasion-resistant toe; antibacterial and moisture-wicking lining; Shock Mitigation System™; and an oil- and slip-resistant, quiet outsole. XPRT Boots feature the new 5.11 Talon Stabilizer, which wraps around the officer’s ankle and locks his foot securely in its grasp. The MSRP is $179.99.
Opinions varied on 5.11’s boot in the break-in comfort category. Lieutenant James Clay, Beaumont, TX Police Department, and Officer David Krueger, Missoula, MT Police Department, both thought it was very comfortable and easy to wear during the break-in period. However, Officer Matt Spaller, Maryville, IL Police Department, felt it was very uncomfortable and said, “I don’t think it ever did break in after two weeks.” As far as overall comfort, the majority of the testers said the XPRT boot was comfortable with a good fit, even during 12-hour shifts. However, one officer thought the fit in the toe area was too tight.
In the weather tolerance category, the XPRT boot was highly rated, with most officers saying it kept their feet warm and dry even during heavy rain. According to Officer Richard Hoffner, Hatfield, PA Police Department, “The boots kept my feet dry during warmer days, allowing my feet to breathe.” 5.11’s boot also rated highly in the function category. Commander Edward S. Janke, Brown County Sheriff’s Department, Green Bay, WI, felt the XPRT “provided excellent traction and support.” Other testers said the boot’s sole was flexible and gave great ankle support. Because of the sole’s hard surface, Spaller thought the XPRT was “the loudest of all the boots I tested.”
In terms of durability, the 5.11 boot garnered four 5’s and one 4. Most of the officers said it was very resilient with no noticeable wear. According to Krueger, the boot was very durable during the three-week test period. Two of the testers did not care for the lace closure system but said it was easy to remove. ALTAMA® Footwear
ALTAMA’s Black 8-inch Waterproof Boot for SWAT, police and sheriff use is made of black full-grain leather and Air Mesh with Sympatex® waterproof and blood-borne pathogen-proof lining. A slip-, acid- and oil-resistant rubber sole with running chassis and ankle stabilizers offer support. Other features include: Tactical Lug sole pattern; dual-zone wicking and breathable lining; triple-density EVA midsole; EXO-skeletal support structure; removable innersole with anatomically molded EVA with shock pads; and a non-metallic eyelet lacing system. The MSRP is $129.99.
Two of the testers felt the ALTAMA boot was easy to break in, while others had problems with it. Officer Greg Wessels, Des Moines, IA Police Department, said the boot “broke in almost immediately with no sore spots or discomforts.” Deputy Don Munson, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Fowler, IN, had to force his foot in when putting the boot on and said, “The extra webbing between the side zipper made it uncomfortable but not unbearable.” The testers rated ALTAMA’s boot mostly 4’s for overall comfort, citing the good ankle support and light weight.
Most of the officers thought the ALTAMA boot stayed dry in wet conditions. Officer Jake Stoll, Dublin, OH Police Department, said the boot was “very breathable for a waterproof boot… never felt too hot or too cold.” Officer Jim Bock, San Joaquin Delta College District Police, Stockton, CA, stepped in a 4-inch deep puddle, and no water entered his boot. However, after continued wear, he noticed his feet “would get quite warm.”
Reviews on the ALTAMA boot’s function were mixed. Some of the testers thought the traction was “amazing” on wet or dry surfaces with good ankle support. Others felt the sole was “a bit stiff and slick.” Sergeant Randy Rody, Surprise, AZ Police Department, would have liked to feel “a bit more impact-absorbing material in the forward area of the sole.” Opinions varied once again in the durability category. The boots showed no signs of wear after the three-week test period for several of the officers. In contrast, according to Bock, “After only three weeks, they looked like a pair of boots I had worn for six months.” Bates Uniform Footwear
The GX-8 Ultra-Lite boot from Bates includes Gore-Tex waterproof lining, full-grain leather and ballistic nylon uppers and full-cushioned removable comfort insoles. Bates’ exclusive Ultra-Lites Xtreme outsoles offer stability and traction. Other features include: cement construction, soft toe, waterproof, stealth, 2.5 pounds per pair. The MSRP is $134.95.
Opinions varied on the GX-8’s break-in comfort. Two of the testers felt it was comfortable from the beginning. Two more testers thought the opposite, saying the boots were stiff and slow to break in. According to Hoffner, the sole and materials were not flexible. Once broken in, several of the reviewers felt the overall comfort of the Bates boot was comfortable and provided a great fit. “The sole seems like it provides the most cushion of all the boots tested,” Spaller commented.
In weather tolerance, the majority of the reviewers said the GX-8 was warm and dry in wet conditions. Only one officer felt they were “a little hot in warm weather.” In the function category, Spaller felt the extra material of the side zipper provided extra ankle support. Some of the testers thought the boot had great traction on dry terrain, but one officer said it had poor traction on wet, hard surfaces.
In the durability category, Bates scored four 5’s. To most, the boots seemed well made and sturdy. Hoffner liked the size zipper with Velcro tabs and traditional laces. However, “The inner liner in toe area came loose and was irritating,” Clay commented. BlackHawk Products Group
The BlackHawk Warrior Wear Black Ops Boots are light, non-metallic and waterproof. The SympaTex® barrier and gusseted tongue keep out water. A Dri-Lex® inner lining wicks away moisture. Other features include: Vibram® “Multisport” oil-resistant TC4+ compound outsole; water-friendly PU midsole; nylon shank; washable, anti-microbial Ortholite® custom molded footbed; Cordura® and full-grain leather upper; two-inch ankle support webbing; and rubberized toe and heel reinforcements. The MSRP is $159.99.
BlackHawk’s boot received four 5’s and one 1 rating in the break-in comfort category. Officer Bock said the boot was “extremely comfortable right out of the box.” However, Munson felt differently. After wearing them for about six hours, “the toe and top part of my foot felt like it was going to start cramping,” he said. The Warrior Wear boot received three 5’s in overall comfort. Stoll compared the comfort of these boots to “a good pair of tennis shoes.” On the other hand, Munson developed a blister on one of his heels from the wear and had to wear two pairs of socks to remedy the problem.
As far as weather tolerance, BlackHawk’s Warrior Wear boot stayed dry during rain for most of the testers. Because of all the padding in the boot, several officers said it made their feet very warm. However, Stoll wore the boots for a week in the desert and he thought they were “very breathable.”
In the function category, BlackHawk’s boot scored four 5 ratings. The testers praised its good traction whether on dry asphalt, wet carpet, or transferring from a wet to dry surface. According to Rody, the boots provided great traction and support over rough and uneven terrain. Officer Wessels also said the boots were “very flexible and did not restrict movement, yet gave great support.” The BlackHawk boot also scored high in durability, showing no signs of damage or wear after the testing period for many of the officers. The only problem cited was that the toe area was hard to keep clean due to the rubber mold. Danner® Inc.
The new Striker™ II GTX 8-inch All-Leather Side-Zip from Danner features a Gore-Tex® liner for waterproof protection. This full-grain leather boot provides a side zipper for easy entry and exit. The TERRA FORCE™ X Lite platform provides lightweight, durable traction, heel-to-toe energy transfer, side support to enhance maneuverability, and protection from arch overwork and fatigue. The Danner TFX Lite outsole is oil and slip resistant. The available Pro-Tec™ non-metallic toe meets ASTM standard certification. The Striker II GTX is for EMS, foot patrol, highway patrol, SWAT, K9 unit, riot, traffic, station and TSA use. The MSRP is $189.95.
Danner’s Striker II GTX boot took first place in the break-in comfort category. Bock felt they were the most comfortable boots he has ever worn: “Immediately upon putting these boots on, I felt as if I had worn them for years.” Other testers also thought the boots were very comfortable with no areas of discomfort during the break-in period. The majority of the officers ranked the Danner boot’s overall comfort high as well, although one tester had a problem with pressure on the side of his leg where the zipper was.
The majority of the testers agreed that the Striker II GTX was waterproof. One officer walked through wet grass and mud and never experienced any leaks. The only drawback to that is wearing these boots on warmer days, as they are not very breathable. Munson said after 12 hours in 70-degree weather, his feet felt “plenty warm.”
Most of the testers thought Danner’s boot showed great traction, regardless of the terrain. Wessels was “amazed at how flexible these boots were for an all-leather boot.” Another reviewer said they were not too rigid, with just the right amount of support. In durability, the Striker II GTX scored all 5’s. All of the officers said there were no signs of wear after the test period. They called Danner’s boot an “extremely well made product.” Haix® North America Inc.
The Airpower® P7 High from Haix is a quick-lacing tactical boot / patrol boot made of Gore-Tex® laminate technology. It also features the Haix Arch Support System and inner Cambrelle lining that is abrasion resistant and padded with breathable foam. The footbed is anatomically formed with a machine-washable insert. The insole is made of Texon fleece, and the non-slip rubber outsole is oil and fuel resistant with self-cleaning tread that is nonmarking and PU-shock absorbing. Other features include: softly padded tongue; quick-lacing eyelets; reinforcement in the toe and heel areas; and heat-resistant sole bonding. The MSRP is $234.00.
Haix’s boot tied for first in both the weather tolerance and durability categories. However, in break-in comfort, several of the reviewers said the boot was stiff at first and took some time to break in. Although for Hoffner, who worked a 16-hour shift the first day he wore the Airpower P7 High, “the boots provided me with the comfort needed to complete my shift,” he said. Opinions varied on the boot’s overall comfort as well. “Due to the thin and hard insole, the boot became uncomfortable after standing for long periods of time,” Clay stated. But others said it was comfortable once broke in.
Scoring four 5’s in weather tolerance, the Haix boot kept most of the reviewers’ feet warm and dry during rain and hot temperatures. “Not only did my feet stay dry, but the exterior of the boots stayed in excellent condition,” Hoffner said. In the function category, most of the testers felt the Airpower P7 High had good traction, especially on oily and wet surfaces. “While walking and running, the boot provided excellent traction,” Janke said. One officer also said the speed laces were a nice touch.
The Haix boot received all 5’s in the durability department. They provided support and comfort for most of the officers with no noticeable wear or tear. “I highly recommend these boots for anyone working patrol or any other specialized unit,” Hoffner said. Magnum® USA
Magnum’s Elite Spider 8.0 SZ Boot is made of a leather upper with breathable aero mesh, and it includes a circular side zipper. Other features include: composite non-metallic hardware; spidermesh lining; vertical build system; Stabila-Flex lasting board; running shoe last; composite shank; 3D2 max comfort contoured sock liner; compression molded EVA midsole; and a Vibram® outsole. The MSRP is $120.00.
Most of the testers felt Magnum’s boot was comfortable from the start. However, it took some time for some of the officers to get used to the pronounced arch. Otherwise, most cited the boot’s great ankle support and fit in overall comfort. Wessels said the boot was good for all-day wear. However, Bock was disappointed with the zipper placement because it “did not allow me to don and doff the boots once I had tied the laces.”
In the weather tolerance category, the Elite Spider 8.0 SZ performed well for most of the testers by keeping their feet warm and dry. Bock walked through sprinklers to test how well they kept water out, and he never had a leak issue. Still, another reviewer experienced wet feet after walking through heavy dew. “This boot appears to be more of a summer boot than a winter boot,” Munson said.
The Magnum boot scored mostly 4’s in the function area. The officers felt it gripped well in many conditions and terrain. The boot did slide a bit when one officer walked on very short carpet, but “the problem resolved itself once the boots were scuffed on the bottom,” Bock said. In terms of durability, one major complaint was the zipper. One of the testers experienced a tear in the webbing of the zipper where it meets the trim, while another noticed the Velcro used to secure the zipper began to wear after three weeks. Original S.W.A.T.® Footwear Co.
The SEK 9000 Black boot by Original S.W.A.T. features tumbled leather upper with Armor-Dillo Abrasion (resistance at toe, heel and sides); contour fit, abrasion protection; extra traction in the sniper position; all-black VIBRAM self-cleaning, multi-tred carbon rubber outsole; compression-molded EVA midsole; moisture wicking lining; rustproof hardware; and non-fray laces. The SEK 9000 is NTOA tested and approved. The MSRP is $119.00.
Original S.W.A.T.’s boot came in second place overall out of all the boots tested. The SEK 9000 received mostly 5’s for break-in comfort. The majority of the officers said they required no break-in time and were comfortable right out of the box. Two of the reviewers compared them to wearing tennis shoes or sneakers. The overall comfort garnered all 5’s and 4’s. “After break-in, the boots were very comfortable even on a 16-hour day,” Clay said. Hoffner thought Original S.W.A.T.’s boots were the most comfortable of the six pairs he tested.
Most of the reviewers said the SEK 9000 held up well in the weather tolerance category. The boots stayed dry and seemed to be water resistant. However, one officer’s feet did get hot on warm days. As far as function goes, the officers had different opinions on the Original S.W.A.T. boot. Most thought it had good traction and support. “The sole was aggressive yet provided feedback in terms of surface,” Janke said. However, one officer felt it had poor traction on wet surfaces but good flexibility and ankle support.
In the durability category, the SEK 9000 tied for first place, with all the testers giving it a 5. Hoffner said the Vibram soles provided excellent comfort and support. Most of the officers did not notice any wear, and it seemed like a well-made boot. One reviewer also liked the quiet sole. Redback Boots
Redback’s Lace-Up Boot Black Waxy 8-inch features an Achilles-relief cutout and padded heel protection plus a speed-lace system for fast on and off. This 100% Australian Boot is made of black, full-grain, high-gloss leather and is fully lined with cushioned tongue and top. The lightweight and durable TPU sole offers non-slip stability with an anatomic support system. The MSRP is $205.00.
In the break-in comfort category, Redback’s boot was a little stiff at first for a few of the officers, but it only required a couple of days to break in. “I was surprised at how quickly this all-leather boot broke in,” Spaller said. For overall comfort, a few of the reviewers felt the boot provided adequate arch and heel support for day-long wear. The only complaint was too much room in the toe area for one officer.
In weather tolerance, the majority of the testers gave the Redback boot high marks. “They did not leak in the rain and wet weather,” Hoffner said. The boots were more than warm enough for one officer during a cold snap, and they stayed dry for others. Another reviewer felt differently: “The boot was not lined, and it allowed my feet to become cold over a short period of time,” Janke said.
Redback’s boot received mixed reviews in function. Krueger thought the traction was lacking a little on slippery surfaces, while Clay said it was the best pair he has worn on wet floors. A couple of the testers thought the boot had a flexible sole and provided good ankle support. In terms of durability, Redback’s boot showed no wear for a few of the testers. However, pieces of the sole broke loose for one reviewer. ROCKY® Shoes and Boots Inc.
The Oxford Alpha boot from ROCKY features an airport footbed for support and cushioning. It is made of full-grain, water-resistant leather and lightweight black 1000 Denier nylon. Other features include: guaranteed ROCKY waterproof construction; non-metallic stabilizer; oil- and slip-resistant RigiTrac molded EVA; and a non-marking rubber outsole. The MSRP is $89.99.
The ROCKY Oxford Alpha came in first overall out of all the boots tested. It took top honors for every category except break-in comfort. Still, it received mostly positive comments in that department too. Most of the reviewers said it required little or no break-in period. “Comfortable from the moment I put them on,” Clay said. ROCKY’s boot received all 5’s in the overall comfort category. The officers praised its cushion and fit as well as its arch, heel and ankle support. “Wore like a fitted pair of running shoes,” Janke stated.
The ROCKY boot received high marks in the weather tolerance category, as well. Most of the officers said their feet stayed warm and dry during rain, but one officer’s feet did get hot in 90-degree heat. It was noted that the boot also stayed flexible in cold weather. Taking all 5’s in the function category, ROCKY’s boot provided excellent traction for all the officers. Two of the reviewers felt it had the most aggressive tread of any of the boots they tested: “I could climb Everest in these!” Krueger exclaimed. The Oxford Alpha tied for first place with three other boots in the durability category. Most agreed it is a well-made and very durable boot that will stand up to any tough assignment. “It is designed for special service and is well suited for SWAT activities,” Janke said. Wellco Enterprises
The Black X-Force 8-inch Side Zip from Wellco is made of 1000 denier Cordura; silicone-treated, full-grain leather. Features include: moisture wicking / antimicrobial lining; removable polyurethane contour cushion footbed; non-metallic stealth technology; compression-molded EVA midsole; a high-abrasion slip- and oil-resistant rubber outsole; and a padded collar and tongue. The MSRP is $89.95.
Most of the testers said the boot was stiff and uncomfortable, and for some, it never broke in during the test period. However, in the overall comfort category, the boots fared better. Stoll said after a tough break-in period of one week, the boots “actually became quite comfortable.” On the flip side, one of the testers experienced painful blisters and bruising on the top of his foot. In addition, he had pain in his outer right ankle that warranted a trip to the doctor.
The Wellco boot’s weather tolerance garnered different reviews as well. Some of the testers’ feet stayed warm and dry, while another’s were wet after exposure to water. In the function category, the X-Force performed “flawlessly” over gravel, sand, tile, concrete and asphalt, according to Rody. The majority of the other testers felt it gripped well with good traction and support.
In durability, the Wellco boot scored a 5 from one officer. “These boots are built like a tank,” Stoll stated. Another tester especially liked the large tooth zipper and the upraised lace grommets. Overall, most of the reviewers did not experience any visible signs of wear.
All in all, the boots were comparable in some areas, noted by the four-way tie in the durability category. As with any testing program, the opinions differed slightly due to personal preference. The reviewers liked certain boots for different reasons. Some thought the boots could be easily used for SWAT, while others preferred them for only light duty. The same boot may not work for every officer; it is best to choose the right boot for each individual. We extend our sincere thanks to our panel of testers. Their time and efforts are greatly appreciated. Jennifer Gavigan is the former associate editor of Tactical Response magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.