Sturdy, durable, and tough looking – military boots are generally favored by people who are in the military. However, I have found a number of people using them for backpacking and trekking.
So, are military boots good for backpacking? Military boots are comfortable and suitable for hiking and backpacking. Especially for those wanting extra durability and ankle support. Military boots are made to survive extreme conditions and extreme use. Thus, they are ideal for any backpacking trip you are considering.
Having hiked and backpacked a number of different trails myself, I have some wisdom to shed on this subject. We’ll begin with understanding the difference between military combat boots and the traditional hiking boot.
Traditional Hiking Boots vs. Military Combat Boots
When it comes to deciding on buying footwear for backpacking, trekking, or hiking, people have the option of choosing between traditional hiking boots and military combat boots. The only way you can choose the right one for you is to do your research. Learning the pros and cons, along with some other details about the two kinds of boots will give you an idea of whether they meet all your footwear needs or not. I’ll begin with explaining traditional hiking boots.
Traditional Hiking Boots
When you think about footwear for hiking, hiking boots will be your first thought. They are characteristically rugged-looking, which makes them appear perfect for hiking. Hiking boots are designed in such a way that they provide stability, grip, and balance to your feet on uneven trails and terrains.
The sturdiness provided by the thick sole on the boots reduces the risk of ankle injury. The traction offered by the boots also provides easy grip on uneven surfaces. Furthermore, the material used to make the soles and the rest of the boot offers weather resistance. Whether it’s snow, water, rocks or mud, traditional hiking boots are designed to protect your feet while you hike or backpack.
Military Combat Boots
Military boots are naturally associated with military personnel. Any regular Joe will imagine a tall tough-looking man with a buzz cut in a camouflage uniform wearing military boots. However, military boots can be used by anyone. You don’t have to be in the military or law enforcement to wear them. Whether you work an active construction job or are running a difficult terrain on your next backpacking trip, military boots work effectively.
They are durable, versatile, and flexible, providing reliable support and toughness that any outdoorsy person can benefit from.
Since there are different kinds of military boots available in the market, the kind you need depends on the environment you’ll be using them in. For example, if you want work boots for a construction job, you will need a pair with a hard exterior. If you use military boots for hiking, on the other hand, you will need a pair that provides more flexibility and support. However, most military boots are not designed to be as effective as a trail runner or hiking boot.
Most people supplement their military boots with an insole to provide more support. Will it work for you? It depends on the intensity and location of the hike among other factors. Military boots can be a viable alternative to hiking boots if you consider the above mentioned information.
What Should I Look For In A Good Hiking Boot?
There are three main things you need to consider when you’re looking for a good hiking boot: the type, component, and fit of the shoe. Here is a brief explanation of each…
Types Of Military Boots
Within the hiking boot category, there are various kinds you can choose from:
- Traditional low-cut models with flexible midsoles. Ultralight backpackers often choose this shoe for long-distance journeys.
- Day hiking boots are mid- to high-cut models that are designed for short trips. They need to be broken-in and lack the sturdiness of a backpacking boot.
- Backpacking boots are designed for more strenuous hikes where you might be carrying heavier loads. They are mostly used for both on and off-trail multi-day trips.
Important Components Of Military Boots
Every hiking boot has five components that need to be considered…
- Upper materials of the boot impacts how breathable, water-resistant, and durable a boot is. You have options of full-grain leather, split-grain leather, nubuck leather, synthetics, waterproof membranes, vegan leather, and synthetic insulation.
- Midsoles of boots affect the stiffness and cushioning of the boot. It affects how comfortable and stable the show will be on different terrains. The two most commonly used materials include EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane.
- Internal Support on hiking shoes includes shanks, which are 3-5mm-thick inserts that are placed between the midsole and outsole. Plates are semi-flexible inserts below the shank.
- Outsoles are mostly made out of rubber. Manufacturers add additives to boost hardness and grip in the shoe. Outsoles also feature lug patterns and heel patterns.
- Crampon capability is crucial if your backpacking trip includes mountaineering or winter backpacking.
The Fit of the Boot
Your hiking boot needs to not only fit snugly but have enough room to wiggle your toes so the boot doesn’t become uncomfortable when your feet swell up at the end of the day.
5 Best Military Boots for Hiking
If you wish to go the route of the military boot, then here are a few recommendations for some of the best military boots for hiking. All of these shoes are available online and you can access them via Amazon.
Tactical Research Mini-Mil Transition TR111 Boot
As the name suggests, this boot is not a hardcore military boot. It is a transition boot that is perfect for people who have never hiked in a military boot and are looking for something in between traditional combat boots and shoes made for venturing into nature.
Don’t assume that the middle-ground nature of the boot means that it’s made cheaply. In fact, the transition boot is made using leather and 1000 denier nylon, both of which are of high quality.
Furthermore, the interior of the shoe consists of an EVA midsole and insole. The outsole, on the other hand, is made of VIBRAM oil and rubber, which is slip-resistant and provides excellent grip.
(Check Tactical Research’s full line of boots here)
Belleville 500 USMC Waterproof Desert Tan 8” Combat Boot
This Belleville military boot is completely suitable for hiking. It provides a dependable performance while keeping your feet dry as you cross a river or a babbling brook you encounter on your hiking trail.
The VIBRAM on the outsole provides stability and a strong grip. Along with that, the shoe comes in both wide and regular widths. The upper portion is crafted out of leather and Cordura nylon. The inside is cushioned with a polyurethane insole, which makes them comfortable and supportive.
(See Belleville’s full line of boots here)
Danner Men’s Desert TFX G3 Duty Boot
Danner is one of the most renowned and reputable names when it comes to military boots. Having been manufacturing military boots for a long time, they ensure each model is just as innovative as it is high in quality.
This Desert model provides the utmost support and stability. The boot is made with speed in mind on sandy and desert terrains. The upper portion of the boot is made out of leather and 1,000 denier nylon. Other than that, the boot features a TFX platform, which prevents it from being too heavy.
(Browse through Danner’s military boots here)
Garmont T8 Bifida Tactical Boot
When it comes to speed, this Garmont military boot is the perfect lightweight option for you. The boot is made out of suede leather and features a nylon mesh that provides ventilation. This helps improve breathability and control condensation due to sweating on a trek.
The materials used for the boot are all quick-drying, which makes the shoe ideal for crossing rivers or any other water body and overall wet climate. The Texon and canvas used in the boot add further durability to the structure.
(Click here to see Garmont’s full line of boots on Amazon)
Danner Men’s Marine Temperate Military Boot
Lastly, the Marine Temperate military boot manufactured by Danner is designed for durability and comfort for all kinds of conditions and trails. The boot is made out of the lightweight 1,000 denier nylon material and triple stitching.
The triple stitching provides stability and support to your feet and makes you more stable on uneven surfaces. Along with that, the military boot features Gore-Tex lining, which keeps the feet dry and comfortable.
(Browse through Danner’s military boots here)
Are trail running shoes good for backpacking? Trail running shoes are perfectly good for most trails. There are even people who have done entire thru-hikes of 2,000+ miles wearing just trail running shoes.
Should hiking shoes be a size bigger? Hiking shoes are usually bought one or half size up. This extra room in the shoe accommodates any thick hiking socks you might wear. In addition to that, it makes the shoe comfortable when your feet swell after a long day of walking.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.
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