I was in the military for six years and did quite a bit of “hiking” while I was serving. I’ve also done a lot of hiking in my personal life, so I feel I can answer the question of, are military boots good for hiking pretty well.
No, military boots are not ideal for hiking due to their heavy weight, lack of flexibility, and limited breathability. A modern pair of hiking boots will be lighter, dryer, and won’t create nearly as many blisters as a pair of combat boots.
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My Experience With Military Boots
I went to basic training in the early spring and then job training in the summer. The two pairs of full leather combat boots that I was issued weren’t warm in the cool weather and they were hot in the summer. They also created the largest blisters I’ve ever had on my feet.
These boots also took an absurdly long time to break in. Yes, I was breaking in two pairs of military boots at the same time but it still took months before they were even remotely comfortable to wear. Looking back, I may have never really broken them in. Instead, my feet probably became so hardened with callouses that I just didn’t notice how horrible the boots were anymore.
A few years after my initial training, I decided to buy some jungle boots. These boots are mostly leather but they have tough Cordura nylon panels on the side. This makes them a little lighter, a little more comfortable, and a lot more breathable. This being said, I still wouldn’t willingly go hiking in them. Even though jungle boots are better than standard-issue combat boots, they’re still uncomfortable compared to something like Timberland’s Chocurua hiking boots.
Fast forward another few years and I was issued a pair of desert combat boots. These boots were similar to the jungle boots but instead of being black, they were more the color of sand. The soles on these boots were thick and I’d expect them to last a lifetime. I still wouldn’t willingly hike in them though.
Personal experiences aside, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of hiking in military boots.
The Advantages of Hiking In Military Boots
While I personally hope to never wear a pair of military boots again, I do see why some people might want to hike in them. Military boots offer unmatched durability, superior water resistance, and protection that you probably won’t find in a typical hiking boot.
The Durability Of Military Boots
These boots are built for extreme conditions and they won’t go down easy. In all the years I wore mine, I never had any issues with the seams or any real wear on the soles of them. The rubber is just too thick to be worn away easily.
The leather sides never gave me any issues either. This was probably a combination of how thick the leather is as well as how much care they were given. My boots were shined after every use so they always had a nice thick coat of shoe polish to protect and waterproof them. Do the same thing with a pair of hiking boots and they’ll their uppers will probably last a long time too.
Water Resistance of Military Boots
Shine your military boots regularly and you aren’t going to have a problem with water penetrating them. Of course, you won’t have the benefit of water escaping them either.
The jungle boots aren’t entirely made of leather, but they seem to keep dry as well. They also breathe well so the inside of your boot will have a better chance of staying dry when compared to all leather military boots.
Protective Qualities of Military Boots
Military boots have thick soles as well as thick uppers. The laces are even tough so you won’t have to worry about tripping on them since they won’t break easily.
Get a pair of jungle boots and you’ll also get a steel toe. This means you won’t be able to wear them in cold weather and they’ll be heavier but you’ll also guarantee that you’ll never stub your toe on a rock.
The Disadvantages Of Wearing Military Boots For Hiking
Personally, I think the downsides of wearing military boots for hiking outweigh the benefits they offer. These disadvantages include their comfort, lack of breathability, and their weight. Did I mention how uncomfortable they are?
Military Boots Are Not Comfortable
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Military boots are not comfortable. I hated wearing them so much that I used to have a rule that if I was going to be able to hang out in the barracks for more than 15 minutes then I would take them off.
These boots take a long time to break in and you are guaranteed to get a lot of blisters during this time. My blisters would get so big that I would cut the side of them to drain the liquid out of them without losing the protection of the thick skin that formed over the top of them.
Breathability Is Poor
Leather boots don’t breathe as well as more modern materials. This can partially be solved with the jungle boots but that’s only if you plan on hiking in warm weather. Hike in colder weather and you’ll have to go with something else.
Currently, I hike in a pair of boots with sides that are made from Gortex. It’s possible that some modern combat boots are made this way now but I imagine they’re still not as breathable as a pair of civilian hiking boots.
Military Boots Are Heavy
They might be built like tanks but they feel like tanks as well. If you’re used to wearing heavy work boots and have never worn a great pair of lightweight hiking boots then this might not be an issue for you.
The first time I wore combat boots I really didn’t think they were that much heavier than any other pair of boots I’d worn. However, once I got into buying good hiking boots I realized that there are much lighter options to choose from.
One Final Thought On Hiking In Military Boots
While writing this post, I did come up with one scenario in which I could see myself wearing military boots as a hiker. This would be if I were maintaining hiking trails. In this case, I’d get another pair of jungle boots for the toe protection and breathability they offer.