by David McBryan
The Best Tactical Boots
Think of the safety features in your car:
One safety feature people often forget — and arguably the most important — is your car's tires. It's what separates you from the road while you're doing 70 on the highway.
If your tires lose traction in wet weather or take too long to stop in sudden situations, you're gonna have a bad time. On the paintball or airsoft field, the same is true of your footwear.
And that's why many recreational combat enthusiasts like you turn to tactical boots.
Not only do their added traction help you hunt down your less-equipped enemies, but their robust ankle support, reinforced toes, and waterproof exteriors make for a safer, more comfortable day on the field.
(Plus, they have an awesome, realistic look for MilSim-style play.)
That's why we put this guide together: to help you find the best choice of tactical boots for you.
Instead of putting together another tired list of the 10 top tactical boots that you've probably seen 13 times already, we decided to name our top picks for 11 different categories. It covers everything from playing surface to weather to foot shape so you can buy with confidence knowing you got a pair of boots designed for your needs.
Speaking of those 11 categories, here they are (along with our recommendations).
Click any of the links above to read what other users have said about each boot.
If you want to know what we think, then keep reading below.
The ideal boot is lightweight with a lower-profile and good traction without being stiff.
These 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 2.0 boots are great on flat surfaces and are regularly worn by law enforcement, military personnel, and even mailmen, all of whom put their footwear to the test with repeated pounding on hard surfaces.
A 6" boot with comfortable padding around the back to protect your calf and Achilles, the A.T.A.C. 2.0 comes with a slip-resistant soles that are specially designed to help you keep you from slipping on slick, oily surfaces.
They feature 5.11 Tactical's Shock Mitigation System, which sounds like sales-speak to get you to buy more boots (and honestly, it is) but it's actually a pretty innovative design developed in collaboration with special ops personnel to give you unparalleled support for high-impact activities:
The four-layer insole includes two layers of Ortholite foam, including an upper layer of Ortholite Lazy foam, which is a slow-recovery foam that contours to the shape of your feet and holds onto that shape.
If you're looking for lightweight, comfortable support on firm, flat surfaces, the 5.11 Tactical A.T.A.C. 2.0 are your best bet.
The ideal boot is streamlined and lightweight yet padded enough to cushion the repeated pounding on hard, urban surfaces.
5.11 Tactical nails minimalist, low-profile, cushioned tactical boots as their Speed 3.0 5" boot is our recommendation for the best tactical boot in urban environments. It's extremely similar to the A.T.A.C. 2.0 above, which we recommended for general flat surfaces, except the Speed 3.0 is 1" shorter and several ounces lighter.
They call it their Speed boot for a reason.
The rest pretty much holds the same:
The Speed 3.0 adds what 5.11 Tactical calls a "fence-climbing toe." If you look at the front of both the A.T.A.C 2.0 and the Speed 3.0, you can see the toes are a little different as the Speed 3.0 has a larger, more textured front.
The A.T.A.C. 2.0 is a great urban shoe as well, worn by many in law enforcement and other first responders, but the Speed 3.0 is 5.11 Tactical's "accelerated" version of that boot to deliver true urban-optimized performance. There's a reason police officers wear these.
The ideal boot provides strong arch and ankle support with deep treads. It doesn't have to be an 8" boot, but it helps.
The Garmont T8 Bifida is an 8" tactical boot with sturdy upper construction, fully supporting your ankle as you traverse uneven surfaces with your eyes up instead of watching every step. It also has a rugged outsole with deep treads and a big heel, both of which are great for anchoring you on uneven ground.
Even soldiers, who depend on their boots in all conditions, rave about these Garmont T8 Bifidas. And despite their rough-and-tough construction, they're still surprisingly lightweight and fast.
Unfortunately, that speed and support come at a cost: water-resistance. Namely, these boots have very little. If you're looking for something that gives you rock-solid support on tough surfaces, even in adverse terrain, our next boot is for you.
Another minor drawback is that the laces need to be fully loosened to get these on your feet.
But if you want deep treads for strong grip on uneven surfaces without being weighed down by a heavy jungle boot, then the Garmont T8 Bifida are the tried-and-true tactical boot you want.
The ideal boot is waterproof with deep treads for trustable traction in slippery conditions with a tough, waterproof exterior.
Jungle boots are designed to perform in hot, humid, and wet conditions. While you may not be playing paintball or airsoft in the Amazon rainforest, you still may encounter the uneven, wet, and slippery conditions that have caused more than one tactical boot to fail under pressure.
That is, unless you were wearing these Altama PX 10.5" pair of boots. They have a super-deep tread and a huge 10.5" height for the best grip and lower leg support of any boot on this list.
Made with polishable leather (full-grain) and unbelievably durable 1,000D, tear-resistant Nylon, high quality isn't a concern with these boots. If you're playing in mucky conditions, their deep tread provides under-foot drainage, their gusseted tongue keeps water and debris out, and their molded heel provides a deep pocket for back-of-foot support on all types of terrain.
And because these boots are made for jungle conditions, where the climate can be oppressive and ventilation is a must, you can rest assured knowing none of that grip and durability comes at the expense of breathability and comfort.
But it does come at the expense of overall bulk. While they're perfect for adverse weather conditions, they'll slow you down in good weather.
My friends, who live in New England, love playing paintball deep into the fall and frequently play in wet, 45°F weather with slick, fallen leaves covering inconspicuous roots laying in wait to trip unsuspecting passersby. These are the boots I always recommend they get.
Those who have listened have never regretted it. Neither will you. Buy them and keep your feet dry.
The ideal boot is well-made with high-Denier Nylon or other synthetic-reinforced materials and thick, quality stitching for long-lasting wear.
Technically, the Altama PX jungle boots above are the most durable tactical boots, but they aren't a practical suggestion for this category.
Instead, I'll recommend the Rocky S2V Flight Boot, which is streamlined and lightweight enough for regular use in almost all conditions.
What makes them our pick for the most durable tactical boot? (I mean, all tactical boots should be durable, right?)
That's a solid list of reasons to buy the Rocky S2V Flight Boot without the worry of having to buy a new pair any time soon.
The ideal boot is lightweight and minimalist without compromising too much durability or, more importantly, support. Can be either 6" or 8" depending on your needs.
It's right in the name!
Truthfully, you can find ultralights in just about any height, and 6" ultralight boots will be ultralight-er than their 8" counterparts, but there are a of lightweight, comfortable 6" boots on this list. I wanted to give you an 8 inch option if that's more your style.
And boy, do these Bates boots deliver.
First, Bates is a quality brand that boot wearers swear by, and the EVA midsole on these boots is where the magic happens. EVA (or ethyl vinyl acetate) is a lightweight yet durable material with crack resistance that performs well under pressure.
And that lightweight design doesn't mean these boots have no other features. To the contrary, they're also waterproof, have an easy-on/easy-off side zipper, and feature a composite toe (still lightweight!) for added protection.
Almost any "lightweight" boot by any brand will weigh less than many of the robust tactical boots out there, but none combines that lightweight label with the comfort, performance, and durability that Bates does.
The ideal boot is 6" or shorter with a strong enough base and sides to maintain support up through the ankle.
Tactical boots don't get more low-profile than the Under Armour Valsetz RTS 1.5 5" boot. It's more like a tough, tactical shoe, but that's a good thing if you find yourself looking for added traction without the added bulk of a typical 6-8" tactical boot.
But despite their shoe-like appearance, they still provide the strength and support you expect from a tactical boot, anchored by a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) reinforced shank and toe cap for stability and protection.
Whereas many of the other boots on this list have authentic, full-grain leather, these boots are made with a lightweight synthetic leather that scuffs more easily, and they have less-prominent lugs on the tread for diminished traction on tough surfaces.
But you probably aren't wearing these boots on surfaces where that kind of deep tread is needed, or else you'd be looking for a higher-profile boot with more ankle support.
The 5" Valsetz RTS 1.5 is made for speed and comfort with plenty of foot mobility, and I've never had a bad experience with any of the Under Armour footwear I've ever purchased (tactical, running, basketball, or otherwise). These are simply a comfortable boot from a trusted footwear brand. Keep in mind you can rock these every day (more than the others).
The ideal boot, also called a "hot duty boot," is made from breathable, moisture-wicking material for superior comfort in the hottest, most humid environments.
Designed for demanding all-day use in the hottest, most humid environments, hot duty boots are the ultimate in breathability. And these Danner Tanicus 8" boots are the ultimate in hot duty.
That makes them our top pick for the most breathable tactical boot.
They're the lightest version of Danner's tactical line, and every aspect of their design is centered around comfort and breathability. That comes at the expense of a few features other boots have, like reinforced toes, waterproof exteriors, and reinforced shanks, but you aren't getting hot duty, super-breathable boots because those are your priorities.
If you'll be running around in dry, 90°F, scorched-earth weather all afternoon, these are the boots you want.
The ideal boot is one that feels comfortable to you! Usually, that means lightweight, padded, breathable, and water-resistant. Can come in any height depending on your needs.
We could have a pick for "Most Comfortable" in any height, but let's just say that almost any boot from Bates would be a finalist and pick their 5" Enforcer Uniform Boot as our winner.
As a uniform boot, the Enforcer is designed for daily use by service men and servicewomen who are on their feet all day and need ultimate comfort without sacrificing durability.
These boots feature all of the must-have traits of a tactical boot (overall traction, slip-resistance, and total foot support) but are designed to break in quickly and conform to your foot's shape without breaking down after repeated use.
The ideal boot has a reinforced arch that provides structure to your whole foot but especially your midfoot. It should also fit snugly without being too tight.
One of the downsides of the super-comfortable Bates Enforcer boot above is its lack of arch support. These 6" Danner Striker Bolts are the answer to high-archers' prayers.
That support comes from Bates' Striker Bolt platform, which offers best-in-class responsiveness, comfort, and stability. That base is complemented by waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX protection and a Vibram outsole, which is a rubber sole commonly seen on mountaineering boots that need to withstand repeated pounding on sharp, jagged points for days on end. These are a good pick when shock absorption is paramount.
I have a confession to make: I have a high arch. It can be a nightmare for me to find shoes of any kind that provide the support I need to prevent foot and back pain, and I swear by anything by Bates. That's why I can say, without a doubt, these are the best tactical boots for arch support.
The ideal boot is under $70 and may not come with a bunch of fancy fabrics, "fence-climbing toes," or big brand names, but it'll get the job done without falling apart in 3 months.
I'm not going to lie to you: Many lot of the tactical boots above come with eye-popping price tags.
But what if you just want something you can wear on the field a few times a year so you aren't slipping and sliding everywhere (but is still comfortable enough for occasional off-the-field use, maybe even doubling as your work boots)?
You probably won't find much under $50, but you can definitely find a quality pair of tactical boots under $70.
Enter RYNO GEAR tactical boots, which come in either 6" or 8" versions that get the job done without straining your wallet.
If you imagine all of the salesy-sounding features above (like Ortholite linings, Vibram rubber outsoles, and Cordura Nylon) as being brand name products, then these RYNO GEAR boots are the generics.
That isn't always a bad thing.
(Yes, Wal-Itin is a thing people!)
Those generics have the same active ingredients and still get the job done, and I don't feel it's worth it to shell out 50% more money for marginal gains by going with the name-brand products.
Consider RYNO GEAR the Wal-Itin of tactical boots.
They still have a rubber sole, breathable materials, and a few features of convenience to give you the traction and comfort you want when compared to other types of shoes. Just don't expect a pair of 5.11 Tacticals, Bates, or Danners that truly have the best build quality and materials.
This is a good time for me to tell you that shoes are one of the non-generic items I always spend up for as long as you use them frequently. Quality footwear = happy feet.
But if your next pair of tactical boots will see limited use or you just want to see if you even like tactical boots, then click the "buy" button here with confidence.
It's highly subjective but both 5.11 Tactical and Danner make great boots.
Our Pick: The Altama PX 10.5" Slip-Resistant Jungle Boot
The Bates Ultralight 8" Tactical Boot
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Featured image courtesy Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson