Military Rangers: the complete guide to combat footwear
Did you know that every military shoe, regardless of the brand, has been designed for a specific purpose and will meet a particular type of mission? Making a mistake in the choice of your shoes can be disastrous in the field, that's why we offer you this practical guide dedicated to one of the most important equipment of the soldier: the military rangers.
We consider that there are 4 important points to take into account when deciding to buy a new pair of military shoes:
- The type of mission
- The technicality
- The material
- The comfort
For which mission?
Whether you're in the military, law enforcement or health care, the choice of footwear is primarily based on the type of mission. So find out what your mission requires:
- What will the terrain be like? Mountainous, desert, urban...
- What will the climate be like? Hot, temperate, cold, tropical...
- What actions will you have to perform? Running, patrolling, rappelling...
- And finally, how long will your mission last?
Remember also to refer to the rules established by your hierarchy concerning your regulatory dress, what is authorized or not (the authorized clothes vary according to the branch and the unit, even according to the advice of the chief) and conform to them, that will avoid you any administrative or at least hierarchical inconvenience.
Once you have in mind the requirements of your mission, and you know what is allowed and what is not, you will then have to choose among many technical features that a military ranger can include. Here are the most common options:
This is the reinforcement in at the toe, it can be made of rubber or leather. Military boots with this accessory obviously protect better.
Mostly found on PPE shoes, this shell is also found on some military rangers. Those made of composite materials are lighter than those with a steel shell.
Necessary for EOD specialists, these shoes will also be perfect for anyone who has to go through a security gate several times a day.
Open or closed lacing eyelets
Both are available, but if you're going to be skydiving, it's imperative that the eyelets are closed, not hooked!
Waterproof combat shoes are designed to wick away sweat and keep your feet dry. Gore-Tex is one of the most well-known waterproof-breathable membranes on the market, it's one of the technical features of the Army's on-staff ranger, the Haix Nepal Pro boot.
Designed to get on and off quickly, the side-zip rangers are a great asset in the field. Beware, however, that the strength of the shoe may be affected due to the zipper opening. This type of shoe is often recommended for use in urban environments for example.
Unmatched in terms of comfort and flexibility, military mesh shoes are ultra-light and thus reduce fatigue significantly. They will also be very breathable and suitable for use in hot environments.
What is a military ranger made of?
Like any shoe, a military ranger is essentially composed of a sole, whose primary function is to absorb the shocks caused by walking and to protect the soles of the feet, and an upper that includes the vamp, the quarters and the tongue, it constitutes the upper part of the shoe.
A 3-in-1 sole
The sole of a combat shoe has three elements: the insole or clean sole, the midsole or comfort sole, and the outsole or wear sole.
Insole: it is used to drain perspiration from your feet, for this it is interesting to choose a polyurethane foam insole with open pores, it will wear out less quickly than a normal insole and will evacuate perspiration more efficiently. The best known technology in the field is Ortholite, which generally provides an anti-microbial and therefore anti-odour treatment.
Midsole: it is located between the outsole and the insole. It is a crucial part of the rangers because it will determine in large part the stability and the cushioning. There are two types of midsole, the PU (Polyurethane) and the EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) which thanks to its bi-density will be by far the most advantageous because of its solidity and the shock absorption that it provides.
Outsole: this is the sole that is in direct contact with the ground. Its primary function is to protect the foot and to contribute to its anchoring and stabilization on the ground while ensuring a good "rolling" of the foot during walking. Made of PU or more generally of rubber, the technology to be favored for a military ranger is the Vibram sole which will considerably improve grip and has anti-abrasion and anti-vibration properties.
The upper is the upper part of the shoe that surrounds the foot, it is usually made of fabric or leather, or both. The most common materials used for the upper are
Cordura fabric: it is a nylon fabric, that is, polyamide. Very resistant, it resists scratches and tears. These properties make it found in almost all combat shoes using textile.
Full grain leather: very strong, full grain leather is simply the skin leather, the one with the highest density of fibers.
Suede leather: obtained from the inner side of the leather, it is characterized by its softness and flexibility. Desert rangers often have parts in suede leather for more lightness.
Synthetic leather: unlike real leather which is made from animal skin, synthetic leather is made from polyester with a polyurethane coating. Less durable than real leather, it is nevertheless more affordable and perfectly suited for daily to moderate professional use.
Military Rangers and comfort
Last but not least, the comfort of the combat shoe. For a good comfort, your rangers must be well adjusted to your foot in order to avoid rubbing and heating.
When you put on your boots, you must immediately feel this feeling of comfort while having a very good support of the foot (it is your guarantee against heating, blisters and other sprains...).
If your foot feels like it is "floating" in the shoe, it means that the size is not right. Be careful also that your foot is not too compressed in the shoe, keep in mind that after a walk for example the foot tends to swell, if the shoe compresses your foot too much from the start injuries may occur.
In short, it is important to find the right balance between freedom of movement and support.
A little tip: when you put on your shoes for the first time, try to move your toes and in particular to curl them up. If you can do this without too much difficulty, your rangers probably fit well. If not, you may need to go up a size.
Just like your gun can't work without cartridges, your shoes will only be as comfortable and well-fitting as the socks you choose. For more information, see the "Socks, the Essential Accessory" guide.
Finally, you should know that military rangers are often very rigid at the beginning and it will take several days for them to form to your foot, then you will feel like in slippers afterwards.
Napoleon said "an army marches with its stomach", it is true, but it can only do so if it has good shoes!