Infantry: Searching For SuperBoot

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July 17, 2008: The U.S. Army, SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and the U.S. Marine Corps have turned to civilian hiking boots to replace the less sturdy combat boots the troops normally use. The troops need boots designed to survive use in Afghanistan. The Afghan rocks, and terrain in general, tear boots up. The U.S. Army desert boots, used without problem since their first major workout in the 1991 Gulf War, rapidly fell apart in Afghanistan. By early 2002, soldiers were complaining that the boots were useless after a few months. The problem appeared to be that the boot soles and heels were built to deal with soft sand. Afghanistan has lots of sand, but also lots of sharp rocks, which tear the boot bottoms up. Apparently, the boot did not get extensive testing in rocky desert areas (which are not as common as mainly sand deserts.)

The U.S. Marine Corps developed a new desert/jungle boot (with the help of U.S. Army clothing developers). The army developed its own mountain boot, but it won't be available until next year. The new "combo" (Modular Boot System) boot apparently stands up to rocky deserts better than the desert boot.

 The troops sought their own solutions, quickly buying every brand of hiking and "assault boots" (for police and SWAT) out there. These cost $100-$150 a pair. Bates was one of the more popular brands being bought by the troops, and the U.S. Marine Corps turned to Bates for a new desert boot. SOCOM had Bates create the "Tora Bora Alpine Boot." SOCOM wanted a boot that could handle the rocks, as well as the temperature extremes in Afghanistan. The army recently bought thousands of pairs of Danner mountain boots for paratroopers headed for Afghanistan.

 


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