Choosing the Best Tactical Boots for Bugging Out – the DOs and DON’Ts

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Editor’s note:  I’ve always stressed the importance of taking care of your feet and wearing the right footwear in the event you may need to bug out or walk out of the city.  Today’s article, written by James of SoleLabz, provides some great tips on choosing the best tactical boots for bugging out.  I wish I had read an article like this before I bought my first pair – I would have avoided a lot of blisters, callouses and other foot issues.

Choosing the Best Tactical Boots for Bugging Out – the DOs and DON’Ts

by James

Let me start by (re)earning my “Captain Obvious” title. The process of putting the best possible pair of tactical boots between your feet and Mother Nature is just that, a process.

That means you should really make your thinking cap on and mull over the infinite possibilities the footwear market has to offer. “Keep building castles in the air and you’ll always end up with some nasty blisters to show for it”, my mentor used to reiterate until it was hammered into my brain for good.

I was never quite sure what he meant by that back in the day, but today it’s clear as day. Few decades too late for me I’m afraid, I’ve already made my mistakes and paid my dues.

This article is about sparing YOU from those mistakes.

Our feet are such delicate machinery. 

If we translate our feet into numbers, they become a convoluted network of 33 joints, 26 bones, and over 100 different muscles, ligaments, and tendons. That being said, they’re our body’s perfect mechanism for propulsion and shock-absorption, so encumbering them with a pair of manmade additions should aim at enhancing out natural capabilities before anything else.

How do I know if tactical boots are the right choice for me?

Let’s go over some ABCs to determine whether this is your kind of footwear once bug out time comes a knocking. See if any of these apply to you.

  • First of all, if your ankles are prone to injuries, or you’re just trying to prevent one, added support and stability is just what the doctor ordered
  • You have a long and slow hike over rough terrain ahead of you
  • Your backpack load is moderately heavy
  • Your leg muscles aren’t developed or strong enough for this kind of tasks, so they need extra support (don’t let your ego play any role here)
  • You’re prone to tweaked knees
  • You need to face some nasty critters (snakes come to mind) and want extra protection

Now that we speak the same language, we can dig deeper into specific criteria you’ll want your boots to meet when SHTF.

The fit aka king of the hill

You know the expression “something (or someone) rubs me the wrong way”? Well, if years of hiking and adventures have taught me anything it’s that you don’t want the thing to be your boots.

Blisters aside, improper fit can cause back problems, joint/tendons stress, blackened toenails, sprained arches, plantar fasciitis, and a ton of other maladies. Just imagine tugging your BOB over a broken terrain with your feet being an anguish. Not exactly a survival recipe I would recommend.

The best possible tip I can give you is to go boot-shopping in the afternoon. You feet naturally swell throughout the day, and if your footwear fits then, it’s a definite hit.

Make sure you calculate in the width of your feet. This goes double for all fellow survivalists with extra wide feet. Also, most of the people have one foot bigger than the other, so bear that in mind as well.

When size-testing, wear the type of socks you usually prefer. Those will probably be on you during your bug out situation anyway. You should also make it a rule of thumb to skip on regular cotton socks. They’re just a bad idea for these scenarios.

Finally, if you are shopping online for tactical boots, pay extra attention to the reviews of that talk about fit and don’t be lazy when it comes to returning a pair that doesn’t fit like a glove.

Be aware of your surroundings

There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to choosing tactical boots. One of the major factors that should help you with your choice is the terrain you’re likely to face in a potential bug out situation.

Are you living in a suburban sprawl, a huge urban concrete labyrinth, rural flatlands, rugged mountains, a swamp, or a desert?  Is there going to be a lot of slow and steady walking across treacherous terrains, or you’ll have to sprint and dart through urban landscape?

Choosing the wrong pair of tactical boots will come back to bite you without exception, so do a bit of research as to what “fits” your area.


Before we address the questions, let me just say this right off the bat:  Waterproof boots are a “can’t miss” in these types of situations.

You must account for the cold or heat you’ll encounter, precipitation, and also potential extremes or your living area or the are you’ll be bugging out to when SHTF.

Again, you won’t find one pair of tactical boots that’ll fit every possible climate, so you’ll have to do the math in advance. The only general tip I can give you here is the one I already wrote. Water-resistance will block the elements and keep them out of your boots. Gore-Tex lining will even keep the perspiration moisture out, so it’ll be useful even in warmer climates.

The one no-no is exposing boots with Gore-Tex lining to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. UV rays will damage the fibers, yes, but the far bigger problem is that they’ll cause too much heat for the lining to shed.

In certain scenarios, good hiking boots or shoes can fit the bill better than actual tactical boots.

Think about your daily routines

If we’re “lucky”, the events we’re prepping for can come with prior warning signs. But what if they come out of the blue (even for the trained eyes of smart preppers)?
Sleeping aside, you’ll probably spend half your life in the workplace. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you using public transportation to get there or your car?
  • Do you have a constant access to your bug out supplies or not?
  • If you’re left with what’s on your person most of the time, you might consider a pair of barefoot shoes. They’ll be easy to pack and carry around at all times and will provide exceptional mobility

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t want to end up like those poor Manhattan office denizens hopping around in their Prada shoes in 2003 during the electrical blackout. You know better!

Final thoughts to take away

Let’s try and draw up some general conclusions that’ll raise your chances once nature takes the gloves off:
Durability – You want a boot that’s the equivalent of a brick house. Tough construction able to take a beating paired with a Vibram outsole is a match made in heaven. I generally prefer speed laces and metal eyelets.
Comfort – Getting the most comfortable tactical boots might seem like a minor issue for an average Joe but not for a smart prepper. Additional anatomical insoles instead of the usually cheap foam ones that come with most shoes are always a good idea.
Light Weight – Mobility is the key of it all. You want to be light on your feet rather than carrying two bricks strapped to them
Waterproof vs. Breathable – I’ve already pointed out the importance of water-resistance, but not all waterproof boots offer a satisfactory level of breathability. Without it, you’ll cook your feet while running for your life
Materials – You can opt for some leather variety (full-grain, nubuck, split-grain) or synthetic materials (synthetic leather, polyester, nylon). Leather will be more durable and water/abrasion-resistant, but also heavier and less breathable. Synthetics will show signs of wear faster, but they’re lighter, cheaper, break in quicker and dry faster
If the whole analysis seems complicated, it’s because it is. But once you grasp the basic concepts, the fog goes away and you are left with clarity on what’s right for you.

I honestly hope this helped a bit with your choice. Always be prepared!
Stay safe,

About the Author:

James is the editor-in-chief of, a site focused on adventure stories, tips and reviews of tactical and hiking footwear. He’s a zealot for all things outdoors and an established authors in a number of online publications like TGO Magazine, Klymit blog and Gear X. As he says, his adventure days are behind him, but the days of talking and writing about the lessons he learned over the decades are just starting out.

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