What is the History of Military Boots?
History of Combat Boots
Boots have been worn by soldiers since the age of Ancient Assyrians and Romans as a regular part of military apparel. Though the boots they wore were quite different from the boots that don the feet of modern day soldiers, having consisted of only soft leather and sometimes pieces of animal bones as togs. The boots that the Ancient Romans wore, called caligae, were sometimes open in the toe or heel for easy maneuverability and comfort, regardless of the dangers of having exposed feet in battle.
Still, those boot designs were persistent up until the English Civil War, in which soldiers were issued three pairs of thick, soft leather ankle boots with rawhide soles and leather straps to keep them tied on. The soldiers would wear a different pair of boots for every march to be sure that each pair was getting broken in and worn at the same rate. The idea was in the event of a military emergency, a soldier needed to have shoes that were in decent enough shape to be immediately shipped off to war.
After that, from 1660 to the 1800’s, military boots were very similar to civilian shoes, containing buckles rather than ties. From the mid 1800’s until the start of World War I, in 1914, armed forced employed the used of Hessian style boots, which were taller, almost knee length, and snug around the calf with a buckle on the back of the leg. Later, the trend regressed back to ankle boots with buckles because the soldiers found that it was difficult to run or fight in the taller boots due to discomfort and poor range of motion. Buckled or stringed ankle boots were standard issue until the 1960’s when the United States Military started issuing shined black combat boots (as opposed to the rough-out brown leather that had been previously used) which were thick, hardened leather, calf-high boots with thick laces and rubber soles. These new boots were revolutionary, as far as combat gear was concerned, and were considered the most comfortable and durable boots up to that point.
Since the 1980’s, many countries have gone to more practical, stealthier and comfortable boots similar to the Belleville 500 Waterproof USMC combat boot used by almost every branch of the United States Military except for the Naval branch. The Belleville 500’s are rough-out tan, lace up ankle boots which can be equipped for temperate climates or insulated for colder climates, depending on the needs of the soldiers.
They are ultra flexible for running and operating heavy machinery but still provide the wearer with the necessary ankle support for climbing and fighting. In 2012, this style of boot was replaced by Danner RAT (rough all-terrain) which were offered in waterproof and hot weather styles as well for desert combat.
Combat boots have not only been used to serve military purposes. In the 1980’s, civilians began purchasing combat boots from army surplus stores and combat “look-alikes” for everyday wear. Initially this trend was only accepted as a staple in the “grunge” or “Goth” subcultures, but has since moved through heavy metal, skinhead and steam punk cultures and is currently accepted as a mainstream fashion, produced by brands such as Dr. Marten, Converse and Wellco.