Two Letters Re: Choosing the Right Footwear

Captain Rawles,
I just read Desert Rat’s piece on footgear, and would like to put up a bit of advice and a recommendation on the subject.  Bates, while they put out excellent footwear, primarily makes footwear for institutional environments.  This is to say Police, EMS, Corrections, Hospital staff, etc.  Many of the officers I worked with in Corrections wore Bates on board our facility, and the footwear served them quite well in all conditions.  However, the footwear did not serve as well in the field, when we had need to be out in the boonies.  From my own experience, I highly recommend for the conditions described in the article, that the author and others who need such a dual purpose set of foot gear acquire a pair of Redwing Sheriff’s Ropers, or something very similar.  This particular type of boot is outstanding for civilian appearance, while retaining the degree of tough reliability required of one who changes environment on a regular basis.  For the edification of other readers, these are not actually “cowboy” boots per se.  They are a mid heel, round toe, leather working boot.  They have perhaps half again as much heel as a high oxford garrison shoe, or a tad more depending on exact comparison, so plenty of heel to dig in with in working conditions, while not having the stereotypical rodeo or “sliding” heel most associate with western style boots.  The rounded “v” toe gives enough play to wedge one’s toes in small spaces for grip and traction, without being a so called “cockroach killer”of your stereotypical redneck boot, and is abbreviated enough that it will quite handily pass for a custom oxford shoe when worn with normal office wear.  You can climb in them, run in them, and if needed fight in them, as needed.  I’ve done all of those in mine, on any number of occasions.  I’ve had mine for ten years now, and while they now carry a bit of scuffing and one deep scratch from concertina wire, I can clean them up, add a touch of Kiwi boot polish, and wear them quite handily with office and semi-dress attire, with few the wiser.

For the concrete jungle, these boots have as much non skid ability as is needed under normal circumstances, without having to carry an extra thick lugged sole; with the sole exception of traversing actively “wet” acrylic floor stripper compounds, as these substances tend to gum up a bit, and coat the sole with the partially dissolved wax.  They also take forever to wear down, so long as one takes the trouble to take a reasonable amount of care of the boot.  If you break them in well, and scrub the protective laminate spray out of the leather, then re dye, and saturate them with polish, they won’t develop leaks, neither will you have to do more than give them a good buff with a soft hair boot brush, assuming you didn’t just go crawling through a gumbo mud pit,  in order to make them ready for the office.  Putting mine in this condition took three days, and was well worth not getting to wear them right off.  I’ve worn mine quite actively in conditions ranging from backyard, to traipsing all over the desert southwest while hunting, with eight and a half years of wear on watch in a concrete floored correctional facility in the midst of all that; and only now, nearly ten years after purchase, do they begin to show enough wear on the heel and ball of the foot to warrant considering having them resoled or re-heeled.  The Redwing Sheriff’s Roper (might be under a different name by now, but same boot) is, in my experience,  nearly as resilient as a proper combat boot, while still able to pass as the average Joe’s work boot in the eyes of the powers that be (this means no steel toe or shank in the instep to set off detector arches, etc).  Highly recommended, and quite a reasonable investment if one watches prices carefully at the local good quality boot store, though you may need to watch prices a while as these at “full” price tend to be a bit on the pricey side.  See if you can catch a boot sale, and you might well have your next “permanent” set of footwear.

As for the issue of wet feet, so long as one is not fording creeks with these boots, all that needs be done usually is take them off while sleeping, and let them air out good.  You might consider placing them near your heater overnight if you get your feet really wet, otherwise it’s not generally an issue.  Of course, one should be doing this every night, in my opinion, just to prevent trench foot, but I digress.

Good luck with your next acquisition of quality boots, folks. Semper Fi, – J.H.

Mr. Rawles,
A tip I was taught with footwear is to use 550 parachute cord as your boot laces. I put coyote brown (dark khaki) on coyote and desert boots and black on everything else, even my Justins. They are incredibly strong and durable and fit 95% of existing eyelets. – Jeremiah Johnson

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