My search for boots. What a change in experience over the past 40 years or so. I used to be in a place where I had access to multiple individuals wearing the best boots available at the time. Shopping for boots back then involved asking lots of questions to those who had them on their feet as we spoke. Checking out company claims then trying on a few prospects in store until I found what worked best.
2018 the search for new boots is much different. I’m no longer around multiple individuals with the best boots and trustworthy opinions. I’m surrounded by bare feet and flip-flops! Now if I need an opinion on boots I have to watch a video if I can find one or read a rating posted online. Given the nature of corporations to censor bad ratings, good rating sources must be scrutinized. Sucks not being able to ask the person wearing them the questions I’d like to.
Most retail stores won’t carry the kind of boots I would buy. They’re more of a speciality and much too expensive to have sitting around collecting dust. In the past there were only a few places that would sell them. With the internet I haven’t found any local stores that carried any of the boots I’d considered. They were only available online. That leaves me ordering boots online. If they don’t fit ship them back then order the next size or a completely different boot. Don’t like it much but that’s modern shopping.
I’m very picky about my boots. My opinions began to form in the 1970’s. From first hand experience as a Boy Scout on local hikes to my favorite, advise from infantry soldiers and pilots returning from Vietnam. I can still spit-shine boots if I have too. You? There is lace breaking, eyelets tearing out, soles falling off, laces caught in pedals, foot rot, leather or nylon/leather combo issues, vents or not, zippers and more. I could never have imagined all the possibilities of failure or discomfort, it pays to ask questions. I was really lucky.
My preferences then evolved from experiences responding to emergencies with a rescue squad, fire department, ambulance service and some related type side jobs. I no longer look for daily wear boots with NFPA ratings, nothing else has changed. My requirements are few but hard to find in one boot. Fit, comfort, materials, reputation, durability, confidence, performance and no excuses.
My requirements narrow the choices quickly. Goodyear welt fully sewn and a Vibram brand outsole. A heat fused sole as seen on most boots, once separated from the boot renders the boot useless. Unrepairable! Goodyear welt soles can be repaired multiple times. Can also be field repaired with the right materials. One should know how to fix one’s boots and have spare. I’ve never had a Goodyear welt sole fail me. Every pair of heat fused/glued boot or shoes I’ve tried failed.
Laces. How laces pass through and attach to the boot is also a major factor in my boot choice. Only two types of eyelet are acceptable. One or two piece eyelets or a loop type speed lace combination. Never, ever, hook type speed laces. One pair of boots 30 something years ago taught me everything I needed to know about them.
If I had a pair I would demonstrate the issues on video. But I made a vow then that I would never buy another pair of boots with them and support that crap ever again. Anyone who has the responsibility of life and property as a job task, hope the following helps you.
My why- never again of hook speed laces. The hook in the photo above is a good example. It’s the first hook located at the top of the boot. Items can catch that hook and pull it outward forcing the top of the boot inward flipping the lace off the hook requiring the boot to be tied again. These hooks can also be bent outward so the lace won’t hold or bent in trapping the lace preventing it from being untied. When attempting to bend it back into place the hook breaks. Also, the placement of the lace make the hook pull the boot body outward and from above. Eyelets pull lower and do not cause the inward motion caused by the hook.
Actual never again with the speed lace hooks come from emergency calls I was working. I like many saw the speed laces and thought it would be great to be able to put my boots on faster when a run comes in. Until several in field experiences changed my mind.
On the roof of a house about to lower a patient down a ladder, the wire part of a Stokes litter catches the top speed hook, flips it out, unties my boot. Pain in the ass I thought as I quickly tied the boot. Good thing there were others around it was doing CPR compressions. Didn’t give it much thought after that. Seemed like not such a big deal at the time just a hassle.
Not long after that experience I had another cardiac patient untie mishap. Doing compressions on an arrest I had to quickly brace my foot on the gurney to keep from falling when the ambulance made an evasive movement to avoid an accident. I was trying to get my footing on any part of the gurney I could. As I moved my foot the top speed hook caught on the gurney and untied it instantly.
Once part of the hook system comes unlaced it all goes. That time I was pissed off. Swore off the boots “never again!” and casually started looking for another pair.
But I didn’t get the message or move quickly enough. About a month after that I’m chest deep in Spring Creek with a patient clinging to the bridge foundation. I don’t know what’s under the water but the lace hooks at some point catch on something. Can’t reach it by hand without going under water. Not a reasonable or safe option at that point. Moving my foot around didn’t work so I pulled hard as a could.
It felt like I ripped the boot. Couldn’t see anything until we got out of the water. The patient was packaged at that point all that mattered was getting up the embankment into our ambulance. The way up the embankment was the last time I ever wore boots with speed laces. On our way to the place where we get back to the road I noticed that two of the hooks were bent. During a pause as we were preparing to go up the embankment I had the bright idea to bent the hooks back and broke them both.
So, that is the why, of the never again, with speed lace hooks. There are more problems I’ve seen over the years when other people were wearing them. On the opposite end I’ve heard from many people over the years how much they love their speed lace hooks. I wonder how much they’d like them if any of that was happening while they were being rescued. Can’t do that to anyone or myself ever again. It’s hard to believe those things have made it this far on boots.
Shank is also a must have. Prefer metal over plastic. Working on a ladder or pushing a shovel you will tell you very quickly if you have them. The M.E.B has a fiberglass shank. We’ll see how that works out.
Leather is a must, some nylon is also acceptable for hotter climates. As much as I’d like to have vents I have never found them practical in any application. In some of the driest locations I’ve been there is still a need for the ability to walk through shallow bodies of water. I’d rather have a boot be a little warm and dry and have to change sweaty socks than worry about wet feet for the shift because I stepped in a puddle of possibly contaminated water in boots with vents.
That was a long ass winded way to get to this place wasn’t it? The Danner Marine Expeditionary Boot has what I’m looking for. Snug, comfortable out of the box. No excessive foot movement within the boot that needs to be filled with insoles and socks. There is enough head-room over the top part of my foot to allow comfortable movement/flexing of my foot and toes. Like a glove fit. I did add *arch support like I do with all my footwear it was no surprise.
Leather/Cordura outer for durability and comfort in hotter climates like we have in Florida. A Gore-Tex liner so I can keep my feet dry when the water isn’t deep enough for rubber boots. We often have storms that leave standing water that require wading. Eyelet and loop speed lace combination works great. It’s easy to fine tune the laces.
Goodyear welt construction with a replaceable Vibram outsole. Danner says this boot is recraftable meaning they can repair the boot but not in every case. Based on past experience a good cobbler may also fix issues if the factory wasn’t able or not available. Then there is a USMC reputation for durability and confidence when my or someone else’s life depends on it.
I made notes of wearing the boot in the blog Marine Expeditionary Boot: Notes of the First 7 Days I’ll make an update video/blog in six months. We’ll see how the boots are holding up and if my opinion changes. Also there is a video review below check it out. -13
*NOTE: Spenco Total Support Max will not fit this boot. After trimming the insole to match the factory insoles I attempted to put one into the boot. With or without the laces in place it was so difficult to get into place I was sure I would either break the plastic support of the insole or the edge of the plastic support would tear the inside of the boot or liner.
The insole seems like it might be too wide or inflexible to work properly with these boots. I was able to angle them into the boot after much trying, aggravation and fear of damaging something during the process. Once in the boot it was clear it would not work in any way at all. In place the insole wanted to push up down the length in the middle as if it was being folded in half. Not a drastic bend, just a small raised area from lateral compression making them unusable in the M.E.B.