Why Do Special Forces Wear Hiking Boots? (A Complete Guide)

If you’ve ever paid attention to the uniform worn by the men and women in the U.S. Special Forces, you’ll likely notice one thing they all have in common—their tactical footwear. If you look closely, you’ll notice that they wear hiking boots when they train and on real-life missions. 

Since I’ve never been in the military myself, I was curious as to why hiking boots were preferred over other types of footwear.

Luckily, a good friend I met hiking a while back served in the military and filled me with the reasons why hiking boots perform the best for the conditions these soldiers face.

Keep reading to learn everything I found out and some interesting facts about why hiking boots are the boots worn by special forces. 

Quick Summary 

  • Special forces teams wear hiking boots instead of combat boots for various reasons, but mostly because they are best suited for their training and real-life conditions. 
  • Salomon boots are an extremely popular choice with special forces, providing many options at a decent price. 
  • Although navy seals are a type of special operations force, they wear slightly different shoes because of the water training and combat they must do. You’ll find navy seals in either tactical boots or Chuck Taylors. 

9 Reasons Why Special Forces Wear Boots For Hiking 

Before we get to the list, there is one exception to this rule. A fun fact is that navy seals wear all-black Converse Chuck Taylors during their maritime operations instead of boots.

This “unofficial athletic shoe” for the navy seals provides better mobility in these types of situations, such as moving from land to sea, because they’re lightweight and have flat soles, which help with stability. 

So why do special forces wear hiking boots instead of other footwear (like combat boots)? Here are nine good reasons that make them the best choice.

1. Hiking Boots Provide The Best Ankle and Leg Support 

special forces boots

If there’s ever a situation when you want your ankle support and ankle protection, it’s when you’re running on rugged and uneven terrain during a special operations mission.

Hiking boots (especially the high ones) do an excellent job of keeping the ankle stable while still remaining flexible enough to maneuver around easily.

They also help with keeping the leg stable, which can prevent injuries. 

We selected 11 of the best hiking boots with ankle support that protect and keep your ankle safe if this is what you looking for in a boot.

2. Hiking Boots Are Breathable

Members of the special forces must often work in extreme heat conditions and have their shoes on their feet for a long period of time before taking a break [1].

Having a breathable hiking boot significantly reduces friction and prevents blisters or sweat from building up and causing foot infections or other issues. 

I know that breathability is key when I’m on a long hike in the summer, so I can only imagine why the special operations forces would need something to keep their feet as cool as possible. 

3. Hiking Boots Are Waterproof 

Along with wearing boots for a long time in hot and dry conditions, members of the special operations teams will often have to trudge through wet and sandy conditions as well.

Jungle boots or some premium waterproof hiking boots keep their feet dry better during important missions than other types of boots would.

We all know that walking around with wet feet can spell misery, and that’s not a good situation for active troops, making waterproof boots even more critical.  

4. Hiking Boots Have Great Traction 

soldiers footwear

I know that whenever I need to hike in the rain or on slippery rocks in the mountains, I’m thankful for the traction my hiking boots provide in helping to prevent slips.

So I can only imagine how important it is for the troops.

Special forces often face unpredictable weather and must walk through the rain in unfamiliar areas.

The tread pattern on hiking boots provides them with more contact points to the ground, which prevents injuries on these types of wet surfaces. 

5. Hiking Boots Are Comfortable 

Imagine being on your feet all day and carrying a heavy pack filled with tactical gear. You likely want to ensure your feet stay as comfortable as possible. Hiking boots have padded ankle collars and cushioned insoles that help with foot fatigue.

They are much better for comfort than a more rigid and stiffer combat boot, making them a great choice for special forces who perform highly specialized missions. 

6. Hiking Boots Are Durable 

combat forces boots

Special forces also need tough and durable boots that withstand various conditions and won’t break in the middle of a tactical assignment.

Hiking boots are the most durable type of shoes you can wear and have the reliability that special forces need to focus on their mission.   

7. Hiking Boots Absorb Shock Well 

Special forces soldiers face numerous obstacles and challenges during missions, so boots that absorb shock well can protect their feet.

The thick midsoles and rubber outsole of hiking boots do a great job of providing this shock protection and helping protect against flying rocks or explosions.  

8. Hiking Boots Are Lightweight 

No doubt, members of the special force require a lightweight boot to counteract all the other heavy things they must carry around while working in the field.

Special forces hiking boots are made of synthetic materials that provide this light construction, allowing members to run fast when needed without weighing themselves down more. 

9. Hiking Boots Are Good In Freezing Temperatures 

Hiking boots are excellent to wear in winter or whenever freezing temperatures strike. Military life often involves working in areas with extremely cold conditions, so the soldiers will need a boot to keep their feet warm.

Hiking boots do a great job insulating the foot and trapping the heat inside for a long time, helping prevent frostbite and keeping the soldier’s feet comfortable. 

See our list of the best winter hiking boots that we personally tried, tested, and reviewed in order to save some of your time and effort.

Related Articles:

What Hiking Boots Do Special Forces Use?

Although you might think that the special forces have standard boots that they must wear, that’s actually not the case. However, I’ve been told that Salomon Boots are popular boots with special operations forces. 

Suppose you’re looking for a boot that will live up to the expectations of the special forces. In that case, I recommend considering the Salomon Quest 4D GTX, one of the best all-around boots, and the Salomon XA Force Mid, which is very light and provides excellent support. 


What’s the Difference Between a Tactical Boot and a Hiking Boot?

The main difference between tactical boots and hiking boots is that they have taller uppers, making them a bit heavier than hiking boots. It’s great for increased safety and durability, especially in the mountains, but some hikers might find it hard to get used to the weight. 

Can Military Boots Be Used for Hiking?

Yes, military boots are a great option for hiking and backpacking. They are extremely durable, waterproof, and comfortable because they’re designed to be used in rough environments while carrying heavy gear for a long period.

What Boots Do German Special Forces Wear?

The German military wears military-issued black leather combat boots. The calf-high boots are designed for stability, breathability, and protection, and the leather has been hardened and waterproofed.

What Kind of Boots Do Navy Seals Wear?

As operators conducting amphibious warfare, seal teams must wear boots that are highly versatile, durable, breathable, waterproof, and comfortable. They typically wear a military tactical duty work boot, providing them with all these requirements.

Can Hiking Boots Handle the Rigorous Demands and Stress of Special Forces Training and Missions?

Hiking boots are designed to withstand the rigorous demands and stress of special forces training and missions. They offer excellent ankle support, durability for rugged terrains, and features that keep the feet dry, which is why forces wear hiking boots as tactical footwear.


  1. https://www.army.mil/article/164641/training_in_the_heat_fact_and_fiction
Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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