How Should Military Boots Fit? All You Need to Know About When Your Feet Are On Duty!

As much fun as it is to impulsively make a footwear purchase, it’s always important to know the ins and outs of a particular style. 

Failing to do your research ahead of time can result in a pair of shoes or boots that spend far more time in the closet than on your feet.

That’s why I’m going to cover how military boots fit in this article today.

How Do Military Boots Fit?

Military boots generally run a half size large, making it a good idea to try on each pair before making a purchase. I can’t speak for every make and model, as sizing varies from brand to brand. That said, if you’re a size 11, it’s a good rule of thumb to start with a 10.5 when testing.

Beyond their sizing differences when compared to other styles of footwear like work boots, military boots have a couple small differences.

Military boots generally give a little more room in the toe box to allow for your toes to spread and plant themselves more firmly on the ground. 

There are actually aspects of military boots that share qualities with zero drop footwear, particularly more modern tactical boots.

Beyond that, they fit like any other composite toe boot or running shoe should. 

Comfortable compression on the vamp and sides, ⅛ to ¼ inch of slippage on the heel, and obviously no areas that poke or cause pain to your foot.

Remember, just because it’s a different style of footwear doesn’t mean you should accept pain that you wouldn’t from your other footwear styles. 

At the end of the day, it’s still a shoe

Why Do Military Boots Run Large?

Military boots run large to allow your feet a little bit of room to breathe and maneuver within the boot itself. This is because they were initially intended to be worn by soldiers who would likely be exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. 

Shoes, particularly ones made of leather, can shrink if they get wet and then dry.

Granted, this is very beneficial if you’re trying to break in cowboy boots or stretch steel toe boots

If you’re not in a situation where you can stop, re-stretch your current boots, it could be very bad for the wearer.

I understand, if you’re reading this article, it probably seems unlikely that you’ll find yourself in that situation. 

I hope that’s true! 

Just remember that when we utilize styles from past times, the features that were important when they were introduced come along too, even if unnecessary 

Okay, imagine: you’re far from base, outside, and only have the clothes and supplies you brought with you. 

Your shoes have gotten wet multiple times a day and dried, slightly smaller each time. 

This could cause serious foot problems if you’re not in a position to switch up your boots. 

In the worst case scenarios, it could even mean your death. 

This is why shifting the sizing chart on this particular style was a good choice for our grandparents’ generation. 

What Are Military Boots?

Military boots are a durable style of boot that were initially designed to be worn by soldiers in active combat. It’s been quite a while since American soldiers were fighting on front lines in the ways we imagine of the past, so the designs of this style have changed as well.

While certainly not the most comfortable things you could choose for your feet, there is little competition when it comes to durability and reliability.

If I was told that I had to prepare for an extended period of time in the wilderness and I had to choose a boot it’d be an easy choice. 

I’d immediately request a pair of Goodyear-welted, thinsulate insulated military boots. 

If I knew I was only going for a month or two, I’d adjust my request and ask for cement construction boots

That would actually be more in line with modern designs. 

I’m going to get into the specifics of the design style right now, so don’t worry if you’re a little lost.

What Are the Characteristics of Military Boots

Military boots are tall, have many eyelets, and have traditionally been made with black leather uppers

Keep in mind, this is the traditional style of a military boot. 

This traditional style would also have been made with storm or Goodyear welt construction, but times have changed…

You’ll still see military boots worn and used, but just not by soldiers. 

Nowadays it’s almost unthinkable to imagine a soldier wearing this style, but would be very common on many New York or Los Angeles fashionistas (on men too). 

This is not to say that soldiers are just sent to war with whatever they were wearing when they shipped out. 

Soldiers are given military-issue footwear, that is technically a military boot, but is referred to as a tactical boot. 

Continue reading and I’ll explain what’s going on with that.

Are Tactical and Military Boots the Same Thing?

No, while similar, tactical and military boots are not synonyms, although they’re incorrectly treated as such. Tactical boots can be considered a distinct, modern military boot that have implemented modern technologies like cement construction, breathable membranes, and waterproof exteriors.

Tactical boots provide greater comfort, maneuverability, and aren’t bound by the confines of the title “military boots.” 

I know this sounds silly, but there’s absolutely an aspect of style and tradition that prevented next-generation tactical boots from also being called “military boots.”

The classic look of a soldier we have in our mind, he’s probably wearing military boots. 

For the record, I know women can be soldiers too, but in my imagination, there are no female soldiers standing at attention in a parade before shipping out to Europe in 1944. 


Just sharing a little bit of the mental imagery that frames my and others’ distinction between military boots and tactical boots.

Who Uses Tactical Boots For Work?

Tactical boots are preferred by those that work in public safety. Positions that require athleticism but aren’t traditional labor jobs benefit from the structure and mobility provided by tactical boots. Police officers, EMTs, and firefighters, are the top targets for companies selling tactical boots.

That’s not to say that they’re inappropriate for other positions, tactical boots are definitely reliable. 

The problem for most workers is that tactical boots aren’t usually made with ASTM f2413-approved toe caps

It’s not completely unheard of, but it’s not a safe expectation. 

That makes sense why public safety workers use them. 

They face danger in their work, but it’s rarely from something falling on or crushing their toes. 

A police officer has different dangers to face that I’ve never experienced, but both of our needs for a toe cap is close to zero. 

What are the Differences Between Work Boots and Tactical Boots

Work boots are much more feature-centric, with the inanimate dangers of a workplace being considered throughout their design process. Tactical boots are designed with the idea that the greatest danger is the elements, or the inability to quickly get away from a dangerous situation.

Puncture-resistance, heat-resistance, metatarsal protection, toe caps (as I noted in the prior section), are all examples of the features that are more often found in work boots than in tactical boots.

In short, if I was expecting a dangerous workplace, I’d pick work boots. 

If I was expecting to run through rough terrain as though my life depended on it, I’d go with the tactical boots. 

How Do I Break In My Military Boots or Tactical Boots?

I’ve written an article on this topic that would be helpful. If they’re made of full-grain leather uppers, use the cowboy boot article

If they’re made of synthetic uppers, or a mixture of the two, check out my article on stretching work boots.

Should People Wear Boots Worn By the Military?

Yes, it’s okay to wear military combat boots, or tactical boots. 

So long as you’re not walking around telling lies about your non-existent service record, stealing valor, you’re okay. 

Soldiers have dealt with serious situations in their lives, you wearing a particular style of boot isn’t one of them.

How to make your Military Boots more comfortable

In an academic article published by Military Medicine in 2020, it was concluded that wearing a prefabricated insole can help prevent shock absorption.

Just something you may also want to think about on your next purchase.

My Tactical Departure

I hope this has shone some light on the topic and now you’ll know how to properly fit your military boots. 

You’ll also be able to decide whether or not tactical boots would be a good addition to your footwear catalog! 

Take care!