Published Jun 9, 2022 11:49 AM
A solid pair of survival boots should be at the top of everyone’s list when prepping for an emergency situation. They are vital for mobility whether that be hunting, scavenging, or moving to a safer location.
Anyone who has ever suffered a foot injury will know how debilitating that can be. Ordinary footwear doesn’t provide the durability or protection required. In survival situations the problem will be exaggerated. Both the individual, and other group members could be at increased risk.
Good survival boots are tough and supportive in varied terrain. It’s one less thing to worry about. The challenge is in finding the right pair, and that’s what we’re looking at today in this story about the best survival boots.
Things to Consider Before Buying Survival Boots
Defining the best survival boot isn’t easy. Environment has a big impact, but can vary significantly. There’s a big difference between surviving the city, and coping in open country where terrain can change quickly and dramatically. The following factors need to be considered.
In a survival situation, it is sensible to assume that the boots you have will need to last. So durability is a major concern. Despite advances in fabrics technology, leather remains the toughest, most protective material for boot construction, and is present to some extent in all our top picks.
Nylon is also common. It offers good wear-resistance and is lightweight. Soles are usually composite (synthetic) rubber which offers durability, and good traction on a variety of surfaces. Polyurethane or high-density EVA (a blend of ethylene and vinyl) may also be used, though the latter is usually used for foam inside the boot.
The best survival boots protect the feet in a variety of ways. Even fairly short boots usually support the ankle, and help prevent rollover injuries. It’s common to have a taller shaft that protects the calf and shin, but some reach knee height. In many cases, a tall boot protects from thorns and stinging or poisonous vegetation, but some are even designed to protect from snake bites.
A horizontal shank is sometimes added into the insole area to prevent the foot twisting, while still allowing normal forward and back flexing. Increased arch height, as found on logger boots for example, can help prevent falls on consistently uneven terrain, bridging small obstacles rather than stumbling over them.
Sore feet and blisters cause major problems. Pain slows you down in two ways, not just making movement difficult but also sapping your energy. The best survival boots offer all-day comfort without compromising durability or protection.
Leather, and nylon weaves (like Cordura, for example) allow the foot to breathe, and stay cooler for longer. Moisture-wicking liners draw sweat away, so pockets of damp don’t cause blisters. Insoles (also called footbeds) may be cushioned. EVA foam is one popular material. Often they are removable, so better orthotic alternatives can be used.
Weight is also important. Even a difference of a few ounces can have an impact on energy levels if you’ve been rucking a heavy pack all day.
Why It Made The Cut
The Georgia Logger Boot is designed for survival in the toughest conditions offering high levels of protection, warmth, and confidence-inspiring grip in all weathers.
- Material: Full-Grain Leather
- Size Range: 8 to 13 (including wides)
- Weight (each): 20 ounces
- Waterproof and insulated
- Steel safety toe
- High-traction Vibram sole
- Some breaking in
- Premium price
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) rates logging as the most hazardous occupation in the country, so what better survival boot than one capable of tackling those conditions?
The Georgia Logger Work Boot is made from full-grain leather. Hides are the toughest available, and have to be flawless. A tall shaft protects well up the shin and calf. Some initial stiffness will need to be worked out. It’s a good idea to make this part of your preparations, so they are ready for full-on use when you need them.
The inside of this boot is remarkable. There is a breathable GoreTex membrane that makes it 100-percent waterproof. There is 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation rated for temperatures down to minus 40 degrees F. A moisture-wicking liner prevents problems with sweat. The insole is cushioned for comfort, and there’s a removable orthotic insert.
Underneath this is a steel shank that reinforces the whole structure, including the arch area. At the front a steel safety toe is fitted that meets the ASTM standard (American Society for Testing and Materials) for both impact protection, and secondary electrical contacts of up to 18,000 volts (in dry conditions). The sole comes from internationally-renowned specialists Vibram. It is resistant to abrasion, oil, heat, and chemicals, and the lug pattern is designed to provide maximum traction regardless of climate.
The Georgia Logger Work Boot isn’t as light as some, and does come with a premium price tag. However, we know of no other boot so well adapted to wilderness survival.
Why It Made The Cut
The Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot can be worn just about anywhere, but if it gets put under pressure it stays comfortable, and delivers confident footing in all conditions.
- Material: Leather and Suede
- Size Range: 7 to 17
- Weight (each): 16 ounces
- Waterproof and seam-sealed
- Support shank through arch
- Very affordable
- No wide fitting
- Rare durability issues
Columbia has been making outdoor footwear since 1938, and are currently headquartered in Oregon. The Newton Ridge Plus is a smart hiking boot with several interesting survival features.
The upper is made of hard-wearing leather with suede highlights. The latter is more for appearance than anything else, but there is extra support for the heel. A polyurethane (PU) coating provides the first line of defense against water and mud.
Inside there’s a breathable Omni-Tech liner that is 100 waterproof. The insole is nothing special, but a Techlite EVA midsole offers good cushioning, and impact absorption. It is also claimed to provide high energy return. The composite rubber sole has Columbia’s Omni-Grip lug design which divides it into separate zones. This provides excellent traction on all surfaces without reducing maneuverability. The sole also extends up over the toe for bump protection.
For those who want to survive in style, the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot is available in 14 different colors. We have found rare reports of soles separating from the upper though only a very small percentage. Other than that these affordable, lightweight survival boots have proved hugely popular.
Best Army Approved
Why It Made The Cut
The lightweight but tough Garmont T8 NFS 670 survival boot meets the performance standards of both US Army and Air Force for Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) use.
- Material: Suede and 600D Nylon
- Size Range: 4 to 15 (including wides)
- Weight (each): 19 ounces
- Durable, breathable construction
- Army and Air Force compliant
- Focus on all-day comfort
- Not fully waterproof
- No insulation
Garmont are well-known for their military-grade footwear, and the T8 NFS 670 is compliant with US Army AR 670-1, and US Air Force AFI 36-2903 for use with OCP uniforms. The NFS is Garamont’s own designation for “Need For Speed.” This underlines the boots purpose, which the maker defines as where speed is paramount, under heavy load, and excessive walking.
The upper is made from tough suede leather, and abrasion resistant 600D nylon. The latter to save weight where possible. This allows them to construct a tall, protective boot that is only 19 ounces. It is water-resistant, rather than fully waterproof, though because of its quick drying nature it is rated as suitable for amphibious, and extremely wet conditions.
Inside the boot is a breathable Texton canvas layer which promotes airflow to keep the feet cool. The contoured insole comes from foot care specialists Ortholite, and uses recycled rubber to create unique foam padding. Underneath this is further cushioning from an EVA midsole. This combination makes the Garmont T8 NFS 670 survival boot very comfortable to wear for long periods, whether active or passive. The sole is composite rubber, with multidirectional lugs for high traction.
Best All Terrain
Why It Made The Cut
The Salomon Forces Quest 4D GTX 2 Tactical Shoe is designed to support the foot while carrying heavy loads in mountain conditions. It offers outstanding traction, and all-day comfort.
- Material: Full-Grain Leather
- Size Range: 7.5 to 15
- Weight (each): 23.5 ounces
- Designed for hostile environments
- Superb foot support and comfort
- All-terrain, all-condition sole
- No wide fitting
- Premium price
The Salomon Forces Quest 4D GTX 2 Tactical Shoe was designed primarily for mountain use, but its combination of toughness, and flexibility make it an effective choice for any terrain.
The upper is abrasion-resistant leather with a water-repellant barrier. Although called a shoe, it is tall enough to provide good ankle support. A gusseted tongue and padded collar prevent debris from entering. Both toe and heel areas have extra protection and support, as does the instep.
The interior has a number of support and comfort systems. A GoreTex membrane ensures it is 100-percent waterproof. A breathable textile liner provides general comfort that is enhanced by both a cushioned Ortholite insole, and a dual-density EVA midsole.
Advanced traction is a key feature of this survival shoe. The composite rubber sole has a lug pattern that offers all-terrain grip, in all weather conditions, yet remains flexible enough for sudden sprints. There is also an additional layer for puncture resistance.
It is difficult to criticize the Salomon Forces Quest 4D GTX 2 Tactical Shoe, though it isn’t cheap. At 23.5 ounces each it is also heavier than many but that underlines the boot’s durability, and ability to deliver consistent performance regardless of conditions.
Why It Made The Cut
The Rocky Knee High Boot offers visual camouflage, and provides protection against snake bites, thorns, and poisonous vegetation whether hunting, fishing, or traveling to a bug out location.
- Material: Full-Grain Leather and Nylon
- Size Range: 4 to 13
- Weight (each): 24 ounces
- 16 inches of snake protection
- Light for a boot of this size
- Slow to get in and out of
- Not insulated
Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins (a.k.a. cottonmouths) can strike with a force of up to 150 pounds per square inch. Even tough, leather cowboy or work boots offer almost no protection from this kind of impact. If you live in, or are traveling through snake country then something like the Rocky Knee High Hunting Boot is a must. The durable padded nylon is snake proof up to 16 inches from the ground, and is reinforced with leather in high wear areas. For its size, it is surprisingly lightweight and allows good mobility.
The boot uses Rocky’s own guaranteed waterproof construction. As with many hunting boots the insole and PU footbed are adequate for all day wear but not exceptional. The sole is a combination of polyurethane and rubber called ProLight BioMech. It provides good all-terrain grip, and is unaffected by temperature though the boots themselves are not insulated.
The Rocky Knee High Hunting Boot is somewhat specialist footwear. It is designed for hunting or travel through woodland, scrub, or marsh where snakes can always be a danger. In these environments it provides protection that few can match.
How We Made Our Picks
Once we had established the general characteristics outlined above, it was then a question of identifying the best survival boot for various situations and conditions.
The result is a range of picks from short, hiking style boots for urban streets or fast trails, through super-tough logger boots, and military-grade footwear, to a knee-high snake boot. Our aim was to offer solutions to just about any survival challenge.
It was also important for us to look at value. It’s not difficult to find cheap survival boots, but could we really on them in extreme situations? Probably not. There is perhaps no more important time to invest in well-made footwear than when choosing survival boots. Nevertheless, price is always an issue so we tried to find something for all reasonable budgets.
Q: What are survival boots good for?
The best survival boots are good for all outdoor activities including hiking, rucking, and hunting. The benefits of particular styles of survival boot are discussed above.
Q: How much do survival boots cost?
Much of a survival boot’s cost depends on construction, and the level of protection offered. We think it’s unlikely you’ll find good survival boots for under $60. At the other end of the scale the best heavy-duty, insulated survival boots can cost several hundred dollars.
Q: Are survival boots good for everyday wear?
Survival boots ought to be good for everyday wear. They need that ability in order to be able to cover long distances in difficult circumstances. Some are better than others for casual wear, which is one of the features covered in our article.
Q: Are survival boots waterproof?
Whether survival boots are waterproof or not depends on materials used, and any treatments applied. Leather is water-resistant, but not 100-percent waterproof naturally, so a lightweight membrane like GoreTex is sometimes fitted to the inside.
Q: How do I weatherproof my boots?
Sprays for weatherproofing boots are widely available, for both leather or synthetic boot materials. Always read the instructions carefully for lasting protection.
Q: How often do survival boots need to be replaced?
A lot of things can impact how often survival boots need to be replaced. Distance is often used as a measure, with good boots expected to last between 500 and 1,000 miles. However, the conditions encountered may reduce that. Trying to “make do” will only worsen damage or discomfort, so it’s best to replace them at the earliest opportunity.
The Georgia Logger Boot is one tough piece of footwear. It’s waterproof. It’s insulated. It has a sole designed to tackle the most difficult terrain. Yes, it’s a little heavy, but it’s a survival boot you can rely on.
At a quick glance the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus is just another hiking shoe, more suited to the street than survival. In fact, while it is certainly stylish enough for casual wear, it also has the all-round performance you need if things go bad in a hurry.