FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Jan. 10, 2019) — Fort Leonard Wood has been chosen as one of three locations in the Army to test the newest prototype boots as part of the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort for the U.S. Army Natick’s Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Several Soldiers with Company E, 795th Military Police Battalion, and Co. B, 31st Engineer Battalion, were issued one of four prototype designs for testing Jan. 5 while they were still in reception.

The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, commercial off-the-shelf boots and the durable, protective, Army boots.

To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots, according to officials at RDECOM.

“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30 percent lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.

After getting fitted, one Soldier immediately noticed a difference from the standard-issue boots.

“Right away, these are a lot lighter, I can already tell,” said Pvt. Brady Hammons. “Inside, the old boots felt worn out, and your foot would move around in them when you were walking. With these you don’t have that.”

Another Soldier, issued a different style than Hammons, also noted the feel of the new boots.

“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” Adams said. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a Soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of Soldiers.”

The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January and then return in March and April to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.

The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees here and at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The next scheduled issue date for Fort Leonard Wood is Saturday.

Several Soldiers set to train with Company E, 795th Military Police Battalion and Co. B, 31st Engineer Battalion, were issued one of four prototype boot designs as part of the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. Photo by Dawn Arden