Going into a battle with the right gear is half the battle won! Tactical boots are an excellent advantage when you need to gear up for the beat, super easy and quick to take off and put on, with an ultra-comfortable fit so you can run down anyone, and keeping your feet safe while they’re at it. Not to mention they make one hell of a style statement!
Whatever your reason for buying a side-zip tactical boot maybe, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my top 4 picks as well as a bonus where I tell you which pair of boots you should be staying away from!
Let’s get onto it, shall we?
Best Overall Tactical boots
Smith and Wesson Men’s Breach 2.0 Tactical Side-Zip Boots
You’re probably already familiar with Smith and Wesson for their excellent weapons and firearms, but it would seem that everything this 164-year-old company touches turns to gold; Smith and Wesson also makes some of the best tactical boots in the world and the Men’s Breach 2.0 Tactical Side Zip Boots are no exceptions to this rule! Comfortable, functional and of extremely high quality, these boots will keep your feet stable and comfortable, letting you walk, run and even leap as you please!
Endorsed by many users (both professionals and regular folks), these Smith and Wesson boots are 8 inches tall, with a comfortable build that doesn’t restrict you, especially around the ankles. To keep the comfort level high the whole day, the boots come equipped with an EVA midsole that’s lightweight and cushioned, just like the boots themselves—would you believe that there’s so much “wow” packed into objects that weigh less than 1.5 pounds?
- A pair of side-zip tactical boots
- Tan color option
What I Think
Whether you want to hike over rocky terrain, climb mountains and ladders or just walk safely on a wet pavement, these boots are a great option. Equipped with non-marking rubber outsoles, these boots are extremely slip resistant, keeping you safe and firmly grounded and stable on your feet. Compared to other similar boots, I find the Smith and Wesson 2.0 to be extremely rich in features, high on durability and best of all, much cheaper than its competitors; the boots give you great value for the price you pay!
- Are the boots completely waterproof?
Yes, the boots are advertised as being completely waterproof. However, generally, no material is completely waterproof, unless its kevlar, rubber, or a plastic-based material. Leather boots generally don’t respond well to water; even if, initially, it seems like the boots are doing just fine, they tend to get hard, discolored and misshapen over time, with regular exposure to water. If you want your boots to be completely waterproof, silicone-coating them is a good option. Even so, this is possible only with boots without sealed tongues, in which case, you’ll have to decide the outcome of the “waterproof vs breathable” battle.
- Is there a steel/composite toe for protection?
No, the boots don’t come with a safety toe, unfortunately; this is also one of the very few cons I encountered with these boots.
- Can I use these boots for other purposes, such as OSHA-related work?
Well, you’ll just have to check with the regulatory bodies. However, given that there’s no steel safety toe, it may not be a great idea to use these boots for steelwork or mining, for example. You can use it for other purposes such as dressing up as Green Arrow for Halloween, though!
What I Like
- The extremely tough and durable leather-nylon-mix construction
- The gusseted tongue that keeps out moisture and dirt
- The extremely sturdy-yet-lightweight build
- Ankle support that’s extremely, comfortable, and stable yet doesn’t restrict your movements
- With a rubber outsole and slip-resistant marking, walking on wet surfaces is a breeze.
- Extremely reasonably priced for the wide range of features the boots offer
What I Didn’t Like
- It’s sad that though they have so much going for them, these boots are not 100% waterproof; immersing them in water or regularly wetting them will probably ruin them due to the leather components in them.
- The lack of a safety toe is another bummer for me; the safety toe would have really enhanced the boots’ reputation as a safety measure.
All said and done, I personally believe that the Smith and Wesson Men’s Breach 2.0 boots are extremely hard to beat considering their features, reasonable price and popularity among those who protect and serve, which is why they’re my best overall pick. These boots are extremely durable and will probably last you for a long time to come, with the right care and usage.
The Maelstrom Men’s Tac Force
The perfect choice if you’re in the armed forces, the Maelstrom Men’s Tac Force boots are a beauty to behold, with a professional air and a classy black exterior. Don’t let the stylish exterior fool you, though; these heavy-duty boots can weather any storm and your feet won’t feel a thing—that’s how comfortable and protective they are! Additionally, they come with a year-long manufacturer’s warranty, which is just a huge plus for me as such few manufacturers actually give out decent warranties on their products.
- A one-year manufacturer’s warranty on a pair of side-zip tactical boots
- Tan color option
What I Think
The Maelstrom tactical boots in question are equipped with a ton of features; the moisture-wicking lining ensures continuous airflow and breathability, which keeps your feet from getting sweaty, sticky and smelly however long you choose to wear them, while the rubber outsole gives you a Nightcrawler-like grip on any terrain. The boots are also equipped with shock-absorbent cushioning to protect your feet and more importantly, your spine. Considering all this and a price tag below $60, these boots really take the “best value” prize quite easily; they give you a bang for your buck that’s quite unparalleled!
- Is it okay to use these boots under snowy conditions?
Given their durability, the boots may do fine in a couple of inches of snow. However, do remember that they have leather components in their construction, so you may see the effects a few years down the line if you regularly use the boots in the snow. That apart, they’re also well insulated and advertised as being waterproof, so they may just end up doing fine.
- Is there a composite toe?
The boots have a polished full-grain-leather-and-nylon upper that’s quite hard and durable; though there isn’t a composite toe as such, you’ll still feel like you have. It’s firm enough to protect you but if you think your toes are going to be crushed any time soon, I honestly hope you aren’t in these boots at that time.
- Does the size offered by the brand fit true to my normal size?
That depends on how well you like your shoes to fit. If you don’t want too snug a fit, get a size bigger; even once they’re broken in, they’ll still give you a comfortably-spacious-yet-snug fit. If you generally like a super-snug fit, go for a pair that’s the same size.
What I Like
- Call me a sucker for happy things, but I love that for every pair of boots you purchase, Maelstrom donates a dollar to the non-profit organization, Boot Campaign, that aims and works to improve the quality of life and standard of living for military families and veterans across the country.
- The extremely professional look that doesn’t compromise on the boots’ awesome functionality
- The 1-year warranty is a decent deal, and can even be considered great when you look at the lack of such warranties offered by other manufacturers.
- Very reasonably priced
- Extremely durable and equipped with a range of great features
- The anti-fatigue technology (removable cushion insole, EVA midsole and rubber outsole)
What I Didn’t Like
- The finish wears away within a few months of use, along with the deterioration of the lining inside.
- The boots stain relatively easily.
Though the cons are significant, the pros far outweigh the cons; add to that the fabulous price tag and I have my “best value” winner.
Best Featuring Offering Boots
Thorogood Men’s 8-Inch Side-Zip Jump Boot
A classic design that’s fused with the right amount of modernity, stylish looks, excellent performance and a ton of great features—what more could you want in a tactical boot, right? The Thorogood Men’s 8-Inch Size-Zip Jump Boot is all of this and more! These wonder boots come with a gorgeous exterior that exudes authority and keeps you looking your best while efficiently chasing down the bad guys, and with a solid Goodyear Welt construction, a composite shank and outsoles that are extremely abrasion resistant, you know they’re going to pretty damn tough.
- One pair of Thorogood 8-inch boots with side zips
What I Think
That these Thorogood boots are rich in features is undeniable—from extremely durable rubber soles to a solid 100% leather construction to a composite shank to a breathable mesh lining to an EVA midsole, these boots have them all! Sure, they’re a little pricey but given the range of features, I think the price is justified! The boots are lightweight and flexible, allowing you to move as you wish while maintaining your balance and steadiness. Definitely a worthy contender all around!
- Is there a steel toe?
Unfortunately, though there is a shiny polished full-grain leather toe cap, there is no steel toe.
- Do they meet NPFA standards?
While the boots are fantastic, they do not meet NPFA standards—they don’t have the required Vibram sole.
- What is the difference between regular size and a wide size?
For a superior fit, you can buy boots that are the same length as your regular size but a little wider—a boon for those of us with broad feet! This way, the length remains the same but the fit is a little less snug and a lot more comfortable.
What I Like
- The removable PU footbed with an EVA cushion that ensures superior comfort
- The extremely durable construction; it can’t get more durable than this Goodyear-Welt-composite-shank-outsole combination!
- An almost flawless exterior
- A stable-yet-lightweight, comfortable construction
- A very short (almost 0) break-in time
- Extremely easy to clean (on the rare occasion that cleaning is required!)
- Is just as great for the fire/EMS field as it is for police work
What I Didn’t Like
- Loud squeaking when you’re breaking into them, though I suppose this is unavoidable
- The sole doesn’t seem to be particularly slip resistant; if it is, it simply isn’t as efficient as it could be.
- Durability issues within a few months, such as broken zippers and the sole coming off
Durable and comfortable, the Thorogood 8-Inch Side-Zip Boots are a great buy all around, equipped with a range of features that all work in its favor, enhancing its performance and functionality.
5.11 Tactical ATAC Men’s Leather Boots
Forget the fans; this one’s on the way to becoming my favorite with the versatility it brings with it. Whether you want to hunt, hike, go all “Mortal Kombat” or just do simple yard work (not that yard work is simple!), these solid boots have got your back; or your feet, as the case may be!
With a leather-textile combination construction, these boots are well equipped to take any weather that Mother Nature throws at them. Additionally, their solid construction means that these boots will probably be a one-shot investment; they’re going to last you for a long time to come. Also, to keep away the toe jam and stinky feet syndrome, they’re equipped with a breathable tongue that ensures maximum airflow the whole time.
- A pair of leather-textile military combat coyote boots
- Black color option
What I Think
I honestly feel like 5.11 struck gold with these boots, setting a new standard of stylishness and functionality across the industry! Great for any season, you know you’re getting some of the best quality there is when you pick 5.11 boots and these boots are no exception. They’ve been designed keeping in mind military standards and with guidance and expert advice from, well, the experts themselves! 5.11 hasn’t held back with these boots and that’s visible in their make, right from the full-grain leather, the extra-strong nylon, and the weather resistance. Despite their high-cut nature, they come with amazing ankle support that doesn’t restrict your movements and as mentioned, military-grade protection facilities to keep your feet protected at all times!
- Are these boots real leather?
Yes, they are, every bit of them! The company states that they’re well aware that cheap faux leather can’t bring the desired quality, which is why almost all their products are made of full-grain leather.
- Is there a composite toe?
No, there isn’t a composite toe, but the boots have been designed keeping military standards in mind, so you can rest assured that they will protect your feet to a great extent (a greater extent than competitors, too, possibly).
- How efficient are these boots for hiking or hunting?
Well, the boots do have a bit of a stiff sole, as is usually found in hiking boots, but the range of ankle movement that they allow maybe a little unsatisfactory for hiking, but then again, that’s subjective. Plenty of hikers still love these boots. As for hunting, the boots aren’t 100% waterproof due to their leather make, and for the same reason, stain easily as well. So, no, I wouldn’t really recommend them for hunting.
What I Like
- The amazing versatility
- Additional support in the form of injection-molded midsoles of Phylon and a non-metallic shank
- The solid construction and the durability that it ensures
- The extreme resistance to not just weather, but wear as well
- How breathable they are
What I Don’t Like
- The fact that it isn’t completely waterproof; but I guess that has to give when we’re talking leather
- Unsatisfactory customer service; trust me, this matters when the toe and heel separate after a few months and you need to reach out to them for the issue to be resolved
All said and done, I think these cons matter only if you’re putting too fine a point on things. I mean, for all we know, the customer rep probably just had a bad day and forgot (inexcusable, but the point is, that it’s a one-off situation!). With so many things going for it, it isn’t hard to see why the 5.11 ATAC boots have a fan following that could rival Kim Kardashian’s.
Stay away from These Boots!
5.11 Tactical 6-Inch Boots
Yes, surprising that you’d see a 5.11 pair of boots here, but these 6-inch boots seriously don’t make the cut despite the brand name! They come with an extremely high price tag but the price just doesn’t justify the standard features that these boots are equipped with; you’d find the same, or even more, with boots that are much lower priced.
I mean, they aren’t even remotely waterproof; you could pay $30 more and get yourself a pair with all the features these boots have plus the waterproofing. Additionally, the zipper design is seriously flawed, making it harder to put on the boots instead of making it easier; this counterproductive logic just doesn’t wash. The zipper is too far aft and the difficulty in putting the boots on means that you’ll also be wearing out the product much sooner.
So, despite my love for 5.11 and their tactical-boot offerings, I highly recommend you stay away from these.
And that’s that, folks. These are my top tactical boot picks based on different criteria, but each boot is sure to more than fulfill the purpose it was built for, with really high comfort, durability and functionality. Let me know which one your top pick is and what your thoughts regarding my picks are. Comment away!