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Best Tactical & Rugged Barefoot Boots

Many years ago, we wrote an extensive guide to barefoot or minimalist style combat boots for those in active military, firefighter, police, or other rugged combat or tactical activities. While many veterans reached out and were grateful to have such a guide, the one thing we wish we had more of was testing. Being that we wrote the original guide a few years after finishing our military service, we were only really able to go off assumption and testing ruggedness, not actually in the rigors of combat. It all changed when we were called up to active reserve duty th-is past year. Spending nearly 4 months on active reserve duty gave us adequate time to test all the boots and shoes we ever wanted to and give our honest feedback, so without further ado. Please note many people contributed their wisdom to this article. This article is not political in any way and provides feedback and perspectives from veterans, tactical operators, and people who require rugged boots around the world in a variety of positions.

is the only currently recognized boot by some militaries (notably the US Air Force). It is relatively minimalist compared to most combat boots, is flexible, and features a 2 mm drop (this is largely due to a law that was passed in the 90s requiring military boots to be zero drop, and it is discussed more in this article). Many people that I know, both on active duty and reserves, felt that this was the best option out there due to its ruggedness, Vibram sole, and how it blended in with other soldiers' boots without standing out too much. Being that we are personally used to lower-cut boots, we did find the high ankle cuff a bit restricting, even though we understand that is the military norm. The heel, in particular, can be very chafing and can take several weeks to break in before being comfortable. It also comes in wide and regular, making it great for people with wide and narrow feet. The sizing system is as follows. There are plans to release an upgraded version with a more flexible heel, but there is no timeline on that at the moment.

Ideal for people on active duty who need a boot that looks similar to the military-issued ones.

Price: $149-169 on Amazon

Colors: Beige and Black.

Discount Code: N/A

A large chunk of our reserve duty was done in these bad boys, due to their flexibility and uber wide toe box giving us a much-needed break from other stiffer combat boot alternatives. We found the Vibram rugged outsole great in the rain and mud with enough ground feel and the wool lining to help if it got chilly out. Being a high-volume shoe, it also left room for thick, warm socks, which were many times needed. This boot, in particular, being soft leather, is not the most rugged on this list but was great for more stationary activities such as guard duty or drills where less ruggedness was needed.

Ideal for when you need to wear boots that blend in well but need extra toe space and volume. Not recommended for extremely rigorous activity as they are a bit too flexible for that.

Price: $225

Colors: Grey (Vegan) White(Vegan) and Oak( Leather)

Discount Code: TBSR (please note this is an affiliate tracking code)

This one makes the list due to its ruggedness and that’s about it. It's stiff, bulky, and being clompy can be difficult to run in. What it is useful for is if operating heavy machinery or in static positions and need something that will protect your feet at all costs.

Ideal for static ruggedness and toe protection for plane mechanics or other people who are doing stationary duty but need their feet protected.

Price: 249$

Colors: Brown and Black.

Discount Code: TBSR10

This probably logged the most hours due to it being a conventional waterproof hiking boot. This style of boot is what most reservists wore, assuming your command allowed it. Recently, their Impala, an upgraded version with a more rugged sole, came out. While we have not tested it yet, we have tested its outsole on their other models, and it is even grippier and better in mud than the Ibex, its predecessor.

Price: $225

Colors: Brown and Black.

Discount Code: BFS10

This boot might have the most potential on this list. It was designed for African rangers in the wild and it really proved itself in active shooting zones and ruggedness. The only con is that it is a little bit on the narrower side. Trying to fit into the market look and perspective, Jim Green is only growing with plans for a high-top boot (hint: we tried it and it's awesome) and even a steel toe version! They come in beige & dark brown and have a really nice rugged aesthetic to them.

Price: $199-249.

Colors: Beige, Brown, Black

Discount Code: TBSR

Some of our colleagues listed this one as the best on this list, in particular the Summit. Despite having a 2mm drop, it was voted the most worn in active combat situations. It has everything you need from a boot being waterproof, rugged, sits high, relatively flexible, and wide toebox. If you want something a tad more flexible and zero drop instead, the Boulder Boot Grip performed nearly equally well with a tad less ruggedness. (We even slipped on the Slipper Boot from Lems, the Telluride because it blended right into the desert and we were wondering if people would notice).

Price: $180 on

Colors: Black & Brown

Discount Code: N/A

While we have not personally tested this boot, we found this another great alternative. In particular, the Michelin sole is really grippy and excels on all surfaces. Vivobarefoot just put out (as of April 2024) a forest jungle high boot with the Michelin sole, perhaps yet another untested combat boot alternative.

Price: $280

Colors: Brown / Clear / Green

Discount Code: VIVOTBSR

Bonus: Our favorite sneakers for PT activity were largely the Bahe Grounded Shoes for their cushion on longer runs and their grounding ability as we were largely unable to be barefoot.

Price: 150$

Colors: Green, White & Black

Discount Code: TBSR

What have you found to be the most rugged? What do you wear in the most extreme scenarios?


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