FN Herstal

Mountain Boots

The history of dedicated footwear for mountain warfare traces its way back to WWII. A square toed, brown, smooth leather boot with tongue and groove on the sole for ski bindings was issued to the 10th Mountain and First Special Service Force. Mountain boots would remain a Special Forces standard issue item up until today.

WWII Mountain Boot

Although members of 10th SFG(A) stationed in Bad Toelz, Germany privately purchased mountain boots from local cobblers in the 50s and 60s, the issue Mountain Boot remained relatively unchanged. The infamous “Chips” or Chippewa Mountain Boots were a Special forces staple up until the late 80s. They were also issued to the 10th Mountain Division during their initial stand up. Featuring bright steel speed lace hooks, thick felt insoles that never dried out, and a sole with a tongue and groove to fit the old issue “suicide stick” skis, the design had barely changed from WWII. Wearing them was like walking around with bricks strapped to your feet but no self-respecting member of 10th Group would be caught without them.

Chippewa Ski Moutain Boot

But as the 90s wore on the US was without an issue Mountain Boot. Influenced by 1/10th SF’s experience at Bad Toelz and later in Stuttgart, over time SOF units issued boots from Koflach, Raichle, Lowa and eventually La Sportiva who manufactured a special black version of the ever popular Lhotse for US forces operating in Afghanistan. Ironically, the brown leather Lhotse was better suited to military operations than the black model. But the major weakness that all of these highly specialized European brands was just that; they were European. The Berry Amendment requires that US forces must use US textiles. Unfortunately, at the time there was no US manufacturer of hard core Mountaineering Boots.

La Sportiva Lhotse in Black

As an interim, both the Marine Corps and Army are issuing Danner Mountain Boots although they are different models. Danner has developed a dedicated boot for mountain operations for the Marine Corps that was unveiled earlier this year. The Mountain Cold Weather Boot is brown and features an abrasion resistant toe and heel cap as well as a Gore-tex lining. Each pair comes with a new sock system for cold weather.

USMC Danner Mountain Cold Weather Boot

The Army on the other hand has chosen to issue a commercially available Danner to members of the 173d and 101st. Combining leather with nylon fabric panels, the Army’s boot stops just above the ankle resembling a hiking more than a combat boot. PEO-Soldier officials have been very clear that these are an interim solution and in no way intended to replace the current issue boot. For that, the Army is hedging their bets on a new modular boot system set to debut in 2009.

Danner Combat Hiker

Both the Army and Marine Corps solutions are really more trekking boots than actual Mountain Boots. To fill this void in the US military’s family of footwear, they have turned to Bates Footwear and their new Tora Bora model which they are touting as the Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot. Originally a SOCOM requirement, the user community for the Tora Bora but it is expected to eventually include both the Marine Corps and Army.

Bates Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot

For more information on the Danner Combat Hiker contact Danner.

For more information on the new Tora Bora, go to Bates.

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