FN Herstal

An Abbreviated History of the Jungle Boot

This photo popped up on Facebook last week and a great deal of commenters on the post were ill informed. It wasn’t necessarily that they didn’t know what they were in theory, it was that they didn’t know that this tread pattern was at one point used on issue boots as well as other inaccuracies.

20130902-200752.jpg

Because so few of currently serving troops have ever worn the “Boot, Combat, Tropical, Mildew Resistant” we are going to fill in some blanks.

20130902-201244.jpg

Often referred to by collectors as the “Okinawa” boot, these were produced in the 1950s. They are a modification of the WWII 2-buckle boots with canvas uppers. The soles were stitched unto the upper and were worn early in the Viet Nam conflict by advisors deployed from Oki.

20130902-211016.jpg

In 1965, the company Ro-Search (Wellco) was awarded the first jungle boot contract, producing up to 5000 pairs a day and licensed the Direct Molded Sole technology to 11 other companies. From this point on, Jungle Boots featured a DMS sole although the sole pattern would shift from a Vibram style to the Panama tread which was intended to release mud. At the same time, a metal spike protective plate was integrated into the footbed to protect Soldiers from Punji stakes used by the Viet Cong.

20130902-210250.jpg

For more info on VN-era jungle boots, which went through a bit of an evolution, visit www.mooremilitaria.com/reference. This style of Jungle Boot continued to be issued through the mid-90s.

20130902-210118.jpg

The original Desert Combat Boot was a tan, rough out leather version of the Jungle Boot with an improved variant introduced after Operation Desert Storm. Changes included a padded collar and leather ankle reinforcements replacing the webbing along with a Poron insole. Later, these same changes were cut into the Jungle boot along with a color change from Green canvas uppers to Black Cordura to be more like the issue leather boot.

20130902-213135.jpg

Despite being a CTA 50-900 item, Jungle Boots were unit issue and could not be worn everywhere. For example, during the late 1980s they could not be worn in Germany due to the climate. Although, interestingly enough, the US Jungle Boot was often issued to allied forces such as the British for use in jungle operations.

20130902-213453.jpg

All along, there have been cheap, knockoff boots. Naturally, some guys would rather buy beer than reliable boots. They generally were easy to spot due to their off color and cheap materials. Additionally, these commercial models above, featuring South Korean camouflage uppers were quite common in the 90s on the surplus market.

20130902-213010.jpg

Several years ago, OTB Boots (now New Balance) introduced a modern jungle boot (above) that is no longer available and Rocky just released their variant (below).

20130902-210825.jpg

Today, there is no requirement for a tropical boot despite DoD’s shift in attention to the Pacific theater although certain units are interfacing with industry.

-Eric Graves
A lifelong shooter and outdoorsman, Eric is retired from the US Air Force and also served in the US Army. After retiring from military service Eric also worked in industry and has served as the Editor of Soldier Systems Daily since launching the site in May of 2008.

27 Responses to “An Abbreviated History of the Jungle Boot”

  1. Mike B. says:

    When the US Army tried to first phase out the green upper boots in the 90’s to the new Black uppers, they were forced to allow troops to continue wearing the upper green boots due to quality and sewing malfunctions on the new blacks boots.

    • SSD says:

      Yeah, I remember those. The stitching blew put in the back.

    • z0phi3l says:

      I kept my green boots till I was forced to retire them for the black ones, by then all the issues had been sorted out and were as good as my original green pair

  2. MGunz says:

    Great in the mud, horrible for a hump on the road. I did a 20 mile conditioning road march once with Jungle boots and it almost had me SIQ. The heel was to high and it had zero cushion.

    • SSD says:

      The heel could definitely be brutal. I had a couple of pairs and wore insoles in the ones I did any long marches in.

      • Strike-Hold says:

        Those super hard soles on the “Panama tread” boots were murder on the feet on any surface other than spongy, muddy jungle floor. Jungle boots were the standard foot gear on post during my time with the 82nd in the early-mid ’80’s, and I’m sure that’s why I’ve had foot problems ever since…

  3. Jim says:

    I was issued the US jungle boot for both tours of Belize, as our, Brit, boots were more or less high leg baseball boots and rotted off your feet in what seemed like minutes!

    Being on CVR(T) Scorpions out there as well we found that the Panama sole and louvres on the engine decks didn’t work that well together and caused all sorts of slip accidents.

    We had one guy claim the extra weight of the plate caused him to fail a basic fitness test run!!

    Great boots.

  4. Josh says:

    Does anyone know where you can still purchase Sierra Sole green jungles? I had some when I was in and they were awesome!

  5. Rob says:

    Good read! Had a pair of Green Altima Jungles that I picked up in the mid 90’s and wore for 10 years, must had hundreds of miles on ’em…they are still hiding around here somewhere and are like slippers now!

  6. AJ says:

    I would search the surplus stores in Fayetteville high and low for the issue OD boots when I was at Bragg, loved them. When I first wore a pair to formation, I didn’t put any polish on the raw leather at the front. I quickly learned a new definition of “racing stripes” from my squad leader, while I was in the front leaning rest of course.

  7. Strike-Hold says:

    BATES showed off a modernized version of the Jungle Boot at SHOT Show this year too: http://www.strikehold.net/2013/01/16/shot-show-2013-day-1/

    I don’t see them listed on their website yet though.

  8. Stuart Neilson says:

    I had British issue jungle boots issued in Hong Kong. They were similar in design but had British DPM soles and the leather part was dimpled.

    They also came in wide fittings which I needed. All the American boots Inever tried on we’re too narrow.

    My current boots of choice are Lowa Jungle boots. I’ll be looking at the Altberg Jungle boots which are made in the new MOD brown.

  9. Sal Palma says:

    “Boot, Combat, Tropical, Mildew Resistant” one each

  10. fmfbest says:

    At a federal surplus warehouse I recently saw a full 4x4x4 crate of brand new jungles with the tag still in the laces. Took me back but my feet don’t miss them. They were cool to have back then only because there were no better options. Green 550 laces with a dog tag in them was the salty way to roll.

  11. maresdesign says:

    I was issued a green pair back in the late 80’s. Humping an ol’ Alice with the 82nd made my feet super-calloused – I could walk on glass! It was back when you adapted your feet to the boot, now its the other way around. Boots have sure come a long way, and for good reason.

  12. majrod says:

    GREAT ARTICLE!!!! What a blast from the past!

    I must have been issued/wore about a dozen pair. Great for the field, horrible for road foot marches or the cold. I even remember dying a pair when black was mandated. Dumb…

  13. Riceball says:

    I was issued a pair of the black ones in boot camp when I was in the Corps during the 90s and we never used them for the field, they were our every day wear around MCRD boot while our all leather boots were kept shined for use during final drill and in the field. Once I got out of boot camp I don’t think that I ever wore them in the field or even in garrison, I always just wore my “Caddies” on drill weekends whether it was a garrison weekend or field weekend. If I wanted a lighter boot I had a pair of Bates lites for that.

  14. deadhorse says:

    Back in ’93 while at Sill I came across a huge box full of them while I was turning in old office furniture at the DRMO. I asked the old Vet working there if I could have a pair and his response was “No, not for sale” and then I got smart – “How about if I replace a pair with some black jungle boots?”. He said “okay” so I ran straight over to Clothing & Sales and UCDPP’d two pairs of brand new black jungle boots and went back and got the two best pairs I could find in the box. lol

    I rocked them the rest of my career for as long as I could until they were finally “outlawed”…..even after a Warrant told me not to wear them during winter in Germany or even after a DS told me to quit wearing them around his IETers cause they wanted to lace their boots with 550 cord as well. lol

    I still have one pair today after many, many resoles. 🙂

  15. This guy says:

    Issue Green Jungles were the best. I’d gladly wear them tomorrow if Uncle Sugar would let me.

  16. MattF says:

    Great article SSD!

    Don’t forget about the importance of the Saran Insole either though. While not providing much cushioning or shock protection, those were worth their weight in gold in terms of allowing air circulation under the foot to help prevent Tropical Immersion Foot, aka ‘Paddy Foot’.

  17. Angry Mike says:

    When we were in Vicenza in the 80’s we had brown goretex jungle-patterned boots. Damned if they didn’t quit issuing them or even buying them anymore.

    I tried for a year to get some more out of clothing sales or our Bn PBO, but no joy.

    What a shame. And we wore our jungle boots from Vicenza up to GE for annual jumps and training. Those were some good days and some that could of been a do-over.

  18. Matt says:

    Who would think that an article about old boots would call up so much nostalgia? I was issued my first pair in a Reserve SF unit and I wore them ’til they were pale green and the soles almost flat. I have a new, never used pair in the footlocker in the basement. I also have the black jungles and the desert version…but they are just not the same! Great article, Thanks!

  19. Pencari says:

    The Panama sole version of the US boots remain the best jungle boot manufactured to date. Up to 2 years ago all our Instructors at the British Jungle Warfare and Combat Tracking School in Borneo swore by them! We trialed many different designs and sole patterns and witnessed many students ‘sliding’ down muddy jungle slopes wearing inappropriate so called ‘Jungle Boots’, we always came back to the excellent design of the Panama sole. Still worn by all of PENCARI’s instructors now whenever we deliver any of our Hostile Environment Training (Jungle). Great article

  20. JC says:

    The memories…I too remember scooping up a pair of them in either ’96 or ’97 at the cash sales store down at SOI. Word spread like wildfire that the store was selling jungles for $15 bucks, and that they were tagged with a ’70s inspection dates.

    I rocked those bad boys for forever at Pendleton, and yeah, they did wear better at the back seam of the leather and nylon.

  21. Freeman says:

    I have a 1968 dated pair in my closet!