U.S. Army equipment officials are testing prototypes of an improved combat boot that includes features from the service's recent attempt to field a new Jungle Combat Boot.
The Army has been experimenting with different boot designs to make the current Army Combat Boot lighter and more flexible for more than a year now.
"There are new material technologies that we are leveraging to ensure that, one, you've got a lighter boot, and two, you decreased the break-in time -- improved comfort, flexibility so there are multiple things," Lt. Col. Jonathan Allen, product manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said recently. He made the remarks while briefing James McPherson, acting under secretary of the Army, on plans for the improved Army Combat Boot and other current efforts to improve soldier uniform and equipment items.
This is not the first effort to improve soldier boots the Army has undertaken in recent years.
In early January, Army officials at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center found that about half of 14,000 surveyed soldiers said they would rather purchase commercially made combat boots that are lighter, more flexible and require less break-in time than traditional combat boots.
The Army tested prototypes made by Altama, Belleville Boot Company and McRae Footwear and issued them to new soldiers in Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Since then, Army uniform officials have begun testing three newer prototypes -- again made by Altama, Belleville Boot Company and McRae Footwear -- in Soldier Touch Point evaluations, Allen said. The three prototypes contain some of the features from a recent effort to develop a new Jungle Combat Boot.
The Army began working on the jungle boot effort in late 2016, when service senior leadership directed uniform officials to test new designs. The aim was to improve on the Vietnam War-style boots that soldiers and Marines wore into the mid-2000s, before the services transitioned to the desert-style boot.
That test effort involved about 10,000 boots from five different boot companies. The companies produced two different design versions that were evaluated by soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division in 2017 and 2018.
In August the Army told Military.com the service decided not to field a new jungle boot and instead gave soldiers the option to purchase them in Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) military clothing sales stores.
Army uniform officials said the three new prototypes for the "Army Combat Boot-Improved" adopted some of the features of the Jungle Combat Boot effort, such as lighter materials and perforated panels that allow water to drain out when walking.
The boots also feature different thicknesses in the toe cap to reduce weight. There is one model with a padded collar, one without a padded collar and one without a padded collar and a pull tab loop to make them easier to pull on.
"I have been wearing a pair for about a month, and they are the most comfortable boots I have ever put on," Capt. Jason Galletta, assistant product manager for Environmental Clothing and Footwear, said.
The timeline for the Army Combat Boot-Improved is still uncertain, but Allen said the Army Uniform Board will have to make a recommendation to the Army senior leadership for approval before anything is fielded.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.