November 17, 2013

Boots on the Ground, Russian and American

Smith & Wesson Breach boots
In 2007 I wrote an unexpectedly popular post about the Russian military moving away from the old two-sizes-fit-all pull-on boots—with foot cloths. (In Soviet Russia, boots wear you.)

Strategy Page recently summarized combat boot developments among both Russian infantry and Americans in Afghanistan.
Most Russians are also unfamiliar with the foot wrappings (“portyanki”) that soldiers were still taught to use. For portyanki to work the user has to wrap their feet just so before slipping the foot into the “tarpaulin” boots. If you did not do the wrapping correctly some of your flesh would be exposed to the rough inside surface of these canvas boots. This usually leads to debilitating blisters.
The old-fashioned boots were widely disliked by most of the troops forced to use them. The number of older officers who still favored this 19th century footwear are also fading away. So the portyanki and valenki are officially gone this year, along with the old canvas boots that only came in two sizes.
Meanwhile, the American military has modified its boots too:
Over the last decade the army and marines have changed their attitudes towards combat boots. Instead of trying to design boots themselves, the military has recognized the superior design of commercial boots created for hikers, mountain climbers, and outdoor activists in general. This has resulted in a new generation of combat boots that are more durable, and comfortable, than earlier generations of combat footwear. Many troops in the Russian military, especially the career officers and troops, noticed this trend as well and were able to keep up with developments via the Internet. 
As an example, here is a boot review from Chris Hernandez, who served in Afghanistan, discussing Smith & Wesson Breach Athletic Boots:
You need to know if [your boots are] going to lose shape and look like clown shoes within weeks, as my boots from a very popular company did back in the 90’s. You need to know if they’re going to weigh a ton each, like those horrible speedlace boots I was issued in the Marine Corps in 89. You need to know if, like my Danners at Fort Lewis, they’re going to keep your feet all warm and toasty while your footsoaked, freezing, miserable friends mutter curses at you (I still have wet dreams about those boots). You need to know if the soles are going to be worn so smooth after less than six months in Afghanistan, like my issue “desert jungle boots”, that your French buddy asks, “Chrees, did you walk through ze acid in zose boots?” 
Not to mention that there is a military boots blog.  What would Marshall Timoshenko say, were he alive?

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