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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: March 20, 2001
No: 01-19

Changes to Boots

NATICK, Mass. -- A removable insulation liner and softer, more flexible mid-sole are two major changes in store when the Army's improved intermediate cold/wet boot becomes available in May.

The first version of the boot was fielded in the early 1990s, filling the void between the standard-issue leather combat boots, which offer minimal performance in cold and damp conditions, and extreme cold weather vapor barrier boots, which lock out the cold and wet with their rubber-enclosed air chambers but don't breathe.

The current 10-inch-high intermediate cold/wet boot provides a compromise for dismounted soldiers operating in cold, wet environments where the average temperature is 10 below zero to 40 degrees F. However, the comfort level changes when the inside becomes soggy.

"The insulation was built into the boot itself, but what would happen is that the inside would get soaked if water went over the top of the boot or sometimes sweat could build up," said Chris Palmer, project officer for military footwear at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick). "When the insulation gets wet, it's useless."

Soldiers depended on extra pairs of boots to change into while their wet boots dried. They also used boot driers to speed the process. Both are an extra expense and inefficient.

The blueprint for an intermediate boot came from the commercial market, but the product improvement program at Product Manager-Soldier Equipment found none of the currently available boots have removable liners.

Military-specification leather that's highly water-resistant and breathable bonded with Gore-Tex lining still comprises the boot's upper. Now the 200-gram insulation liner can be pulled out and exchanged with a dry one if it gets wet, allowing soldiers to continue wearing the same boot. Instead of issuing two or three pairs of boots, they'll have two or three washable liners.

"You can still wear the boot without the liner, but it won't fit right," Palmer said. "Two liners come with the boot, but more will be available if necessary."

The boot tongue also is upgraded with the more breathable leather. A rugged, aggressive-tread Vibram vulcanized rubber outer-sole stays with the improved model, but instead of using rubber, the new boot is made with a softer polyurethane mid-sole.

"It's especially important when it's cold because the previous mid-sole materials stiffen," Palmer said. "The flexible forefoot should mean less rubbing and blisters at the heel. It doesn't change as much in cold weather, and it's easier to walk in, especially going uphill."

Cushioning from the polyurethane has proven effective. A study with recruits in Fort Jackson, S.C., using boots with the same outer-sole and mid-sole construction showed a 30 percent reduction of lower extremity injuries.

The boots were tested in Alaska and at the Mountain Warfare School in Vermont. Troops found them highly acceptable, with the boot staying much drier and warmer. In Alaska, soldiers reported that the removable liner took six hours to dry.

Both items will be available until the stock of the current intermediate cold/wet boots is depleted. More changes are planned for a future model. Palmer said the next generation of the boots will incorporate new sole technology that's lighter.

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