U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: April 5, 2002
Marines get booted
Natick, Mass. -- Whether in the Sahara or Amazon, the Improved Jungle-Desert Boot functions in both climates with more protection and comfort while saving cost and storage of two kinds of boots.
The new boot, developed at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick), was designed to replace existing black jungle boots and tan desert boots with a single advanced design, and the Marine Corps will begin fielding them at recruit depots in May.
"Marine Corps leadership wondered why they should have two separate boots," said Michael Holthe, project officer with the Customer Support Team at Natick. "They wanted to have one improved design. Ultimately, we have a more universal boot with improved safety and comfort for Marines."
Jungle boots have gone through minor design changes since they were introduced in the 1960s and issued to troops in Vietnam. Smooth black leather at the bottom joined a thin, unlined green or black nylon upper half that is reinforced with an extra layer around the ankle. Two steel side-by-side screened eyelets on the inner part near the arch assist in draining water that fills the boots from inevitable pond or river crossings.
The distinctive black sole uses a self-cleaning tread with sharp outer edges leading to a smoother center portion. To prevent foot injury from bamboo traps in Southeast Asia, a thin steel plate was placed inside the sole for puncture protection.
On the other hand, desert boots were introduced during Operation Desert Shield in response to the massive deployment of troops in the Persian Gulf.
The tan boots are composed of suede leather on the bottom with tan nylon on top reinforced by the ankle. A CoolMax liner helps wick moisture away from the skin. Eyelets are excluded to keep sand out, and the steel plate stayed out because troops complained that the jungle boot's plates conducted heat. Desert boots have a tan rubber sole instead of black, but both have the same tread pattern.
Holthe said the Improved Jungle-Desert Boot was a part of the over all changes to the Marine Corps desert and woodland camouflage uniforms.
The improved boot is made with nylon and rough-side-out leather that can't be shined. The olive mojave color was chosen with care: It increases concealment by reducing the signature.
"The Marine Corps wanted to get away from black because it's an unnatural color. With night vision goggles, these tans are virtually invisible while black boots glow," Holthe said. "The shade fits in with the new uniform. It's green enough that it doesn't stick out in a jungle environment."
Drainage eyelets from the jungle boots remain except that they have a finer screen to block sand while still being able to pump out water. Leather reinforces the ankles instead of nylon, and the CoolMax liner from the desert boots is included.
The Vibram outsole has a more common yet aggressive tread design that's now attached to a new shock-absorbing, cushioning polyether polyurethane midsole used in the Marine Infantry Combat Boot. Jungle and desert boots use only a durable rubber outsole.
"It's a lot more comfortable to walk and run in, but it's not designed to just be comfy. Studies have shown that boots with this midsole reduce the incidence of lower-extremity injuries," Holthe said. "We're seeing an 80-85 percent approval rating from user evaluations, so we're happy about it."
He said puncture protection was still important, so a steel plate is sandwiched in the midsole between pieces of fiberboard. It's far enough away from the feet to avoid heat build-up. Inside, black padded removable insoles are standard equipment.
Four prototypes were evaluated by Marines across the country in North Carolina and California, and around the world in locations such as Japan, Peru and the Saudi Peninsula before the final boot design was selected. Further evaluation took place at Camp Lajeune and Twentynine Palms before the decision was made to start fielding.
Another reason the hybrid boot works well is because most of the user population doesn't need a specific boot, Holthe said. The Army will continue to issue and authorize separate desert and jungle boots.
One final touch leaves no doubt about the intended customer. Branded into the leather near the outer heel is the Marine Corps logo-an eagle, globe and anchor.
Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.
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