Blauer - Tactical Clothing & Equipment

Insulated Police Boots: More Than Just A Tactical Need

Insulated Police Boots from Blauer

Think about the last time you had to stand outside at a call for a long time when it was cold out.  Breath steaming in the air, face going a little bit numb from the wind perhaps, and overall just feeling like inside would be a much better place to be, right?

Most of us are pretty good about bundling up for this type of thing, but there’s one critical area that we often overlook: our feet.  Sure, gloves go on the instant we sense that our hands are getting cold, but it’s much harder to “layer up” your toes, which makes it something you need to seriously think about before your shift if there’s a chance that you’ll be outside for any length of time.

Socks Are A Start
We tend to think of keeping our feet warm in terms of the socks we chose, and it’s accurate to say that those are a good start.  A well-made pair of wool socks, for instance, will go a long way towards preventing heat loss and reducing the chance that you’ll get frostbite and lose digits (everyone wants to be able to do a full rendition of “this little piggie went to market” throughout their lives,) but it’s not the only thing that you need to consider by a long shot.

Just like you wouldn’t wear a light jacket over a sweater when it’s -10 out, it’s important to think of your boots as the outermost, and most important, layer of protection that your feet have against the cold – and that, as a result, a breathable summer-type boot or even one with regular leather just isn’t going to cut the mustard when it comes to providing the best possible assurance that you’re not going to have to spend hours trying to get circulation back into your feet after work.  The best you’re going to get when it comes to that is a pair of waterproof insulated boots, for a few reasons that we’ll discuss below.

Types of Heat Loss
There are four different ways that your body loses heat.  Addressing all of them is the key to keeping yourself warm – because allowing even one means of loss to remain in place can negate having taken care of the others.  Let’s go through them one by one as it relates to your feet:

  1. Evaporation: one of the primary ways that your body cools itself is through sweating and the cooling effect that its evaporation has on your body. Since your feet sweat quite a lot (in most cases), having exposure to cold can make the problem of heat loss much worse – a breathable shoe will not only allow for higher evaporation rates, but will also let cold wind directly get to your feet, which brings us to #2.
  2. Radiation: no, not the A-bomb type, but rather the inherent loss of your body’s heat to the outside air, which typically happens at temperatures below 68 degrees F – much warmer than most people might think. Here again, having a lightweight breathable tactical boot, or one that simply has leather between your foot and the environment, is a no-go because it won’t keep the heat in your body adequately, even with the proper socks (which are designed to wick moisture away, not primarily to keep heat in on their own.)
  3. Conduction: Asphalt is cold. Really, really cold.  Touch your hand to it sometime when you’re outside if you don’t believe me.  The same is true of concrete, or pretty much any man-made road or sidewalk material, including gravel.  We’ve pretty much all experienced this when it comes to standing outside on a traffic assignment, and it’s not something to be taken lightly: heat moves away from your body just as well through your soles as it does the tops of your feet, and there’s nothing worse than stiff, cold feet when it comes to suddenly having to run after someone.  This is also true for stepping in puddles, by the way: water is a great conductor of heat.
  4. Convection: This one relates to air movement, for the most part, and also connects to the wind blowing through ventilation mesh in lightweight boots, but also has to do with evaporation: if your feet are sweaty, and the wind can get to them, boom – increased convection loss.

Insulate Thy Boots
There’s only one adequate solution which blocks all four of these problems – your boots need to be both waterproof and insulated.  Thankfully, due to modern advances in technology (go Science), that no longer means that your feet will be encased in rubber sweat chambers and die of asphyxiation: membrane fabrics such as Blauer’s B.DRY and GORE-TEX allow the movement of air outwards, without letting either water or wind enter from the outside.

While shorter boots are available, it’s generally best to get an 8” insulated boot as a minimum height to help protect against puddles and slush that you most likely will have to step through at some point outside.  You also want to look for boots that have brand-name insulation such as Thinsulate™, because those materials have been independently tested and vetted to match their claimed performance when it comes to retaining heat – sometimes no-name insulation may not be created or distributed evenly, resulting in “cold spots” which can cause frostbite in patches.

Other things to consider: the waterproof performance should include the leather itself as well as any membrane used inside the boot.  While leather as a concept is usually waterproof, materials like suede leather may absorb water and pass it through if not properly created and treated, so it’s important that you know that all materials are rated for waterproof performance.  The same is true for any other materials used in the boot, like nylon or stretch fabrics – one point of failure can compromise the entire protection value that it provides.

You also want to make sure that the outsole of the boot can provide grip in slippery conditions: traditional military-style boots often have a hard rubber outsole, and the harder the outsole, the more it will slide around when foot meets ice.  Ideally you’d want to find a boot which has an outsole design like those that Blauer uses: a hybrid traction outsole which marries a self-cleaning design with rubber formulated to provide grip without prematurely breaking down due to wear.

In the end, protecting your feet against the cold and wet is just as important as protecting any other part of your body when it comes to preventing hypothermia, frostbite, and other nasty consequences of the fact that, no matter how much we might want to go back inside, sometimes the nature of our work will require that we stay outside, in the cold, for extended periods of time.  Choosing the right boots can make a big difference in your overall well-being, so choose wisely, and prepare ahead of time for whatever the weather might choose to throw your way.

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