Before deploying to Iraq I was issued some additional gear as part of the Army’s Rapid Fielding Initiative. This was an effort by the Army to supply items that many soldiers had been purchasing out of pocket. Part of this issue was two pair of boots from a well-known footwear company with large government contracts.
One pair of boots were hot-weather desert boots. These boots were constructed with such an excessive amount of material in the tongue that when the laces were tightened the tongue bunched at the front of the ankle and within several steps became unbearably painful. Many soldiers who were not overweight complained of the same problem. I brought these boots back from Iraq unworn.
The other pair of boots were desert ICW (intermediate cold weather) boots. These boots fit reasonably well once I tried several pairs on to find the size that fit. These boots were waterproof and warm. They also had a serious problem. When the weather was hot, they seemed normal, but when it became cool, the soles became very hard. This seems like an insignificant problem, but when temperatures dropped to the 50s and below, those boots on pavement sounded like horses on cobblestones. Even when making a serious effort to move silently, especially in courtyards and houses, I found that the smallest amount of sand made loud crunching sounds between the soles and the floor. I wore these boots on mounted patrols and missions where stealth was not such an issue, but I spent some cold nights laying on rooftops in the city in my standard issue desert boots. Sometimes my feet became wet with the sewer water I had to wade through on my way into the city. I sure could have used a good pair of boots.
Shortly after I returned from Iraq I was contacted by Grady Burrell, the Military Liaison for Wellco Boots. He sent me two pair of Wellco boots to test. The first thing I noticed upon receiving the boots was that the size that was supposed to fit me did. Perfectly. Why can’t other boot manufacturers figure this out? They also looked to be very well made.
The first pair is Wellco’s X-Force Lightweight Tactical Boot. This boot is designed to be extremely comfortable like shoes, yet offer the support and durability of a rugged pair of boots. I have to say that Wellco succeeded in accomplishing this goal. The boots have well-constructed speed laces with one set of locking eyelets between the top of the foot and the leg. At first I was pretty sure I would not like these boots since I had always preferred speed laces all the way up. Once I wore them, however, I immediately recognized the value of this design. The boots can be tightened to the foot and to the leg independently of each other for a very comfortable fit that does not change during wear. These are by far the best looking and wearing combat-type boots I have ever owned.
The second pair is Wellco’s tan desert combat boot. These boots look very similar to many other desert combat boots, but the fit and construction is excellent. They have eyelets on the foot and speed lace eyelets from the ankle up. The tread pattern works well. Both pair of boots are priced well below what Wellco’s competitors’ boots are priced at. Unfortunately some companies are capitalizing on soldiers’ desire for quality equipment and charging astronomical prices. I have seen soldiers spend almost $400 on other brands of boots. On the other hand, it seems that Wellco is refusing to rip off our troops. Most of Wellco’s combat boots are in the $85 – $140 range. Some of the duty and work boots and shoes are even less expensive.
I have now been wearing both pair of boots daily for two years. The only time I have worn anything else is when I am outside for extended periods of time in extreme cold. I have not put the X Force boots through much hard use because I generally wear them when I want something that looks nice. On the other hand, I have thoroughly abused the desert combat boots.
I had been wearing these boots for several months before I put them through their first real test. In October of that year I had a registration permit for a bull moose in a nearby high valley. Access is very difficult and most people who hunt that area do so from horses. I attempted to enter the valley from an alternate route through a pass in the upper end of the valley where there would be few other hunters. I spent a day and a half fighting my way in by four-wheeler to the point at which I would have to walk through the pass. After reaching the pass, I found that the terrain was to rough for packing a moose out on foot. I had to turn around and fight my way back out. The entire trip took place in a nonstop rain that often changed to a wet snow. I rode through deep puddles and waded through wet snow and mud with a frozen crust. Through all of that my feet stayed dry and warm, and from sea level to well above the tree line, both riding and walking, the Wellco boots were never uncomfortable.
I have waded many creeks in these boots when fishing and they held up and they do not feel uncomfortable when wet, as many boots do. I have worn them day after day wading in salt water, slough mud, and wet snow. I have crossed knee-deep creeks and reached the other side with dry feet. (I tie my boots with the Cavalry Scout method of wrapping the laces around the top of the boot to hold it tight against my leg.) Of course, the dry feet don’t last long afterward, since socks have a habit of wicking the moisture from wet pants right down into the boots.
On several hunts I have been the only one left with dry feet, or the only one without blisters from rubber boots worn to keep dry feet. I have walked in these boots in the forests, on the beaches, climbing mountains, in all types of weather and have always been pleased with their performance.
As a final test, I wore the Wellco boots on a small blasting job that I did in the village of Unalakleet. Climbing around on shot rock is the quickest way to kill a pair of boots. The rock carves up the soles and cuts the leather apart. I finished that job, went on a caribou hunt and brushed the dust and grease off crawling miles over the tundra, and I couldn’t tell that they had ever been worn on a job.
Should I ever find myself in Iraq again, Wellco boots will be on my feet. I am very pleased with the quality, comfort, and looks of Wellco boots and I have the feeling I will be wearing them for a long time.
Wellco manufactures combat boots, law enforcement uniform boots, work boots, and specialty boots such as EOD and land mine protective boots, slip-on crime scene and EMS boots, and others. Especially interesting are their safety toe work shoes that are styled after popular tennis shoes. I have worked on several jobs with employees who insisted on wearing tennis shoes despite company policy and plain common sense. These shoes could potentially keep an employer out of a lot of trouble. Wellco was also chosen by Smith & Wesson to manufacture their M&P line of duty boots.
Visit Wellco’s website at http://www.wellco.com/