Final combat boot test results revealed

By Brad Jessmer: Air Force Uniform Office Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The results from the test of a prototype Airman Battle Uniform stain-resistant boot for wear in industrial environments have been released. These results are based on testing that concluded in October 2009.

The wear test choice is a full-grain leather boot, that incorporates a rubber toe and heal cap that resists staining and increases durability.

In 2008, the Air Force Uniform Office here began investigating various options for increasing the stain-resistant properties of the current issue suede ABU combat boots. The first test of a stain-resistant boot was unsuccessful in meeting the needs of airmen. As a result, AFUO officials conducted a follow-on test with different materials. This follow-on wear and lab testing provided the research and development project team with data to make the best selection for acceptable stain-resistant ABU combat boots.

“The latest test boots have smooth leather, like the old black boots,” said Richard Keefer, AFUO chief. “The intent was to try a boot that is easy to clean, will not stain and hides scuffs and wear from industrial use.”

In late August 2009, AFUO testers outfitted airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., for a large-scale boot wear test of various options to increase boot stain resistance. Four different boot manufacturers provided sage green, full-grain leather boots for the wear test. These configurations were:

• “Style A” — A hot weather, safety-toe boot construction with full-grain, smooth sage green leather.

• “Style B” — A temperate weather boot constructed with full-grain, smooth sage green leather. This test boot was the only non-safety toe boot included in the wear test. This boot was only tested on airmen in non-flight line, non-industrial work environments that did not require a safety toe.

• “Style C” — A hot weather, safety-toe boot constructed with full-grain, smooth sage green leather. The heel and toe areas of the boot had rubber reinforcements that are also sage green in color.

• “Style D” — A temperate weather, safety-toe construction with full-grain, smooth sage green leather.

According to 1st Lt. Ashley Hawkes, an AFUO project officer, 200 airmen participated in this wear test, selected primarily by Air Force Specialty Code. Participants included members working primarily in the maintenance, medical and civil engineering career fields.

To accomplish the outfitting of wear-test boots, a team of military, Department of Defense civilians and contractors traveled to Luke AFB to distribute the boots for the wear test. Airmen here also participated in the wear test.

During the outfitting, airmen attended a briefing that detailed their responsibilities and how to choose a properly fitting boot.

Participants wore the boots for a 45-day wear test. They provided feedback via two wear/comment logs, a final survey and focus group attendance at Luke AFB. Test officials collected, reviewed and analyzed participants’ test feedback. In addition, an independent laboratory in San Antonio tested, analyzed and rated the boots for stain resistance.

Feedback from participants varied depending upon which boot configuration they wore. The most common concern that maintenance airmen had for each prototype boot was poor traction.

After weeks of testing, the overall choice was a boot configuration that included a rubber heel and toe cap, with the only issues being the boot’s weight, breathability and traction. User feedback and lab testing prompted AFUO officials to recommend adoption of the sage green, full-grain leather boot with rubber heel and toe reinforcements. The requirement will be for this maintenance specialty boot to be designed with a lighter weight, improved breathability and a better sole.

“It’s vital for airmen to have equipment that, first and foremost, enables them to stay mission focused,” said Maj. Darien Hammett, 648th Aeronautical Systems Squadron commander. “These boots will provide functionality while also maintaining a professional appearance. It’s a great example of senior leadership responding to feedback from the field.”