You’d be forgiven for thinking a combat boot would cover every scenario a soldier would face, but for personnel that serve on tanks or other tracked vehicles, boots need a complete redesign.
Tank crews have a unique job, and their tanker boots are designed to make working in a confined space safer and more comfortable. But what are tanker boots? Is this unique boot really necessary?
What are Tanker Boots?
Tanker boots were explicitly designed with tank crews in mind because, unlike many branches of the armed forces, those serving on tanks have very unique requirements.
Being in a tank during active service is a particularly dangerous job, and the equipment needed, the boots in particular, differ from most combat boots.
History of Tanker Boots
The history of tanker boots is unique; it’s rare that a new style of boot evolves so quickly to fulfill a need. Take cowboy boots, for example: a design that developed over time, with bootmakers seeing what was available and then adapting to the environment. It’s not hard to see the Wellington boot or riding boot in the shape of a cowboy boot.
With tanker boots, the evolution happened much more quickly thanks to the rapid development of tanks after the First World War. Once nations saw the benefits of having a mobile, mechanized army, tank research and development went into overdrive.
By the late 1930s, it became clear that tank crews needed equipment better suited to working inside tanks. As crews spent more and more time inside their vehicles, they discovered that their boots just weren’t up to the job.
A solution was needed to address the tank crew’s needs, and none other than General George S. Patton Jr. stepped up to see that boots issued to soldiers working inside tanks met their needs.
Thanks to an early career in the U.S Cavalry, “Old Blood and Guts,” as the wildly popular General was nicknamed, Patton understood the need for soldiers’ equipment to be up to the job.
Working with Dehner, a Nebraska-based boot manufacturer that General Patton knew from his cavalry days, the tanker boot was born out of the need for a military boot that suited the environment of a tank.
Once I go over the design specs of a tanker boot, you’ll see just what a great job the legendary George S. Patton Jr. did of listening to the service members who were desperate for the perfect tanker boot. The features needed on tanker boots were put together by actual tank crews, and it shows; they’re the perfect example of need, intent, determination, and resolution of a problem.
Fastening with a Leather Strap Prevents Accidents
Working in cramped conditions, surrounded by machinery, boots with laces can get caught up in the moving parts of the tank. At best, that means a soldier trips or cracks their shin; at worst, it could drag them into moving machinery or prevent them from operating the tank correctly.
In a training exercise, such an issue would be annoying, but in a real battle, it could prove fatal. Tanker boots negate this issue by fastening up with leather straps. Rather than lacing up, a tanker boot buckles up.
The 1937 design created by Dehner and General Patton is still in use today. While modern tanks may be technologically superior to World War Two tanks, preventing a soldier from getting tangled up is critical to them being able to function properly.
Taking off Tanker Boots to Clean Them
There’s nothing more impressive looking than a Sherman tank plowing through mud that would stop a mountain goat in its tracks. And given the size and weight of a tank, it doesn’t take long to make enough mud to fill a swimming pool.
While it’s impressive to see, it’s a nightmare to clean off, and a tank crew will often have to climb down into the mud to move away from the tank. Combat boots would immediately get caked in mud, and to be fair, so do tanker boots.
Unlike lace-up combat boots, a tanker boot can be easily unbuckled and removed. Thanks to the lack of eyelets, hooks, and laces, they’re much easier to clean off. You might think I’m reaching for a benefit here, but where there’s a tank, there’s mud. Lots of mud.
Imagine walking out of work into two feet of sludge every single day and having to clean your boots. The army likes soldiers with clean boots, and the excuse that it’s your tanks fault for making your life a muddy hell just doesn’t cut it.
Tanker Boots can be Quickly Put on or Removed
This design benefit isn’t about soldiers being able to get dressed quickly in the morning; it’s all about safety. A World War Two tank had the annoying habit of setting on fire when hit by enemy shells, and with the flammable fuel or the oil used on the internal machinery being dangerously close to the tank crews, fires were a constant danger.
The risk of flammable liquid getting onto tanker boots was very real, as was the need for the crews to be able to quickly evacuate if they needed to. While leather will protect feet for a while, tanker boots are loose enough to remove swiftly in case of emergencies. The leather straps won’t melt like laces would either, which would lock your boots onto your feet.
Even modern tanks bring a higher risk than a soldier would typically see, with chemicals and fuel making a tank a dangerous place to be. Wearing tanker boots, you can evacuate and remove your boots much easier than if you were to try untying your boots.
A Looser Fit Increases Circulation
Sitting for hours, sometimes days at a time, your circulation can be affected, especially when wearing tight combat boots. Standard issue combat boots are great when you’re on the march; they’re much better than tanker boots as they offer much better ankle support.
But for personnel staying put for hours at a time, the looser-fitting tanker boot excels. Tank crews in the Gulf War were reported to have been at their stations for as long as 100 hours at a time, an incredible feat of endurance.
Do tanker boots have a steel toe?
Many tanker boots come with a steel toe as standard, and there are options available if you prefer a boot with steel, soft toe, or composite toe. The TankerPro boot by Nick’s is a custom configured boot that comes in either a soft toe, Celastic toe, composite, or steel toe.
Tanker Boots Pros
- Leather strap fastenings offer additional safety around machinery.
- Wrap-around straps look great; tanker boots can be fashionable as well as functional.
- Leather construction is beneficial for keeping harmful chemicals and oils away from your skin.
- Incredibly comfortable, especially in prone positions.
- Easy to clean.
- Waterproof, thanks to an inbuilt tongue that reduces water access.
- Perfect for their role, tank personnel must find them incredibly useful.
Tanker Boots Cons
- Inferior ankle support; the tanker isn’t suitable for walking on rough terrain.
- Looser fit, they don’t fall off your feet but can feel unusual to wear for a while.
- Not a standard uniform boot; if you’re a soldier that finds these comfortable, you’ll still need the standard issue combat boots too.
- Unique boots usually cost more, and the tanker boot is no exception.
- Superb benefits are only superb if you work on a tank crew. Otherwise, they’re pointless, you can wear the tanker as a work boot, but it’s an expensive work boot with no ankle support.
My Top Picks for Tanker Boots
With an impressive 12 customizable options for the Nicks TankerPro, you can create one of the most comfortable pairs of boots you’ll ever own. As well as being a good-looking boot, the Tanker Pro is ideal for those in the Armed Forces who work on tanks or other tracked vehicles.
With all of the features you’d expect of a tanker boot, such as the wrap-around leather straps and looser fit, Nicks have also used more modern materials to add even further comfort and utility.
Manufactured with a Vibram sole and offering incredible arch support, the TankerPro boot, once it has molded to your foot shape, can eventually feel like you’re wearing big fluffy slippers; if your slippers were waterproof, chemical resistant, and made of leather that is.
For me, one of the best customizable options is the choice of the toe; you can go for a standard soft toe, which is ideal if you just like the look of tanker boots and want to wear them as a casual boot. For those in the military, or for wearing tanker boots as a work boot, the steel toe, composite toe, even a Celastic toe is available.
An 8” or 10” shaft height is available too, though tanker boots are less rigid around the shaft and ankle area due to a lack of laces. The support is never going to be as good as a standard work boot. The added height does protect more of your leg from chemical spills though.
Corcoran Tanker Boot
The Corcoran Coyote Tanker, a U.S manufactured boot by Carolina, is a 10”, tan-colored tanker boot that’s been approved by the United States Army.
The stamp of approval doesn’t get much better than that, and this tanker boot is ideal for anyone who works on tanks, even those with wide feet, as the Coyote Tanker is also available in EE sizes.
Carolina have dispensed with any frills, customization, or color choices; this is an army boot, there are many like it, but this one is yours, as the saying goes. What you get with the Coyote Tanker is a hard-wearing, unlined, comfortable tanker boot.
The 10” shaft, and the internal ankle support, tries to help with one of the main issues with tanker boots; the lack of ankle support can be a problem when they’re worn as a standard work or military boot.
Using a Garrison Army Munson Last, which is basically the shape of the mold used to make the inside of the boot, the Coyote Tanker is spacious and comfortable, which is ideal for a tanker boot where circulation and comfort are paramount.
The tanker boot is one of the most specialized boots around, it’s hard to think of another boot that’s so clearly designed for a specific niche. I’m a big fan of the look of tanker boots, and I was incredibly impressed with the customization available on the Nick’s TankerPro boot.
While the target audience is obviously small, I can see the tanker boot being a great boot for casual wear, or as a work boot where you’re on your feet all day. If your job involves a lot of kneeling down, the leather straps are much more flexible and comfortable when bending your feet.
Are tanker boots good?
Tanker boots are an essential tool if you’re a soldier serving in an armored division, but even if you’re just wearing them as a work or casual boot, tanker boots are an excellent choice. They’re comfortable, flexible, they allow your feet to breathe and help with circulation, and they offer great protection from injury.
Are tanker boots waterproof?
Tanker boots have a taller shaft and a tongue that’s made from extending the leather from the upper. The tongue also reaches almost to the top of the boot, and due to the fact that there’s no break in the leather, tanker boots are very resistant to letting water in.
While not totally waterproof, you could walk through water, and as long as the waterline is below the top of the boot, your feet should remain dry.
Are tanker boots authorized?
While certain brands of tanker boots, such as the Corocoran Coyote Tanker boot, are approved by the U.S military, and tanker boots are worn by tank crews, it is at the discretion of a unit commander whether they can be worn for other duties. In an inspection or parade, tanker boots will stand out as very different, so may not be allowed outside of a tank.