Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ordering Tactical Boots on the Internet - Boot Week

Although great deals on tactical footwear can be found online, choosing the right size is often a gamble. Dissatisfaction with boot sizing is probably THE #1 complaint when ordering boots from Internet vendors!

To avoid disappointment when ordering from that great discount site you came across, here are some tips on selecting the right size:

1) Try the boots themselves on in person. This is the no-brainer way to go to avoid the most hassle. If you're lucky, a teammate has the exact same boots you want, and you can try his on to get an idea of what size you might need. If he's a 10.5, and they're just a little tight, you'll know to order a size 11. But if no one you know has the boots you want, you'll have to go to a local army surplus or police supply store to see if they have them, and try them on there. Once you've found the size you're comfortable with, keep it in mind for when you go home and order.

But don't leave the store just yet! I recommend printing the site listing for the boot you want, showing the low price. If the store is a small business, and the owner himself is present, you may be able to get him to price match the online price you show him. This is the best possible scenario, because you'll save yourself a lot of waiting, and the usual risks associated with Internet ordering (lost packages, scams, etc). As a bonus, you'd be supporting the local economy, and if there's a problem with your purchase you can just drive a few minutes back to the store to have it taken care of.

There are some tips to keep in mind for trying on boots (and any footwear in general): First, try on the boots later in the day. Thanks to gravity, water in your body pools in the lower body, and feet swell as the day goes on. If you try on boots in the morning, what you thought was a roomy boot might be a tight fit by 6pm! Another consideration is the type of socks you'll be wearing with the boots. If you plan to play with them in the winter and wear wool socks, you may want to go a half size higher than you normally would in athletic socks.

2) Try on footwear from the same manufacturer: If you can't find the boots you want in person in your area, try on some other footwear from the same company. For example, if you've decided you want to buy some Oakley SI Assault Boots, but can't find a retailer for them in your city, head down to a local sports store and try on some Oakley golf shoes until you know your size in Oakley footwear. Generally, a given manufacturer will work with the same sizing across all of their footwear lines. However, not even this is certain, and there may be discrepancies, so there's still a risk your sizing will be off when you receive your Internet order.

3) Measure your feet using the Brannock Scale: A Brannock Device is the steel measuring device used in most shoe stores to measure your foot and determine your most likely shoe size. Most reputable footwear manufacturers, like Danner or Bates, are very faithful to the Brannock Scale, and if you measure your feet properly then the boots that come in the mail should be the right size.

Obviously, the easiest way to measure your feet with a Brannock Device would be to go to any shoe store and have it done there. However, if that's not an option for some reason, there are foot charts online that are pretty faithful to the Brannock Scale. One can be found HERE for men, and HERE for women. Print out the one you need, line up the 2 printed pages using the intended landmarks, and tape them together. Once this is done, all you have to do is place the chart on the floor, place your heel where indicated, and determine your size by seeing where your longest toe ends.

Keep two points in mind here: First, be sure to measure both feet, as it's pretty rare to find someone with absolutely identical feet. Normally one foot will be slightly (or quite a bit) larger than the other. Order your boots according to the size of the larger foot. Second, be sure to use the chart on a solid floor, and not a padded carpet. If you stand on the chart on a carpet, the chart will "scrunch up" and shorten, and your foot measurement will be larger than it actually is.

4) Measure your feet anyway: Even if you're ordering an identical pair of boots to one you had in the past, be sure to measure your foot using the Brannock Scale. Your feet continue to grow somewhat as you get older, and if you had great-fitting Danners or Oakleys 5 years ago, their size may not fit you so well today thanks to this phenomenon.

5) Read reviews or discussion forums to see what others have to say about the boot: Often on Internet sites selling footwear, there'll be user reviews from people who've received the particular boot you want already. A lot of them will mention if the boots are true to the size listed, or if you'll need to order them bigger or smaller. Keep an eye out for their recommendations.

6) Order from a vendor with a size guarantee: Although a size guarantee can make the asking price a little higher, this can avoid a lot of hassle for you, as well as eliminate the cost of shipping the boots back to the vendor if they don't fit.

This is the final installment in the Grey Ops "Boot Week" series. If you enjoyed this series, and would like to see similar focuses on specific gear types or topics in the future, be sure to sign up at the Grey Ops forum and leave us your suggestions!

1 comment:

  1. It can also be helpful to email the manufacturer of the boot you are looking at. Most US boot makers know a lot about their boot szes in relation to other makers, for example I have been able to email or call and say " I take a 13.5 W in a Danner, 15W in an Oakley, what does that translate into for your boot?" with very accurate results.