What Are Combat Boots?


Booties for women and men are a fashion staple. Here at Vionic, we believe everyone should have at least a couple of pairs in their fall and winter wardrobe. But with so many different styles, it might be hard to figure out which type of boots to add to your arsenal.

The combat boot has been around for quite a long time, and it’s currently having a moment. But what are combat boots, exactly, and what can you wear them with? The footwear nerds at Vionic are here to answer these questions and tell you everything else you need to know about rocking combat-style boots.

History of Combat Boots

Historically, combat boots were a tactical boot style designed for literal combat. Dating back to the Roman Empire, army men began wearing closed-toe hobnail boots (also known as calcei). This offered more warmth and protection against the rough terrain than the caligae (sandal-style shoes) they were used to wearing in battle.

Combat Boots in the U.S. Army

In the U.S., soldiers started wearing calf-high combat boots in the War of 1812. Up until just before the American Civil War, military boots weren’t designated for left and right feet.¹ As you can imagine, this made them very uncomfortable. But by World War I, the soldiers began wearing proper trench boots for battle and combat training, which ultimately inspired the modern combat boot.

In the mid-20th century, shined black combat boots with leather uppers were introduced to the U.S. Army uniform. At the time, the style was often referred to as “jump boots” or a “tanker boot,” depending on the army branch. Toward the end of the Vietnam War, most soldiers wore the “jungle boot,” which resembles many of the combat-style boots you see today.

Modern Combat Boots

No longer just for soldiers, the jungle boot caught on in the world of fashion by the 1970s. Army boots were first adopted as a wardrobe staple for British punk rockers—along with kilts, ripped jeans, leather jackets, chains, studded belts, body piercings, and mohawk hairstyles.

The popularity of English bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols made its way to the United States by the 1980s. At that point, combat military boots began trending in the American punk rock scene

In the 1990s, grunge was both a music genre and a fashion trend—though at first, it was considered anti-fashion. Band members and fans of groups like Nirvana, Garbage, Hole, and Alice In Chains started rocking the utilitarian tactical boot style. The Seattle-based counterculture caught on, and by the turn of the century, combat-style boots became a part of mainstream fashion.


What Are Combat Boots Made Of?

The combat-style boots you’ll see on the market today aren’t actually designed for battle, so don’t expect a steel toe. However, they’re usually slightly more utilitarian than other styles. To provide adequate foot protection, stability, grip, and traction, the outsoles are typically made of a sturdy rubber sole with patterned tread underneath. And though they aren’t technically a heeled style, combat boots often have relatively thick soles, ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches in height.

As for the uppers, you can usually expect them to be made of somewhat hardened leather. Even if you don’t plan to trudge through rough terrain, the idea is that your feet will be protected in a rugged environment—similar to hiking boots or work boots. In some cases, the material will be treated for moisture-resistance or completely waterproof.

Types of Fashionable Combat Boots

Today, combat boots don’t have the same anti-establishment appeal they did in decades past. There are a variety of modern styles, including traditional lace-ups in black and brown, as well as more bold colors like green and blue. You can also find heeled options, platforms, and stylish boots for women that lace all the way up to the knees. Then there’s the Chelsea-style combat boot, which is a laceless slip-on style.


How to Wear Combat Boots

If you appreciate the edgy yet practical look of combat boots, you might be wondering how to style combat boots. Believe it or not, they’re actually relatively easy to style.

You can wear combat boots with:

  • Virtually all styles of jeans
  • A mini dress
  • Maxi dress and maxi skirt styles 
  • Chinos and trousers
  • Leggings, yoga pants, and other types of athleisure wear
  • T-shirts, crop-tops, and long-sleeve tees
  • Turtlenecks and mock-neck tops
  • Oversized tees, shirts, and sweatshirts
  • Button downs and cardigans
  • Jumpsuits and rompers
  • Denim coats, leather jackets, bombers, and raincoats

This is by no means an exhaustive outfit idea list. The versatile boot style can provide the perfect finishing touch to almost any fall or winter outfit.³ Depending on the weather, you might even have the opportunity to wear combat style boots into the spring.

Instead of matching your shoes to your ensemble, another option is to build an outfit around your footwear. With your combat-style boots as your statement piece, select other clothing items that complement their cool, rough-around-the-edges vibe.⁴ When in doubt about your combat boot outfit, remember that you really can’t go wrong with jeans, t-shirt, and maybe a leather jacket.

Variety of Supportive Boot Styles from Vionic

Want more options other than just the combat boot? Browse the Vionic collection of boots for men and women for a pair that will compliment your style. Our shoes are the perfect example of how boots are supposed to fit. With built-in Vio-Motion Support technology, you can count on deep heel cups, stability, cushioning, and endless arch support.

Our impressive collection of women’s boots and booties includes block-heel ankle boots (learn how to wear ankle boots),low-heeled booties, cowgirl-inspired styles, flat-heeled slip-ons, sneaker boots, chukkas, cold-weather chunky boot styles, waterproof designs-you name it.

Our boots come in standard leather, suede, patent leather, nubuck, and nappa leather. And we carry neutral hues like black, taupe, gray, tan, white, and navy, as well as bold colors and patterns, like green, burgundy, boa, and leopard print.

Each of our podiatrist-designed shoes is biomechanically engineered with ultimate arch support, comfortable cushioning, and a reliable rubber sole. In other words, our fashion-forward boots and ankle boot styles feel just as good as they look. Whether you prefer a combat boot, a low-top bootie, heeled styles, or all of the above, Vionic has something that’ll speak to your personal style.

Get a pair (or two) today!


1. “Military Boots”. Encyclopedia. https://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/military-boots
2. Ella Chochrek. “From the Archives: Combat Boots Through the Years”. Footwear News. Oct 19, 2019. https://footwearnews.com/feature/combat-boots-style-fashion-punk-1202856282/
3. Anna Laplaca. “I’m Obsessed With Combat Boots—Here Are 11 Ways I Plan on Styling Them This Fall”. Who What Wear. Sep 20, 2021. https://www.whowhatwear.com/outfits-with-combat-boots
4. Sarah Lindig And Emma Childs. “It’s Unanimous — This Chunky Boot Is 2021’s Buzziest Shoe Trend”. The Zoe Report. Updated Sep 29, 2021. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/how-to-wear-combat-boots-with-anything-everything-right-now-19295495

Leave a Reply