A brief guide to running in boots
In good old days of distance running and boxing, athletes frequently ran in army boots. It was thought that, because they were heavy, running in boots would increase things like fitness and leg strength more than running in sneakers. Mohammed Ali and Emil Zátopek were two famous proponents of running in boots.
Military life often involves running in boots, especially during initial training and on operations. However, while running in boots may be necessary, it is not without risks. Boot running could lead to injury – especially if, until now, you have done all of your running in lightweight, shock-absorbing sneakers.
If you are new to running in boots or are finding the transition from running in sneakers to running in boots difficult, make sure you put the following tips into practice.
Choose your boots wisely
Some boots are better for running than others. Lightweight tactical boots are flexible and easy on your feet. Some are more like high-top sneakers than hardcore combat boots. In contrast, standard issue boots are often heavy and not very supple. They can be tough on your feet. If you have a choice, equip yourself with the lightest boots you can find.
Make sure your boots are well broken in
Lightweight tactical boots are often made of materials other than or in addition to leather, such as CORDURA. This means they are supple and soft right out the box. Leather boots are a different matter altogether, and they usually need breaking in before use.
Walk in your boots before you attempt running in them. Wax them and even soak them in water and then wear them wet to mold them to your feet. Remember too that walking and running are mechanically different activities so a boot that never rubs when you walk may still rub when you run. Apply athletic tape to any potential hotspot sites.
Add some aftermarket shock-absorbing insoles
Running is a much higher impact activity than walking. Because of this, boots are usually made with firmer, less shock-absorbent soles. When you run, your feet hit the ground with about 6-8 times your body weight in force. In sneakers, a significant amount of this force is absorbed by your shoes. This is not the case with most boots. All that additional stress could cause injuries.
Save yourself some impact by replacing the insoles in your boots with some aftermarket shock-absorbing alternatives. Make sure the new insoles fit correctly; if they are too thick or too wide, you may end up with blisters.
Increase your mileage gradually and don’t only run in boots
Running in boots is much more stressful than running in sneakers. Don't jump into running in boots too quickly. That's a good way to get hurt. Instead, start off with short and relatively infrequent runs to acclimate your body to the demands of boot running. Increase distance and frequency gradually to reduce your risk of injury. If you are training for a specific event, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to build your fitness and your tolerance for running in boots.
Go off-road as much as possible
Running in boots on tarmac roads is no-one’s idea of fun. Even with shock-absorbing insoles in your boots, your feet are going to get hit with a whole lot of unpleasant impact. Run off road on dirt tracks, wooded trails, and fields whenever you can. These surfaces are much more forgiving than tarmac roads.
Shuffle, don’t sprint
You’ll find running in boots much more comfortable if you adopt a short, flat-footed shuffle rather than running with a long stride and heel-toe action. You’ll still be able to move as quickly, but you won’t hammer your feet into the deck with as much force. From a tactical perspective, this shuffling technique is also generally quieter.