Specialist combat footwear for desert / arid environments is not a new thing, particularly for elite units allowed a little more leeway in dress standards, but general issue high quality desert combat boots have really only been around since the end of the 1990s.
When mainstream British Forces first deployed into Afghanistan from late 2001, high quality desert boots were rarer than egg banjo stains on a Regimental Sergeant Major’s chest. At first this shortfall was not problematic as troops were operating in the mountainous east of the country in winter and spring, so ordinary wet weather combat boots sufficed, but by 2006 when the UK took on responsibility for much hotter Helmand Province in the south the lack of decent hot and arid theatre footwear began to bite.
In 2004 the UK MoD Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team awarded Spanish footwear supplier Iturri an estimated £44million five-year contract to produce a range of boots, including a basic desert boot model for issue to troops operationally deployed in Iraq on Operation TELIC. Nicknamed the Basrah Boot, this dark khaki suede and Cordura footwear with heat resistant nitrile sole was originally also issued to troops deploying to Helmand on Operation HERRICK, though it was soon realised that a tougher boot would be needed for dismounted troops patrolling with much heavier loads over rougher terrain.
In the second half of 2007 the MoD trialled over twenty different boot models for future wet weather and warm weather requirements, then settled on four basic types including two high specification models from German manufacturers Lowa and Meindl. As most companies produce their boots on lasts of the same foot shape, though in differing sizes of course, it was deemed necessary to have alternatives for those who found one maker’s standard to be essentially too broad or too narrow for their feet. Additionally, less high specification desert boots from Magnum were procured for those in posts which did not involve severe wear or the carriage of heavy combat loads.Although I have individually trialled all three desert boots in the past, in 2012 I felt that with the forthcoming introduction of a new brown footwear range it might now make sense to look back at these older boots which had given sterling service on Op HERRICK.
Footnote: The bulk of this article was first published in the January 2012 issue of COMBAT & SURVIVAL magazine