Matthew Cox wrote a great piece for Military.com, 2 April 2014, “Army Starts Testing New Jungle Boots for Pacific” Confronted with over 12 years of combat in arid regions, jungle boots have remained unchanged since the Vietnam conflict ended. I still have a pair of Vietnam era jungle boots and I can readily tell you that they did not breath or drain very well but they are light and “relatively” comfortable.
Col. Robert F. Mortlock, PM, for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment is spearheading the development and acquisition of a new jungle boot, which incorporates a number of design features. Although the overall requirements were not discussed, it’s reasonable to assume that the new boot should be light, durable, provide good support, drain well and protect the foot. One of the new technologies to be employed in the new boot is direct-attach outsoles.
The direct attach process is used to mold the sole directly to the upper material, eliminating the need for gluing or sewing to produce a finished shoe. Direct attach requires that the upper is secured to the top of the mold, and the polyurethane system(s) is injected into the mold cavity. For dual density direct attach, a dummy last is used to form the outsole, and the upper is secured into the mold prior to midsole injection. However, direct-attach is not a panacea. Scrap produced using a direct attach process is very expensive due to the fact that an entire shoe is wasted. It is also very difficult to complete a post-mold finish process on direct attach unit soles without affecting the upper portion of the shoe; making mold release agent selection critical.
I’m guardedly enthusiastic about a new jungle boot but I have a number of concerns about fielding a jungle combat boot without a stitched outsole. One of the more challenging features of jungles and rainforests is the breath of biologics, and bacteria will metabolize virtually anything you can throw at it given time and the right conditions. Direct-attach outsoles are certainly expedient from a manufacturing perspective but the shoe on the left failed in use and needed a liberal application of Goop to make it through the day.