Singapore Armed Forces Army Boots (circa 2000)
When I was first enlisted into the Singapore Armed Forces in mid-2000, I was introduced to my first real pair of leather boots. Not those low cut shiny work leather shoes, nor those expensive hiking boots, these boots were solid, heavy and sort of hammers in the message that the remaining 900+ days is going to be a pretty darn long march to freedom.
Photos of the old SAF smooth leather boots (issued until 2002) I was initially issued with in my Basic Military Training in 2000. Photos taken from http://sgforums.com/forums/1390/topics/268509?page=4 and http://sgforums.com/forums/1390/topics/161270?page=2
Singapore Armed Forces Army Boots (circa 2002)
Time came and went, and in early 2002 I was greeted by a black box (photo to be taken, I still have the box) in the SAF eMart in Sungei Gedong. Upon taking out the boots from the box I am in love. Ever since I got them as a replacement for my original issued full leather boots in 2002, the obvious benefits that got me absolutely hooked with the SAF Goretex boots were:
- Feeling nearly 2x lighter than the smooth leather variant I was issued in 2000.
- Unparalleled comfort with almost no time needed for “seasoning”; it was literally a Ready For Use pair of boots.
- Confidence to step into ankle high muddy water and not getting soaked through; same confidence as my original boots, just better.
Fast forward to 2012 and the honeymoon is over, I have burned through 5 pairs of Goretex boots (Active duty: early 2002, early 2003, Reservist duty: 2008, 2010, 2011) most of which failed due to “crumbly” rubber soles that either fell off a.k.a. alligator boots or the treads just broke off in chunks from days staying out in a raining jungle with water logged boots and/or from scrambling around in urban warfare training environments. With my last boots failure in 2011, I felt there had to be a better way to this wasteful disposal of my still functional but soleless SAF Goretex boots.
Singapore Armed Forces Army Boots (circa 2012)
The Singapore Armed Forces thought it better to try out a new combat boot altogether, and the selected boot that made the cut was the Frontier textile boot. Pleasantly enough (at least for my fellow soldiers of the 822nd Battalion), the Frontier textile boot would be made available from June 2012 (I think) from all SAF eMarts islandwide.
However, I personally am not too keen in getting my feet wet and then letting them dry out time and time again during training, I rather them be kept dry as often as possible thank you very much.
I tried looking around Sheares Marketing at their Magnum boots range, Campers Corner for their US army boots range but came away wanting. The common issues I faced with them includes:
- Boot sides were too hard and/or too thick with padding.
- Prices were in the S$160 – 280 range; not too high but for a pair of boots used once a year, I rather not.
- Stitched replaceable soles were good, but the chaps at Campers Corner isn’t too sure how to go about it.
Singapore Armed Forces Army Boots 2.0 (circa Nicholas Chan edition)
After mucking around for quite a bit (8 months to be exact), I figured “there had to be a better way”. After unsuccessfully trying to mend the soles of my alligator-ed boots with Selleys Liquid Nails and Electic Products Shoe Goop because too many bits of the soles were crumbling off, I decided to go to a real professional to get the job done.
The repair was done by the cobbler “Keyshoe Enterprises” in West Mall Shopping Centre, B1-K5. The Filipino cobbler that attended to me clearly know his stuff on how to mend SAF army boots although he does appear to be rather bored. From the receipt it appears they have quite a number of outlets across Singapore so your mileage may vary if you do your repairs in the other outlets. Just for the record, I am not sure which Vibram replacement boots sole the cobbler used as I was unable to visually match it with any of the soles on the Vibram website.
SAF Goretex boots standard issue, or is it?
Side profile of the Vibram-ed SAF Goretex boots, still looking stealthily similar to the original issued item
Vibram-ed SAF Goretex boots!
As you can see from the pictures, the simple improvement of having stitched soles pretty much eliminates/reduces the possibility of having alligator soles, and that to me makes the entire effort worth it. Not to mention if you happen to have an RSM that would take you to task for using non-standard SAF boots, the entire look is almost “stock” and keep you well under the radar.
- You don’t lose your months of leather boots seasoning with a fully functional waterproof Goretex upper, however you might feel the repaired boots to be a little tighter due to the stitched sole “pushing up” the space from the base.
- Firm yet grippy, stitched Vibram rubber soles means no more incidents of “alligator boots” during activity. In comparison, the original rubber sole is glued on and thus is more susceptible to falling off due to disintegrated rubber and glue bonding. Additionally, the Vibram treads appears to be similar to the new SAF Frontier textile boots, thus giving you the same traction required for FIBUA situations.
- The use of the Goretex boots allows for shallow ankle-level immersion into water (ie. jungle trekking) without any points for entry for water versus the newly released (May 2012) Frontier textile boots with the dual water drainage eyelets. However if water enters via the top of the Goretex boots, drainage will become a problem. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Puts you back by S$85 (real money, not credits) and takes approximately 1 week to be fixed.
- Water MIGHT leak in through the stitching (assumption not yet tested), will conduct a thorough water soak test in end July 2012 and update the results here. As a preventive measure, I will be treating the stitched seams with seam sealant and the sole edges with black silicon. Total additional cost should be S$15 – 20. EDIT 15 September 2012: Water will leak into the boots. Seam sealant and silicon treatment fixed it up pretty fine.
- The default crappy disintegrated glued rubber sole coupled with a fully functional Goretex upper doesn’t spell the end of a good pair of army boots.
- If you love the comfort of the SAF Goretex boots versus the full leather variant or the newly released (May 2012) Frontier textile boots, this Goretex boots repair is worth it.
- The final repaired SAF Goretex boots with Vibram soles feels stable and firm and grips well in both urban and jungle environments, giving you the confidence to have a lasting pair of comfortable, well seasoned Goretex boots for many NSMan years to come.
This article was supposed to be published on 20 June 2012, but due to the sudden death of my father on 23 June 2012, I have been busy putting things together. My dad was a lifelong handyman and a Police Officer in the Singapore Police Force. Exactly 2 months from the original publishing date, I dedicate this article to him for having instilled in me the value of doing your best to fix/make something work better rather than just taking the easy way out to buy something new and throw away the old without even trying. God rest his soul.