SAF Goretex Boots 2.0

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.

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.
Conclusion
  • 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.

Afternote

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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37 thoughts on “SAF Goretex Boots 2.0

  1. My condolences to you on the passing of your father. I too am a firm believer in repairing and customising where possible rather than just replacing. Our society is too “throw away”.

    The Keyshoe branch at Parkway Parade is unable to do this type of repair. I’m not going to waste anymore time and just go straight to West Mall. Apparantly they run as independent shops so unusual services like this is up to the skills of the individual cobbler.

    • Thank you for your well wishes. It is good to see that there are still a few good chaps that appreciates the need to try to make things work well for as long as humanly possible.

      Thanks for the heads up, will update the article accordingly on the availability of this service!

  2. Sent in my boots. Probably the same guy at the shop. Bored and surly. Price inflation though. Got charged $100. Hopefully it will be worth it.

    Have to wonder why SAF don’t find more durable boots. The old leather boots from the mid-90s lasted far longer and were perfectly comfortable once they were broken in, even if they were heavier and hotter.

    • Odd. Maybe you can see if the sole is the same pattern as mine? Not sure if he got a new costlier range or something. Don’t forget to do your own seam sealant at the stitching + black silicon around the edges to complete the waterproofing.

      I guess SAF procurement has a tough job to balance the factors of comfort (ie. light) and lasting (good soles don’t come cheap; most of the USA grade boots are S$160 – 300 versus our Frontier boots at S$70+).

      I admit the old boots were good, luckily for whoever wants, they can still buy at Army Market however now closed for renovation for a few months.

  3. Hi, Was wondering what seam sealant and silicon you used. Could you post pics on where you needed to apply each? Going to try repair the soles and would like to have a functional pair of waterproof goretex boots for my upcoming reservists.

    Thanks for your post BTW. Nice to know there are ways to keep these boots going.

    • Hi there,

      I pre-treated the exposed stitches with McNett’s Seam Sure™ Water Based Seam Sealer. You can buy it at Novena Square #01/72-73.

      I then “pried” open the space where the sole meets the leather and pushed in black silicon (you can buy it in most home hardware repair stores) with an ice cream stick, then cleaned off the excess after I complete the entire round. A final touch is to fill the gaps of the stitches with the black silicon, shape it up using fingertips then wiping off the excess.

      Wish I took pictures during the fix but I didn’t take any. Probably when you are done fixing your boots at the cobbler I can run through the steps on your boots and you can photograph the results?

  4. Thanks for the seam sealant tip! I’m looking forward to seal the seams on my Goretex boots – much better boots compared to the frontier boots. Will update again this weekend!

    • Hi there Say Hong,

      Don’t forget to black silicon the inside of the upper rim (where the sole meets the leather). I find that finishing with a coat of black silicon over the stitches doesn’t hurt either and doesn’t affect the looks.

  5. My friend recommended this. wear your boots once a week. this will prevent the material especially the sole from disintegrating. But the question is…for what occasion or purpose? my suggestion is if you are siao on enough….wear it for a run or brisk walking. 30mins to 1hour shoud suffice.

    • The observed problems with the Goretex boots is that regardless of wearing daily (NSF) or yearly (reservist), there is a few common methods of failure.

      1. Rubber disintegration. This happens with rough use (ie. Route march) or with water logging (ie. River crossing, rain soaked in outfield)
      2. Sole slip-off. This happens when the glued-on sole just opens up (usually in the front) and become “alligator”.

      Coupled with the cobbler’s observation that the rubber is flaking, gives the view that the rubber used might not be suitable for tropical climates. Not so much on being used or not. I managed to destroy a new pair of goretex boots within days in reservist (water logging), and previously in active days by daily usage over a period of a year.

  6. good evening! i was trying to find a place to resole my combat boots when i stumbled upon ur entry from google. i own a pair of altama jungle boots that are very well broken into. the sole has worn out over time and i’d like to resole them. this cobbler u mentioned in West Mall, did they have choices of different types of soles? or just the vibram one that was used on urs? i’m a fan of the panama sole design, cos it doesn’t get stuff like mud stuck in it.. gives a decent grip too..

    • Hi there Alvin,

      If I am not wrong, you can send your boots back to Altama for them to resole. A little costlier but at least it comes back “stock”.

      The cobbler in West Mall only gave me one choice of Vibram soles but (I guess) might have other models he can order from.

  7. been googling a solution for my well broken in pair or gore tex and i found your website. thanks for the detailed info. guess what, i went to the same shop in the basement of westmall and the pinoy guy is charging me 110 for the same procedure and sole. im starting to wonder if i should just top up a few more dollars and get a new pair of boots. wish those magnums weren’t so expensive

    • Hi there Eugene,

      I guess for such an increase in price (not including the cost of 1 tube of black silicon for your own self sealing of the seams), it probably IS better to buy a magnum if you have at least 3 more years of service as a reservist.

      • Hi Nic.
        I’m oredi a M.R. for a certain time, however i still put on my last pair of GoreTex that was acquired sometime back around 2005 before i complete my reservist term. GoreTex then was quite ex @ around more than $150 if i’m not wrong with my memory… and this pair, was paid by juicing out my SAF credits before i ROD.
        I had been looking for a new pair recently, to replace this which now the lower soles starts to show peel off sign, due to recent years of overseas trip, and hiking on different terrain. However, i can’t find one and i’m surprise to learn that, the “SAF” GoreTex design as well as boots was discontinued sometimes back! According to the merchants @ the GoldenMile Mil-Supply Market, it’s quite impossible to find anymore GoreTex in local market.
        So i guess i’ll have to live with something with same kind of design and comfort like what GoreTex had given me in the past, and been comparing numbers of boots available there…

        The SAF FRONTIER is sold around the price hovering around $75 depending on how the different merchants there giving different levels of discounts.
        It is light, but dull. The inner soles provides good comfort to the heel as well as the foot, but may degrade and loose it’s bouncy cushion over times of frequent activities such as SOC, running as well as Physical Training. Since you’re a reservist now, you may need to worry about that.
        Comfort wise, not comparable to GoreTex or even other makes such as MAGNUM or DELTA TACTICAL sold in the market, due to lack of inner cushion wrap arounds. The sides feels like a thin piece of Nylon fabric wrapping around ones lower part of the leg.
        Lower sole is quite stiff, like the kind of of SAF Boots issued in the 90s. Not very… sporty friendly…

        MAGNUMs, well… what can i say… Most of the good points are achieved, except the one you pointed out… the sides. Pretty ex as well. @ the price hovering around 4 blue bills… i wouldn’t think of recommending it to any NSF kids i know… too over-hyped…

        Then and last, i came across this brand, DELTA TACTICAL, which one of the merchant tell me today that copies the design of MAGNUM. I was… “HUH?” Priced hovering around $60, depending on the kind of discounts one gets from different sellers, scores almost the perfect points on what i can get from GoreTex. Flexible lower soles, well cushioned inner soles and linings, light on weight, comes with side zipper as well! It’s kind of hard to resist the price with all the plus points mentioned. But of course, there will be some imperfections as well… like GoreTex, once water seeps in from the top, that’s it, wet and wild in the interior, no escape for stinky water like FRONTIER do. The flap below the boot strap is not stitch to the sides as well, giving more chance to be exposed to wetness… otherwise it’s a good buy.

        • you might wanna search for the new RSAF high cut safety boots with side zipper. Although it’s also by frontier, it’s not thin like the saf frontier boots, but cushioned like the goretex….

          • From AIR FORCE? I just visited the Mount Faber SAFRA several weeks ago… didn’t notice have such FRONTIER boots specially made for AIR FORCE. Only the one standard issue, as well as all leather “parade” boots ley… Izzit available @ GoldenMile Market? I go check it out.

  8. Not looking to replace the sole of my scdf usar boots, but it’s starting to crocodile from the middle.

    possible to bring down to westmall and get the guy to re-glue and maybe stitch the sole too? hopefulyl will be cheaper since not intending to change soles.

    • Hey Moon,

      Indeed. The problem is since 2012 till now, the issue of water seeping in from the seams has never been fully resolved. I tried applying seam sealants but they don’t stay, I tried Sno-Seal (beewax) treatments but they end up clogging the breathability of the boots and now, after 4 years of using the mended boots, I’d say that it will just become my dry-use boots.

      As I don’t have many years of reservist left, I will probably look into a few suitable replacement combat boots alternatives and do a write up on them when my time permits.

      Thanks and no worries on my dad. We all have to go someday, so make the best of every day, make it count!

        • Hi Ming,

          I shipped in a large can from the USA and I got plenty left. Reply to this thread if you want some and I will email you privately to arrange to pass some to you.

  9. Hi,

    Do you know of any place to buy McNett’s seam sealant? The outlet at Novena Square appears to be taken over by Baskin Robbins now.

  10. Can anyone please tell me the model number of the Goretex boots that was issued 2002 – 2012 ? and any idea where I can get them in Singapore ?

    • Hi Jeremy,

      There is no model number I can see on my SAF GoreTex boots, it appears to be a contract run by GoreTex for the SAF.

      If you really want to find a pair, army market MIGHT still have some leftovers. Else I would recommend you get any of the newer boots out in the market.

      I heard very good feedback about Danner military boots but you got to ship them in. Brands that are readily available in Singapore includes Magnum boots which in my experience seems a bit heavy, overly padded and hot. I saw the Altama boots (Edit 06/06/2016: Realized I remembered the name wrongly, the actual brand is Altai boots) at SAFRA Mount Faber eMart. They are very comfortable BUT I need them in wide sizes and I am not sure if they come in such sizes (I didn’t ask).

      Hope that helps.

    • There were several minor modifications to the gore-tex boots during the period of 2002 till 2012

      from what i remember, the 1st batch of Gore-tex boots had a small pocket inside the boot with the size printed in white.
      around 2003, the small pocket was removed….
      In early 2004, the design changed a little with the strip at the back of the boot changing from a straight strip down to slightly pear shaped[sorry…. dunno how else to describe]
      These boots sported the triangle and a crecent moon indentation. Outsole is pimpled all over.

      in early 2005, the outsole changed, top half remained pimpled, bottom half was smooth. It was starting this batch that appeared the crocodile problem everyone complained. Not saying the 2002-2004 boots did, but they were due to age. The 2005 version pre-mature seperated from the upper. Full leather boots introduced later this year. Crecent moon indentation on the outsole stayed while the triangle indentation was removed.

      Starting 2006, outsole changed again to something similiar to the frontier boots. Crescent moon indentation disappeared.

      then 2012 Frontier boots appeared.

      and now in Dec 2016, Altama, Wellco and Magnum boots was introduced. The first 2 sported the panama outsole that everyone loved. The magnum sported a Vibram outsole.

      • Hi Aaron,

        Sounds like you are/were from ALB or ST Logistics? Thank you for the deep history lesson in the SAF boots goretex line, I think I actually had the 1st batch just before I ORDed, then I suspect I gotten the 2006 last batch prior to the rollover to the Frontier.

        You mentioned that in December 2016, Altama, Welco and Magnum is introduced as Standard Issue in the eMart? I did recall seeing Altama at SAFRA Mount Faber but it was a cash purchase and not credit?

        Thanks for the insights!

  11. Hi Nicholas,

    Sorry for digging up this 5-year-old post, but it’s really informative and I would like to know more as I’m kind of disappointed that the new SAF boots are not as waterproof as the full leather boots I was issued during BMT in 2012. The water outlet holes also let water in, and the clothed surface means the interior would get wet even in rain.

    You mentioned that after the soles replacement, the boots are not waterproof and water still seeps in, but it was fixed after you applied the seam sealant and black silicon right? May I know if it still retains the same level of waterproofity as the leather boots? I was able to submerge the boots into water all the way to the very top and it would still remain dry inside.

    Thanks for the clarification in advanced!

    • Good day Anthony,

      The fix I did was temporary because during one of my in-camp training when I had movement in the field, the seam sealant flaked off and the black silicon broke off in chunks. So in my view, the repair job I did on my goretex boots was not worth the effort I put into it.

      From my own research, I believe the only black ankle high goretex boots that can perform just like the old SAF goretex boots AND have the ability to be resoled AND comes in narrow, wide and extra wide widths, that would be the Danner Acadia 8′ – http://www.danner.com/acadia-8-black.html Ignore the price on the website; you can get it from Amazon or eBay for US$260 – 300

      It looks like a worthwhile investment if you are early in your reservist cycle OR if you are a regular and/or spend an awful amount of time on the field. As for me, I am at the end of my reservist cycle with no opportunity for service extension so I would probably be getting another Danner boot (the non-steel toe varient) for use in my workplace. The only worry I have on ordering the boots is on the width and sizing, especially when I read the comments that the boot runs both narrow and small, with many people recommending to buy 0.5 – 1.0 US size larger.

      • I see. Guess sending my BMT-issued leather boots for repairs is not worth it then.

        As I’m still a student now I’m looking for a cheap alternative to those boots. Most importantly I want one that’s fully waterproof like how the leather boots were so that I can use them for hiking, but all those that I’ve found so far have water outlet holes near the bottom – meaning they are not waterproof at all =/

        • Good day Anthony,

          Going cheap is actually more expensive. Consider the fact that most cheaper options would be more uncomfortable (bad materials, low quality design) and fails faster (need to buy replacements more often), and consider the fact that you are still a student (meaning you have quite a few more years in reservist), making an investment in the single item that you will be using most (you will always be standing in your boots in any reservist or outside reservist) would actually make a lot more sense in the long term.

          Repairing your BMT issued leather boots will result in stitching into the sole area which will result in stitch puncture points; the Danner boots are stitch down which does not puncture into the sole area. Which essentially negates the very reason why you want to mend it which is to keep your foot dry in the field.

          Think about it. If you eventually intend to make the investment into a pair of Danners (in the next few months) drop me a note as you can probably do a combined shipping with my own order.