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Propper decides to do boots, and they do it big

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It seems Propper International will now be building combat-worthy footwear, the “Series 300.”  This is a much bigger deal than it might seem on the surface.

Propper International Series 300 Boots 6

Propper has been building equipment for warfighters since it was founded in 1967 by William T. Propper. They have been building uniform apparel and accessory equipment for first responders for nearly as long. Though known primarily as a legacy military uniform manufacturer (they've supplied something like 120 million pieces to the DoD), this is a somewhat limited perspective of what they're doing. In fact, the last several years have seen them not only expand their product line, we've also seen a recent reinvigoration both of their product design and their overall catalog lineup (including an expanding series of rugged civilian/commercial apparel).

One can only guess the decision to go big into building boots is a part of that.

Propper International Series 300 Boots 9

It’s a pretty gutsy move by Propper, and one that seems to bespeak confidence – after all, it’s not like they were adding some new colorways or expanding their inventory with a few SKUs of tactical skinny jeans. They decided to do boots, with all that entails, and then went big. They didn't just outsource a design to some manufacturer overseas. They bought a Puerto Rico-based factory with a proven record of QC and production capability, then put two footwear heavyweights at the helm – and they're using a “last” (think of it as a boot mold) that's four years in the making to do it.

The new Series 300 boots were designed and built under the direction and auspices of Pavan Singh and Roger Dutilly. The former is something of an icon in the footwear design world; the latter has been designing and building footwear for decades. He's actually been at the helm during the construction of nearly 80 million pair of boots during his career.

That's a lot of boots.

The Propper International Boot Designers

Propper did not use half measures, and they certainly did not choose unproven talent to ramrod things.

The new boots were designed specifically with Army Regulation 670-1 in mind and will be Berry Compliant, but they may appeal to the outdoor/adventure crowd as well. We'll have to see.

The boots have a number of features designed not just for practical functionality, but also for aesthetics and comfort. An example of this are the raised panels on the sides, which protect against the sort of impacts and gouging you might get while rucking across rough and rocky terrain.

There are currently plans for just the one color, though there has been talk of a polishable black version for LE and other users in the future (it's probably a foregone conclusion they'll be seeking an NSN). There will be warm weather and waterproof versions as well.

Propper International Series 300 Boot 17

To that point, the design you see here in these pictures is not a “pencils down” completed version, it's a prototype.  There are some minor changes yet to be done (like loops to hook and pull the boot up) and a couple of technology-based features to be implemented first, but Propper says this boot will require no break in. They advise you can get them out of the box and put them on your feet and go straight to work without issue.

That is obviously a pretty serious claim, but is by no means impossible. Their explanation of the science and experiential know-how involved in their design was very convincing. They go so far as to describe the Series 300 as “custom out of the box,” in part because of the design and in part because of the potential for further refinement they'll provide with each pair of boots in the form of a proprietary, organically molded footbed that is unique to each specific model and size of boot (more on that below).  No need to use those frequently terrible after-market orthopedic inserts, which may or may not fit. These USA-made shock absorbent inserts are custom molded to the ‘last’ so they fit specifically (they also have built in arch support). It’s as much a practicable feature as it is a comfort issue. The user won’t have to make any cuts or adjustment to individualize and personalize fit and sizing.

Propper says these ‘instant fit' boots are perfectly built for wearers who are carrying a load and are designed to feel like an athletic shoe.

“Weight distribution in this boot is as good as it’s going to get,” advises Dutilly.

Propper International Series 300 Boot 14

Part of this, explains Singh, is because of an internal plate inside the Series 300, which “…prevents the focus of pressure on the arch or other points of the foot.” It’s apparently quite similar to what is employed in the boots worn by pole-climbers use (although those are steel plates, not poly ethylene). There are load bearing ribs on the plate in the inside curve of the foot, the “fastrope” area one might call it. These ribs help to distribute the pressure of load bearing while walking and climbing by spreadloading, that pressure across the whole foot rather than concentrating it in one place. This further contributes to stabilization, keeping the foot in alignment while walking over uneven terrain, mitigating pronation and supination, and keeping the foot at a constant and comfortable angle. Lastly it provides another layer of shock attenuation.

Another interesting and unique characteristic of the Series 300 is the separate “V-40” Vibram mold Propper is using. V-40 is a high heat-resistant compound that Goodyear Unaroyal uses in tires. This piece is molded separately from the rest of the sole and then fused into the boot later. This is intended to help the boot all but ignore any damage caused by fastroping (either kind, J Hook or S Wrap), climbing or other activity. Obviously avoiding damage to the boot typically means avoiding damage to the foot within it.

One last point the designers wanted to stress was the use of U.S. size grading, “the way it was 40 years ago.” As many of you who have tried various styles of boots (even very good ones) well know, boots manufactured in different countries (Germany, China, Slovakia, Italy, wherever) will often show disparity in sizing. Each country's size can be just a little bit different than the next. This why so many people with a genuine requirement for footwear ‘or else’ refuse to buy anything they haven’t tried on first. Singh and Dutilly advise you will not have that problem with the Series 300. 

Propper International Series 300 Boot 16

You can go look at the new boots from Propper International yourself if you're at SHOT Show 2015 (Booth #10764). They hope to have them available by mid-September.

Propper International is online here and on Facebook here. If you get a chance, check out the good work they do with Sheepdog Impact Assistance.

Here's a quick recap of the intended features of the Series 300 prototype:

Mil-spec full grain cattle hide leather

Low density PU mid-sole

Shock Density Poly Ethylene compound utilizing V-40 technology in the fastrope applicable area to prevent burn

Mil-spec Vibram Outsole, Oil and Slip Resistnat with self cleaning lugs

True U.S. sizing

Additional insoles for sizing

NATO speed lace system

Aegis anti-microbial and anti-fungal lining

Serrated toe and heal outsole to aid in climbing and crawling

Sizes 5 to 12.5, with wides available, and whole sizes 13 to 15

Anatomical athletic fit foot bed

Dri-Lex lining with 2 drain holes in non waterproof version

Strobel construction for light weight

Gore-Tex lining 

Propper International Series 300 Boots 4

Propper International Series 300 Boots 3

Propper International Series 300 Boots 2


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