Benefits of Buying a Side Zip Boot

One of the latest trends in footwear for law enforcement and military personnel is the side zip boot. It looks like a regular boot except for the zipper and flap on the inner side of each foot. The boot front features standard shoelace holes or rings. This popular boot type is made by several manufacturers in a wide range of colors, sizes and styles. There are several benefits of buying a side zip boot.

How It Works

Think of the side zipper as an emergency escape route for your foot that you can also use as a quick entry point. Sturdy shoelaces thread through a dozen or more holes in the front. Lace up your boots to a snug and comfortable fit. Shoelaces appear at a glance to be the main method of closure, but you can use the side zippers to widen the foot hole without undoing and lacing up your boots every time you take them off and put them on again. Leave the laces tied. Use the side zippers to save time when you're on-the-go.


The main advantage of boots with a zipper on the side is time. It can take at least a few minutes to lace up each foot. Taller combat boots with more eyelets take considerably longer. Each zipper takes a few seconds to pull up and secure. The quickness of the zipper trumps the traditional lacing and tightening process when time and convenience are factors.

Variety in Availability

The side zip boot is available in a variety of models from a number of manufacturers. It's not limited by the size or style of boot. The colors and materials don't affect the availability of a zipper either. The zipper option is seldom found in the standard-issue boot provided by military units and is typically more expensive. This type is offered in several higher line models for men and women.

  • Tactical
  • Military
  • SWAT
  • Police
  • Combat
  • Water Safety

One of the greatest benefits of buying a side zip boot comes in the form of water safety. In the event of danger, these shoes can be removed quickly under duress. For example, if a seaman must abandon ship while wearing heavy fireproof boots, the weight of the boots could cause submersion and possible drowning. A quick release of the side zipper allows the heavy boots to drop from your feet as a safety feature that could save your life. This is an ideal solution for U.S. Coast Guard, Navy or Marine Corps personnel at sea.


Finding military boots that are comfortable can be challenging. Standing on your feet for several hours can make your legs tired and your feet sore. Footwear has to be durable enough to wear in rugged conditions without falling apart. Safety and durability are top priorities, and comfort usually takes a back seat from a manufacturing standpoint. Manufacturers use a range of materials for footwear lining, insoles and outsoles. These boots are made of water-resistant, waterproof, fire-retardant or fireproof materials. Most of them are hard to the touch. Military and police boots are not always made with breathable fabrics. Your feet perspire when they get hot, leaving them damp and uncomfortable in boots without ventilation or moisture wicking. Unzipping the side of the boot without taking it off provides temporary ventilation. This improves comfort and reduces the risk of foot disease.

Hand Dexterity

Lace-up boots with a side zipper are ideal if you have diminished hand or finger dexterity. Muscles that ache with arthritis can work a zipper much more easily than they can tie shoelaces. If regulations allow, adding a small tie with a knot to the end of the zipper pulls makes them less difficult to grasp.


The side-zip boot lets you conveniently leave your shoelaces in place. If you've found the sweet spot of tension and comfort from ankle to toe, the last thing you want to do is untie your shoelaces. The zipper lets your feet to escape your boots without the inconvenience of searching for the balance between support and flexibility every time you put them back on your feet.


If zippers are useful, why are shoelaces also used? Zippers are a shoelace system supplement, not a replacement. Shoelaces are still the primary boot closure. Feeding laces through eyelets and D-rings regulates the tension for a proper fit. The tops of the laces are tucked in for safety.

  • They're adjustable, creating a custom fit.
  • Shoelaces provide support for the foot and ankle.
  • The tension on the shoelaces should be tightened after they loosen up with wear.
  • Replace the laces if they become worn from rubbing against the eyelets and D-rings.


One benefit of side zip boots is the position of the zipper itself. It's hidden from view. It can't be seen unless someone is looking for it or knows it's there. It can be placed in between panels of tougher materials without compromising the overall footwear design.

  • Zippers can be straight or curved to match the contour of the boot.
  • The zipper length usually runs from just above the sole to just below the boot neck.
  • The most common zipper position is on the inner side of the boot above the instep.
  • Additional Closures

To prevent the possibility of your boots coming undone, manufacturers place additional closures and protective devices over or around the zippers. Flaps made of polyester fabric, leather or waterproof materials cover the top or the top and bottom of the zippers to keep them clean and in place. Flaps also prevent the zipper pulls from getting caught on anything. Closures on the flaps need to be easy to open and disable with one hand in case of an emergency. The flaps should also stay in place firmly enough to create a deterrent to opening unexpectedly all by themselves. Some closures used by different manufacturers include snaps and hook-and-loop fasteners.


While military combat boots aren't known for their fashion statements, they can be stylish. The side zip boot is a growing trend among military and public safety personnel. Part of its popularity is that zippers offer convenience without affecting the boot's profile. Zippers eliminate the fashion faux pas and safety concerns of walking around with boots half-laced and open in front. They can be unzipped while you're in a relaxed state, waiting for the next call. Being unzipped isn't as noticeable as being unlaced, creating a plus in the eyes of commanders who disapprove of half-laced boots. Pant legs don't fit well with open laces, but they do work with open and closed zippers.


Drawing shoelaces through holes and rings less often creates a cleaner and more professional look. The laces wear out less frequently. They look fresher longer, earning the approval of unit commanders who are sticklers for crispness and perfection. Boots used for hiking and rock climbing on or off duty can still maintain their rugged and laced appearance.


This type of footwear uses two main materials for zipper teeth, plastic and metal. While metal zippers are sturdier, plastic ones are more common because they weigh less. If sound is a factor, look for styles with plastic teeth that offer a silent zipper. The zipper binding on either side of the teeth can be made of water-resistant and fire-retardant fabric. A special coating applied in the manufacturing process can make the zippers and fine stitching waterproof and fireproof. Some manufacturing brands also cover the zipper with fabric that matches the surrounding boot material to help it blend in better at a glance.


It's important to check command regulations before purchasing a pair of side zip boots. Some police units and U.S. Army regulations don't allow zippers on footwear. U.S. Navy personnel attached to ships who must have fireproof boots are required to have the side zipper for quick removal in case they go into the water. For police officers and academy recruits, side zippers are convenient when allowed. If an exposed zipper closure is an issue, look for police boots that have a concealing flap at the top of the zipper.


Military and police boots need to be durable. Boots with side zippers are no exception. Their overall durability receives much scrutiny. Some products are more durable than others. All zippers are eventually prone to damage with long wear, but they may still outlast the rest of the boot. Rugged conditions can shorten the zippered boot's useful life span. If a zipper won't open or close on demand, the boots fail in aesthetics and protection. Manufacturers that strive for high quality address and overcome these concerns.

  • Teeth can become loose or bent, preventing a smooth closure.
  • The zipper pull could catch on the side material or other surfaces.
  • Missing teeth can cause the zipper to break and open permanently.
  • A broken zipper can get stuck in the middle and fail to close or open.
  • A poorly made zipper pull can break under the pressure of a strong grip.

When buying a pair of boots, it's important to know what type of features you want and what regulations you need to follow. Side zip boots offer comfort, versatility and quickness not found with typical lace-up footwear.