Rucking is walking with a loaded backpack. It’s a cheap, simple exercise that burns calories and builds aerobic endurance due to the added weight on your back. Burn more calories than walking and with less impact than jogging. And you can do this anywhere you can walk – in an urban or rural setting.
We love rucking because it is so simple. Easy to pick up and there is not a lot of equipment necessary.
But it can be hard on your feet. Especially if you aren’t conditioned to walking long distances at a fast pace.
In this article, we’ll give you some important tips and tricks to protect your feet. And we’ll highlight some products that can help as well – the best shoes and socks for rucking.
Proper Footwear for Rucking – Boots
First of all, the most important gear for rucking is your footwear.
Boots or running shoes? Well, that depends.
What sort of terrain are you covering? Will it be wet, rocky, sandy, muddy, or any of the other conditions that make boots essential? Or are you required to wear combat boots to simulate real world conditions? For military training purposes rucking in boots is recommended – to accurately prepare for the real world.
The next important question: Are your feet going to get wet? Will your feet be submerged in water? If you are participating in an official GORUCK challenge event there’s a good chance that may happen, by the way.
Generally speaking you don’t want waterproof boots.
Waterproof boots are not going to be very breathable – so your feet will get wet from sweating – and that means blisters, and that’s not very comfortable.
Additionally, if you have waterproof boots and your feet get wet (like hiking through surf, a creek, etc.) the water will not drain.
What you really want are boots that drain well. If you do have to hike through a stream or creek, it’s better for the water to drain away quickly.
And for these same reasons, boots with Gore-Tex are less than desirable as well. Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane. Gore-Tex is able to repel liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through, and is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use.
But, that same ability to repel water means water stays in if your feet get submerged.
Most people don’t think boots with Gore-Tex drain well enough.
So the key question becomes: Just how wet are your feet going to get? If you know your feet will be submerged, you don’t want waterproof and you don’t want Gore-Tex.
If you want a great hiking boot without GORE-TEX, check out the Salomon Men’s X Ultra Mid 3 Aero Hiking Boots (Buy on Amazon). It’s made for warm weather, no GORE-TEX – so it’s lighter and has the best breathability. These are light-weight, maximum traction, and all around great boots. Salomon has been designing and making hiking boots for over 50 years.
These boots are very comfortable and have fatigue reducing features – just what you want to go the distance.
By the way, these Salomon model of boots have a 2 year warranty.
We also don’t recommend steel toe boots or any other boot that is excessively heavy, such as a jump boot. Lighter is better – especially when you are racking up the miles.
If you are certain your feet won’t submerge, and you do want a GORE-TEX product to keep your feet away from light moisture, a product such as Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boot (Buy on Amazon) is fine. The “GTX” in the name means it has Gore-Tex.
Please note this is heavier and less breathable than the Aero model. And it’s not going to drain well. But again, what do you need the most?
Given these specialized requirements in footwear, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that GORUCK is creating their own rucking boot.
Coming soon is the GORUCK MACV-1 Jungle Boot. It’s not released yet, but available for pre-order.
GORUCK is taking one of the most beloved boots in Special Forces history and updating it for the modern era.
It is very lightweight at only 14 ounces, yet tough.
It’s not widely released yet, so we don’t have formal feedback. But, a few people have been testing them in advance, including the creator of GORUCK.
And want to see some real water drainage? Check this out:
If you are in the military, none of the above options are AR 670-1 compliant.
AR 670-1 is the US Army Regulation for Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, and it dictates what non-government issue equipment (such as boots) are allowed.
But the Garmont T8 NFS Tactical Boot (Buy on Amazon) is. This is a light-weight, ventilated, AR 670-1 compliant boot. Great for the ruck march.
They use a suede leather upper with nylon mesh for breathability. Additionally, there are Texon and canvas reinforcements for durability. The boot has excellent ventilation and quick-dry materials. It is viable for wet climates.
When Running Shoes Will Get The Ruck Done
For civilians, wear a shoe that is comfortable and matches the territory you’ll cover.
Of course you can wear boots, if you so choose.
But if you are doing your rucking in urban terrain – running shoes are fine – and will be lighter weight and very comfortable, in most cases.
With great cushioning, flexibility, and being lightweight – they’ll make it easier to go farther in comfort.
Trail running shoes are also a popular option – but keep in mind the same arguments against Gore-Tex as we reviewed in the boot section. Products with Gore-Tex will hold in too much water if your feet get submerged.
Flat Feet or Low Arches – You Need Insoles
Do you have flat feet or low arches? If so, SuperFeet Premium Insoles (Buy on Amazon) can be a game changer. These are specially made to stop common foot pain, arch pain, heel pain & plantar fasciitis, and more.
Quality Socks Make A Big Difference
Next up in importance: quality socks.
A good sock will increase your comfort levels significantly. They will help keep your feet drier, prevent blisters, and can provide a bit of cushion as well. Things to look for include: moisture-wicking so your feet are dry and comfortable, and a sure fit so there’s no annoying slippage and bunching.
These SmartWool Hiking Light Crew Sock (Buy on Amazon) are a great option. Made from a 69% Merino Wool, 30% Nylon, and 1% Elastane mix, they have an elasticized arch brace and just the right amount of cushion for trail walking or aggressive walking paces.
If you are wearing running shoes and prefer a low-cut sock, the SmartWool Run Ultra Light Micro Socks (Buy on Amazon) are great. These are super light-weight. Mesh ventilation zones provide additional breathability and moisture management. Like the other SmartWool products, they use two elastic materials to provide greater stretch and recovery – and that means these socks stay in place.
If you are hiking in cold weather you may want to go with a heavyweight sock, such as the Fox River Stryker Wick Dry Mid-Calf Boot Socks (Buy on Amazon).
But in any case remember that you’ll be out in the real world – and it can be hot or rainy or both. And keeping your feet dry is important for the most comfort. But don’t forget about blisters as well. Long distances and extreme conditions put you at greater risk for these.
Blisters – Stop Friction Before It Starts
What’s the cause of blisters? Friction. And remember on the ruck march you’re going to be going at a faster than normal pace – and that means even more friction. What can we do to minimize it?
We recommend the Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks (Buy on Amazon). What’s the benefit of these? They provide superior moisture management and eliminate skin-on-skin friction which is one of the primary causes of blisters. The secret is the individuals sleeves for each toe. And these make a big difference.
Secondly, many people swear by Trail Toes Anti-Friction Cream (Buy on Amazon). What is it? It’s an anti-friction and anti-chaffing cream. It’s meant for anyone who is tough on their toes – runners, bikers, hikers, hunters, endurance athletes, and of course – ruckers. It works on your feet and toes wet, dry, or hot. It is applied directly to the skin and will aid in reducing skin irritation, hot spots, and blisters no matter how far you are going.
How to Protect Your Hands While Rucking
How about protecting your hands? If you are participating in a GORUCK challenge, or in a ruck club event, you may be tasked with a few interesting things before or during. Carrying a log, water jugs, bear crawling – all these things are possibilities. So pack a pair of gloves just in case.
Experienced ruckers recommend Mechanix gloves, generally. Why? Easy to obtain, affordable, and they do a great job. The Mechanix Wear – Original Covert Tactical Gloves (Buy on Amazon) are a good choice. Durable and functional, they are a little more subtle than the regular Mechanix gloves. These balance protection with dexterity – and that’s why they are popular. They are also available in brown: Mechanix Wear – Original Coyote Tactical Gloves (Buy on Amazon)
And for the ultimate in dexterity, SKD Tactical’s PIG Full Dexterity Tactical (FDT) Alpha Gloves (Buy on Amazon) can pass the “tie your shoe laces test”.
These are a step up in expense, but they are possibly the best gloves around for absolute dexterity. They also feature Touch Screen conductive synthetic suede on the index finger and thumb for full compatibility with all your favorite devices.
It should be noted that in order to provide the ultimate in dexterity these are made from lighter weight materials that will wear out quicker.
Find out more about these gloves here:
In rucking, the most important gear is that which goes on your feet.
With the right footwear and socks, you’ll be off to a great start.
Need ideas on add-ons and accessories for your ruck? Check out our article on rucking accessories and gear.
- Some product photos on this page are provided by, and property of GORUCK.
- Other product photos are property of the manufacturer, and provided by the manufacturer.