Fieldcraft: Removing the toe cups from Army boots

In the old days, before we were allowed to wear non-issue boots, there were very few modifications that were allowed (tolerated is more accurate). The only boots soldiers could wear were the standard issue black leather combat boots, jungle boots (black or green), jump boots (which were pretty much dress boots), and cold weather boots. I’m sure there are others, but these were the main ones.

My desert boots with a flat sole modification. Baghdad, 2003.

In terms of modifications, you could drive off post and find a boot shop that would remove the standard sole and replace it with something else. Everyone had a preference and swore by this sole or that. On my first deployment, I had my newly issued desert boots resoled with a soft, flat sole on the advice of a buddy who had served in Kuwait. He said the flat sole works better when walking on sand.

The other thing you could do is have the toe and heel cups removed. There is a piece of hard material in the boot that protects the toes and provides support for the heel. To make a pair of boots softer and more efficient for running, some soldiers would have these removed. Young infantrymen heading to Ranger School would often have this modification done to help with the running all over the place during RAP Week.

Removing the cups makes the boots a little lighter and definitely more floppy, like running shoes. The drawback is you lose vital ankle support and the toes can now be crushed if you were to drop something on your foot.

For whatever reason, you may want to remove the toe cups. I have a pair of boots that were damaged on the toe cups resulting in a hard crease forming which pressed down on my toes. To remedy this, I decided to remove the toe cups myself (it usually costs around $60 or so at a boot shop). I tried looking around on the internet for instructions, but couldn’t find any, so I decided I’d give it a shot myself.

The following is one way to do it. If you know a better way, please let me know.

What You’ll Need:
• A razor blade or sharp knife
• Needle nose pliers
Shoe GOO


1. Make an incision on the front of the toe cup near the sole of the boot about 3″ long. Cut through the leather and the cardboard inside.

2. Work the knife or pliers between the cardboard and the leather, separating them from each other.

3. Grip the cardboard with the pliers as deep as you can. Begin turning the pliers clockwise or counter-clockwise (I had to go back and forth). This will tear the cardboard from the boot. You’ll heard ripping sounds. Continue to do this until you’ve removed all of the cardboard.

The junk inside.

4. Slather the incision point with Shoe Goo and allow it to dry overnight.

5. Once the Shoe Goo has dried, remove the excess ensuring you don’t reopen the incision.

The results aren’t pretty, but this is a functional enhancement. Still, if there is a better way to do it, I’d love to hear it.

Finished product with a cameo from my reflective belt. You can remove more of the Shoe GOO than I did if you want.

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One thought on “Fieldcraft: Removing the toe cups from Army boots

  1. I went to SFAS some years ago, and had a pair of jungle boots with sand soles that I absolutely loved. I removed both cups (heal and toe) by using a razor blade and slicing the inside of the boot to not jeopardize the integrity of the outside. its a major pain in the ass


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