What are Jump Boots?

Henry Gaudet

Jump boots are specialized footwear that were first designed for use by United States (US) Army paratroopers during World War II. The jump boot, also referred to as the paratrooper boot or the Corcoran, was specifically designed with parachute operations in mind. For instance, the heel of the boot was beveled to prevent potential snags on parachute lines, and the jump boot was fully laced from the instep to the top, as opposed to the ankle-to-top lacing of that era’s standard-issue combat boots, to give the extra ankle support needed for parachute landings.

Jump boots were first designed for use by US Army paratroopers during World War II.
Jump boots were first designed for use by US Army paratroopers during World War II.

Development of the US Army jump boot began in 1940, with designers drawing ideas and elements from equipment used successfully by other forces, including US Marine Corps parachute units, German parachutists and US Forest Service “smoke jumpers.” The first design was a shoe worn with customized braces, but it failed to provide sufficient support for the paratroopers. Designs that featured straps and braces fared no better, but by August 1943, the US Army had settled on a tall, calf-high fully laced boot with none of these extraneous straps. The boots were given the name "Boots, Jumper, Parachute".

The design was a huge success. Apart from the support and comfort it offered, the jump boot was well received by the soldiers, who liked the boot’s distinctive look. Jump boots boosted morale within airborne units. In fact, paratroopers began tucking their trouser legs into their boots to show their pride. This “blousing” of boots had not been common practice in the US Army until these soldiers began showing off their boots, but the practice has since been adopted by the entire US military as well as other military and civilian forces around the world.

Airborne units did not maintain their monopoly on jump boots for long. By 1944, paratrooper uniforms were merged with US Infantry uniforms. The impact of the jump boot on pride and morale had not, however, gone unnoticed by Army officials, and in 1949, russet combat boots, which bore a striking resemblance to World War II era jump boots, were issued to all troops with the hopes of stoking that same sense of pride.

While distinct from genuine jump boots, the russets occasionally are referred to as jump boots. Antique collectors in particular should take note of this common misnomer. There are differences between the two, such as the heel and toe caps, but the easiest way to tell russets from jump boots is by examining the sole. Russets have a full rubber sole, and jump boots have a leather strip visible between the rubber heel and forward sole.

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