MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Women in the military. It’s an issue that will forever be disputed; by civilians that is. In the eyes of the Marine Corps, all Marines need to be ready to deploy at any time, regardless of race, color, religion or gender. Nevertheless, just because all Marines are created equal, doesn’t mean all gear should be.
With that spirit in mind, women from both the enlisted and officer ranks joined together at the Female Uniform Symposium of September 2002. It was there they discussed the term ‘unisex’ and why it doesn’t always apply. After about three years of research and development, another one of their proposed improvements is close to being available in base exchanges.
Female-specific boots are scheduled to be available for purchase at Military Clothing Sales stores here beginning in August. Between 800 and 1,200 pairs of boots have been ordered, ranging in size from a women’s 4 to 11.
“They were designed to give females with narrow feet a better fitting boot,” said Marlee C. Foster, the project officer with Combat Equipment and Support Systems – Infantry Combat Equipment in Quantico, Va. “It is expected to reduce the majority of rubbing, which can lead to blisters and hot spots.”
The lack of sufficient stability and support was also a major issue the symposium addressed. To explain this, the new boots were created using a plastic female mold, which better supports the narrow anatomy of the female foot.
“Fourth Battalion Drill Instructors were among the first to test the new boots back in 2002. They said the added support really paid off when carrying heavy loads in their pack on conditioning hikes,” said Foster.
Corporal Brandy L. Hall, a supply clerk with Company A, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base, is a perfect example of the need for size-specific boots for both men and women. She currently wears a size three-and-a-half in a men’s boot.
“For those (women) who are attached to actively deploying units, I would think getting these new boots is a must,” said Hall. “In combat, your feet are one of your most important tools. They should at least give them a shot and try them out – I plan to.”
Though different in size and width, the price of the new boots will remain the same. The hot weather combat boots will be priced at $80, and the infantry combat boots will be priced at $93.
If a factory defect does occur, consumers can exchange the damaged boots for a new pair provided customers have the receipt. Soles coming unglued and stitching coming undone would be two such examples.
Overall, having specific, female boots available in the Marine Corps provides Marines of both sexes the same opportunity in achieving maximum comfort and medically correct, footwear to guarantee their maximum efforts.