Combat boots just got cooler

Amadeus Smith

Army testing boots that will help cool troops

New cool combat boots went through a second round of pilot testing after equipment malfunctions shut down initial testing.

The School of Exercise, Leisure and Sports is working with the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine to develop a boot that keeps a constant flow of water over the foot through tubing enclosed in the insole. In theory, the cool water (20 degrees Celsius) will extract heat from the body by taking warm temperatures from the foot and replacing it with a cooler temperature.

“The cold water temperature and the flow of the water work together to let the blood in the foot cool down before it returns to the core of the body,” graduate student Rob Demes said.

Demes and graduate student Greg Farnell found that the boot seemed successful in a few short tests preceding the equipment break.

“The tests went for five minutes each,” Farnell said. “My feet and my head got cooler in that time.”

Testing will involve up to 10 volunteers walking in a warm environmental chamber for 40 minutes while researchers monitor skin temperature, core temperature, metabolic rate, heart rate and thermalsensation at different points in the exercise.

Volunteers will go through one trial wearing the boots and another wearing a head cooling system. Researchers will also administer a placebo test in which the volunteers will wear the equipment but researchers won’t provide cool water.

The new boots may replace the head cooling system which is efficient in extracting heat but is heavy and uses too much power to meet clothing system needs, according to the experiment’s protocol.

Maj. Aaron McPeake, who did a tour in Iraq from February 2004 to Mach 2005, said pilots don’t have to worry about energy supply for a refrigerated vest because it is attached to the aircraft but it can pose a problem for soldiers on the ground.

“It gets hot in the aircraft, but to add to the heat soldiers on the ground sometimes carry 20 pounds worth of equipment,” McPeake said.

Ultimately, researchers believe the boots will be more energy efficient while providing the same “subjective thermal comfort” as the head cooling system.

“The boot isn’t patented yet because the boot is an idea. We have to determine if the system will work first,” exercise science professor Ellen Glickman said.

Contact school of exercise, leisure and sports reporter Amadeus Smith at .