AKU Pilgrim GTX FG - High Liability Combat Boots - WIN A PAIR!

The sound of thunder rolled ominously across the grey sky as people ran for cover. On the distant hilltop, the black outline of four mighty steeds with four motionless riders sat atop could be seen. People fell to their knees, arms outstretched, begging for mercy as the Apocalypse fell upon them.

Or at least, that’s what must’ve happened, as it appears the MOD Procurement have got something right for once, and we all know it’s a snowy day in Hell when that happens!

After many many long centuries of soldiers wearing completely and utterly inadequate footwear for the intense tasks at hand, we can stand with a tear in our eye and wave goodbye forevermore to the likes of Ammo boots, designed to slowly kill the soldier from the foot up with trench rot and which was phased out around 1918 for the Field Service Boots which were simply sexier wellies. We can sniff appreciatively at the slipper like Direct Moulded Sole (DMS) introduced around 1958, which like a slipper, offered bugger all protection against anything. DMS, having been taken round the back of a shed and shot during the mid-1980’s, was succeeded, relatively unsuccessfully, by Boot, Combat High or Boot, Cardboard Horrible or By Christ it Hurts or… etc, etc. Renowned for causing acute tendinitis due to the relatively inflexible nature of the boot heel, it was loved like a bastard offspring from a one-night stand.

Finally, we can all stand, arms around shoulders and heads bowed as we remember our dear friend, Combat Assault Boots (CAB), which were designed with the shareholders of Kiwi boot polish in mind. Still basic, it had a somewhat better design that those gone before but was, still, ultimately, crap.

Looking at that list of fine specimens, we wonder why on this green earth, it took so sodding long to realise that boots needn’t be made wholly of leather, that boots needn’t demand polishing (which usually only serves to reduce the breathability of the boot by blocking the pores of the leather) and that we didn’t need boots that crippled soldiers.

To replace these abominations, we can wave in a new era with the, rankly and in terms of issue boots, the revolutionary Pilgrim GTX FG in MOD Brown, otherwise known as Combat High Liability Boot.

Based on the AKU Pilgrim GTX Mk II, which was a frankly stonking bit of footwear, the new Pilgrim GTX FG is possibly one of the first examples of an issue boot matching it’s retail brother almost to a mirror view. Before however we start slavering with excitement, let’s start from the beginning.

The Pilgrim GTX FG retails for £199.95 from Trekitt.co.uk or free if you happen to be employed in one of the finest professions known to man. It’s available in brown or black and sizes 3-15 which is ideal for both the petite persons and performing clowns alike, and it also has a medium and large option for width.

From the bottom up, the Pilgrim GTX FG is the proud owner of a Vibram Foura sole. Immediately, the signs are good due to the presence of a brand name we all know and trust. Made from black rubber Nitrile, the Foura is abrasion, slip and heat resistant as well as being anti-static and resistant to a variety of POL (Petrol, Oil, Lubricants).


The treads have a decent pronouncement from the sole which gives the Pilgrim GTX FG better grip and increases longevity against wear and tear and the boot is designed and tested around supporting a weight of 45kgs.

We all know that we often carry substantially more weight than 45kg, but it doesn’t mean the Pilgrim GTX FG will fail, it just means that the increase in compression on the midsole, etc, may cause a slight dip in the comfort and support provided.

The footbed, which sits just above the sole is a Cambrelle Ehtylene-vinyl acetate model, again another strong brand name with decades of experience to fling at a boot. We can see that for once, cost doesn’t appear to have been the overriding factor in the contract specification for a new general issue boot. How refreshing!

So far, we’re looking at a boot that has excellent grip and control and which will support you over a wide variety of terrain, as tried and tested. The Pilgrim GTX FG is exceptionally close to its retail brethren in the Pilgrim range at this point and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference.

Moving up the boot, we now spot one big change – the previous AKU Pilgrim GTX MK 2 had the Air8000 system for the upper textiles. This doesn’t. Instead the Pilgrim GTX FG has 100% HT Polyamide 6.6 Cordura which gives high abrasion resistance and is breathable and water resistant.

You would now expect there to be a sacrifice in terms of how the boot breathes. I mean, we’re using a lower spec bit of material here so, it’s obvious… isn’t it? Well in fact, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference at all. Again, AKU have decades of experience and know how to put a boot together. Your feet come out of the Pilgrim GTX FG more or less in the same state as with the AKU Pilgrim GTX Mk 2, relatively dry (depending on your exertion level) and comfortable. The boot still seems to breathe just as well. Even as a boot snob, I can’t tell the difference.

There is Full Grain Bovine leather up the front of the boot for the lacing system – full grain being the best grain and again another sign of money well spent. It will last and provide that protection and support needed for one of the most stressed parts of the boot – the laces. Neatly onto that subject, the laces are high abrasion resistance Polyester and Nylon with a good level of water resistance and wicking which means they dry quickly; the actual D-Loops are iron and steel, riveted into place securely enough that you won’t have to worry about them breaking loose or spinning round.

The collar of the Pilgrim GTX FG is another area where there is a difference compared to the AKU Pilgrim GTX Mk 2 – the collar is slightly thinner than the retail, giving slightly less padding and comfort though again, the difference is absolutely negligible. Once the lacing system is done up, the Pilgrim GTX FG are still incredibly comfortable, and the inbuilt Achilles protection means there’s enough flex down the back of the boot to mitigate the risk of injury.

Looking inside the Pilgrim GTX FG, we can see that GORE-TEX lining, designed to give protection against the ingress of water through the boot whilst still letting the foot breathe. It does exactly that. As with the AKU Pilgrim GTX Mk 2, the GORE TEX is fixed in place with glue, but rather than a complete layer of glue, it’s microscopic dots of glue that create a honeycomb layer, which still gives the strength of hold but increases the boots ability to breathe.

The GORE TEX protection is complete, including tongue and up to the collar, so unless the water goes over the top of the Pilgrim GTX FG, it’s not getting in. This again has been proven in tests over a two month wear period, and it’s absolutely spot on.

Down the bottom of the inside, we have the insole itself which is a curved and ergonomic style, nothing too fancy but better than many of the old issue insoles you’d get (Green feet graters anyone?). It doesn’t hold a smell and so the hygiene of the boot is kept to quite a high level, though again you can always swap this out with an Ortholite or whatever your fancy is.

Underneath the insole of the Pilgrim GTX FG is the 3D Midsole which is designed like a cradle to support the foot rather than again, just a flat surface for it to rest awkwardly on. The boot really does feel very comfortable and does an excellent job of cushioning and supporting the foot throughout, be it walking over rough terrain or running like the legend you are, it keeps the impact to a manageable level.

The big plus, is that it’s a Pilgrim, so it looks good and could easily double up as your daily footwear if you’re so inclined – I wear Pilgrim every single day and the Pilgrim GTX FG is a robust, resilient boot which fills you with confidence over any terrain, and makes you want to kick someone in the head (in combat of course, not just walking down the street because that wouldn’t be nice) just to see how it feels.

Full disclosure on this, I have worn the AKU Pilgrim MK 1, Mk 2 and now this since pretty much 2011 almost every single day – they’re my default boots. I dress like I’m about to ascend a mountain, so in terms of comfort, they hit a ten. In terms of style, they hit a ten. In terms of flexibility they hit a ten, because you can use them tactically or casually, and you can enjoy an increased level of support, comfort and control with them.

The British Army has finally taken one huge, hulking leap forward. Forget about your UOR armour and weaponry. This is probably the single most important development for the individual soldier since they added strawberry porridge to the ration packs.

There is one key point to remember with the Pilgrim GTX FG. These aren't boots for hipsters. These aren't exactly your casual street wear boots, even if they can double up for that. These are boots designed for soldiers. These are boots designed for war. These are boots designed to be dragged through mud, dirt and blood.

With these boots on, as you storm over the enemy position and skewer him through the face with your bayonet, you can stand easy in the knowledge that the last thing he’ll see is that AKU logo swinging towards his face to cave his skull in, and as he kneels on the ground with that last breath escaping from him, he’ll gaze up at you with those bloodshot eyes, not out of fear, but out of respect, and say with that last breath, “Nice ******* boots.”

£199.95 from Trekitt.co.uk – go buy a pair, now.

See our full review on youtube:

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Kit Reviewer
Reviews Editor
Re. your first paragraph: our first day on the square for rifle drill (this be the SLR), and the shouty one explaining that because the new boots (BCH) didn't have a toe cap we'd have to imagine where a toe cap would be and that was where to line up the butt of the rifle. It was clearly a major design flaw.

The BCH (actually, the RM's version) were tested and signed off, then someone put on a cost ceiling of £12 per pair. At the time, a pair of Zamberlan Trek-Lites (my first decent civvy boots) were £75. The Scarpas cost even more. Go figure. The result was a lot of Achilles, ankle, knee and hip injuries. BCH finished my career for me. I was sitting watching your review over a coffee this morning, and remarked to SWMBO that there was a certain irony to seeing a review of such a good boot and my hip aching.

That £12 per pair must have cost the MOD far more in medical treatment, pay-outs and waste (because you train and accommodate a guy, only to lose him) than it ever saved.

A few years later, I met one of the BCH team. He was drinking in my local with a woman I knew - ironically, a craft teacher from the local school (no doubt she taught him). He started making all sorts of justifications about what he regarded as 'fundamentally, a good boot'. It wasn't, even by the standards of the day. I'd contrast the German and US boots of the time as examples. Or the Argentinian one, for that matter. He got a rather robust response from me.

History aside, I'm genuinely pleased to see that the standard of some of the personal kit that's coming through now is so high. I got a new pair of Hanwags last summer, and it's galling to see that people get something of a similar standard free... the lucky buggers. I'm pleased that they don't have to put up with the rubbish of yesteryear.

Moving on, it's interesting to see that we're back to a short boot, albeit with a gaiter system these days. Always the better solution, in my opinion.

Nail on the head there in terms of pricing. Now, it's an obvious point that a boot that retails for £75, does not cost £75 to make, but even so, you're still looking at around £22-£28 give or take for build costs; so how the army was ever meant to get anything other than a bit of leather for around £12 boggles the mind.

It's psychological as well - I used to dread putting on my CAB when we were forced to wear issue tissue. I knew I was in for pain and suffering. If this was at the start of a 12 mile tab, you've already got a soldier worrying about his feet rather than focusing on the task at hand. That's just absolute madness.

The army has always been a bit behind on the psychological impact of crap kit on the troops - even with the black kit bag you got issued for Herrick there was still some right duff bits of gear in there.

Great post from yourself, don't forget to take a punt on the number of cuts!

34 cuts.

DMS - nice and shiny.
BCH Mk 1 - good but not with tendon issues.
BCH Mk 2 - better and not a bad boot. Had a pair that got so soft that folded at the ankle.
Assault boot - more improvements. Not bad.
Altberg - very good bit of foot kit but high maintenance after getting wet.

These look very nifty.

As above, I found the CAB to be pretty bad. I've got a picture someone of my heels sans skin after a tab (and these were the pair I'd broken in!). I ended up going with Lowa then Alt-Berg for most of my service, though you're right on the maintenance side for Alt-Berg. Plus of course, they lost a bit of their customer base once they stopped offering re-soles.
****, never thought of that. In the interests of inclusion, let me help you out:

| | | | |||| | || | || || |||| |||| |||| |||| | | | | | | |||| || || ||| || |||| |||| || | | |||||||||||| || || ||| ||| ||| ||| ||| || || |||| || | | |

There you go!

ARRSE - We don't discriminate, we just hate.

My barcode reader says that's Tesco Value baked beans.


Book Reviewer
I'm on for 38 cuts, size 11 please (or the pics get released on t'interweb)
I don't understand the moaning about BCH. I thought they were great and a real revelation after DMS which were shit. DMS were £12 in the QM's and BCH when first issued cost a whopping £30. I wore a pair for years on the building site as well.

That said I thought compo and 58 pattern webbing were decent, and unlike most I thought the SLR was shit. Actually I thought the Army was shit although I could see we were better than many.
BCH - They weren't the best but I never personally had any particular issue with them after a reasoanble breaking in period - the only time I've had to 'pour blood out of a boot' was at the first double time of a CFT and the guy behind me had the barrel of his SLR pointing downwards, hit the back of my heel which slammed my foot into the ground tearing off half the big toe nail and breaking my the toe. Hurt a bit. Luckily there wasn't far to go...

The pair I left with were like slippers and even that nylon waffle footbed thingy was ok - absolutely zero support for load bearing of course, but comfy.


Book Reviewer
Well yeah, there's loads of 'em.

And watching that video was 'only' 11 minutes of my life. How long is it going to take you to count all the ***** on here.

And arrange them in order of ****isness.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
Anyway - whoever gets closest or hits the right number of cuts, wins! Woo! Post your answers in this thread to be eligible. Rather than just slinging up a number though, put a bit of chat in as well.

In the meantime, feel free to banter about shit boots and serious injuries gone by thanks to DMS / CAB, etc.

Read more about this resource...

Cuts! fecking Alfred Hitchcock walt! :cool:


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Do we really have to bother with this formality?

It’s 30.

Just send them to my usual address as discussed previously.
Do we really have to bother with this formality?

It’s 30.

Just send them to my usual address as discussed previously.
lets be honest your conflict of interest with haix preclude you modelling them Suck it up buttercup or words to that effect
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I'd like to complement on your clear, but charismatic accent, which is, coincidentally rather similar to mine...

I make it 37 cuts.

I haven't got any stories about boots except to say that I wear the buggers out at a higher rate than I'm happy with.