Sometimes synonymous with the term survival knives, boot knives are a necessary gear addition for anyone wanting to be prepared for anything.
Though they prove handy for daily, mundane tasks like opening packages and letters, removing staples and cutting clothing tags, they are also designed with self-defense and practicality in mind.
Especially in this day and age when firearms are becoming outlawed in more and more US states, a reliable boot knife could be your last resort to protect yourself in a dangerous situation.
What Is a Boot Knife and Its Benefits
Boot knives are small, sturdy knives made to conceal around the ankle by means of a holster or strap.
They’re normally designed with secrecy in mind – you want to be able to conceal your boot knife entirely.
Focused on utility, they are also easy to handle and aerodynamic.
Furthermore, they can be compatible with a wide variety of shoes and boots styles (besides maybe your home slippers).
From added security and utility to recreation, there’s endless reasons and purposes to add a boot knife to your tactical gear collection.
Boot knives are perfect for survivalists who want to be prepared for anything.
From tasks as simple as opening a letter, to skinning off the pelt of a deer, carrying a small knife in your boot is one simple action you can take to adequately equip you to deal with a whole range of situations and challenges.
Though the chances may be small that you’ll ever need to defend yourself from an assailant using your boot knife, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Having a blade concealed and strapped to your ankle gives you the added security of knowing you have a backup, even if you never need it.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a boot-concealed knife is how discreet it is. One of the boot knife’s biggest strengths is that no one has to know you have it.
In a threatening situation, an aggressor may think to check for a gun, but few would remember to look for a knife in the boot. This gives you added power, security, and peace of mind.
How To Choose The Best Boot Knife
Boot knives come in different shapes, sizes and materials. Though you may not know exactly what you’ll be using your boot knife for, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve at least got an idea.
Knives of different blade lengths, materials, sizes and edge designs have their advantages and disadvantages depending on their intended use.
Here are several of the factors that set one knife apart from others, and which one might be best for you given your knife’s intended purpose.
When it comes to boot knives, bigger isn’t always better. In fact, knives with longer blades may be harder to conceal and easier to break.
Sizes vary greatly but can run as small as a little over an inch and a half up to the standard size of 4.4 to 5.5 inches.
When selecting a blade length, you’ll want to consult your state’s laws on knives, as knives with longer blades are sometimes outlawed.
Look up your state’s laws and know them well before shopping around.
Blade material can be a big determiner of weight, purpose, durability and overall feel.
Many variations on the market today are constructed out of stainless steel, which is incredibly durable and also easy to clean.
Blades made of steel and alloy blends may be more fragile than their stainless steel competitors, but are usually more affordable and also more agile.
Whether made out of stainless steel, alloy, or any other type of carbon fiber, the ones with black matte finishes minimize glare and reflection.
You’ll want to be able to hold and maneuver your knife safely, as well as being able to draw it from its strap or holster in a quick, precise manner.
For these reasons, the handle is one of the most important factors on any boot knife. A blade-to-hilt ration is what matters most – you need a ration that feels comfortable.
You also need to select a shape that forms to your hand and material that grips easily. Additionally, think critically about quality, form, shape, material and size.
Because it’s much easier to wield a knife with a larger handle, newbies may find them preferable for safety and accuracy.
Boots aren’t one-size fits all and neither is the knife you’ll conceal in it. You’ll want to match your maximum knife size to your foot.
A boot knife that is too big will bulge and one that is too small will be hard to remove for use.
While comfort is a priority, it’s also important to make sure that you’re able to completely conceal your knife.
This can also be aided by what pants you wear, though most all types of jeans for men will sufficiently hide your knife.
Furthermore, there’s an appropriate knife for any desired size – they even make products small enough to be kept in all wallet types, so you should have no issues finding a knife to fit.
Knife edges come in three major categories: serrated, flat and hybrid.
Like the surface of the blades used on any durable straight razor, flat blades on boot knives have a smooth surface and clean cut.
They’re ideal for slicing materials that won’t give much resistance. Alternatively, serrated edges are great for cutting cords, wood, fabric, and steak.
Which one you’ll select will depend mostly on your knife’s intended use, but if you’re torn there’s always the hybrid option.
These are half-serrated, half-flat blades that have the best of both worlds all in one.
Ranging from less than a single ounce to as heavy as 7 ounces or more, there’s a lot of variation in boot knife weight.
Naturally, heavier options are going to be a bit harder to maneuver. However, they may be sturdier in some situations.
Alternatively, the lighter options are usually extremely maneuverable. Which you choose depends mostly on your preferences and skill level.
Types of Boot Knives – Single Edge vs Double Edge
To say something is a double-edged sword means that it has both benefits and downfalls.
When it comes to selecting a single edge or double-edged boot knife, the same is true of each option.
One upside of double-edged boot knives is that they’re easier to defend yourself within a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, they’re also illegal.
Alternatively, single-edged blades can be slightly less effective in a conflict with an assailant, but they’re useful when you’d like to use the back of your hand or thumb to apply additional pressure to the blade when cutting or severing a material.
Blade Point Design Differences
There’s no point design that’s innately superior to the others. Which ends up being best for you will be determined solely by your needs and taste.
However, remember to check the laws and requirements for your state before purchasing a clip point, trailing point or spear point knife, as these are prohibited in select states.
- Pros: Legal in most states, multipurpose and versatile, better precision when slicing
- Cons: None
As one of the most common point designs, clip-point knives are legal in many states.
Perhaps the reason it’s so common is that it’s multipurpose and versatile.
The point’s curved tip allows for better precision when slicing, though the point can also be used for a wide array of purposes.
- Pros: Thicker, stronger and more precise than its competitors
- Cons: None
Drop-point knives have a blade spine that’s gently curved. Its shape makes it ideal for huntsmen who might need to skin game at the drop of the hat.
Ideal for butchering, this knife performs tasks like skinning and carving with optimal ease.
It’s also a thicker point than its competitors, which adds strength and versatility without compromising precision.
- Pros: Ideal for stabbing and severing
- Cons: Not really good for skinning or carving
This blade point design is ideal for stabbing and severing. It has a dual-function design which includes both a dramatically pointed tip as well as a sharp grind.
This makes it great at puncturing material as well as cutting.
As an overall sturdy, strong design, tanto-point knives are great multi-purpose knives, but might not be the ideal choice for huntsmen wishing to skin or carve.
- Pros: Give added control while cutting meat thus it’s the best as a kitchen or steak knife
- Cons: Not that versatile
Straight point knives have a straight spine that usually runs flush with the handle.
Their tips curve up slowly into a gradual point.
These are great for cutting materials such as meat, which makes them a more popular design for kitchen and steak knives.
While some companies do make straight-point boot knives, they are generally less common.
Apart from providing added control with cutting motions, straight-point knives are generally less versatile.
- Pros: Perfect for carving, skinning and self-defense, less likely to break
- Cons: None
Spear-point knives are asymmetrical with a point that falls on the knife’s axis.
Often, these come equipped with a groove which is designed to let blood.
These grooves can also serve to strengthen the blade’ structural integrity and decrease the risk of cracking.
The bloodletting groove along with the double-edged design make these knives a popular choice for carving and skinning as well as self-defense.
Often the groove is designed to let blood. A groove can also serve to strengthen the blade’s structural integrity and make it much more unlikely to break.
Ideal for carving and skinning when needed.
- Pros: Work great for self-defense, slicing and skinning
- Cons: Not multi-purpose and are prohibited in many states
Trailing-point knives have a lightweight blade that curves upward.
The pointed tip of the knife trails behind the back of the knife’s blade, creating a dramatic blade shape which is ideal for slicing and skinning.
While these knives are ideal for preparing meat and perhaps self-defense, they’re not the best option for a multi-purpose boot knife.
Additionally, trailing-point knives are prohibited in many states, so be sure to check your local laws before making a purchase.
How To Wear a Boot Knife
Many boot knives come with a sheath. If not, you can use the measurements of your blade and some leather and then use twine or leather strips to fasten it.
Alternatively, you can purchase an ankle strap. These allow you to sport a boot knife while wearing a wide assortment of shoes.
To prevent cutting yourself, use a holster and put it in the boot.
You can make one with the measurement of your blade and a leather sheath. Use twine or leather strips to fasten.
Using ankle straps you can wear your knife with almost any boot, from your waterproof hunting boots to a pair of the best chukka boots.
Step 1 – Consider your socks
When gearing up with a boot knife, socks are essential for comfort.
While you don’t need to purchase specific socks, you do want to invest in a quality product that’s going to serve as a barrier between the sheath and your skin and prevent any chaffing.
There are many great socks to wear with boot knives, but the best socks for men are both practical and comfortable.
Step 2 – Select the right foot
Boot knife tradition dictates that they’re usually worn on the outside of the ankle, on the dominant side of the body.
This means if you’re right-handed, you’ll want to put it on your right foot.
That being said, the left side is the most popular choice for men who carry boot knives.
Regardless of which foot you pick, remember to place it so it’s comfortable and optimally located for quick retrieval.
Step 3 – Position the sheath
Next, you’ll want to position the sheath. If your boot is compatible, you can slip the sheath in and clip it onto the cuff of your boot.
However, this won’t always work, as some boots are too thick. Either way, the goal is to position the sheath with a half-inch protruding.
Any more of that and it will get in the way, any less and it may be inefficient to retrieve.
Step 4 – Place an ankle strap
If your knife cannot be clipped to your boot, consider investing in an ankle strap.
These come in many different variations and can be worn on the outside rather than tucked in the boot if you like.
Step 5 – Place firmly
Whether you’ve clipped, strapped or attached your knife in any other way, be sure you’ve done it firmly. Placing is the key.
A loose knife can quickly become an injury and a knife that’s difficult to retrieve can be useless in emergency situations.
How To Clean and Maintain a Boot Knife
The cleaning and maintenance for boot knives are conceptually the same as the maintenance for any knife – always keep your knife dry, wipe it after use and occasionally apply a couple drops of oil for added protection.
For additional protection against corrosion and damage, you can purchase a knife maintenance wax.
When it comes to the blade, a small amount of tarnishing is normal, though its effects can be minimized by maintenance.
As with any knife, frequent use demands increased maintenance, so you can expect a knife to need more attention if you use it more.
However, even blades which are seldom used will want a little TLC every now and then to stay sharp and ready for action.
How To Sharpen a Boot Knife
Sharpening your blade is an essential element of maintenance for boot knives.
Though it’s not ideal, some products require sharpening right out of the box.
When it comes to methods there are a couple different options:
- Wet stones
- Sharpening rod
- Pull-through sharpeners
One popular method for sharpening is wet stones. Wet stones are stones that need to be wetted before use by applying either water or oil.
If you’re a newbie to the knife-sharpening game and you’re not sure how to start, use a sharpie and mark the knife bevel.
After striking your knife blade with the wet stone, whether or not the sharpie grinds off will tell you if you’re keeping the correct angle or not.
Remember that the angle should sit at right around 20 degrees on each side.
Alternatively, another popular option is a sharpening rod, which takes a bit more expertise but can be used to sharpen more drastically or correct an extremely dull knife.
Other methods involve sandpaper or pull-through sharpeners.
What is a Tang – Types and Benefits
Tang is a manufacturing component which involves the blade’s design.
Full tang is when the blade extends all the way through the handle, reinforcing the blade and handle together.
This reduces the possibility of breakage or cracking. However, full tang knives are often heavier, which is less desirable for some.
Alternatively, short tang knives have a blade that doesn’t run all the way to the end of the handle. Usually, it will run halfway or just short of halfway.
These knives can be a lighter option, though they lack the durability and strength of their full tang competitors.
Boot Knife Laws
Blades between 2.5” and 3” are legal in most states.
However, it is essential to note that federal and state governments have separate sets of legislation.
As a knife owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your purchase falls as legal under both sets of laws.
Additionally, there are laws dictate for both ownership and carry.
For example, it may be legal in a state to own a specific knife type, but illegal to conceal it and carry it in your boot.
Be sure to never trust third-party or private web pages detailing the knife laws for your state – legislation can change often, and a website isn’t liable to keep their information updated.
Instead, double check with your state’s website directly for specifications on blade size limitations and the details of other knife laws.
For a complete list of links to each states knife laws, check out the American Knife and Tool Institute’s database.
How To Travel With a Boot Knife
Because knife laws can vary so much from state to state, it’s no wonder that traveling with one can present some challenges.
If you’re flying, you’ll want to secure your boot knife in checked baggage.
While the TSA agents at some airports will let knives with smaller blades slide through security without bothering, they are technically prohibited on both domestic and international flights.
For specific questions on knife laws in airports and planes, check with the Transportation Security Administration’s website.
When traveling from state to state, be sure to check the knife and carry laws not just in your destination state, but also in any areas you’ll pass through on the way.
As with knife laws in general, be sure to do your own thorough research.
Though some airports will allow you to take a knife, it’s left up to the discretion of the security TSA.
On domestic and international flights, they are prohibited. You can risk it with small blades and sometimes get away with it, but you risk having your knife taken away from you.
Your best bet is always to put it in your checked luggage with its sheath secured.
For questions, you can consult the American Knife and Tool Institute’s database mentioned previously.
In the worst case scenario, a boot knife can be your last line of self-defense in an emergency situation.
With proper maintenance and care, a high-quality boot knife can last a lifetime.
Every great outdoorsman knows that the key to survival lies in staying prepared – don’t wait until you need one to buy one, because by then it will probably be too late.
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- What Is a Boot Knife and Its Benefits
- How To Choose The Best Boot Knife
- Types of Boot Knives – Single Edge vs Double Edge
- Blade Point Design Differences
- How To Wear a Boot Knife
- How To Clean and Maintain a Boot Knife
- How To Sharpen a Boot Knife
- What is a Tang – Types and Benefits
- Boot Knife Laws
- How To Travel With a Boot Knife