Like other articles of clothing, a character's footwear can speak volumes about what the audience can or shouldn't expect from them. When the character is wearing good solid boots, it's usually a safe bet that they aren't going to turn out to be a pushover or a wimp. These are Boots of Toughness: boots used to signify that the character is tough. The boots themselves don't have to be tough; they may be battered, damaged, mended or even almost completely worn out. What they do have to be is Substantial, Sturdy, and Practical.
Let's take those one by one:
- Substantial: Boots of Toughness are not flimsy or delicate. They don't look fragile, and they don't require lots of attention. Wipe off the mud, the blood, and the beer; give 'em a quick swipe of shoe polish once in a while; and they're good to go. The character wearing fancy python-leather cowboy boots with lots of tooling and inlay work is probably not a tough working cowboy — his boots aren't suitable.
- Sturdy: While the boots don't have to currently be in good condition, they need to give the impression that it took a lot of time and hard usage to beat them up or break them down that badly. If they are in good condition, they need to stand up to hard wear.
- Practical: Whatever it is the character needs to do, these boots make that easier or, at the very least, they do not make it more difficult. High-heeled fashion boots generally fail these criteria, although Combat Stilettos in boot form can count in that the character wearing them demonstrates their toughness by not being handicapped by the high, narrow heels.
Boots of Toughness often figure in a Feet-First Introduction.
- Revy from Black Lagoon wears a pair of combat boots, and is easily the most badass member of the Lagoon company, and in the running for most badass in Roanpur.
- Shiki Ryougi from The Garden of Sinners undergoes a drastic internal transformation following her two-year coma, going from an angsty, confused teenager to a brutal, if sentimental Combat Pragmatist. The only outward change that signifies it, however (besides a slightly different haircut), is that she goes from wearing geta (traditional wooden sandals) to practical army boots.
- Hero Killer Stain from My Hero Academia has huge combat boots with reinforced steel toes and metal spikes jutting out from the front. They thud very heavily when he walks and tell volumes about his personality as a demented man on a mission.
- Batman started out wearing a typical "Superhero" suit, with footwear that was more like a form-fitting slipper than an actual "shoe", but more recent depictions have him wearing something more akin to a boot, often with a closeup of the tread while he's kicking someone or swinging.
- Rather than the pixie boots his predecessors wore, Robin III (Tim Drake) wears metal-toed tabi boots.
- Hack/Slash: Cassie Hack wears black boots that help her with the dangerous activities she involves herself in. They also help to cover up her missing toes.
- Supergirl: In the early '70s, Supergirl wore slippers. Then she changed her costume and replaced the slippers with knee-length red boots made of a fabric just as invulnerable as herself.
- The title villain of X-Men: Apocalypse wears combat boots that not only are true to the comics but have the practical effect of making his portrayer Oscar Isaac look taller.
- D.E.B.S.. All the Teen Super Spy characters wear black shoes with heels except for Max, a tough black chick who wears black combat boots.
- Indiana Jones: Indiana as an Adventurer Archaeologist wears Alden 405s, expensive orthopedic boots tough enough for stomping killer ants. His teacher persona does not wear them, opting for everyday shoes, not that he'd need them since when he's teaching, nothing "adventurey" happens.
- Part of badass bounty hunter/biker Leonard Small's wardrobe in Raising Arizona — true enough, when he gets blown up by a grenade the boots are all that's left of him.
- Star Trek Beyond has Action Girl Jaylah wearing some sturdy leather boots◊, which even have heels for extra toughness.
- The Suicide Squad. Just before Kicking Ass in All Her Finery during her escape from a torture chamber, Harley Quinn makes sure to put on a pair of combat boots first, which come in handy for kicking down doors or slamming them into mooks' faces.
- Vicious Fun: Carrie finishes off her all-black outfit with a leather jacket and tall lace-up boots.
- Discussed in Falling Down. Bill finds a hole in one of his shoes early on in the film and decides to replace them with some hiking boots, given that he's been attempting to get across Los Angeles on foot all day. Heading into Nick's army surplus store, he asks Nick for advice. Nick shows him two pairs of boots, one of which is a fancy pair that he is disdainful of and the other which he describes as this trope. While describing both pairs, he does so to disparage a gay couple who are browsing. Of course, since Nick turns out to be a Neo-Nazi, this should come as no surprise. After Bill kills Nick and takes a number of items on Ballistic Discount, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it pan up on his new outfit shows that he's opted to take the expensive boots, likely out of spite.
- A Clockwork Orange: Alex and his droogs wear black military boots when in uniform and use them to viciously kick their victims.
- Adrian Mole buys himself some "bully-boy brown" Doc Marten's boots when he joins Barry Kent's gang.
- Animorphs: One book has Rachel undergo Literal Split Personality, with one being much more aggressive than the other. Oddly, they both keep their fashion sense, with "Mean" Rachel going for tough clothes including hiking boots.
- A Clockwork Orange: When Alex describes his gang's uniform, he specifically calls out their heavy boots for kicking.
- The Lancre witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg wear tough boots, and even tougher socks inside those boots. They spend a lot of time walking and working outdoors in a mountainous terrain, and they're tough women.
- Vimes wears boots as well, generally cheap boots with thin enough soles that he knows exactly where in the city he is simply by the feel of the street. The boots themselves are not tough, but Vimes IS.
- In reverse of the above, Nobby Nobbs wears steel-toed boots to help compensate for his lack of weight and strength in a fight. He's not badass, but his boots are.
- In The Light Fantastic, Rincewind is captured by a band of thieves led by a woman wearing riding boots. The narration lampshades the fact that this is usually the point where the author goes into waaaaaay too much detail regarding the boots and the physical characteristics person filling them, but these are entirely practical rather than fetishistic.
- The Hollows: Rachel's entire team wears boots, specifically chosen for toughness, style, and comfort given their jobs.
- InCryptid: The entire Price family wears boots because cryptozoology usually takes them into terrain and territories where tough boots are needed. The trope is played with in the case of Verity, who prefers dancing shoes and doesn't always think to put the boots on before she goes to work and ends up ruining sneakers.
- The Kane Chronicles: Sadie Kane is rarely seen when she's not wearing a pair of combat boots, and while her older brother is neither a wimp nor weak-willed, she is most decidedly the tougher of the two.
- The Lord of the Rings: When Aragorn is first introduced, the narration spends a while describing his boots. They're well made of good material and well-fitting, but dirty and worn because he's worn them for years, travelling the wilderness.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians / The Heroes of Olympus: Ares, the God of War, wears combat boots in his tough-guy Badass Biker guise. Mars Ultor, his Roman alter-ego, also wears them, though he appears as an actual soldier.
- In Quite Contrary, Mary wears a pair of heavy boots that are frequently mentioned to be good for kicking people and stomping through the forest. This is in contrast to the flimsy, sexy Little Red Riding Hood Halloween costume she wears for most of the book, and she even uses her boots to remind herself that she is not just a damsel in distress.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Det. Rosa Diaz wears leather motorcycle boots that are as tough as she is.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the Alternate Reality Episode "The Wish", a Darker and Edgier Buffy wears cargo pants and combat boots, in contrast to the Action Fashionista we're used to.
- Doctor Who:
- Several of the Doctor's incarnations have had boots as part of their regular costume, although the type of boot itself varied. The Third and Fourth wore knee-high boots; the Sixth, Eleventh, and Thirteenth wore ankle-length boots (the Eighth also wore ankle-length boots at the end of his life, with cavalry gaiters added bringing their length up to knee-high); the Ninth and Twelfth (and the Fugitive Doctor) wore rugged Doc Marten (or Doc Marten-like) boots, in keeping with their more abrasive personalities. The War Doctor, the incarnation who fought in the Time War, wore modern combat boots, again with gaiters to increase their length.
- Ace habitually wears rugged Doc Marten boots, rather than the fashionable shoes favored by most companions.
- Firefly likes this. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are the show’s tough characters and they all usually wear rugged boots. Jayne’s look like a work boot style while Mal’s and Zoe’s are high brown ones. Zoe manages to look fashionable in hers, too.
- Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Taiga Hanaya wears combat boots as a part of his soldier attire along with black shirt, camo pants, and a single dog tag. Sometimes he exchanges the shirt and pants for a black scrubs set. It complements his pragmatic nature and fighting prowess both in hand-to-hand combat and as the story's original Kamen Rider. Aside from that, he is a massive edgelord in need to maintain a "villainous" reputation.
- Nancy Sinatra sings about her boots as a metaphor for becoming tough in her hit, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'":
These boots are made for walkin'
And that's just what they'll do.
One of these days these boots
Are gonna walk all over you.
- Elsword: Among Rena's advanced classes, Wind Sneaker wears boots and is tougher at physical combat — especially kicking — than her other classes Grand Archer and Night Watcher, who wear Combat Stilettos.
- Final Fantasy VII. Aerith Gainsborough wears a pink dress and red jacket over a pair of old brown boots that seem almost too big for her, hinting at her inner strength beneath the feminine look.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: Boots are a class of accessories that generally extend either movement or jump ability (and in the case of one pair, both).
- Grand Theft Auto
- Niko Bellic, Player Character of Grand Theft Auto IV, comes out of the boat and onto Liberty City wearing a pair of Hinterland hiking boots, and he's a tough, no-nonsense criminal with the highest amount of named kills in the franchise. There's a contrast between his boots and the smart dress shoes of his innocuous, (mostly) law-abiding cousin Roman.
- Grand Theft Auto V: Trevor Phillips is a meth-addled semi-Functional Addict with a thermonuclear Hair-Trigger Temper and a violent streak a mile wide, and he starts off with a pair of sturdy worn work boots as battered as everything that he owns. In his very first cutscene, he uses them to stomp Johnny Klebitz's head flat.
- Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel wears boots from the second game and beyond.
- Night in the Woods: It's hard to tell with the art style, but Mae points out in a line of dialogue that she's wearing boots, which fits her tough tomboy personality.
- Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Brute of Team Star, Mela, who wears massive boots that reach all the way past her knees. Played for Laughs in that they're also so huge that she can't walk properly in them.
- Team Fortress 2: The only classes who don't wear boots are the Scout, who opts for cleats to go with his sports theme, and the Spy, who wears dress shoes to go with his three-piece suit.
- Undertale: Undyne wears boots most of the time and is a huge badass.
- Daria: Daria and her best friend Jane, equally prickly and indomitable, and equally fans of combat boots.
- The Fairly OddParents!: Jorgen Von Strangle is the toughest Fairy in Fairy World, and dresses like a drill sergeant, right down to the combat boots.
- Turanga Leela in Futurama wears very heavy boots and is fond of kicking people with them. She often gets teased for it due to her lack of femininity.
- Gravity Falls: Wendy Corduroy wears mud-caked boots and more often than not comes off as a slacker. But in "Into the Bunker" she fights an inhuman monster that has taken her shape and acquits herself admirably against something quite strong. It should be mentioned that Wendy is the only daughter of an extremely tough lumberjack.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Imaginary Friend", the girls create an imaginary friend to counter Patches, Mike Believe's antagonistic imaginary friend. The girls' is a super-strong, super-intelligent bunny scientist in a floral-print dress and combat boots. The boots are a trait added by Buttercup, who is the more tomboyish of the trio.
- Recess: Spinelli the tomboy wore extremely stompy boots, and was one of the toughest kids on the playground.
- In Steven Universe, Holly Blue Agate is the authoritarian supervisor of Pink Diamond's Quartz soldiers and zoo, and wears white thigh-high low-heeled boots.