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 and 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.
- Shiki Ryougi from Kara no Kyoukai 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.
- Rather than the pixie boots his predecessors wore Robin III (Tim Drake) wears metal toed tabi boots.
- 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.
- In the early 70's 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.
- Hack/Slash has Cassie Hack wear black boots that help her with the dangerous activities she involves herself in. They also help to cover up her Agony of the Feet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Day of the Doctor" the War Doctor, the one who fought in the Time War, wears boots. His more pacifistic incarnations wear shoes of various kinds.
- Ace habitually wears rugged Doc Marten boots, rather than the fashionable shoes favored by most companions.
- 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.
- Team Fortress 2: The only classes who don't wear boots are the Scout, who opts for cleats instead, and the Spy, who wears what has to be the world's most uncomfortable pair of dress shoes.
- 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).
- Undertale: Undyne wears boots most of the time and is a huge badass.
- Night in the Woods: It's hard to tell with the art style but Mae, the player character points out in a line of dilogue that she's wearing boots which fits her tough tomboy personality.
- Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel wears boots from the second game and beyond.
- Turanga Leela in Futurama wears very heavy boots and is fond of kicking people with them.
- Recess: Spinelli the tomboy wore extremely stompy boots, and was one of the toughest kids on the playground.
- Daria: Daria and her best friend Jane, equally prickly and indomitable, and equally fans of combat boots.
- The Fairly OddParents: Jorgen Von Strangle in the page image is the toughest Fairy in Fairy World, and dresses like a drill sergeant, right down to the combat boots.
- 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.
- 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.