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10/12/12 - A seeming newcomer to the tactical boot arena is Sand Storm Footwear. Sand Storm appeared on the scene with the release of three new desert boots: the HooDoo, Lightfighter and Stinger, available exclusively at initial release through USCAV. Shown here are the HooDoo and Lightfighter. But in actuality, 'newcomers' they are not.
Background - While Sand Storm is a new company, the key players are are not new to boots. The main design force behind Sand Storm is none other than Dan Ellis, who started the OTB Boots brand, which I have featured on this site in the previous pages since 2007. The OTB line started off with their tactical water boots (designed for the SEALs), then later expanded with their tactical land boots. OTB was bought by New Balance, with Dan as a consultant on the product line. The OTB name was phased out and New Balance Dan continues to offer their own line of tactical boots, mostly based on the original OTB designs. Dan and New Balance parted ways and after taking a much-needed break, Dan started Sand Storm. Sand Storm was created to bring high quality footwear to the military/LE market at affordable prices, and partnered up with US CAV for the launch. The OTB heritage is recognizable in the Sand Storm boots; as the new Hoodoo and Lightfighters are reminiscent of the OTB Desertlite Boots.
HooDoo Boot - The HooDoo is named after the geological word referring to a rock formation that forms a spire or chimney, mostly found in the desert.
Boot uppers - The HooDoo upper is made of a combination of breathable high-abrasion mesh nylon and flesh-out cow suede. Not surprisingly, the HooDoo is reminiscent of the OTB DesertLite boot with the upper part of the boot constructed out of the mesh with leather providing the reinforcements and tension around the ankle. The upper is lightly padded with spacer mesh, and is very breathable. You can easily blow air through the mesh. The inside of the boot is lined with air mesh.
A webbing pull tab extends up the achilles tendon at the rear of the boot, which helps when donning the boots. It's boxed-stitched for strength. Instead of the modifed 'sausage' laces like those used on the OTB boots, the HooDoo uses nylon modified para cord laces. They're actually like 550 cord sheath, without the inner strands, and are sized such that they don't have to be wrapped around the ankle. I don't like having laces that are too long, and these are just right.
All lace components are made of metal, and have a non-glare finish. The bottom half of the boot has eyelets and the top half of the boot has speed lace loops, so the boot can be differentially laced. The notch between the upper and lower sections allow the boot to articulate at the ankle. The mesh tongue is lightly padded with reticulated foam and is gusseted. The gusset extends to the bottom speedlace loop, which is about half way, vs. a 3/4 gusset. This was done to make it easier to get into the boot. It's definitely true; the Hoodoo is easier to don than the DesertLite or Jungle boots with 3/4 gussets. I was wondering whether the half gusset would let more debris into the boot, but Dan said that it had not been an issue during development/T&E of the boot.
Looking from the side, the tongue is the highest point on the boot while the collar of the boot dips down in the back. At the front, the boot is 9" tall. At the rear, where the pull tab is, it's 8" to the floor. There's an anatomical notch at the rear of the collar which dips down - it's there to reduce pressure on the achilles tendon.
At the bottom of the boot upper, near the instep, are two drainage vents. They are located strategically for quick expulsion of water from the boot. Under dry conditions, they also allow more air to enter the boot at that level, near the sole of the foot. The vent holes are covered in fine nylon mesh, which keeps all but the finest particles out of the boot. They will not snag and pop out like the metal vents on the old jungle boots. Just forward of the vents, on the inside toe of the boot is a rubber piece which protects the boot from abrasion when scaling walls, and also added some traction in that area.
Insole/Outsole - The insole is a Ortholite footbed with a tan Drilex textile top surface. It's made of a high quality blown PU (polyurethane) foam with high rebound properties and its superior compression set over time.
The composite 125mm x 15mm shank gives the boot some rigidity while allowing fore foot flex for comfort. It's a rectangular piece of injection molded nylon, and is placed on top of the midsole and co-molded/embedded such that the top of the midsole is flat. The HooDoo outsole is made of compression molded EVA/rubber (for cushioning), with siping molded into each lug. The purpose of the siping is the same as on their water boots; it acts as tire treads to channel water away from the surface, providing better traction on wet, rocky terrain. It also acts like micro treads on each lug. The heel is of the 'breasted' type, with a well defined step in front. This is essential when walking downhill on soft terrain, as the front of the heels digs in to provide traction.
At the front of the outsole are notches, or 'ripples', as on ripple sole boots. The rear has a single notch. The front ones are angled to the rear and the rear one is angled to the front. They are there to improve toe and heel traction when going up and down inclines. The soles are relatively quiet and provide good traction all around, being made of a sticky compound. It also has a dimpled 'fast rope guard' on the instep to protect the boot from tearing during fast rope maneuvers, something that is lacking from other light assault boots.
Besides being cemented to the boot upper, the outsole has toe and heel bumpers which are stitched at the front and back to the boot upper. This extra step is done to ensure that the outsoles will not come off in either hot desert conditions or wet humid conditions; both of which wreak havoc on sole cements. This combination of stitching and cement is carried over from OTB's Jungle and DesertLites as an added precaution.
Lightfighter Boot - The Light Fighter designed as a light weight assault boot, and is the lightest weight boot in the Sand Storm line. I weighed my size 8.5 boots and they came in at only 2.12 lbs for the pair.
Boot uppers - The Lightfighter upper is made of a combination of 1000D Cordura nylon and light weight microfiber suede instead of the cow suede used on the HooDoo.
While maybe not as breathable as the HooDoo's mesh upper (you can't blow air through it), I prefer the aesthetics of the Cordura nylon upper of the Lightfighter. Instead of the leather reinforcements, the Lightfighter uses 3/4" stiff nylon webbing to provide support and tension for the upper. They provide a 'load path' for the lace tension in key areas of stress rather than let the Cordura fabric take it all. The lower webbing is in the shape of an upside down 'V', and tensions the boot around the top of the foot below the ankle. The upper webbing secures the upper around the ankle.
A webbing pull tab extends up the achilles tendon at the rear of the boot, which is helps when donning the boots. It's boxed-stitched for strength. It's longer on the Lightfighter than on the HooDoo, and I found that I can actually be tuck it inside the top of the boot out of the way. The Lightfighter uses the same 550 cord sheath laces.
The Lightfighter shares the same lacing components as the HooDoo - all lace components are made of metal, and have a non-glare finish. The bottom half of the boot has four eyelets and the top half of the boot has four speed lace loops. The breathable mesh tongue is also lightly padded and has the same 3/4 gusset.
The Lightfighter also shares the same dimensions and collar configuration as the HooDoo; looking from the side, the tongue is the highest point on the boot while the collar of the boot dips down in the back. At the front, the boot is 9" tall. At the rear, where the pull tab is, it's 8" to the floor. There's also the same anatomical notch at the rear of the collar which dips down to reduce pressure on the achilles tendon.
The Lightfighter has only one mesh drainage vent at the bottom of the boot upper, near the instep, instead of two. The differences between the Lightfighter are mostly external. Internally, the Lightfighter and HooDoo are identical, so I didn't take photos of the inside of the Lightfighter. The Lightfighter's upper is lightly padded with spacer mesh, and the inside of the boot is also mesh lined.
Insole/Outsole - The Lightfighter insole is the same Ortholite footbed as the HooDoo with a tan Drilex textile top surface. It's made of a high quality blown PU (polyurethane) foam with high rebound properties and its superior compression set over time. The front is perforated for air movement.
It also shares the same composite 125mm x 15mm shank. The Lightfighter outsole is also made of compression molded EVA/rubber, but without any siping molded into it. Rather than the rectangular-shaped lugs that cover the HooDoo, the Lightfighter's athletically-styled outsole has a central section of hexagonal lugs, surrounded by rectangular lugs. These lugs are less prone to collecting stone or mud, as they're quite a bit of space between them. The heel is of a modified-breasted type, with a scooped out area rather than a prominent step, which will still allow the wearer to find his center of gravity on ladders and such. It also has a more prominent dimpled 'fast rope guard' than the HooDoo, on the instep to protect the boot from tearing during fast rope maneuvers, something that is lacking from other light assault boots.
At the front of the outsole are some ripples, and a couple on the heel. The soles are relatively quiet and provide good traction all around, being made of the same sticky compound as the HooDoo's. They don't squeak unless wet on a very smooth surface.
The outsole is both cemented to the boot upper and stitched at the front bumper.
Boot fit - When it comes to boots based on the jungle boot pattern (which many desert boots are), I've usually found them to be too snug over the top of the foot and narrow in the fore foot; one reason why I generally prefer lace-to-toe boots instead, and more room in the toe box. Since the OTB JungleLites and DesertLites felt a bit snug over the top of the foot, I was surprised (and happy) to find that the HooDoo and Lightfighter weren't. They fit very well and there was no need to go up half a size. They fit true to size for me, with ample width and space in the toe box and fore foot for my wider feet and thick socks. I'd also say that they fit slightly snugger than the other OTB Land boots like the Ferdelance and Bushmaster, which had looser fits.
General notes/observations - Being very familiar with the OTB product line and its designer, I was excited to give the new Sand Storm boots a try. They do have other models besides the HooDoo and Lightfighter; the Stinger Comp Toe is a light weight safety toe boot that has a lot of toe room despite having an ASTM certified composite toe.
The first thing that folks usually ask is "'what's the difference between the HooDoo and the Lightfighter?" Dan Ellis summed it up as:
HooDoo: great all around boot - EXTREMELY breathable - works well in all environments. (May not be the best in extreme cold, works well as a 3+ season boot due to the mesh). The boot is made with a cow suede upper, very durable.
Light Fighter: microfiber upper, athletic fit and feel - a "fast boot" great for an urban environment, however works just as good in the desert. The photos below show both boots side by side for quick comparison.
There's only a 0.14 lb (2.24 oz) difference between the HooDoo and Lightfighter, so they're both really light at a little over a pound per boot. Frankly, I think it boils down to aesthetics (and maybe durability, although I don't know how durable the synthetic is vs. the cow suede). The Lightfighter will also dry quicker when wet, with its synthetic construction. Personally, I prefer the look of the Lightfighter, and the Cordura construction vs. the mesh. I couldn't really feel a difference in temperature of the foot between the two. Most of the heat is concentrated in the boot lower, not the upper, so I think that the boot upper material makes less difference. To test it out, I went around for a few days, all day, in the summer weather, wearing the Lightfighter on one foot and the HooDoo on the other. No one noticed. I really couldn't tell the difference between the two, in all respects (fit, flex, weight, feel etc), when wearing them.
The HooDoo and Lightfighter were designed to address some issues found in other very lightweight boots, such as sole durability. Some 'running shoe feel' boots aren't constructed much more robustly than athletic shoes, and while very comfortable and lightweight, some have reported issues with durability. Sand Storm incorporates a lot of athletic shoe technology into their boots which result in a comfortable, light weight boot right out of the box, but balances it with wear/durability. While very light weight, the sole construction on the HooDoo and Lighfighter feel quite durable and robust, without sacrificing cushion and comfort. It's a bit early for long term durability issues to surface, so time will tell.
Both the HooDoo and Lightfighter were comfortable very soon out of the box. It only took a few hours for the upper material to conform. With the old jungle and desert boots, I had to be very careful how to fold and tuck the gusseted tongue in, to ensure that there wouldn't be any pinching or discomfort. It's less of an issue with the lower gusset on the HooDoo and Lightfighter, but you still have to ensure that the gusset is folded flat, and not bunched up. The padded tongue is much more comfortable under the laces than a non-padded tongue, and the mesh construction doesn't trap any heat or hold water.
Both the mesh upper of the HooDoo and Cordura upper of the Lightfighter are flexible at the ankle, allowing full range of motion of the foot. They don't have the upper boot stiffness that some heavier boots have, and therefore less lateral support for the ankle. This is a characteristic of most jungle and lightweight desert boots. The thin padding, however, does provide more protection for the ankle against knocks and scrapes than fabric-only uppers with no padding. The HooDoo and Lightfighter prioritize light weight, breathability, and quicker drying over heavier, thicker materials which would provide more ankle support. Like the OTB JungleLites, however, they do provide a relatively stable base for the foot by cupping the heel in the insole and having quality heel counters and a stiff shank, which is half the battle in the quest for ankle stability. So, while these are not stiff, ankle-supporting mountain hiking boots, that doesn't mean that they can't be used for hiking - they'll still function better than below-ankle height hikers or trail shoes, which don't have any ankle support.
Traction is good with both boots, as expected, in an urban environment, on sand, walking over small rocks etc. The molded siping on the bottom of the HooDoo sole will disappear as the sole wears, as it's not razor-cut siping. No biggie, in my opinion. The sole and shank are stiff enough to protect the bottom of the feet from feeling rocks and sharp edges through the bottom of the boot. The EVA-cushioned midsole absorbs shock on hard surfaces, and I wouldn't hesitate to run in these boots.
Summing it up, first impressions of the Sand Storm boots are good. If you're familiar with OTB boots, and like them, you'll like the Sand Storm boots as they offer light weight, durability and value.
12/24/12 - The Melee is Danner's lightest and most flexible tactical boot, designed specifically for close quarter tactics. It features a unique outsole design and athletic performance, and is available in a variety of heights and colours, including Crye MultiCam. Shown here are the Melee 6" Canteen Uniform boot and the 8" MultiCam Military boot.
Danner - I don't remember when exactly I got my first pair of Danner boots, but it was in the late 80's or early 90's. I was looking for a pair of waterproof boots that were more suitable for cold weather, and more rugged and supportive than the cheap Vietnam jungle boots that my friends and I used to hike and hunt in. I didn't know any better back then, but was quickly learning the importance of good boots. Choices for 'tactical boots' were far more limited than they are now, but when I asked around about good brands to consider, 'Danner' always cropped up. They weren't cheap though, so I found a used pair in good condition at a local gun show that I could afford. They were actually Gore-tex hunting boots; full leather (in a sort of burgundy colour), with the Danner Air Bob sole. While relatively heavy, they served me quite well. I later bought Danner Blackhawk II boots, and Acadias when they were introduced. I remember being very excited when the Desert Acadias were introduced because up until then, there were very few good desert boot choices (I had actually spray painted my burgundy hunting boots tan a few years earlier). While the Danner boots I had were built to last and of excellent quality, they were generally quite heavy. When discussing Danner boots, 'light weight' usually wasn't the first thing that came to mind. As time went on, and as lighter weight tactical and hiking boots entered the market, I wore the Danners less often in favour of the lighter boots.
But over the past few years, Danner has been working hard to expand its line to include lighter weight designs across the board in all categories. Alongside Danner's trademark all-leather stitch down boots are lighter designs with cemented soles and more extensive use of synthetic uppers. To remain competitively priced, some of these boots are imported vs. made in Portland. The Danner customer now has more choices than ever before.
Melee - The Danner Meelee boots were introduced early this year, and are the lightest in their law enforcement/military line at the time of this writing. The word 'Melee' generally refers to chaotic mix of close combat where every man has to fend for himself. The Melee line includes a 3" boot (more of a shoe), a 6" version, and an 8" one. The one thing they all share in common is the use of lighter weight materials and a more athletic feel. Melee was designed with a wider toebox for improved balance and traction feel. The uniform models are available in black (polishable leather, waterproof) and desert (rough-out leather) in 6" and 8" versions. The more 'civvie' version (still called a 'uniform' boot though) is called the Canteen, and is available in 3" and 6" versions. Most recently introduced are the Crye MultiCam and ATACS camouflage 8" Melee military boot.
Melee 6" Canteen Uniform Boot - The name 'Canteen' refers to the Pantone colour 19-0820 TCX which describes the colour of the Canteen boot; a medium-brown.
Boot uppers - The 6" Canteen upper is made of 1000 Denier nylon. It's not the same weave as the 1000D Cordura that nylon gear is made of, but has more texture to it. It feels durable to the touch. A criss-cross pattern of stitching on the sides of the upper adds a distinctive look to the Canteen boot. The tan and black uniform Melee boots don't have this stitch pattern. It give the Canteen a more 'civvie' look, and reminds me of the stitching on the outside of my Five Ten Guide Tennie shoes. I inquired about the stitching, and whether it was purely cosmetic or structural. And if it were structural, would there be any concern if the thread were to wear through? Danner responded that "the stitching is designed to provide structure and support to the boot. Because the stitching is not holding various pieces of the boot together, and rather serves as structural framing, if there is any kind of thread wear the boot itself will not fall apart. Additionally, the thread used on the Melee is a highly abrasion-resistant nylon thread, so concern for abrasion due to rock and debris is minimal. "
The collar/darker area around the ankle is made of a mesh fabric, and is padded to provide ankle protection from scrapes and bumps. The front of the boot features a black rubber toe cap/rand, which wraps around the front part of the toebox, while the rear has a similar rubber heel cap to add abrasion resistance in those areas. The rear cap extends up the back of the boot heel. There's no pull tab in the back, which is fine by me as I dislike them on short boots (they always catch my pant cuff and make it ride up). The inside of the boot is lined with spacer mesh for breathability.
The Canteen boot has nylon laces and black non-glare metal eyelets. If you look closely at the photos, you'll see that there are some inner loops that the laces are routed through, between the lowest eyelets. This is the 'Variable lacing system' and allows for more lace friction, providing a more secure fit.
The tongue is generously padded and is constructed of the same mesh fabric that wraps around the outside of the ankle. The tongue is gusseted and has a lace loop midway up. At the top of the tongue is a pocket made of stretch fabric called the 'lace garage'. This is for tucking the bow and loose ends of the laces into, preventing the loose loops from snagging on anything or the laces from dragging. It also reduces the chances of the laces becoming undone. It's basically a pocket that is open at the bottom.
Now, I'm always confused by how boot height is measured. I've always assumed it's measured from the inside of the boot to the highest point on your calf/leg. Looking from the side, the tongue is the highest point on the boot while the collar of the boot dips down nearing the back. The highest point on the tongue from the inside of the boot measures 6". The top of the collar is 4" measured from the inside of the boot. The top of the tongue to the floor is 7".
Insole/Outsole - The insole used in the Melee Canteen is a cushioning PU (polyurethane) footbed. It actually feels more substantial (thicker and denser) than other stock insoles I've encountered, and not something I'd immediately want to chuck and replace with green Superfeet.
The midsole on the Canteen is made of EVA for shock absorption with an ESS (Enhanced Surface Strength) external coating for abrasion resistance. When you look at other boots with EVA midsoles, the foam feels quite soft to the touch and you can depress it with your finger. The EVA foam on the Melee however, is co-molded with unexpanded thermo-plastic material to create a harder, more abrasion resistant outer shell. The Vibram Melee outsole is pretty flat and low profile; more reminiscent of Converse All Stars than bulky hiking boot soles with aggressive lugs. There is no distinction or step between the heel and the rest of the boot. The center portion has pentagonal-shaped lugs for multi-directional traction, with a more rugged outer lug pattern surrounding them. The outer lugs have siping molded into them for good wet surface grip (like the tread on tires). The lugs are not very deep, but the rubber compound feels hard enough to compensate for that, and not wear as quickly as a softer compound.
Located at the medial side arch is Danner's patent pending VIA (Vertical Insertion Arrestor) technology insert, which utilizes a Vibram V-4 ultra-abrasion rubber compound for fast roping control. The shape of the VIA area and harder compound is designed to resist the wear and tear from fast roping, and provide a more controlled descent than regular boots. It's also formulated to leave less fouling residue on the rope.
Melee 8" Crye MultiCam Military Boot - Danner's 8" Melee isn't the first boot to come out in Crye MultiCam; but it's the first one that's interested me. If you're somewhat familiar with my site, you'll probably know that I've been an advocate of Crye's MultiCam pattern since it was first introduced. I like it because it's effective, and to me, looks good (whether that's relevant or not). However, just because something new comes out in MultiCam doesn't mean it's enough to pique my interest. When I looked at the MultiCam boots as different manufacturers introduced them, I felt that some of the designs were too busy, chunky, combined solid materials with MultiCam, or the colours didn't look right on some of the trim. Yes, I'm picky. When I saw the Danner version, I immediately thought to myself "now those were done right". And here they are. It's also available in a Gore-Tex version.
Boot uppers - The 8" Crye MultiCam Military boot upper is made of 1000 Denier nylon in Crye MultiCam pattern. From the looks of it, it's the same 1000D Cordura nylon that's used on MultiCam nylon gear, with an additional DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating for water-resistance. One of the reasons I said that Danner did a MultiCam boot 'right', is because very little of the MultiCam pattern is covered up. The design/construction of the Melee is such that it takes full advantage of the pattern, without breaking it up or interrupting it with solid coloured trimming or multiple panels. Danner's choice of a Khaki colour for solid-coloured components like the laces and rubber toes/heel caps was also the correct choice to keep contrast to a minimum. It makes for a more streamlined and form fitting boot.
The 8" MultiCam boot has the same criss-cross pattern of stitching on the sides of the upper as the Canteen 6". It's not as visible as the thread blends into the camo pattern more, and adds to the unique look of the boot. Unlike the 6" Canteen boot, there is no mesh fabric used on the outside of the MultiCam upper - it's all 1000D nylon. There's a pull tab/loop at the top rear of the collar, made of 0.8" wide webbing that originates just above the heel. It's thin webbing, like binding tape, and is supple so that it doesn't stick out and catch the pant cuff like a stiffer loop might. It's probably one of the most unobtrusive pull loops I've seen on a boot. A band of the same webbing encircles the collar.
The collar is lightly padded to provide ankle protection from scrapes and bumps. The front of the boot features a khaki-coloured rubber toe cap/rand, which wraps around the front part of the toebox, while the rear has a similar rubber heel cap to add abrasion resistance in those areas. The rear cap extends up the back of the boot heel and is slightly taller and wider than the one on the Canteen 6". The inside of the boot is lined with mesh fabric.
The MultiCam 8" boot has nylon laces and khaki non-glare metal eyelets. It also has the 'Variable lacing system' as on the Canteen 6". I think that the 8" boot would benefit from having a loop of the 'variable lacing system' located just between the 6th and 7th lace eyelets. This would serve a similar function to a lace lock which many hiking boots have between the lower and upper part of the boot, to allow for differential lacing (loose on the bottom, tight at the top etc).
The laces that come with the boot are really long, even after wrapping them around the ankle and round to the front again. I measured them, and they were 108" long. I asked Danner why they were so long and they replied that they're extra long so people have a choice - some people like to wrap them around the ankle and tie them at the front. Those that don't want to do that can cut the laces down and burn the ends to seal them. This is exactly what I did. I figured out how much lace I needed and cut the ends off. I ended up lopping off 36" of lace, which left me with 72" laces. I tied a knot at the ends of my laces so they don't slip out of the top eyelet and melted the ends.
Like the Canteen 6", the tongue is generously padded for comfort, and gusseted up to the 2nd eyelet from the top. It's constructed out of 1000D nylon, rather than mesh. At the top of the tongue is the lace garage (the lace pocket made out of stretch fabric for tucking on your tied laces). However, the lace garage on the 8" boot doesn't work for me. On the 6" Canteen boot, the tongue extends higher than the collar of the boot, and the lace garage is shorter. The bottom opening is on the same level as the top lace eyelet. On the 8" boot, the tongue does not extend past the top of the collar, plus the lace garage is .3" taller. This places the opening at the bottom of the lace garage a little above the second lace eyelet from the top. This means that when the boot lace is tied, you don't have access to the lace garage's opening, since the tightened laces cross on top of it. This is the one design oversight I was surprised to discover - had no one tested this feature on the prototype before the boot went into production? Anyway, Danner is aware of the issue and is working on a solution.
As for boot height, my size 8.5 EE boot measures 9" from the floor to the top of the boot, and 8" measured on the inside.
Insole/Outsole - The insole used in the Melee 8" boot is the same as the one used in the Canteen, except that it's tan. is a cushioning PU (polyurethane) footbed. It actually feels more substantial (thicker and denser) than other stock insoles I've encountered, and not something I'd immediately want to chuck and replace with green Superfeet.
The midsole on the 8" Melee is made of EVA for shock absorption with an "ESS external coating for abrasion resistance" - the EVA midsole is co-molded with an unexpanded thermo-plastic material to create a harder, more abrasion-resistant outer shell.
The MultiCam Melee's outsole is exactly the same design as that on the Canteen, with the pentagonal-shaped lugs, and VIA technology insert in the medial arch. The obvious difference is that it's molded in MultiCam. To be more accurate, it's molded in MultiCam-compatible colours - it doesn follow the actual MultiCam pattern. While it doesn't contain the entire MultiCam colour palatte, it contains enough colours that match and shapes to approximate the effect quite well. The main thing is that the pattern does what it's supposed to do - break up the outline of the boot sole, especially when viewed from behind in the prone position.
Boot fit - Danner boots, in my experience have fit very narrow on me. I'm in-between a medium (D) and wide (EE) width, and I've always had to get Danners in EE widths. I've tried them in D widths before and felt that they were narrower than other brands. The Melee however, has been designed with a wider toebox than what Danner has done in the past. This allows the toes to splay our more, providing better balance and traction feel. Even so, I requested the EE width, and they're perfect on me. If your feet are on the wider side or you just want more room to wear with thicker socks, go with the wide.
General notes/observations - Both the Canteen 6" and MultiCam 8" boots fit and feel more like sneakers than combat boots. Definitely lighter than any other Danner boot I've owned, and a 'go faster' boot than most combat or hiking style boots. The Canteen at first glance looks like a very soft boot from the photos, and I mistook the boot upper for mesh, but the nylon upper is stiffer and more rugged feeling than I had expected. It actually took a few days to break in, and that's not a bad thing as I'd rather have a more durable upper. I've had mesh uppers tear and abrade, so I'm expecting this Canteen nylon to last longer. As I always do, I read the reviews on the Danner website to see what other people's experience was. The Black Uniform 8" boots had lower ratings than the rest, with customer complaints about the stitching on the tongue coming apart. I have not had any issues yet, but I'll keep an eye on the tongue.
Being a 6" boot, the Canteen provides additional protection for the ankle, rather than support. The feel of the 6" Canteen actually reminds me a lot of the now discontinued OTB Thor TC boot, which was modeled on an approach boot. The taller 8" MultiCam boot provides both protection and some support for the ankle. The 1000D nylon is stiffer than the fabric used on other boots, so while it's not really a 'stiff' upper, it does support the ankle better than the majority of desert/jungle type boots with fabric uppers and no padding. It also took a couple of days to break in. Neither boot had any hot spots or issues during the break-in period or after. They're very comfortable.
The flatter sole with no pronounced/stepped heel contributes to the sneaker-like feel of the Melee boots, which also makes them more nimble for running in than heavy lugged boots. There's a slight rocker up at the front of the boot where the sole curves up slightly. It's comfortable for flat, smoother surfaces/urban terrain, and the thicker/more dense foam insole helps offset the harder compound of the mid and outsoles. It's not quite running-shoe cushy as the Lowa Zephyr or softer-soled boots, but should make up for it in sole durability. The Melee boots do not have a shank; the midsole is designed to provide the stability and allow the foot to flex in the necessary areas. The sole has good flex for the forefoot and reasonable stiffness further back, and resistance to twisting. It's definitely not the squishiest boot, nor the stiffest, but a good balance between the two extremes.
While the lugs/tread are relatively shallow, compared to other combat or hiking boots, I'm not too worried about wear as the compound is harder. I think that will help compensate for the less aggressive lugs. Another plus that I discovered is that the Melee sole is the one of the quietest ones on wet/damp smooth surfaces that I've tried. I haven't looked deeply into the physics of why boot/shoe soles squeak when wet, but I suspect that the harder compound combined with the shorter lugs and their shape make for less vibration when the lugs flex then slip on a wet surface. With some shoes, coming into a building from the rain, they'll squeak forever when walking down a tiled or epoxy floor. With the Melees (I've tried this with both the Canteen and MultiCam boots), they tend to be very quiet, or stop squeaking much sooner after coming in from the wet. Traction is also good in the wet in an urban environment; attributed most likely to the molded siping in the lugs.
In the great outdoors in sandy/stony/rocky terrain, I expected the flatter sole not to work as well as deeper lugs or boots with a stepped heel for downhills. After trying them out scrambling around on loose rock, sand and stones, they actually worked quite well so I was pleasantly surprised. Didn't try them out in mud.
I wore both boots in varied weather ranging from hot to cool/wet. I found them to be comfortable all-round. Not as breathable in the toe box in hot weather as some mesh boots or lightweight hikers (due to the 1000D nylon uppers with no mesh), but definitely not something to complain about at all. In moderately cool weather, they were both just fine. While the pair of MultiCam boots I have were the non Gore-Tex version, I didn't experience any wetness when I wore them out in a drizzle.
The 6" Canteen boot looks at home around town or on the hiking trail, as it's not a chunky hiking boot, yet can definitely serve as a lightweight hiking shoe. The MultiCam boot - is a camo boot really necessary? Trendiness aside and thinking only practically, if you want to present a less noticeable target to the enemy and you already use MultiCam, it can't hurt; only help in whatever environment that MultiCam is effective in. If details matter, then this is one that's taken care of. Plus, I think it's a darn good-looking boot - I like the subtle criss cross thread pattern on the upper, and the lack of busy trim. I'm glad to see Danner introduce boots like the Melee, which provides the customer with more choices and helps Danner expand into areas of the market that it wasn't in before.
8/17/13 - The Classic 6" Boots in Coyote from Original SWAT are a good choice as mid-top summer boots for wear with shorts at the range or on the trail. A reminder that Original SWAT makes more than law enforcement boots, and not all their boots are black or have side zippers.
Background - Original SWAT was founded back in 1999, with the goal of building better boots for LE, Mil, EMTs and other govt personnel. While I've been aware of the brand for quite a while, I never really bothered to take a close look because I always associated the brand with black boots and side zippers, and 'uniform' shoes. The name 'Original SWAT' basically gave me the impression that the only products they made were meant for LE/urban use - essentially for 'SWAT'. I wasn't that interested in LE boots, so I investigated no further.
So, when I was contacted by Original SWAT recently, wondering if I'd be interested in taking a look at any of their products, I initially thought to myself 'I don't think you make anything I'd use', but when perusing their website, and wading through the various black boots with side zippers, I noticed that they also made other styles that didn't have zippers and weren't black. As most of you who've visited my site before know, I have a lot of boots, so I was looking for something a bit different from what I've featured in the past. When I reviewed the Sandstorm Hoodoo and Lightfighter boots last year, I asked whether they'd consider making a 6" version of the Lightfighter; a 'chukka' version. It never materialized unfortunately, so when I noticed that Original SWAT offered a 6" coyote (not tan) boot that looked kind of like what I had in mind, I picked it. What I was looking for was a lightweight tan boot that I could wear with shorts in hot weather, as 9" boots look a bit weird with shorts.
The boot I picked to feature is called the Classic 6". There's a Classic 9" version, and both boots are available in different versions including black, tan, coyote (I presume) and what looks like a dark brown; some with side zips and some without. I wish the website would be a bit clearer at listing the colours (even though it may be obvious from photos) as there are four boots called Classic 9" in different colours, but the colours aren't listed in the descriptions. I believe the Classic 6" I selected is Coyote.
Manufacturer Specs/Features for the Classic 6" in Coyote (applies only to this colour):
Boot uppers - The Classic 6" Coyote boot is a nice shade of coyote - not quite as dark as USMC coyote brown and less green than khaki. The upper is a combination of 1000D nylon and rough-out suede leather. The suede is treated with stain-resistant Scotchgard. I like that the upper isn't too busy with a lot of different panels, and it feels like it's lightly padded between the inner mesh and outside of the boot. The inner moisture-wicking mesh lining is treated with AEGIS antimicrobial protection.
The collar/ankle is padded and stitched such that it flexes and compresses when flexing the ankle. There's also a compression zone at the rear of the achilles tendon so that the rear of the boot doesn't dig into the back of the ankle when the foot is extended on downhills. There's no webbing pull tab on the back, which I dislike on 6" boots as pant cuffs often get caught on them and ride up.
The tongue is gusseted to keep debris from entering the boot and is lightly padded for comfort. The tongue is made of 1000D nylon with suede construction at the top. There are six lace eyelets on each side; two on the boot upper and four on the lower. The hardware is all brass alloy/rust proof, and painted coyote to match the boot. The laces are also colour-matched to the upper.
Looking from the side, the tongue is the highest point on the boot while the collar of the boot dips down in the back. I measured the boot to be exactly 6" tall measured from the inside of the boot to the top of the tongue. It's 7" tall measured on the outside to the floor.
There are no drainage/ventilation vents on the boot, which can go either way (let water out or dirt in). A molded thermoplastic heel counter and toe box provide protection for the foot and laterla stability at the heel. Original SWAT build their boots around custom lasts which were developed using CAD technology; and reflect the needs of today's end user.
Insole/Outsole - The insole is a pretty standard EVA insole which provides minimal arch support. If you need more support, replace it with green Superfeet. The Classic 6" Coyote has a steel shank which adds a lot of torsional stiffness to the boot; while allowing fore foot flex for comfort.
For shock absorption, the midsole is "Custom-molded phylon EVA (foam ethylene vinyl acetate) midsole for lightweight comfort and cradled support". I thought that 'phylon' was a misspelling of 'nylon' but it's not, and is a lightweight and responsive material used in mid-sole construction by companies such as Nike. EVA foam pellets are compressed, heat expanded and then cooled in a mold. Compression-molded Phylon midsoles can be sculpted into a variety of designs that are identified by their fine wrinkles. Read more about Phylon here.
The Classic outsole is slip and oil resistant, non-marking rubber, and exceeds the ASTM F489-96 test for slip resistance. The outsole heel is of a modified-breasted type, with a scooped out area rather than a prominent step, which will still allow the wearer to find his center of gravity on ladders and other objects. The rubber compound has great grip, as it's feels (to me) to be 'medium' in hardness, but I have found it to be squeaky on wet smooth surfaces. Softer compounds are generally squeakier, in my experience. The tread pattern consists mostly of triangles in the middle with standard lugs around the outside. Front and rear ripples for traction going up or downhill. The lugs are spaced far enough apart such that mud shouldn't collect. The outsole has toe and heel bumpers which are stitched at the front and back to the boot upper for durability and increased service life.
Boot fit - The Classic 6" boots fit nicely. I have slightly wide 8.5 US feet, and they fit very well with the right amount of extra room/length in the toe box. While boots like this don't have a 'break-in' period like full leather hiking boots, any boot or footwear is going to conform to your feet after wearing them for a week than when brand new right out of the box. To me, that's the 'break-in' period - the time it takes for a boot to feel like you didn't just take them out of the box. My running shoes had a break-in period.
So, I started wearing the Classic boots to break them in. After a few hours of wearing them, I noticed a hot spot on the inside of the right boot. I thought that it was the way I had folded the tongue gusset, and experimented with adjusting the fold. By the end of the first day, the hot spot was quite uncomfortable. I took the boot off and examined it. It turns out that the hot spot was caused by the 1000D nylon edge of the tongue folded over and sewn down, creating an edge and corner. The right one had excess fabric that wasn't trimmed off as closely as the left one, hence the discomfort. I trimmed it off (see photo below), and felt and immediate improvement. The boot didn't feel 100% comfortable in that area, though, even after a few days, so I re-examined the area. What I concluded was that it was the folded over edge running down the inside of the boot that I could feel through my socks - this could be felt on both the left and right sides. I looked at some other boots I had, and noted that the gussets are sewn inside the boot with flat seams or no seams - they're smooth transitions. Shown below are a couple of examples to illustrate what I'm referring to.
For the next few days, I placed a band-aid in that area for cushioning and kept wearing the boots. It took about two weeks of daily wear for the boots to break in to the point where I was no longer bothered by the seam. The boot upper had conformed to my foot, and the padding compressed etc, such that the seam no longer pressed against the inside of my foot. They still weren't 100% as comfy as seamless tongue designs in that particular area, but I didn't find them uncomfortable any longer, and the boots then felt fine after that. I've worn them for about two months now, and don't have any issues with that area anymore. I still feel it that it's 'there', but it doesn't bother me.
General notes/observations - The Classic 6" Coyote boots are light weight, but not ultra light weight. They feel sturdy and pretty supportive out of the box. Other than the initial issue with the hot spot, I didn't have anything else to complain about when it came to comfort. Quality/workmanship is on par with the price - the Classic boots are less expensive than brands like Danner and Lowa, but stitching and finishing isn't as clean on the inside. It doesn't affect the functionality though.
Since all exposed external surfaces are 1000D nylon and suede, the boots look like they'd be quite abrasion resistant; more so than boots with mesh fabric. Once I was past the break-in phase, I found the boots comfortable for standing/walking most of the day and the thicker midsoles+insole pretty good for short spurts of jogging (in terms of shock absorption). I found traction to be good on a variety of surfaces; both urban indoors/outdoors and at the range and some mild trails.
My particular experience with the seam/hot spot may be an isolated incident with my particular sample, but I'd like to see Original SWAT look into using flat seams for improved comfort, instead of folding over and sewing the edge of the gusset. All in all, I'm happy with the boots now, and they'll be my go-to boots for range/desert use with shorts.
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