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ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boot SF-MK3 Reviewed

At the request of specialist users the new ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boot SF-MK3 now has closed upper lace hooks as standard [© Bob Morrison]

Over the last six or seven weeks I have been wearing the new ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boots SF-MK3 model to allow me to pen a review, writes Bob Morrison.


First of all, regrettably I have not yet had the chance to try out this latest evolution of the popular desert boot design from the bench of the Yorkshire master military bootmaker under arid and sandy conditions, because my last trip to the Middle East was back in late winter and my next trip to that region is unlikely to be much before the end of the year… plus it has been absolutely ages since I last had an excuse to visit the Sahara. Instead of playing in the desert I’m afraid I have just had to make do with wearing them on the fewer than hoped for very hot and dry English summer days over the last couple of months, with the thermometer only nudging 28°C rather than exceeding a more desert-like 38°C / 100°F.

The ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boot SF-MK3 is manufactured from suede leather and military grade Cordura [©BM]

Although I have not yet been able to wear these ALTBERG boots in the desert, because I have been very familiar with this specific maker of hot weather combat boots for around a quarter of a century, since the company made its very first foray into this specialist area, I know what to expect and could probably have penned this review in my sleep. Shortly after that original 1990s design was finalised I was lucky to be offered an early production pair (which I still have) for a trip to the Erg Chebbi sea of dunes near the Moroccan border with Algeria, where I was taught how to drive properly in extreme sandy conditions by the legendary Jacky Ickx. I became hooked on both ALTBERG (then branded Alt-Berg) boots and desert experiences.

This is an eight-inch combat boot designed for arid theatre ops by troops moving fast with a heavy load [©BM]

This early ALTBERG desert boot design (prior to that period ankle height chukka boots, aka desert wellies, rather than combat boots were often still worn for hot weather deployments) evolved into the lightweight ALTBERG Desert Microlite Mk2 boot, which is still in production, but around 2009 the company decided to introduce a new Desert Boot model which incorporated the unique design advantages of their now popular Tabbing Boot model; as suggested by the name, this combat boot was conceived for those, such as Paras for example, who might need to TAB (i.e. Tactical Advance to Battle) over all terrain types while carrying a heavy load.

The collar is soft padded leather for comfort and note also the Cambrelle lining [©BM]

The uppers of the latest ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boots SF-MK3 model are a combination of European sourced high quality 2.0mm full grain suede and military grade Cordura textile with an ultra-breathable but non-waterproof Cambrelle membrane. Produced on the excellent ALTBERG asymmetric AForme last, designed by company founder Mike Sheehan, this boot uses the slip-resistant Defender Hi-Traction outsole with shock absorbent heel and a Tri-Flex Desert Airgrid medium flex and torsional resistant midsole. The SF, for Special Forces, in the name signifies that closed upper lacing hooks, of the type needed to ensure no snagging while military parachuting, are now used; this style, rather than open hooks, is my personal preference so I’m one happy bunny!

Lacing system is now closed hook ~ this is the mid-point lacing layout suggested in the instruction booklet [©BM]
Note the increased upwards toe lift which allows the foot to roll better when tabbing with a heavy load onver rough terrain [©BM]

Despite the leg area appearing to be a little stiffer than with the original ALTBERG Desert Boot models, the SF-Mk3 boots required no breaking in whatsoever (as one would expect of an ALTBERG boot design) and I found them to be very comfortable from the outset. The asymmetric shape, narrow heel and increased toe roll generated by use of the AForme last (see video at foot of page) all suit my gait and personal preferences so I expect these will become my desert combat boots of choice for hot weather assignments where I need more substantial footwear than my usual LOWA Innox or HAIX Black Eagle lightweight boots.

The outsole is the well-proven DEFENDER model produced by Italian company Rubbermac and found on many current in-service UK MoD desert boots [©BM]
Desert Airgrid medium flex and torsional resistant midsoles (footbeds) are supplied as standard [©BM]

The ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boots SF-MK3 model is currently available off-the-shelf for private purchase in MoD Brown in half sizes from UK3 to UK14 and to order in Beige. For those who prefer open lacing hooks, this option will still be available by special order through the North Yorkshire factory shop in Richmond.

ALTBERG Desert Microlite Mk2 boot in beige from around 2010 alongside the latest ALTBERG Desert Tabbing Boots SF-MK3 in brown ~ the heritage of the new boot is evident but the upper portion is slightly more robust and the rear is scalloped a little lower to follow more recent military trends and requirements [©BM]

[images © Bob Morrison]

The ALTBERG Master Bootmaker describes his AForme last


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