Over the last week or so I have been wearing the new Military Ops Boot from ALTBERG which is the next generation of their Defender and Warrior boots, writes Bob Morrison.
There is actually not really a lot more to write about this new boot, as I pre-reviewed it last November, other than it is extremely comfortable on the foot; based on my 20+ years of wearing many different ALTBERG combat boots I could probably confidently have written a full review without trying out the Military Ops for myself – but that would have been cheating.
ALTBERG boots are like Land Rovers, or Canon and Nikon cameras; once converted to the brand one usually remains faithful for life and although I carefully and honestly review, and in certain circumstances regularly wear, other makes of boot I have been an ALTBERG (or Alt-Berg) fan for around three-quarters of the Yorkshire company’s existence.
The COVID-19 outbreak interfered with my boot field test schedules (and my plans to cover a raft of linked field training exercises in Northern Europe) after my initial article – see New ALTBERG Military Ops Boot – and it is only recently that I have started to get back on track. Dependent on pandemic spikes being kept under control, I hope to get out onto two of the North European training areas over the next few weeks (insha’Allah as some of my friends say) but rather than waiting any longer to bring readers my thoughts on this new footwear model I stuck the boots on my feet the day after they arrived (just too late for my French assignment) and since then have really only taken them off for sleeping.
First impression when I put them on was that these boots were really comfortable and my opinion was unchanged at the end of day one of wear. Often when some makes of new combat boots go on it takes a little time for them to be ‘broken in’ and for the foot to adjust to the initial stiffness, but even though I was only wearing very thin summer weight socks on my first outing I had no comfort issues whatsoever. The lining of the Military Ops Boot is Cambrelle and the padded inner collar is a very soft cream coloured leather, plus the tongue lining is soft suede with thick foam and soft mesh padding over the top of the foot, so it is no great surprise that this is one very comfortable boot.
The uppers of this boot are almost entirely 2.4mm Anfibio leather, with soft and supple 1.8mm full grain water repellent leather for the upper leg and the tongue gusset, though there is a small mesh panel for added breathability at the flex point forward of the ankles. The top of the tongue, which rises well above the side of the collar, is also padded for comfort; no laces cutting into the lower shin with these boots and there is even a lace slot to ensure the tongue doesn’t slip.
Talking of laces, the eight point lacing system on the Military Ops is nearly the same as that used on the UK Forces issue Defender Mk.2 but the top two lace hooks are open rather than closed. Open upper hooks are the preference of ALTBERG’s master bootmaker but for the current UK MoD five-year contract the specification called for all lace hooks to be closed so this is how the issue Mk.2 Defender is produced. The other minor difference with the lacing system is that the the closed hook (I prefer to call these lace tunnels) at the fifth position is the non-locking type on the Military Ops. I prefer to lock off my laces at the ankle flex point to give a two zone system, but not being able to do this with my new ALTBERGs has actually not been an issue during my test.
The UK MoD issue Defender Mk.2 boot was specified with the Vibram Tsavo sole and the Danish MoD version of this boot was specified with the Defender SRC sole, but for their new Military Ops boot ALTBERG have opted to use the Vibram Masai sole as per their Warrior Microlite and original UK MoD Defender Mk.1 combat boots. From years of experience I know both soles are hard wearing and the tread patterns self-clean well in the mud and grunge, so I doubt most wearers would spot much difference. The Vibram Masai combination sole has a lightweight shock-absorbing micro mid layer and the midsole is Tri-flex 2-3 season, for flex control and torsional resistance. An all-round protective rubber rand is bonded between sole unit and uppers. A comfortable Trek Airgrid Beige contoured insole, which offers good cushioning and is fast-drying, is supplied as standard.
The Military Ops boot featured here is the standard model, with just a breathable membrane Cambrelle lining which is not waterproof. If you prefer a waterproof membrane boot choose the Military Ops Aqua model, which uses a Sympatex a four-layer breathable and waterproof bootee. I was offered either the standard or Aqua model to test and decided to go natural this time as I have several other waterproof membrane boot pairs on the racks. It takes a little bit more care to keep your boots waterproof if you don’t opt for a membrane but ALTBERG supply a superb range of Leder-Gris products to help with this task. This page is not the place to delve too deeply into this subject, but this web page on the ALTBERG Boot Care section of their website explains a lot. Don’t be tempted to slap on cheap & nasty boot polish to make your combat boots red-brown and shiny on the parade ground, as that is a great way to reduce the leather life of boots that would otherwise last a good many years. Keep the leather waxed, after gently drying out, and these boots should retain their naturally waterproof qualities.
Finally, these boots are made on ALTBERG’s own design asymmetric AForme lasts; a design which has increased upwards toe lift and a wider forefoot plus a narrower heel and waist to hold and support the rear of the foot; this seems to now negate the need for a two zone lacing system. The standard Military Ops boot is produced in half sizes from UK5 to UK14 and a Military Ops Ladies version produced on AForme lasts designed specifically for the female foot are available in half sizes from UK3 to UK8.
To hear more about the thinking behind the design of this boot model, and an explanation of the differences between it and earlier models, watch this fascinating video of the Master Bootmaker in his ‘man cave’:-
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