Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: OTB Fer de Lance Boots

© 2009 Albert A Rasch
Fer de Lance Tactical Land Boots
by OTB (Over the Beach) Boots

About six months ago I slipped on a pair of OTB Fer de Lance boots. Designed for military operators that go in and out of wet environments, I thought they would be perfect for wild boar hunters that do the same in the Florida swamps. I wanted to put them through their paces and see how they would hold up to my abuse before I wrote about them. If they managed to do moderately well while hunting these swamps and hummocks, they would do well anywhere else as well.

OTB specializes in aquatic shoes that serve several operational parameters. OTB was approached by the U.S. Navy SEALs to design a boot totally different from all others with operations in and around water in mind. They need to drain quickly, stick to the ground, support the foot and ankle, and allow some tactile sensation. In other words, pretty much be a protective extension of the foot.

The Fer de Lance is a taller (approx 9") combat boot suitable for uniform wear if you are in the military. There are multiple mesh ports all over the boot which is to allow for water drainage. The Fer de Lance boot is light, weighing in at slightly less than three pounds (3 lbs). I'm used to wearing steel tipped construction boots or Vibram Lug soled hiking boots. Neither of which are designed for the flat, swampy, and wet terrain of Florida. These felt very light to me in comparison.

The Fer de Lance fit is roomy without being too oversized, with any extra room taken up by tightening the laces for a snug but not constrictive fit. The upper is relatively stiff, made of tan cow suede. It provides substantial lateral support, and protects the ankle from twisting. The vents are made of Cordura material instead of mesh. It’s tough and allows water to drain and improves breathability. Every day is a hot day in Florida and so far I haven’t had any issues with my feet getting hot or sweaty. The padding throughout the boot does not retain water, an important consideration.

The heel cup and toes on both boots are covered in a layer of Vibram rubber reinforcement material, these protect against scuffs and scrapes, while adding some resiliency in those areas. Very helpful when sticking your toes in cracks to climb walls, and it helps keep the boot from being split open or worn through at the toe.

The outsoles are compression molded EVA/rubber also from Vibram. They're very quiet and I've found them to provide good traction on both wet and dry asphalt, cement, dirt, mud, and grass environments.

I pulled the insole, so I could see the stiff grey and white insole board. Surprisingly it is molded in the contour of the foot (it's not flat!); that probably is why the boot feels so comfortable. The board is made of extruded polypropylene, in one piece. This particular design is used by sport shoe manufacturers. Football and baseball players put a lot of torque, twist, and flex in their footwear and need the support, which are the same need a soldier has and needs in his boots.

The insole has a dual-density design, with a dark grey Drilex textile top surface. It's made of polyurethane foam with “high rebound properties.” In other words, it does not break down and compress as quickly as EVA. EVA is used in most running shoes, and we have all experienced the compressed insoles on them. Slightly firmer pads (the red areas in the picture above) are used near the balls of the feet and heel area to further lengthen the life of the footbed. The Drilex top wicks moisture and is antibacterial.

Though I don't run very much anymore, preferring lo impact bicycling to maintain cardiovascular fitness, I did jog a bit, and did a few sprints. Neither caused me any discomfort or damage.

One detail I really like is the speed lacing tunnels combined with the 'sausage' laces - they're easy to adjust and cinch up. Seriously, those laces rock!

Let's go over the highlights again.

High traction non-squeak Vibram outsoles provides the best traction and cushion in a boot.
Stain resistant cow suede uppers.
Cordura ventilation ports throughout the boot for improved breathability.
The lace loops are reinforced so as to not break.
Variable sausage laces will not come untied.
The toes and heel are reinforced to help when scaling walls and protection.
Dual density Ortholite cushioned footbed with Dri-lex lining for increased wicking and foot comfort.
Weight 2.95 lbs

In summary, the Fer de Lance boots are comfortable, ventilated, light weight boots suitable for mid to high temperatures in wet or dry environments. They have been holding up very well to almost daily use, and though a little dirty, they seem to be unphased by my day to day activities.

Of course, I wore TROC tested and approved Darn Tough Vermont Boot Socks with the Fer de Lance. As usual the socks performed flawlessly without chafing, constrictions, or droopiness. They really are Darn Tough to beat!

OTB Footwear
18 Cliff Ave
Scituate, MA 02066

Fer de Lance Boots

MSRP: $149.95