In today’s ever changing environments, “the boots on the ground” are our eyes and ears of the battlefield. They need footwear that can meet the demands of a constantly disruptive enemy. From the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan to the non-permissive environments abroad, our boys doing work need a lightweight, protective and most of all an inconspicuous boot that will help in the completion of their missions.
The “Rappel Mid” is:
- Supportive, highly breathable, 6 inch, mid cut light hiker with features for today’s Special Operations Forces.
- Sticky non-squeak rubber for stealth-like traction on a variety of surfaces.
- Full length Rockstop® board embedded into the molded EVA midsole prevents bruising on rocky terrain.
- Composite shank provides support when carrying heavy loads.
- Durable rough-out suede upper.
- One piece smooth vamp with toe scuff guard for increased abrasion resistance.
- One piece metal lace lips will not snag parachute lines.
- Variable sausage laces will not come untied in the field.
- Inside FRG – Fast Rope Guard – to help extend the wear of the boots after repeated
- fast roping. The outsole design works in conjunction with the FRG to help slow and control the rate of descent when fast roping.
- Full length breathable Ortholite® foot bed is removable for cleaning.
- Available only in coyote tan, but is available in a low-cut version. With the low-cut version though, there is no Fast Rope Guard present.
Right before the 2010 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the brand OTB boots was purchased by New Balance. At the 2011 SHOT show New Balance had their own booth with signs proclaiming “New Balance in alliance with OTB,” along with their new brand of tactical footwear. With this newly formed company in tactical footwear, they have created a new philosophy called “N.Tel Intelligence.” From this shoe company, they view the military as an entire collection of athletes, and designs footwear and clothing with this in mind. The obvious “game” might not be the same as traditional athletes, but the level of commitment and need for stamina and physical prowess is still there.
New Balance has an entire set of capabilities that they bring to a challenge, and they listen to their customers to see how they can use their skills to solve problems. In layman’s terms, the message is “Your Intelligence Drives our Intelligence.” For those of you unfamiliar with this notion, it’s actually an understanding of the concept “intelligence drives operations.” This means that you can’t go kill bad guys if you don’t know where they are, and New Balance can’t produce their products without the input of “Elite Soldier Athletes.” The members of New Balance received much feedback from “Tier-1” level operators downrange and in the end, ending up producing an extremely formidable boot for many different environments.
Starting from the sole up, the bottom of this boot is made in correlation with that of hiking boots you see around today. From there, their Fast Rope Guard was originally made out of a fabric called “Super Fabric” which was very durable and was at first a great idea. Unfortunately after many a fast-rope, the operators found that they were actually sliding down the rope too fast, way too fast, and that was because that material was extremely slick. After that they made the FRG out of rubber which was still durable but was able to slow them down when coming down the rope, they also perforated it so as to still make it breathable.
Still moving up, we have a roughout suede and a much different looking rubberized toe. This is different because of the way they actually printed on this abrasive rubber material. NB found out that this would cut down on cost and weight instead of gluing as well as stitching it on. Also the areas of the boot that contain a mesh material, for example on the sides of the boot, you will feel a “void” in the foam. This is to provide a maximum amount of airflow and breathability, there’s nothing worse than a boot that makes you have unnecessary sweaty feet. There are all metal eyelets throughout the boot to provide long last wear as well as “sausage-braid” laces to provide a secure tie. Their mid-sole system gets even better with what’s called “Rockstop®” which is what NB uses in all their outdoor shoes. It’s two composite pieces that are inside the midsole, and provides extreme comfort even when walking across hard, rocky areas. On top of this midsole there is a composite shank so that even when carrying a heavy “ruck” you’re not going to bottom out, which in turn provides great support. Inside the boot you will find their breathable, “Ortholite®” insoles, which is inside all of their top-end running shoes. It is blown polyurethane that will not breakdown over the life of the boot. Finally, the back of the boot is angled so that if/when the wearer is in the back of a vehicle, it will not dig into your ankle. The build of the low-cut version is the same, minus the Fast Rope Guard.
I have always found myself leaning toward a mid-cut boot. My time in the military demanded I wear at least a 8-inch high boot and let’s just say I was not a fan. The lack of breathability, as well as the unnecessary pressure around my upper ankle, proved to be a major pain (and, in my opinion, wasn’t needed). Wearing boots as a civilian that really scream military is also something I myself have never been a fan of. To some people, it may mean the difference between their survivability and the completion of the mission at hand. The Rappel-Mid is a boot that looks like something an everyday hiker would wear for his next stop along the Appalachian Trail, or better yet, something you can wear without looking the 5.11 Warrior part. I personally wore these boots for four weeks straight as well as during a three day carbine course offered by Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics (VTAC). During this time period I experienced no problems with these boots. In fact, as I wore them they began to break in and became even more comfortable without loosing structural integrity. Also, there was no real break in period required, and they fit true to size from day one. I wear a USMC issue size 10 boot and I got the NB Rappel Mid in the same size with plenty of room. For anyone that is worried about wide feet (which I also have), NB offers them in wide, but I ended up getting them in normal width and didn’t have any problems with the fit. My only qualm as to why I couldn’t give the product a perfect rating was due in part to the fact that they were not waterproof. Thankfully, I had an aftermarket spray to assist in waterproofing, which I sprayed onto the Rappel-Mids and in an hour or so I had a comfortable, lightweight and waterproof every day wear boot. If you’re in the market for a new boot that is as light as a sneaker but can stand up to the demands of the warriors overseas, then check out the New Balance Rappel Mid, I’m sure your feet will thank you.