Just in time for winter, a hot weather boot review! At the end of July, I received the Belleville Boots Tactical Research (BBTR) QRF Delta C6 mid cut approach boots. MSRP $148 from BBTR.
I received both a pair of 9.5 (my measured size) and a pair of 10. I currently own a pair of BBTR 6” Khyber boots in both black and coyote and have previously owned a pair of their 770’s, all in 9.5.
In 2015, I conducted an evaluation of the above listed boots from the Khyber series and some of the things I addressed have been incorporated into the C6 including, weight, a lace-to-toe design and a different insole. The C6 is part of the QRF or Quick Reaction Force series that includes several boots in both 6” and 8” heights, black, coyote, sage green, waterproof and with and without side zippers. The C6 fills a nice roll for a lightweight, military-type, unlined hiker style boot. There are now numerous other boots on the market that can be used for military use, such as the Lowa Z6S, Desert Elites or Salomon Forces Mid Pro’s, but these are all derived from recreational boots and are “.mil’d up” whereas the C6’s are made for .mil use first with some added recreational features.
I like to try and take equipment manufacturers at their word, as to how they both see their gear being used and how it’s advertised. Here is the description from Belleville:
Designed to address the infil & exfil operations of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) team in mind, The QRF Series of boots offer a unique and purposeful option for when movement is essential. With design and performance influences from the outdoor trekking and approach shoe category, the QRF Series integrates an aggressive, lace-to-toe closure system, a medial side rappelling overlay and low profile soling system to enhance performance in multiple environments.
- Height: 6”
- Upper: 100% cattlehide leather & nylon fabric
- Midsole: Highly cushioned, shock absorbent midsole
- Outsole: Exclusive long-wearing RAKKASAN rubber outsole for enhanced slip resistance and grip & suitable for multiple environments
- Insole: OrthoLite® high performance removable insert: dual density molded insert with high rebound memory foam and heel cup stabilizer
- Integrated fast rope channel with high friction rubber for controlled descent
- Unique, approach-shoe lacing system for customized fit
- Enhanced ankle support & stability
- Spacer-mesh breathable, hydrophilic lining
- Ultra lightweight
I first tried the 9.5’s which would have fit me if not for the toe box. This isn’t something unique to this boot and most of my other hikers and running shoes are now all in 10 or 10.5. The toe box isn’t narrow, but it does have a curve on the outside edge that just didn’t work with foot shape. If they were the only choice I had, I could have made them work with a thin sock and perhaps they would have stretched out some, but since I also had the 10’s, I started wearing those with no toe box issues and can wear the 10’s comfortably with a medium weight sock. Feel confident in ordering whichever size you wear in your current outdoors/athletic footwear.
I wore the boots for nearly 120 hours while at work on our range as well as anytime I was home doing regular every day stuff in order to break them in. The actual break in time is very short, but in doing an evaluation I like to take my time. If you were in need of a boot, you could probably be just fine breaking them in to your feet in less than a week of regular wear. The leather is very soft, strong and water resistant. They have drain/vent holes so water resistance is somewhat irrelevant other than for the protection of the leather itself. Those holes allow excellent airflow and the interior mesh lining covers them which helps to prevent dirt and debris from getting inside. The vent holes would also allow for very good water drainage and since it was a hot and dry summer I wore the boots to a local beach (Pt. Defiance/Owens Beach) with our labrador retreiver and walked in and out of the water with him. The boots obviously filled up, but would very quickly drain out when back on dry land. I continued to wear them with a medium weight running sock and the boots were nearly dry by the time I drove home, 45 minutes later and fully dry by the next day. The insoles, which I address below, did remain squishy, but no more than any other foam based material.
The lace-to-toe is excellent and this is truly something I wish more boot makers would add across their product lines. The lacing options with a lace-to-toe are many times that of a standard lacing system. I was not able to find out the “amount” of cushioning or “offset” as many running shoes now advertise, but if I had to guess, they have a 6mm offset. This allows your feet in the boots to sit more level to the ground for very good stability.
There are two areas that I have concerns with these boots. The first is that they do not have an “ankle” eyelet or lace hook, whereas the 9” versions do. The ankles don’t slip, but having that extra hook to better pull the ankle/heel “up” would I think make the boots perform better. The second area that brings concern is the insole. While easy to replace, the included insoles in any footwear should perform as advertised and this is the one area the C6 comes up short. The boots are named “QRF” and that to me implies, “some bad S*@T has happened and we need to get there ASAP to help out.” The insoles are a two part foam from Ortholite. In my opinion, insoles in combination with the built-in cushioning of the boots, should create stability, absorb and disperse impact and then return some of the impact energy back to the wearer which is where the performance comes from.
The Ortholite insoles are much like memory foam on the top. So much so that you can actually push your finger into them and watch the “hole” fill back in. The energy return is so slow, that it’s irrelevant to returning that absorbed energy to you. The insoles would be just fine in a boot for wearing while standing for long periods of time or on a hard surface. Since their energy return in negated, they actually take away from the advertised QRF function of the boots. I removed the Ortholites and went through several pairs of insoles I have from other footwear, finally settling on a pair of green Superfeet that have had the plastic, underfoot cup removed. These are very good for stability and energy return, but do lack some moisture absorption and do not allow for very good airflow. So, still searching for the right insoles.
The boots for a final exam were taken on a 6 mile, round trip hike at Mt. Rainier. We hiked from the Sunrise area out and back to the Freemont Fire Tower lookout. The trail is a combination of tree-lined single track and prepared trails, starting at an elevation of 6400’. With a pair of Smartwool PhD socks, the boots kept my feet cool and dry. There were no hot spots, blisters or discomfort in any way.
A couple weeks later, I wore them to run 2 miles on grassy trails at our range as part of my regular PT. I would not recommend anyone using any pair of boots to run in, but wanted to see what kind of performance I would get from them. I’m happy to report that I now hold the record for men 50-52 in the 2 mile range run with boots. Unfortunately, my actual time was not recorded so I will be able to retire as champion! The boots did well and my feet were their normal sweaty-ness, but they stayed secure and the airflow was something I could actually feel with each step.
In the original BBTR promotional ads and video, there is a pair of C6’s that are in more civilian colors. I asked Belleville’s Glen Becker specifically about those and was told that they may be coming out in 2018. Those boots as well as some shoes, are visible in the info video in the attached link and should be readily considered when looking for .mil tough footwear that do not make you look like you just enlisted. Glen Becker is the Chief Sales Officer for Belleville and is the presenter in the video. He has been incredibly helpful and receptive to the input I’ve been asked to provide.