Review of the Tactical Research TR101 MiniMil Desert Boot
INITIAL IMPRESSION & APPEARANCE: Belleville really got this design down pat when they came out with the first official minimalist military boot on the market. The TR101 is very well made just looking at its overall design and workmanship quality such as triples stitching on all of the suede panels for reinforcement and strength and designing to reinforced nylon bands that span the side of the upper for additional reinforcement. The outsole is very well made to this boot and follows more of a "step-in" rather than a "step on" design so your feet truly feel like they are embedded in the midsole not just sitting on top of it like most traditional military boots. This boot is extremely lightweight at an astounding 16 ounces per side, which is less than half of the weight of some of the full-size combat boots that I've tested. It is obvious that the minimalist concept was the key with this boot as told by the lightweight and 5 mm rise from the heel to the toe of the boot, whereas standard boots have around a 15 mm rise.
KEY FEATURES: The key feature of this boot is its minimalist design. This minimalist craze started with the Vibram Fivefingers footwear several years ago, which was designed for athletes looking to strengthen the secondary muscles in their legs through a "barefoot" running experience. Minimalist footwear allows for a more natural foot motion, focusing on low impact movement achieved through landing on the ball of your foot as opposed to the high impact heel to toe landing that most of us are used to. The TR101 achieves this through the midsole which is designed for minimalist movement. This midsole has a low 5 mm rise so that closely simulates going barefoot. What this does is trains yourself to land on the ball of your foot as opposed to heel first which uses different muscles. Of course the light weight of this boot and scarcity of material allow you to feel less of the boot your wearing and more of the surface you are running or walking over. this boot features a very lightweight upper consisting of about 50% suede and 50% nylon Cordura which makes for a very lightweight boot. The TR101 is designed for hot weather use and features two side air vents for ventilation and cooling. The outsole is made exclusively by Vibram and features a flat design with subdued tri-directional logs for traction on the toe and heel. The middle of the insole features more surface area for the ball of your foot to land on. Lastly, this boot features a gusseted tongue for use in Sandy Dusty settings to ensure no falling dirt or debris enter the boot.
TRYING THESE ON: Let me just say that wearing these was incredible. I've heard many good things about these boots from soldiers in the field. This is the first pair of minimalist footwear I've ever tried on and I was thoroughly impressed. The TR101 really lives up to its minimalist design. I barely even knew I had these on, helped by the low weight and the way your foot sits inside the midsole as opposed to on top of it. The sizing was about a half to a full size smaller than my running shoe size but after getting the right size for these they fit like a glove. There was ample room in the toe box for good movement and comfort. These boots definitely weren't very supportive in the arch area, but that is because they are supposed to strengthen the muscles in your feed in your legs so just remember that this is a training boot, not really intended for duty use.
OVERALL: An excellent training boot and the lightweight nature of these boots makes it ideal for garrison and light duty work as well. They are priced reasonably at $120 for a quality boot designed by Belleville but produced overseas. My experience with the Tactical Research line has been very good and I give credit to the Belleville designers for understanding how boots where and strengthening the them in the high stress. I would expect these boots to perform as advertised and aid in your training and strengthening of your lower legs and feet.