Review of the Tactical Research TR102 MiniMil Training Boot
INITIAL IMPRESSION & APPEARANCE: Belleville got this design right the first time when they released the first official minimalist training boot designed for tactical and military customers. The TR102 is manufactured well just by its overall appearance and workmanship. It features double and triple stitching on all of the leather areas for durability and strength. Also, it includes nylon bands for reinforcing the ankle and achilles heel. The midsole and outsole design allows your foot to sit lower and closer to the ground rather than most typical boots where your feet sit on top of the midsole. This boot is very lightweight at an unbelievable 16 ounces per boot, which is typically less than half of the weight of most other full-size military boots on the market. Visually, is smaller in size and overall footprint as expected. In accordance with a true minimalist concept, it features a 5 mm rise from the heel to the toe of the boot, as opposed to traditional boots that have roughly a 15 mm rise.
KEY FEATURES: The primary feature of the TR102 is its minimalist design. The minimalist trend began with the Vibram Fivefingers footwear around five years ago, that was intended for individuals looking to build the secondary muscles in their legs using a "barefoot" walking and running approach. Minimalist shoes and boots focus on a more natural foot movement, 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 TR102 accomplishes this through the low rise of the heel that is intended for minimalist training. The TR102 midsole features a 5 mm rise so that mimics going without footwear. What this accomplishes is forces you to contact the the ball of your foot versus your heel, thus utilizing secondary muscles in your feet and lower legs. Of course, the low weight of this boot and the very minimal sole and upper enable you to feel less of the footwear and more of the terrain you are traveling on. This boot features an extremely lightweight upper that is made up of about 50% suede and 50% nylon Cordura that makes for an extremely tough and lightweight boot. The TR102 is intended for hot weather settings and has dual side air vents to assist with keeping your feet cool and dry.The outsole is made specially by Vibram and features a low-profile design with multi-directional lugs for focused traction on the toe and heel. The middle of the midsole features additinoal surface area for the ball of your foot to land on. Lastly, this boot comes standard with a gusseted tongue for use in outdoor settings where falling dirt and sand can enter your boot.
TRYING THESE ON: Let me just say that these boots live up to all the hype. We've received good feedback from customers that have worn these in the past. This is the first pair of minimalist boots that I've reviewed and I was very impressed. The TR102 offers a true minimalist design, as opposed to a few newer models just entering the market that do not have the 5mm rise that these have. Walking around, it was hard to remember that I was wearing boots, assisted by the low weight and the way your foot is positioned inside the midsole versus to on top of it. The sizing was about a half to a full size smaller than my running shoe size so keep that in mind. There is a good amount of room in the toe area so your feet and toes won't feel cramped but these will provide a snug fit as designed. Understandably, these boots do not provide much support in the arch, but that is characteristic of minimalist footwear. Keep in mind that this is a training boot, intended for strengthening, it was really not designed for mission or duty use. Also, note that Belleville advertises that there will be a "break-in" period as your feet and legs adjust to the mechanics.
OVERALL: A superb training boot and the low weight of these boots makes it ideal for garrison and light duty work as well. They are priced well at $120 for a high-quality boot designed by Belleville but manufactured overseas. My experience with the Tactical Research products have been excellent and I give kudos to the Belleville engineers for their modern looking designs and reinforcing them in the right areas. As I mentioned prior, we're received great feedback from customers on these and received requests for mid-rise variants so if you're in the market for a minimalist training boot this is the one.