Review of the Tactical Research TR103 Minimil USAF Training Boot
INITIAL IMPRESSION & APPEARANCE: Belleville really got this boot down right with a great design. The TR103 exemplifies their delivery of top materials and excellent workmanship in a great package. This boot features double and triple stitching on nearly all of the cowhide panels of the upper and reinforced nylon strapping that his sewn to the sides for additional strengthening. The outsole is integrated nicely with this boot for a "step-in" rather than a "step on" design that keep your feet low to the ground in accordance with the minimalist approach. This boot is extremely lightweight at a surprising 16 ounces for each side, which is generally less than half of the weight of some of the conventional combat boots that I've reviewed. with this boot your he'll sits closer to the ground with a 5 mm rise as opposed to a 15 mm rise that is characteristic of most conventional military boots.
KEY FEATURES: The primary feature of this boot is its minimalist design. This minimalist movement began with the Vibram Fivefingers training shoes, which was engineered for athletes attempting to improve the secondary muscles in their legs through "barefoot" mechanics. Minimalist footwear enables a more natural walking motion, focusing on low impact movement achieved through planting on the ball of your foot as compared to the conventional shoes which force your heel to strike the ground first. The TR103 accomplishes this by using a midsole design which is intended for you to land on the ball of your foot. This midsole was designed with a low 5 mm rise so that closely mimics our natural walking movement without footwear. This type of footwear does is trains you to plant the ball of your foot first as opposed to your heel first which utilizes 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 Cordillera which makes for a very lightweight boot. The TR103 is designed for hot weather use and features two side air vents for comfort and cooling in all settings. The outsole is produced specifically by Vibram and is characterized with a thin design with low-profile tri-directional lugs for excellent footing on the toe and heel areas. The middle of the insole provides a high-traction area for the ball of your foot to plant itself 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 TR103 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.