They say wisdom comes with age. I‘m not sure who “they” are, but I have to question their logic. Rather than getting smarter with age, I think we are just more willing to admit our ignorance. If you want to impress someone, don’t tell them what you think. Ask for their opinion.
Recently, I had a chance to show my “wisdom” by asking the founding fathers of Woods Monkey for their advice. It has been 20 plus years since I went searching for a good pair of boots and I was dumbfounded at what I found on the marketplace. I had never heard of most of the brands and, to be blunt, I was overwhelmed. A good pair of boots isn’t cheap and I didn’t want to throw money left and right trying to find the right pair.
My requirements were rather clear cut. I live in the middle of a square mile of NC foothills and try to get at least one walk in the woods every day. Walking uphill and downhill, through leaves and loose rock, dictates they provide good ankle support. They also need to be able to take the beating of everyday wear. By today’s standards, my last request was almost the deal killer. THEY HAD TO BE MADE IN THE USA! Here in NC, our economy has taken a beating. Our furniture and textile industries have been shipped overseas and unemployment is at an all-time high. My wife and I have taken a stand, we buy American!
One brand the monkeys suggested highly was ALTAMA. I’ve never heard of them! Let’s face it, I don’t have a foot fetish, and when have you ever seen a boot commercial on television? It wasn’t until I got on the internet to do a little research that I realized I probably have worn their boots before. ALTAMA was founded in 1969 in Darien, Georgia. That is also the year they started making the “jungle boots” of Vietnam fame for the American military. Being a member of the Class of “69”, I felt an instant bond with them. Woods Monkey went a step further than just a suggestion. They would arrange for me to try a pair if I would give them my opinion after a few months. (Just like a monkey to turn your logic around and use it against you.) Never ask a 61 year old man what he thinks, he’ll tell you. However, before I start, let me clarify a few details. Those that know me know I make my living by photographing and writing reviews for several magazines connected to the gun and knife industry. The concept of writing a good review because “that is what is expected” is beyond me. Fudge one review and it will come back to bite you. If a product fails to live up to standards, you just don’t write the review.
I scanned their website and chose to try a pair of Hoplite Tactical Assault Boots. Within a week I was opening a box from ALTAMA and inspecting the modern military footwear. This model comes in either desert tan for the Army or sage green for the Air Force. I opted for the Sage Green, even if I never could understand what the Air Force needed with boots. After all, how far away is the Post Exchange? (Editor’s note: this coming from a Navy guy!) The Hoplite is a full eight inch boot and has eight pairs of eyelets for lacing. The upper is a mix of Sage Green Suede and Cordura in a pattern that will bring back the memory of the jungle boots. However, unlike those early jungle boots, the Cordura sections are padded. Now if you want to sound knowledgeable, ALTAMA calls these “Protective Foam Impact Pods.” The lining of the boots is a “Highly Breathable Aero-Spacer” and the Outsole/Midsole is “Slip, Oil and Acid Resistant, Non Marking, Lightweight, Shock Absorbing Dual Density Polyurethane.” Did you get all of that? In Southern terms, other than the suede, which comes from a cow in case you didn’t know, these boots are made from man-made synthetics. The boots have a removable innersole of “Dual Density Polyurethane with a TPU Support Cradle.” Take my word for it that also did not come from a cow. Look on the inside of the boot and you will see a label stating “MADE IN THE USA.”
Please don’t take me wrong as I have no desire to insult anyone. A lot of very nice products are being made overseas. Because something is made in the USA does not mean that it is automatically a quality product. At the same time, if the label states “Made in Wherever,” it does not degrade it’s quality. I just know that an American has a job putting these boots together.
At the same time, take please take my description of the materials used in making these boots with a grain of salt. In the boot industry I’m sure phrases like “Dual Density” and “Aero-Spacer” means something. I guess it is ALTAMA’s way of saying they put a lot of effort into making the best boot they could. To finish off the boot, they named it the Hoplite. That was the name given to the Spartan Warriors which were supposed to be the guys you didn’t want to mess with. So know it is time to find out if these boots were tough enough to wear that name.
With hunting season only a month away, I started to wear the boots the day they came in. After all, I wanted them broken-in before I really put them to work. Lesson number one: These boots didn’t require any break-in. They were comfortable from day one. My guess would be that is a major difference between modern synthetics and the thick leather boots of my youth. My second lesson came when I started to notice the little details in these boots. The first four pairs of eyelets are standard while the top four pairs are “Nylon Coated Brass Speedhooks.” Being eight inch boots, the only way to get them on and off is to REALLY loosen the top eyelets. The nylon coated speed hooks allows the laces to slide freely to loosen or tighten the boots. At the same time, the laces are also nylon which makes getting the boots on and off a breeze. At first, I laughed at how much extra length there was to the laces. You could use them to pitch a tent if you need to. Actually the laces are long enough to wrap once around the upper and then tie them in a double bow. Once done, the boots will not loosen unless you untie them. It was a week or two of putting them on and taking them off before I realized a simple feature. The laces are long enough to where up can really loosen them to make it easy to take them off, WITHOUT pulling the laces out of the eyelets. You never have to re-lace them. A small detail but a nice one. Hey, it only took me two weeks to realize it. One feature I noticed instantly. If you wear a decent pair of socks, these boots are really comfortable. I’m flat-footed and have always needed a wide boot or shoe. ALTAMA did their homework on sizing. The width was a perfect combination of comfort and support.
The sole has a pattern called “Sand Shark Lug.” I call it a mid-to-deep wave pattern. Whatever you want to call it, it provides a sure grip in both mud and rocks. Walking up my mountain can be an adventure in even the best of weather, doing so after a rain is life threatening. The Hoplites will give you a firm grip (and the urge to hum the theme song to Jaws). I will state the only drawback to the sole pattern: they will and do capture mud. Remember to take them off before going into the house or your wife will make Jaws seem like a minnow. Other than that minor problem, don’t worry about getting dirty. The boots clean up rather well. Even after dripping blood all over them while butchering a deer, it only took a garden hose to clean them up. I looked, but couldn’t find a mention of a stain protection applied to the boots but ALTAMA has their act together in that category. There is also another feature similar to the jungle boots of old. There are two drainage vents on the instep of each boot. I’m sure it is for your comfort and prevents overheating your feet, because other than the two vents, the boots seem waterproof. I’ve walked through heavy dew laden grass and have yet to get my feet wet.
I’ve save the major feature for last. This past year I have been wondering whether or not my age was showing. My walks were taking a toll on my leg muscles. I’ve learned my lesson, the shoes (or in case, the boots) makes all off the difference. Between the padded insoles and the support from the uppers, these things are comfortable. I’m sure if I study more, I could give you a few high-tech answers about way these boots work. The simple answer is ALTAMA seems to care about the product they produce. They have been producing their “combat” boot for over 40 years and they know what they are doing. The pair I’m trying made it through hunting season and are looking good. My best endorsement would be the fact that my wife is scanning their website.
The Altama Hoplite boot carries an MSRP of $159.99 and information can be found at www.altama.com
“Like” the Monkey on Facebook while you’re at it too!
Check out more discussions on the Woodsmonkey Forum: