Water friendly OTB Odhin tactical boots stomp their way out of wet situations.
My first broken limb would mark the start of my experience with water and the effect it has on man made protection for the feet. When I was 7, I decided to do a back flip off the top of my bunk bed (with no prior gymnastics training), yielding a broken bone in the foot. A trip to the emergency room and a cast was the result. I was strictly informed to keep the cast dry, so of course within 24 hours I fell into a creek, drenching it. This was my first experience with footwear that doesn’t cut it in the water. Sportsmen and tactical operators find themselves in wet situations often, where their footwear fails due to water. A new company, OTB (Over The Beach), answered the need for a water friendly boot that won’t fail when wet. OTB is new to the tactical gear arena; it was company was contacted by Navy Seals to make a new type of footwear not found on the market, with completely water friendly construction.
Get them wet and let them dry; don’t worry about water hurting these boots! There are options for every foot size under the sun, the inside of the boot can be modified for wet suits or large socks. The drain features of these water-loving shoes out flush even a jungle boot, with holes around the bottom and sides helping the boot to drain almost instantly. At a price around $110 dollars, these are just the ticket for any waterborne adventurer.
Making A Footprint
I love water friendly sandals, and use them frequently, but there are a plethora of situations that need footwear with a little more protection than a sole with straps or a closed toe. How does the leather-free Odhin differ from other boots? The completely man made materials embrace water rather than just repel it like leather. Leather boots are fantastic, however leather tends to dry out and crack over time, and must be treated constantly. My normal water boots before the Odhins were the timeless Altima jungle boots. I still love those jungle boots, but they took almost a decade to break in and still do not feel as comfortable as the OTB Odhins do out of the box. Every time I get home from a trip with the old jungle boots, I have to wash them out, re-treat and polish them to retain their strength. The other military boots that are now issued have a notoriously heavy outer sole, but these OTB Odhin soles are very light and pliable. The weight factor is important in the light footwear, as the thinner sole does not wear the feet down with unnecessary tread.
Down The Drain
The single most defining characteristic of the classic jungle boot is the drain holes on the bottom instep of each boot. This feature has saved thousands of soldiers from foot rot and bad fungal outbreaks, as the water drains out with every step. With water proof boots, any water that does manage to go over the sides will stay in and squish with every step, and cannot drain out. With an integrated draining system on both the sides and the bottom of the boot, water and air circulate throughout the inside of the OTB Odhin’s quickly. The bottom of the lightweight sole has holes to allow water to escape through. Many readers, upon hearing this, may wonder if dirt can penetrate the boot. The holes in the bottom of the boot are reinforced with a mesh backing keeping particles out. The mesh is not fragile either, as I have yet to see any bad thorns or sticks penetrate through the tough mesh membrane, or the bottom of the shoe.
These Odhin boots do not have the odor control treatment of a Keen Sandal, however they dry out quick enough to thwart any bad growth of odor causing bacteria. This is mostly due to the fact that air can pass out of the boots easily. The airflow through the footwear is surprising, on a cold drafty day I found myself having to block my boots from the wind when dangling them in a hammock.
Back To Front
Not all of the boot is made of mesh material, as there is rubber on the front and back of the shoe, near the boot tip and the heel. It is the same high impact high abrasion rubber found on climbing shoes, and functions to help protect the two most common points of impact on the footwear. Normally these are the first area to go when reviewing a boot, as most of these new fangled hiking companies just epoxy them on and call it a day. The OTB guys were smarter than that though, taking care to use both stitching and water friendly epoxy to hold the bumpers on.
Guts On The Inside
The interior of the Odhin boot is lined with a quick drying material called spacer mesh, a textile commonly found on many running shoes. In between both sides of the mesh, there is reticulated foam, a type of foam that has zero water absorption. The Odhin boot is entirely cotton free which is a welcome feature for anyone who knows the problems with cotton and water. Cotton holds water and sucks the heat right out of the user, and takes forever to dry. Inside the heel of the Odhin there is a man made imitation micro fiber suede, a water friendly material that prevents blisters in the back of the heel.
On The Arch
Inside the foot pleasing aqua boots you will find an integral insert system comprised of three different removable shank layers. Two of them are plastic, and connect together. Finally, at the end right before the outer sole starts, there is a final highly compressed EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) material. The 2 piece hard plastic shank insert can be taken out to make the boot more pliable. With the three inserts removed, the user can make room for neoprene socks, or even a wetsuit with a wool sock underneath it. Coast guard members and other teams use them bare foot, with no socks, and all of the removable shanks inside the boot. I used the boot in this same manner during a trip to an uninhabited island, and the abrasive sand and mud hardly irritated me. I shudder to think what that adventure would have been like with normal footwear.
For the first part of the tests, I took the boot with me on every water-ridden expedition I could. Of course I wore these boots as my main canoe shoes on numerous boat trips around central and western NC. The largest difference I noticed about the footwear is how I could move from the water to the land fluidly, without having to think twice about changing out my boots. That is hard to do with Keen sandals, as you have to take them off to remove any object that sneaks in. I’m not knocking the sandals though, as they have given me 6 years of good use and still look new. With the Odhins though, I felt like I could continue hiking no matter what the ridiculous terrain was like, pausing only to remove a briar that attached to my Darn Tough Coolmax hiker sock. Wearing water friendly socks helped keep my feet warm. I should add that on most of the freshwater trips, the Darn Tough Coolmax socks and the Odhin boots went together hand in hand.
A Beach Trip
The real test that singled out the performance of the OTB Odhin was on an uninhabited island off of the North Carolina coast. It was a survival trip, where the only items used were large chopping knives and small neck knives, and a small survival kit. The journey to get onto that island, involved trudging through half a mile of sinking muck and razor sharp oyster beds. That was my mistake for hitting the tide at the wrong time. Hiking through the razor shells encapsulated by muck proved to be a tiring process. But dragging a boat full of gear, and then having to go back to pick up the two five gallon containers of water…well my feet were happy to be protected while the rest of my body was in agony. The abrasive large particulates of sand rubbed away at my sockless feet above the boot line. Normally, if someone is wearing these without socks, they have their pants tucked into the boots or even are wearing neoprene body suits. During this trip, my socks were what I missed the most.
Foraging With Footwear
The mesh inner layers were put to the test by stepping on a few blue crabs and pinning them down to the sand. They would try to grab my shoe and pinch it, but I would grab their pinchers and hold the crab by the claws, rendering them harmless. The soles were pliable enough to feel clams underneath the muck, and I could use the rubber fronts of the boot to dig them out. At the end of the trip, I washed the muck off, and inspected the boot for abrasions and loose threads. There were none to speak of. On the beach, there were various abandoned boots and flip-flops from previous visitors, and I shudder to think how many open cuts were in the water after that.
A perfect task for the water friendly footwear proved to be in the large river near the house. I really want to learn the pockets and fishing holes in the local area by snorkeling. The Odhins gave me enough traction to go upstream and remain anchored in the current to view the fish at an angle. For that task, I need real boots, not flip-flops or fins that will not grip the river bottom. I also thwarted a twisted ankle with the support the boots gave when I slipped off of some of the algae encrusted rocks. Flip-flops couldn’t provide that protection.
I’m sure frogmen would have appreciated these boots immensely. On every water stomping trek I’ll be going on, I’ll be sure to wear these new water friendly boots. And with new models like an enhanced jungle boot hitting the shelves now, OTB will be a sure hit for those who spend time in the mud, muck, mire, and of course, water!