Under Armour 101
UA is your true “humble beginnings to stardom” story. Kevin Plank, the founder of UA, was just a University football team captain with a problem. He’s had it with soaked cotton T-shirts constantly slowing him down and started a company to try and make a better version. UA is making around 4 billion dollars per year now so I think we’re safe to say he did something right. UA was founded in his grandmother’s basement in 1996, and quickly released its first T-shirt, HeatGear compression. The rest is for the business history books.
Some RTS Valsetz fundamentals
UA puts forth a combination of light weight, durability and water-resistance and the main selling point of these tactical boots. The uppers are a textile-synthetic leather combo paired with welded film surrounding the boot for optimal abrasion-resistance. They say the initial idea behind the RTS was that “second-skin” feeling.
Further down the product specification, they discuss all the patented technologies aimed at superior shock-resistance, softer landings and outstanding stability by “locking” your foot inside the boot. When it comes to shanks, they’ve opted for TPU (meaning plastic, not metal). They’ve used molded Ortholite for sockliners, EVA for midsoles and spiced things up with special technologies for odor-prevention.
Let’s see if this Valsetz is all it’s cracked up to be by giving it a proper spin.
Real-life review of the RTS Valsetz tactical boots
Initial Impressions of the RTS Valsetz
Upon receiving the boots I had mixed emotions, was this a tactical boot or a tennis shoe? Was tactical a label that applied only if it were a bright sunny day on paved surfaces or could there be other applications that this boot might be of use in. You see it’s always a trade off in that boots which are lightweight, super comfortable (like tennis shoes) and require no break in are usually prone to falling apart after a year of use. Nike SFB’s and Blackhawk boots come to mind because I’ve owned several pair of them. Great right off the bat but not sturdy enough to hold up to repeated abuse. The opposite side of that coin would be standard GI Issue boots, boots that require some decent break in or they will tear the skin off of your heels but they are relatively bullet proof over the long haul.
As I held the RTS Valsetz in my hand a few things struck me immediately.
- Laces: The lace seemed pretty thin, not a big deal to most but I like fatter laces which make them easier to knot/lock into place. The absolute worst is looking down and seeing your boot laces dragging on the ground when you are in an area where stopping to re-tie them is a hassle. Petty I know but it’s the little things.
- Flat Sole: Looking at the sole and sliding my foot into the boot I wondered just how much arch support it would truly have. I’m not a fan of the minimalist shoes with no arch support, it’s why I like Keen boots and Asics running shoes. The RTS Valsetz boots didn’t exactly blow me away initially with the support provided but I would have to wait until I wore them out in the field, sitting on the couch with one foot in a boot was hardly a true test.
- Grip / Stability: The sole of the boot it did appear to provide the user with some decent traction and side to side stability. I’ll once again reference the Nike SFB’s, while a great boot to wear around for day to day use in the mud over uneven terrain they were absolutely awful in that they provided very little traction or support. Hopefully the RTS Valsetz boots would be a notch above the NIke’s in this respect.
Out in the Woods
I wore the boots around town for a day or two just to get an initial impression of them. Quite frankly I was sort of on the fence in that they were very comfortable but I worried about how they would perform once I was out in the woods with a heavy load on my back. I must admit I shouldn’t have been so quick to doubt the boots as they were surprisingly good.
It was a very cool Saturday morning when I set out with my dog to hike a 5 mile loop at a local nature preserve. In order to make things more interesting I strapped my survival bag to my back, which came in around 50lbs or so. This loop had some small elevation changes and the terrain was a mix of dirt, loose rocks, tree roots and fallen leaves with very slick mud underneath. This would be a nice testing ground for the RTS Valsetz boots, while 5 miles isn’t that great of a distance with my experience I would be able to immediately ascertain if they were something I could endorse.
I was pleasantly surprised with how these boots performed. Some things that I was looking for:
- Hot Spots: This is exactly what you think it is, that feeling of hot spot on that ball of your foot or heel from the friction of the boot and sock against your foot. While 5 miles might not seem like enough distance to determine if a hot spot will develop trust me it is, especially under load and especially with boot that does not perform well. Take a pair of GI issued boots and go walk 5 miles in them straight away, you’ll be limping for the next week. Fortunately there were no hot spots or even a hint of one during my time with the RTS Valsetz boots.
- Comfort: Out of the box comfort which I really appreciate. Again it’s a trade off in that I’m not sure just how durable these boots will be yet I’d rather look at them as expendable items and just replace them as necessary. I know there are guys out there who still get their boots resoled over and over again, I’d rather just buy new if no break in is required.
- Stability: Good side to side stability especially when encountering rocks or tree roots hidden by piles of leaves. The flat sole and grip provided does the job, really coming into play when out in the woods. Again I was pleasantly surprised!
- Climbing / Descending Hills: Here is something most overlook. You need to have a bit of play front to rear in your boot BUT with the foot still being relatively secured in place. If a boot is a perfect fit or too tight when descending hills you get the old toe smash going on, not a pleasant experience. While going uphill if too loose your foot could slide around a bit maybe even causing your sock to bunch up in places that would start to form hot spots and then blisters. I have to state that the RTS Valsetz boots performed well in this area allowing my feet just enough room to move around while still keeping everything secure.
- Water Resistance: While I chose not to dunk my feet into the creek that was running near the trail UA does claim that these boots are water resistant, with water proof being another thing altogether I suppose. What I can state is that since these boots are so lightweight if they do get soaking wet the dry time should be relatively short compared to heavy leather boots which is always a good thing if one is pressed for time.
Do I recommend these boots? The answer is yes but with a catch. Everyone has different feet so what feels great to me might feel awful to you, but I’d venture a guess that most would be pleased if purchasing a pair of RTS Valsetz boots for everyday light duty and some adventures in the woods. I now have these boots in my truck as my standby pair of footwear, tucked under the seat next to my survival bag for those instances where a quick change of footwear could be necessary. Keep in mind that the one thing I could not test was the durability of this boot over an extended period of time. Thanks again to Solelabz.com for providing the boots (and socks) that I used in this review.