Gear Review: Nike Special Field Boots

In the world of competitive shooting, we all know the firearm in your hand is a critical choice, but without sure footing, what good is the most skilled shooter? I’m starting at the bottom, working my way up – in all aspects of life – but today I’m specifically talking about my Nike Special Field Boots, or SFB’s. While attending Crimson Trace’s Midnight 3-Gun Invitational, I did my obligatory pass at the vendor tables. Danner displayed some stellar boots as usual; Otis and Glock also enticed me to linger a bit longer, but this time Nike SFS (“Special Field Systems”) had my full attention. Created specifically for what Nike calls the “Tactical Athlete”. . .

Nike boasts their SFB’s are extremely durable and supportive while weighing in well under a pound if you’re a men’s size 9 or smaller. Fast-drying and highly articulated, Nike claims they require no break-in period and when they get dirty, you simply toss them in the wash. Yeah, you heard me correctly…just toss them in the wash!

As soon as I reached for a sample pair, a jolly voice inquiresd as to my size. Then he tossed me men’s size sixes, saying, “Wear ‘em. Bring ‘em back before you leave and let me know what you think.” Is he serious? I am in Bend, Oregon. More specifically, the high desert.  Did he see the amount of sand and lava rock I’d be traversing over the next few days?

Eager to give them a try, I thoroughly loosened the laces (necessary for proper fit since the tongue is permanently attached to the boot) and slipped on Nike’s answer to the Field Boot. I immediately noticed how very lightweight they are, fitting almost like a pair of slippers. But how would they fare in the Oregon high desert? My job was to find out.

By 1:30am on the final night of the Midnight 3-Gun Invitational, I ached in places I didn’t know I had, but my feet wasn’t one of them. In fact, I didn’t have a single blister and the only sign of “new shoes” wass a bit of a raw spot on the back of my heel which is probably due to me not lacing them tightly enough.

Nike lives up to their claims; the articulated outsole, reminiscent of the traditional waffle design, allowed my feet freedom of movement over the uneven terrain. And the combination leather/Kevlar foot bed mimics Birkenstocks’ cork foot bed, conforming to my feet and allowing me to walk the way nature intended.

Not only do the boots weigh almost nothing, they’re also completely breathable – all the while keeping sand out. Had moisture been an issue, I’m sure these boots would dry quickly with perhaps only a change of socks. They’re not only great for the competitive shooter, but would also be ideal for any first responder or outdoorsman.

Finally, I tracked down the Nike employees that kindly allowed me a little R&D time, ready to reluctantly turn over my SFB’s. But by the time I got there, the booth had already been packed up and they were saying their goodbyes. “Did you like them?” asked one of their Product Innovation Specialists. When I told him I did, he said, “Then keep them and wear them.” He didn’t need to tell me twice! As it turned out, I’m one of the few who had ever actually tried to return a pair. So with a clear conscious and a new pair of boots, I packed my gear and headed home looking forward to tossing these bad boys in the wash!

Specifications:

  • Quick-drying synthetic leather overlays for durability and support
  • Multiple ventilation zones that allow the boot to breathe and drain quickly
  • Genuine leather footbed for durability, flexibility and comfort
  • Nike Free-inspired outsole, for traction and range of motion
  • Sticky rubber forefoot lugs for exceptional traction on all terrain
  • Weight: 15.9 oz (men’s size 9)
  • Price: $140 and up

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * *
True to Nike co-founder Major Bill Bowerman’s ideal of making sure a boot does its job and is light, these field boots do that and more.

Comfort: * * * *
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it feels like I’m wearing slippers. Would have been a five star rating had I not had hot spots on my achilles.

Durability: * * * *
I can only speak to the few nights I pounded the desert floor with these boots but they took a licking and showed little wear and tear.

Overall Rating: * * * *
I’ve worn several field boots over the years and these are the best that have graced my feet. Nike’s is onto something good here.

comments

  1. avatar bontai Joe says:

    Good review, but even though you say “I’ve worn several field boots over the years and these are the best that have graced my feet. Nike’s is onto something good here.” still only 4 stars? Your a tough critic. But I wasn’t even aware that Nike made boots like this, so, I’ll at least check them out. By the way, what country were they made it?

    1. avatar Wendy says:

      They are made in China and yes, only four stars. At this point I don’t think it would be fair to say they are “perfect” since I have not worn them in an extensive variety of situations and as some of the posts below point out, everyone’s needs vary. But for my needs, they are pretty darn good.

  2. avatar Chipsa says:

    My pair of them says Made in China. As a note, they also come in sage green for those of you who want a pair of boots to go with your ABUs.

    1. avatar Terry says:

      Apparently, they are not made in wide widths. Just something to keep in mind–you might be served by a half-size up, but since the only vendor is Nike, you are at the mercy of their return policy and costs.

      1. avatar Chipsa says:

        I got them from a vendor other than Nike. Local shop had them in stock, so I could try them before I buy them.

  3. avatar Pascal says:

    If you go to the Nike site, you can completely customize them with the colors and features you want including camo, and if you want a shorter boot, they also sell a mid-cut boot

  4. avatar sdog says:

    these look pretty cool, myself, i would consider the lower chukka style version of these.

  5. avatar Jeff O. says:

    How timely, I was just looking for a new pair of boots…

  6. avatar Dex says:

    they dont do anything a pair of altamas or belleville issue boots cant do. I never understood soldiers spending money on aftermarket boots when they dont perform any better than standard issue ones.

    When I first enlisted, it was the all leather, hard sole black combat boots. They were awesome, though hot as sin. I remember the renaissance when I was first issued a pair of desert boots to wear with the ACU; my response was: I CAN WEAR TAN BOOTS IN CONUS!!!! XD

  7. avatar matt says:

    How much support do they give? How durable are they? If you step on a nail, will it go thru? If you drop something on your toes, will they break?

    From the pictures, these look like a glorified pair of jungle boots. I’ll stick with my 12″ Grip Fast boots over these over priced ($140!?!) Chinese made things. At least their $200 price tag is justified by them being made in England, 100% leather, steel toe, and being an actual pair of boots rather than this over sized and priced shoe.

  8. avatar J in Ga says:

    They aren’t steel toe’d, they won’t stop a nail, and they offer very little ankle support. For all the long ruck marches and regular military crap, keep the old boots around. If you really need to run, jump, climb, and move these are so much better. I wore a pair late last year in Afghinistan and prefer them to Altama’s and Oakley’s.

  9. avatar Ed says:

    As someone who has worn them at both SFAS and Ranger school I will say they are awesome for ruck runs and double timeing around camp, that being sed they suck in the mountains have little traction on wet rock and wont stope a niale. I also wouldn’t kick a door with them or hump in Nuristan with them on but I do love them for what they are. Nike shoes that look like boots and can be worn at most army schools. They are also great at waterborne operations do to there quick drying ability’s

    1. avatar matt says:

      $200 for a over sized made in China shoe? you must really love adidas

  10. avatar liquidflorian says:

    I think it was some one in the SOF community to coin the term “Tactical Athlete”. Dick Marcinco I think…

  11. avatar Aharon says:

    I’d like to see a picture of Ralph modeling a pair of these.

    1. avatar virtualjohn says:

      I think Wendy looks pretty fine in them. I can live without seeing Ralph model them.

      1. avatar Aharon says:

        🙂

  12. avatar DJ says:

    It looks like my old jungle boots made sweet love to my sneakers, and knocked them up. I’ll stick to my issue Belleville’s or my 5.11 HRT boots, thanks.

    1. avatar Dex says:

      when I was active duty, I ended up being issued three pairs of the Belleville summers (390 model according to their site) and would periodically get the worn down ones rebuilt. They’re as comfortable as tennis shoes, extremely supportive, lightweight, good for a variety of terrain and weather, and durable as steel.

  13. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    I’ve been looking for some warm-weather boots for those pleasant months when my Gore-Tex combat boots are just too hot and heavy. I hope these will be wide enough for me, since my hooves are a little too wide for most Nike shoes.

  14. avatar Ben Eli says:

    Quick drying? Are they not waterproof? If you lived in desert country I could see the desire for something lightweight and breathable. Four years ago I did a mock-military training session in Israel with my high-school – designed to prepare Israeli’s for their service after school – and I didn’t want to wear my heavy REI boots made for Appalachian treks.

    I bought a pair of dessert boots on base that were glorified Converses that were waterproofed, slightly padded, and had a thick rubber sole. They breathed wonderfully, were cut just above the ankle, and never had a problem with grip. Not much ankle support, but no break-in period and not even a hot spot on my ankle. Price tag – about $10. Sorry Charlie, for something that costs $140 these Nikes need to be a little better than a bargain bin shoe. Glad you got them for free though.

    1. avatar Wendy says:

      No, not waterproof. The way I understand it and the way it was explained to me, they are designed to efficiently drain water and dry quickly. So probably not something I’d wear in wet weather conditions but something I’d be okay with getting wet if dry conditions were around the corner. I’m glad your $10 boots served you well. Everybody’s foot is different though and with my high arches, I need the support.

  15. avatar jim says:

    I’ll stick with my 9″ Altamas, thanks. Ran into a pair after a couple of decades in High Tecs (which I prefered because they were cut a bit wide, avoiding the 1/2-size-up flop) because the quality of HTs had gotten so bad – a pair used to last me a year (including a few years of doing the kind of plumbing where you dig several times a week in SE Texas gumbo) and got to where they were worn out at 3 or 4 months without doing any spade work. Re: Altama vs Nike? $102 from US Cav, available in EE widths, and American made. No choice.The durability of the Altamas is vastly superior to High Tech at their best.

  16. avatar Southerner says:

    Now if they would make these in BIG sizes like 15 EEEE …

  17. avatar The Agitator says:

    Bought them in AIT to look cool with everyone else. They’re good-looking, light, comfy, but they’re kinda slippery and pretty much suck when it comes to extended time in the field. Mine actually came apart in a 3 week ftx. I’d recommend them for garrison wear, but that’s about it.

    On another note, my very first pair of Altamas survives to this day

  18. avatar justin says:

    Ive owned these for about 18 months now. They have been to Louisiana, north Carolina, iraq and everywhere in between. These are the greatest boots i have ever worn. I dont have a problem with my ankles or feet so the lack of ankle support isnt a problem for me. That said, i wouldnt wear them when carrying more than 45 pounds. The soles are just too thin.

  19. avatar Leah says:

    Did you actually throw them in the wash? How did they survive?

  20. avatar D Auston says:

    Could these be made into a “steel toe”?

  21. avatar Lindsey says:

    Wendy….sorry I know this is an old article. I am buying a black pair for police work. I wear an 8.5 or 9 in women’s. You stated you wore size men’s 6….what size women’s do you wear?

    Thanks

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