We put our feet through some pretty testing conditions here at GunsandZen. Rain, Snow, mud, prolonged hikes, exposure to heat and chemicals are all fairly common scenarios. A good pair of boots is important and after over 20 years of security involving standing and walking for 12 hour stints I have a fair bit of experience in the footwear field..
I learnt some tough lessons during that time. Lesson 1. Function over form.. No matter how “cool” your footwear looks if it makes you limp or has you shivering from the cold/wet then you do not look cool and you feel horrible. I went through stages of wearing all manner of footwear trying to save money or sport the latest fashion. In the end I grew up and realised that you get what you pay for and that fashion has little to do with comfort or functionality..
Original Swat were one of the brands I settled on as being reliable and comfortable while remaining reasonably priced (around the £100 mark is a reasonable price to me). With all the graft involved in kit testing, shooting and hiking I decided it was time to try a couple of new models which would suit the tasks at hand.. Or foot..
Chase waterproof 9″.
The first and foremost problem I experience when kit testing in the U.K. is wet feet. We have pretty dreadful weather regards rainfall and even mid summer is no guarantee of a dry day, especially on the hilltops of Wales. I needed some winter boots which would keep my feet dry and warm while maintaining flexibility for driving and general use. The Original Swat: Chase 9″ waterproof model seemed to offer the right blend…
The Chase waterproofs are a classic full grain leather upper. They offer a complete waterproofing unlike some boots which are built to fend off showers but not deal with full immersion. With waterproofing there is always a trade off. Our feet sweat and ideally you want them to be cooled or for the sweat to be wicked away. If you let moisture out then to some degree it may also get in.. In the past I have avoided total waterproofing because they either turned my feet into a hot sweaty mess or they were not actually waterproof. Original Swat have put some thought into this and I must say the results were impressive. They have made the padded collar and the top of the tongue breathable while lining the insides with a moisture wicking fabric. The boot below the collar is a sealed design so no water can get in. Of course if you wade into deep enough water you may get wet.. If you need to do that then buy waders.. The inner lining has also been treated with an anti-microbial which should cut out any nasty pongs from bacteria proliferation.
The Chase boots are rated as resistant to blood bourne pathogens which says alot about there ability to keep fluids away from your feet. These ratings are tested rigorously. They also pass tests to be rated as non slip which doesn’t mean you will never slip but it does mean these boots will provide plenty of grip in rugged or difficult environments.
The metal eyelets on the boots are a rust proof alloy. In the past I have had eyelets rust from other brands. The rust creates sharp edges and begins to wear the laces down to the point that they snap. Very annoying. There has been no sign of rust on these over a winter of very wet use and abuse.
I am quite a wide fitting which always concerns me when buying footwear. Original Swat are generous on the width on all models I have previously worn and these are no exception. Very comfortable width wise after a short break in period.
Talking of comfort I can report the soles and associated rigidity components provide both great comfort and good support. They felt quite firm during break in but after 3-4 days they became supple enough without getting sloppy. Over time they have remained very supportive and kept my feet and ankles protected.
The first thing I would say is that boots should be considered seasonal. These are my Winter boots. I have worn them in temps between -5c through to 15c. At lower temperatures they are fantastic. When teamed up with some thick hiking socks my feet were more than warm enough. I tried wearing them around the house which is at a constant 20c due to my permanently cold girlfriend and they became too warm. If your buying Summer boots then take a look at the H.A.W.Ks below.
Up in the Welsh hills for some target practice..
I have worn the Chases through streams, boggy ground, snow covered hills and rocky crags and felt they were capable of protection and offering good comfort. Never imagine comfort is for sissys. It is very important. When I am at the range shooting I have to feel comfortable so I can concentrate on what I am doing. Fiddling around with unconfortable footwear = missed shots on target.
The Chase 9″ waterproofs are advertised on Original Swats site at $124 or can be found in the U.K. for around £100. That is a lot less than many waterproof competitors and puts these within reach of the average working man.
I will continue to use these as a winter boot as I am very happy so far and I feel they represent good value and excellent function.
H.A.W.K 9″ side zip.
As I mentioned above boots, like clothing, are specific to season/environment. While the Chase boots make an excellent cold weather outdoor boot they are not best suited for warm weather or indoor use. I work indoors alot of the time and my current day job requires I meet certain safety standards regarding footwear. Basically open toe sandals would be a bad idea!
I also do a lot of hiking/jogging with a weighted pack during the spring and summer so something lightweight and cool is required. Trainers just don’t offer the level of protection or ankle support I need and I look like a bit of a mid life crisis in them.. Anyway enough self pity..
H.A.W.K stands for high agility weight kinetics which to be fair is a mouthful! We will stick with H.A.W.K or HAWK as it saves on full stops..
The first thing that impressed me was the weight. These come in at 31oz compared to 44oz for the Chase – a significant saving. Now the Chase boots are by no means heavy. I have owned boots in the past that were a good deal heavier than them. The HAWKS are trainer like in terms of weight. When I put them on I felt a real spring in my step! If you are running over rough ground the weight saving makes a big difference. As you tire your feet get heavy and begin catching on rocks and tufts. This could mean tripping and falling. Sometimes I am running and gunning with an AR or shotgun for a practical shoot. Falling with a long gun could be both expensive and dangerous. Staying light on my feet is an important factor. The HAWKs allow me great mobility and support.
The side zip has long been a favourite of mine. The YKK zippers on these are strong and smooth. When they are done up velcro flaps can be fastened across the top relieving stress from the zip itself and preventing the zipper from flapping around. I love the side zips because it saves a lot of hassle coming in and out of the house. For those that work in military or emergency services roles those saved seconds might be crucial.
The insoles are every bit as comfy as the chase variant and also feature a number of measures to control torsion and add support. They feel incredibly supple when you wear them but do not allow so much movement as to make them unsupportive. I am sure the Original Swat R&D guys must have spent a long time getting the balance just right. They feel great. I would go so far as to say these are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned.
The toe and heel have added strength and protection and while they will not prevent heavy impact from large items they are tough enough to prevent you stubbing toes when running. The grip is good but the soles are not as agressively ridged as they are on the chase. Personally I would not use these in snow or ice as the soles just don’t bite in enough. As I said earlier the right boots for the right conditions hence a pair of each. The agressive tread would bring the weight up and that is at odds with the design of this particular model. These are more like the GSG9s in concept – as the name suggests high agility.
I have now been wearing these for several months in the workplace and for runs on dry days. I cannot fault them. My feet were in a pretty awful state before I wore them due to wearing some overly tight patrol boots every day. I had developed corns and painful areas of tough skin. I am pleased to say these have pretty much dissapeared which I attribute to the HAWKs providing such a comfortable and supple fit. They suit my wide feet well and I find myself removing them more often at home when I get a break due to the easy side zips. I used to keep the old patrol boots on knowing I would be going out again.. Lazy bugger basically!
I have worn these in wet and cold environments as you can see from the pictures taken in the Welsh hills in January. They kept my feet pretty dry but they were not waterproof like the Chase model. I ended up wearing the HAWKs in the evening and when driving for which they are very well suited. Driving in some boots is a nightmare. The HAWKs were no problem and I drove 500 miles in them without even thinking about it.
The HAWKs retail at around $120 in the U.S. and about £95 in the U.K. They are not super cheap but considering the quality and materials involved I would not expect them to be. Even a standard pair of fashion boots in a supermarket clothing section are likely to be £50+. It should also be noted that Original Swat offer a year warranty on all their boots. I will be wearing both models over the next year and will add updates if anything untoward should occur. Personally I doubt it will because I have given them both a fair bit of abuse and they still brush up like new..
Overall both pairs come highly recommended.. Treat your feet.