Previously, I wrote about my preference for Smartwool socks and the importance of choosing a sock that meets your individual form and function requirements. Now we will turn our attention to footwear, which is another critical element of foot protection and performance.
Much of what I wrote about sock selection applies to footwear. So, if you haven’t read that piece, I strongly encourage you to check it out. Ill-fitting footwear, whether the fit is too large, too small, too snug, too loose, well you get the idea. Any time your footwear, or anything for that matter, is “too _____” you will eventually have issues. And if you spend enough time on your feet, eventually equals time.
Form or Fit?
My feet are by any definition, pretty standard. I have some stability issues, due to the lingering effects of injuries sustained in the military. But these are fairly easily resolved with a proper orthotic or insert, like the Superfeet Carbon, which I use in all but my Reebok Nano 6.0.
The form of your foot is incredibly important. If the arches, yes there is more than one, are not properly supported the structures (joints) above will be misaligned, much like a Jenga puzzle missing multiple pieces. This greatly reduces your ability to stabilize, produce power/accelerate, or reduce power/decelerate.
We also must consider footwear function. What activities or movements will you be performing? Will you be carrying a load or be unloaded? What type of environment? Of course there are many other considerations that fall under function.
The build of the footwear can either improve mobility, like the Nike Free series, which is little more than a shell or it can improve stability, like a basketball shoe, which rises above the ankle, is made of a denser material, to name two primary concerns.
Additional concerns relate to the type of activity, which brings us to your intended use of the shoe. Unfortunately, these more legitimate concerns are often overlooked for aesthetics or the latest and greatest. Basing your shoe selection on these lower priority concerns is a step towards a potential increase risk of injury or a decrease in performance.
Bally Viller Review
Since we are in the winter season, I will review a pair of what I consider to be one of the best all around boots I’ve ever worn; The Bally Viller. Normally, one wouldn’t associate the luxury brand Bally with outdoor extremes. But those are individuals who don’t know in 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and his climbing companion Sherpa Tenzing Norgay would become the first humans to conque Mount Everest, while wearing Bally Reindeer-Himalaya boots during the ascent. Fast forward, July 2013 with Bally’s release of a 60th Anniversary commemorative Everest Collection and you’ll find the Bally Viller. Here is another little known tidbit, Bally was involved in the production of the shoes worn during the first moon landing.
Since 2013, I’ve worn these boots in a variety of extreme situations and climates. From Washington, DC’s 2016 winter storm, the 4th largest in history, where recorded snow levels reached over 2-feet of record-breaking snow to more moderate, but wet weather and conditions during a 10-day survival training, and every type of condition and environment in between.
And in each environment, I found these boots to be superior in fit, comfort, and function than any other boot I’ve ever owned. This is saying a lot. As I’ve said previously, I’ve experienced several cold and hot weather injuries, so my extremities are especially sensitive, particularly to cold. And when compared to most boots, winter boots in particular, although the upper is waterproof, there is minimal upper insulation; the sole, however, is made of a combination lightweight, molded lug sole that features Bally’s reengineered 360 Degree Non-Slip Grip, first patented in 1919, combined with a cork filling, which is sandwiched between the sole and the insole cavity. The cork filling is both lightweight and pliable, while also serving to minimize conductive heat loss.
During DC’s 2016 winter storm, I wore these boots as I trekked, on foot several miles through the heavy snow, between my place and the various date spots I picked for the girl I was attempting to woe at the time. Side note: we now laugh about my journey and how my beard collected icicles during the walk. Interestingly, even with my previous cold weather injuries and the minimal insulation, my feet were never cold. And after taking the boots off, the outers never experienced the shrinkage typical of leather boots after being wet.
During survival training, I attempted to destroy these boots. I wore them in the mud, through streams, while crawling, digging, hiding under ground, and pretty much put them through every conceivable position, terrain, and extreme. They came out unscathed. And, more importantly, so did my feet. Not once did they the boots become waterlogged or retain water. While water certainly did enter the boot, the combination of the boots waterproof technology and my Smartwool hiking socks, which we’ll review in the future, helped to prevent my feet from pruning or the skin rubbed off. Thankfully, drying the shoes was an easy proposition. When not slogging through the mud or sitting in streams, I simply made a fire and stood by it until the boots were dry. Surprisingly, the boots upper maintained a comfortable suppleness, not common with leather after being wet.
While I absolutely love these boots, they are not without cons. Two of which immediately stand out. First, these were offered for a limited time. So your options to find them are going to be very restricted. Second, the cost, with an original cost of 595 Euros ($620), any source on the secondary market will likely be well above the price of more readily available boots, like the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX and Asolo Fugitive GTX, both of which have previously been reviewed by The Loadout Room.
An ancillary benefit of the Bally Viller is the ability to dress them up, reasonably, without looking like you’re about to go hiking. This is something you cannot do with the Salomon Quest or Asolo Fugitive. I recently purchased a pair of the Salomon Quest and when my girlfriend and I traveled to Maine over the New Year, I immediately grabbed the Bally Viller. In the coming weeks, I’ll be spending more time in the Salomon Quest and will review the pros/cons and comparison to the Bally Viller.
Until then, what boots do you wear? Recommend? And why?
Author – Benjamin Drader is Founder and Chief Instructor at District Combatives in Washington, DC. He served 8 years in the U.S. Army and has worked directly for two National Security Advisors, a Director of CIA, a Secretary of State, and a Prince. He enjoys ultra-marathons, off-road triathlons, and spending time outdoors with his German Shorthaired Pointer, Derby.