By David Link
For over 110 years, Belleville has been America’s premier military boot manufacturer. They outfitted brave soldiers in WWI, WWII, and beyond, and their boots have tackled everything from deserts to jungles. In recent years, the company has expanded to offer tactical and outdoor boots built in the same spirit as their military styles. Today I’m going to look at Belleville’s Tactical Research Khyber Hybrid Boot, and all-terrain boot with excellent ankle support, rugged soles and lugs and a comfortable foot bed. Belleville’s military styling is still present, and it’s a welcome addition as I tackle mountain terrain and rocky trails.
The Khyber Hybrid Boots are sized for standard military applications, and they are 8 in. tall to provide added ankle support. This means they extend above the ankle and cover a portion of the shin. You can wear them either casually with your pant leg covering the top portion of the boot, or you can tuck your pant legs into the boots. There are eight rows of laces on the Khyber that allow for a wide range of adjustment when you strap them on. You do have to loosen the laces a fair bit to fit your foot inside, and obviously these are not “slip on and go” boots.
The upper portion of the boot is a versatile combination of cattlehide leather and rugged nylon. You can get this boot in three different colors to suit your environment – Desert Tan, Coyote Brown and Sage. There is also a black tactical-focused variety of the Khyber with an added zip up side. I tried the Sage color because I thought it would fit my environment, the Rocky Mountains, and that’s what I’ll be looking at today. However the Desert and Coyote colors are great outdoor options as well, and if you’re looking for an urban boot the black Khyber style is the way to go.
Let’s move on to other external features of the Khyber Boot. The outsole uses 100% rubber Vibram IBEX exclusive construction for maximum performance in rugged terrain. What makes the Vibram IBEX so special? It is engineered with a Megagrip compound that ensures grip on both wet and dry terrain of all types. Vibram is the premier name in rubber outsoles, and if you see their logo on the bottom of the boot, you know you’re getting a good product. Add to this sharp angled lugs and serrated toe bumpers, and the Khyber can climb and grip in the roughest terrain. There are also rappelling bars on the outsole to reduce wear and tear on the boot. A low profile sole ensures the boot remains mobile and light, even with these rugged upgrades. I imagine the boot weighs around 2 lbs., and it never feels heavy when worn.
Just as important as the outsole upgrades is the midsole and foot bed support in the Khyber. The midsole is designed to absorb shock while it cushions and supports the feet on long hikes or hard days. A TR-1 Load-Bearing Orthotic insole provides additional support on top of the midsole, and it’s a valuable feature in the boot. It contains anti-bacterial compounds, and a unique honeycomb structure encourages blood flow while supporting the foot and arches. Instead of having to purchase an insert after buying the boot, the Khyber comes with a high quality insert included. You can always swap it out for your brand of insole if need be.
In the front range of Colorado, I have the unique opportunity to hike high country desert terrain at lower elevations, forest and mountainous terrain at middle elevations, and snow covered landscapes at higher elevations. Denver isn’t too far either, and I was able to truly test the “hybrid” aspects of this boot in both urban and outdoor scenarios. I’ve clocked several miles at various altitudes with the Khyber boots, and I’ve taken them through both snow and mud, with an occasional dip in a mountain stream. I’ve also worn them on a few trips down the street from my house – for good measure.
The most obvious asset to the Khyber when you first wear them is the tread and rugged outsole. These boots operate like military boots, but they fit in with the predominantly hiking boot styles that dominate Western US hiking trails. The boots look great, and their rugged styling is definitely at home in the mountains. The tread and rugged outsole really tear up the terrain, and I rarely experienced slips or failure to grip, even on wet trails covered with snow melt. I even engaged in some bouldering on my hikes, and the serrated toe bumpers came in handy as I scrambled up sandstone boulders. The extra 8 in. ankle support was definitely welcome as I was crawling up boulders, and it makes a difference as the miles wear on as well.
Even though they are rugged, the Khyber boots feel light and mobile when worn. I never really felt hindered or encumbered while I worn them, which is not always the case with some heavy duty mountain boots. After several hikes on rocky trails, the soles and lugs still look brand new, and I believe these boots will last a long time even when worn often.
Another big feature for me is the TR-1 Insole and shock-absorbing midsole. I was born with a right flat foot, and it has been a constant annoyance in my adult years because I like to hike long distances and really get away from the trail head. The TR-1 Insole in the Khyber felt comfortable even on longer hikes, and I’d recommend this boot for those that have existing foot or ankle problems. Of course the high ankle support helps both with longer hikes and foot support in general. You’re certainly less likely to turn an ankle in the Khybers. I haven’t talked about it much yet, but this boot feels comfortable on concrete as well. While some outdoor boots don’t really match with the urban environment, the Khyber Boot definitely lives up to its hybrid reputation. I’ve done some work around the house and walked down the street in the Khyber, and I never really felt like I was wearing clunky, outdoor boots. They seamlessly work with whatever I’ve got going on that day.
As far as breathability goes, the Khybers breathe well, and my feet never felt overheated as I hiked. I have yet to test them in extremely hot weather, but I don’t anticipate them to turn my feet into a swamp or anything like that. The Khyber was designed to function in the desert, and heat management is part of the boot’s overall design. Personally I couldn’t find much information on the Breathe Right Combat Lunar Lining, but I imagine this is the two vents on the inner side of the boot that help the boot breathe when activity picks up. Like I said, I never felt sweaty in the boot, and I believe this is the Breathe Right vents working like they should.
I wouldn’t say there are any flaws with this boot. For the price you’re getting an extreme amount of value and a long lifespan. However, I do have somewhat narrow feet, and I felt like I had to spend a ton of time getting the laces right before the boot felt tight for me. You really have to work the laces from the bottom up and take your time while lacing up to get a proper fit. This is not unlike any high ankle boot, but I thought it was worth noting. As I said before you can’t just slip into these boots in a second’s notice. This isn’t really a problem though, since once you get the fit right, you can wear them all day.
One more important note comes with sizing. The Belleville Khyber Boots do run about a half-size larger than most other footwear you own, and make sure to take this into account when ordering.
If you’re in need of a “do it all” boot, then the Belleville Tactical Research Khyber Hybrid Mountain Boots are definitely for you. They handle any type of terrain with ease, and they have the rugged styling to keep your grip when the trail turns to chaos. You can wear them comfortably on concrete as well, which means this is truly a go-anywhere boot. The price is extremely competitive with similar boots, and at $134.99 you’ll find this boot matching up with others well into the $200 price range. If you’re a fan of military boots in general, this is a can’t miss, especially since Belleville has the legacy of producing US Military boots since WWI. All in all, these boots definitely have a place in your collection!