|Creation date||May 24, 2013|
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The Nike SFB was designed as a lightweight, breathable, fast drying combat boot. While traditional boots are bulky and heavy, the SFB, or Special Field Boot, is exactly the opposite. The SFB was designed with input from special forces, who, as often as not, are involved in water-borne operations. With drainage grommets and quick drying materials, these will get wet, but won't stay wet long. Gore-tex is great if water never goes over the top of the boots, but if you're going for a swim, you don't want to be wearing buckets.
The other main feature of the SFB is their ultra-comfortable design. The SFB trades a heavy sided boot with a stiff sole for a softer footpad that incorporates Nike FREE technology. The sole is flexible, and wears more like a tennis shoe than a boot. This makes the SFB ideal for daily wear, or for applications where a true hiking boot is overkill.
I got my first set of SFBs before they were even widely available or well known. Currently, the SFB is available in British Khaki and Sage, which are approved for wear with US Army and Air Force uniforms, as well as Coyote and polished Black. The pair I've worn is black, but it's a flat black, which is not currently available.
I wish I had photos of these when they were new. The black suede is straight up ninja, and is a much better look with most clothing than the shinier black. Unfortunately, the black suede was a prototype, and was only commercially available internationally, or through the Nike ID program. Nike also prototyped a set of zipper inserts, which I've used extensively with the SFBs.
As it is, I've worn these thoroughly, and have gotten a lot of mileage out of them. I've worn them to work every day for weeks on end, worn them hiking, backpacking, and to military simulation airsoft events. Overall, the touted features do measure up. They're comfortable, and I loved wearing them, even day after day. They're light, which reduces fatigue since you're not lifting as much weight every step. Best of all, they truly do dry well. When hiking in the snow, my feet got soaked, and I've gone wading a couple of times with them, but with wool socks, I was dry in less than 30 minutes walking, oftentimes less.
The sole, as previously mentioned, uses Nike free technology for a flexible, natural stride. There are cuts laterally and longitudinally, resulting in a grid pattern tread. Ridged traction sections on the heel and toe are designed to provide additional grip. I found that these provided plenty of stability and traction, even when moving through mud and snow. I never had mud build up in the treads.
One of the common questions about the SFB is how durable they are. They're a synthetic upper fixed to an overmolded sole, so they don't have the bullet-proof stitch-down construction like a Danner Ft. Lewis or other issue boots. However, they're not designed for extreme durability, but fill a different role. Like any other comfortable boot, they will eventually wear. In my case, they provided an amazing amount of use before I finally retired them.
I wore these boots for over 2.5 years, and put some heavy miles on them. With other light hikers, I usually wear them out in less than 2 years, sometimes even sooner. Most pairs of Solomon XA Pro shoes last just over a year, and I can take apart a pair of Merrell Chameleons in under 2 years. I wore them hard, taking them backpacking, trail running, and often wearing them 5 days out of the week. To get over 2 years use out of the Nike SFB puts it on part with well respected names in the light boot sector.
While the Nike SFB isn't designed to fill the role of a stiff mountaineering boot, they excel anywhere weight is a consideration. For patrol, duty, or assignments where you're on your feet all day, they're a lifesaver. I also recommend them when you're required to wear a boot, but would really rather not. The Nike SFB was the first boot in a new wave of lightweight, fast uniform boots. The fact that they've been copied so extensively shows that Nike really did something right with the SFB.