Inadvertently they’ve become my all-purpose boots—work boots, hiking boots, running boots, bushwhacking boots, ford-two-miles-up-the-creek boots.
I originally got them on a whim to check out the special boots used for Navy SEALs training, where the trainees run in the surf with them, then run in deep sand and on pavement, wear them on the obstacle course and then on the calisthenics asphalt, for three months of 20-hour days. Even in hot San Diego the boots are worn with heavy wool/cotton socks, their tops cleverly turned down to protect the boot lace ties.
The Bates 924 is basically the Army tropical boot. It makes no attempt at waterproofness but (like softshell jackets) arranges things so you don’t care if your feet are soaked. There are little weep holes with fine mesh screen near the instep for water to run out. Most of the upper part of the boot is Cordura. The shock-absorbing insole comes out handily to ease drying. The boots are thus VERY light—each of my size 12s is only 24.5 ounces. (An equivalent lightweight Danner Cordura boot with GoreTex is 10 ounces heavier.)
The most spectacular feature using the boots is INSTANT lacing—one tug and you’re good to go. No other laced footwear has a fraction of this convenience. Consequently it’s a breeze to do the important chore of taking your boots off every hour or so to refresh your feet and head off blisters. The thick socks also help protect your feet yet are surprisingly comfortable in hot weather. Unlike most boots now, the Bates 924s have very firm and snug heel cups (that’s what protects your ankles). The 8-inch tops shield your socks from burrs and ankles from scrapes.
The easiest place to get the boots is a SEAL pre-training source on the Web, GetFitNow.com. At $80 the boots are inexpensive enough you don’t worry about trashing them. The GetFitNow site also has the excellent heavy white SEAL socks ($6), though I find that Mountaineer Socks from Smartwool (of course) feel even better. (GetFitNow also features SEAL training books and tapes. To see the whole line of Bates uniform footwear, check the Bates site.)
[It appears the 924 boots are no longer being manufactured, and GetFitNow is no longer a retail website. There are various boots from Bates, which seem similar. If you would like to recommend a particular model, please let us know. In the meantime, check out the more recently-reviewed S.W.A.T. Tactical and Rocky Side-Zip Paratrooper boots. ]