A Minimalist Boot as Comfortable as a Slipper
OTZShoes has achieved a triumph in comfortable footwear with the OTZ Troop Shearling boot. This is definitely one of the most comfortable pairs of minimalist footwear I have reviewed to date. The anatomical shape, the soft shearling material, the customizable lacing, as well as the flexible and perfectly flat outsole make this boot a joy to wear.
Price: $270 USD
Width: Average to Wide
Sole Thickness: ~1 cm
Weight: 11 ¾ ounces or 332 grams (without insole)
Insole: Original Cork weighs 2 ounces or 57 grams, Minimal Cork weighs 1 ½ ounces or 42 grams
Sizing: 36–41; Full Sizes Only; Fit True to Size (with a little extra room)
Comfort & Fit
I think I covered how comfortable I think this boot is above other than to say they are one of my favourite boots to wear because they feel so much like a slipper. The shape of this boot fits me exactly perfectly. As I have wide forefeet, I can see how they might feel a bit sloppy or oversized if you have narrow feet. The laces will help keep the boot in place at your ankle but with a narrow forefoot, you might find them quite roomy.
Sizing is listed on the website in European sizes. The review pair is a size 38 and fits me fabulously so I will say that they fit true to size as I generally fit a U.S. 8 (I drop the “3” between U.S. and Eur sizing). If you are familiar with OTZShoes, the Troop Leather fits a little shorter than the Troop Shearling. This is probably to accommodate the extra volume needed for the thicker shearling leather.
The insole that came with the Troop Shearling is OTZShoes’ CORKFit® arch-supported, high-heeled, cork and latex insole. I took it out immediately as it is as anti-minimalist as an insole can get. Thankfully, it is easy to remove. Unfortunately, in this model, an insole is absolutely necessary as there is no material covering the inside of the outsole and it is full of circular holes. There are two solutions to this problem: 1) find an insole from another shoe and hope it fits or 2) acquire one of OTZShoes’ brand new minimalist cork insoles. I whole-heartedly encourage the second option!
The new minimalist cork insole is comfortable, flexible, and fits perfectly into the spring/summer 2013 collection of OTZShoes. It is 6 mm think and perfectly flat. In the future, I believe customers will have their choice of insoles and I recommend the minimalist option for those of us who prefer our insoles as minimal as our shoes.
The Original CORKFit® Footbed
The New Minimalist Cork Footbed
Barefoot Feel & Function
The rubber outsole of the Troop Shearling has amazing ground feel. The 6 mm minimalist insole mutes it a bit but I can still feel rocks underfoot. If you choose to slip in a generic foam insole, even the smallest of rocks can be felt. With a flat and uniform grip depth, feet can move naturally with plenty of room for toes to wiggle in the toebox.
The rubber tread design has more than sufficient traction on wet or dry man-made surfaces and dry natural terrain. I have never felt a lack of traction while walking as the circular patterned outsole in the heel area holds the ground quite well while the stars in the forefoot keep the foot from slipping while lifting the foot with each step.
At over 300 grams, they aren’t the lightest of minimalist footwear but they are boots and not shoes. I leave the laces loose enough that I can easily slip the boots on and off without unlacing and I have never noticed the weight of the boots while walking.
The upper of the Troop Shearling is somewhat self-explanatory in its name but is shearling sheepskin. Uncompressed, it is approximately 8 mm thick and is luxuriously soft against the skin. I’ve always worn the boots with socks but neither my hand nor my feet can feel any obtrusive seams within the upper. Sheepskin tends to wick moisture and the fluffy interior allows for excellent temperature regulation and my feet have never been too hot or too cold while wearing them indoors or outdoors down to 10C or 50F temperatures. There was no break-in period required as they were immediately comfortable right out of the box.
The outside of the Troop Shearling is suede and requires a leather footwear protector to keep it looking like new. If you choose not to protect them with such a product, I recommend keeping these for dry weather-wear only.
The outsole is made of TPU compounds and is approximately 1 cm thick. It flexes easily in all directions providing excellent ground feel. Once you remove the original insole, there is no footbed overlaying the rubber outsole so some sort of insole needs to be added. Although the rubber is flat across its length, the surface is covered with deep circular holes, presumably to decrease weight and increase flexibility. The outsole itself has no arch support in it.
The luxuriously thick shearling sheepskin and rubber outsole appear to be of excellent quality. The two are stitched together precisely with minimal use of glue. The laces are thick, square leather with silver paint on one side and somewhat decrease the overall look of quality of the boot, in my opinion. Whenever I have relaced the boots, they leave shredded leather debris stuck to the suede upper. It brushes off and I think that eventually the laces would probably stop doing this, but it is the only feature of the boot that could use quality improvement.
Once treated with an appropriate leather protecting product, I am confidant that the Troop Shearling would last a long time while maintaining their good lucks.
Despite what I mentioned above about the laces, their extra long length is one of the awesome features of this boot. It allows you to customize not only your fit but also the look of the boot. You can wear the lace loose coiled at the top of the ankle, which allows the boots to easily be slipped on and off without retying and the shearling upper folds over at the corners at the top of the boot. Alternatively, you can wear the boots with the lace wrapped around the length of the top of the boot for a completely different and more form-fitted look. Whichever way you choose to wear the laces, the style of the Troop Shearling exclaims “warm and comfortable”.
The Troop Shearling is currently available on the OTZShoes website in four colour options: black, sand, grey, and tan.
The Troop Shearling’s suede exterior somewhat limits their uses to dry weather excursions unless you repeatedly treat with a suede leather protector or you don’t care that the suede shows the edge of where they get wet. So far, I’ve tried to keep mine relatively dry because I like the look of the untouched suede. If you care less about the pristine look of the exterior, I have no doubt that they would make perfectly comfortable and warm winter boots, although probably on surfaces that weren’t too slippery.
Priced at $270 USD, they are not the cheapest of leather boots but there are so few of those options in the minimalist market. They are among the most comfortable of minimalist footwear products that I have reviewed to date and that holds considerable value to me. If you treat these boots well with a quality leather protector, I believe they will last you a few seasons worth of wear which would more than justify their cost.
The most important features of minimalist footwear to me are comfort and ability for natural foot function; the OTZShoes Troop Shearling Boot excel in both of these categories. They are among the most comfortable minimalist footwear I have reviewed to date as well as being wonderfully wide with a completely flat outsole. They also have superior ground feel, as long as you remove the original anti-minimalist cork insole. I am extremely pleased that OTZShoes has heard the requests from their customers for a minimalist footbed option, which should be available for purchase soon. The new footbed is a truly comfortable, flexible, and minimalist addition, too. The extra long lace allows you to personalize not only the fit but also the look of the boot. OTZShoes has created another stellar minimalist boot in a market niche with few competitors.
For more information about OTZShoes, to check out their newly expanded Spring/Summer 2013 collection, or to purchase the Troop Shearling (or any of their models), you can visit their website at OTZShoes.com.