In the minimalist world there are very few winter shoe options. Usually I need some sort of winter boot in order to make it through the wet, muddy and cold Seattle winters. For awhile now I have been using my Vibram FiveFingers Bormio boots because it was one of the best minimalist options out there for cold weather environments. On a whim I decided to buy the Oetzi3300 Troop Boots, which amounts to a winter weather friendly minimalist boot, to see how they would perform against the muddy, wet, and cold conditions of Seattle.
Find out more about the Troop Boot and to see if it's a good winter minimalist boot for you, keep reading after the jump! (Photos, video, and a coupon code for 20% off!)
About the company
We have never really talked about the Oetzi3300 brand on BirthdayShoes before. Oetzi3300 was formed back in 2009 by Ludo Malmoux. The company is named after Oetzi the oldest human ever discovered. He was frozen solid in ice around the year 3300 B.C. When people uncovered his body they found that he was so well preserved in the ice that his clothing and shoes were still intact. Inspired by the simple and functional design of Oetzi's shoes, Ludo set out to re-think these basic essentials from the past in a fresh and unique way.
Some of the unique things about Oetzi3300 shoes are that they stitch the upper of the shoe down on top of the sole of the shoe. They use a minimal amount of glue to hold down any loose strings but essentially they removed all the glue that most shoe designers use to affix the upper and sole together. They often come with a built in Lycra Sock Membrane that provides some warmth and cushioning under the feet.
Lastly, every pair comes with its own cork footbed. Oestzi makes two different versions of footbeds the CorkFit and the CorkLite. After you wear them around for awhile they are supposed to conform to the shape of your feet like a pair of Birkenstocks. Luckily for us minimalist fans you can remove the cork footbed from the shoe as with the corkbed, the shoes are a bit hard-soled and the heel on the corkbed is elevated. (Read more about their Cork footbeds here.)
The Boot Styling and Construction
The styling of the Troop Boot is based on various military boots that you may have seen before. This could be good or bad depending on your taste in footwear. I like the style. It reminds me of something that you would see grunge rockers wearing back in the '90s. The boots look just as good in a pair of ripped up jeans as they would in a pair of Khaki pants. I wore them with a flannel jacket yesterday and I felt like I was channeling Kurt Cobain.
The sole of the boot is quite minimal. I would say it is comparable to the Bikila LS sole or the KSO Trek sole in Vibram FiveFingers. The sole is 5mm thick in total. There is also a Lycra Sock Membrane that is 2mm thick but this is compressed under your body weight to almost nothing. In total from ground to foot you are looking at 7mm of uncompressed material.
The Lycra Sock Membrane has a hydra-guard layer and is sewn into the boot and helps to keep your foot dry and warm while adding a bit of cushioning to the shoe. Personally, I did not think I would like the sock membrane when I first read about it. After wearing it, I ended up really liking it. I find it to be soft against the skin and it makes for wearing the boot without socks more pleasurable. It also does an excellent job of keeping your foot dry and warm.
The Troop Boot comes with the CorkFit footbed. The company says that the more you wear it the more you will compress the cork to the shape of your foot. It takes a week or two for the cork footbed to conform to the shape of your foot. Once it does conform, it is supposed to be quite comfortable.
I tried the boot on once with the footbed inside. After about three minutes I ended up taking it out of the boot. The CorkFit footbed is not zero drop and I could not get used to an elevated heel, so I ended up taking it out. I can't speak for how comfortable they would be once they are broken in.
One of the most important aspect of a minimalist shoe for me is that is has a zero drop heel. Anything more then 2mm and my knees start to hurt when I stand in one place for any period of time. I think most minimalist shoe fans will end up taking the cork footbed out of the Troop Boot, as well, so keep in mind all of my observations about the boot were made without the cork footbed inside.
The toe box on the Oetzi Troop Boots is quite wide. I have tried the Merrell Barefoots and VIVO BAREFOOT and both of those brands feel too narrow on my feet. I would say the Oetzi3300 toe box is somewhere between the Vivo Barefoot and Stem Footwear in size. Not too small but just large enough for you to be able to wiggle and curl your toes around without feeling cramped. I could wear my Correct Toes inside the boots without feeling cramped at all.
The Troop Boots Performance
I love wearing this boot. It takes awhile to strap yourself in but once you do you should be ready to face anything winter might throw at you. You can even tuck your pants in to the boot military style to keep your pant legs dry while you are out and about. The grip on the sole of the boot does well on wet pavement and other wet surfaces. I find it does a better job gripping on wet surfaces than the VFF Bormio boot does with the Trek sole. I did not have any snow or ice around to test it on so I can't speak to how well it would work in those conditions. (I will update once I get some icy/snowy weather)
The boot is smartly designed minimizing the amount of seams and favoring creases/folds that help keep you dry in wet conditions. I was able to walk around in extremely wet weather for extended periods of time without getting my feet wet at all. I mucked about in the mud in the back yard for two or three hours doing yard work and my feet were cozy and dry the entire time. To clean them off I just wiped off the mud and let them dry. Then I cleaned them with a little water and saddle soap and they were as good as new.
The ground feel is nice in this boot. Often with winter boots you sacrifice ground feel with thick inflexible soles. While this will not have the same ground feel as the Vibram FiveFingers KSO you can feel the variations in the pavement or the little rocks under your foot as you walk. It is fantastic to finally have a winter boot with some ground feeling.
What I would change
The boot does take a while to lace up and get the fit right. In some styles of boots they replace the top few eyelets with hooks so you can quickly lace up the top part of the boot. This might be a nice addition in a future version of the boot.
Currently, the Lycra sock membrane is permanently sewn inside of the boot. It would be nice if you could take the Lycra sock membrane out of the boot in order to wash it. Not sure how they would make it removable and still have it be secure inside the boot.
Also, I can't get used to the CorkFit footbed. I just find it to be too thick and the heel drop is just too much for me to feel comfortable when wearing it. I would love a minimalist cork footbed option. If they could design a thin zero drop cork foot bed with the antimicrobial properties that cork naturally provides, that would be fantastic. The owner mentioned this is something they are working on developing but there is no estimate on when it might be ready to bring to market.
A note about sizing: I normally wear a 10.5 but their sizing chart says I should wear either a 10 (43 euro) or 11 (44 euro). Their sizes run in whole sizes without half size options. Meaning if you wear a half size, you may want to size up or down depending on what type of fit you want. I wish they had half sizes available, it would allow some people to get a more precise fit.
Along with the written review I made a short video review of the Oetzi3300 Troop Boot(4:27).
The Oetzi3300 Troop Boot is in my opinion one of the first truly successful winter minimalist boots on the market. There have been others out there but I either found them to be too narrow, the sole too thick, or they were not weather proof enough. The Troop Boot though has a minimal sole (when you take the footbed out) with a wide natural fit that should be able to handle any type of weather you may want to throw at it. What more could you want in a pair of winter boots?
I ordered a size 44 in the Troop Boot. I personally prefer a looser fit in winter boots. If you want to wear the boots with thicker wool socks I might suggest you size up as well. For example if you normally wear a 43 in VFF then I would go with a 44. You can see the Oetzi330 size chart here.
You can order them from the Oetzi website. I talked to Ludo and he set up a special code for our readers. If you enter the code “bdayshoes” with no quotes at checkout then you can get 20% off your purchase! The code should should be active till the end February of 2012.
Questions or comments? Let me know!