The Tactical Research by Belleville QRF Alpha Boot is quite possibly Belleville’s best urban duty boot ever. It continues upon the company’s tradition of ultra-lightweight boots with ample ankle and footbed support for long hours in the field.
By David Link
Those unfamiliar with Belleville Boots and their Tactical Research line will be impressed when they hear the company is the largest supplier of boots to the US Military. It’s no secret a manufacturer like Belleville must have top notch designs and a history of quality craftsmanship for the military to trust them for the majority of their footwear needs. For the consumer, this means you’ll get an excellent boot vetted for military duty at a very competitive price.
Today I’m going to look at a new model for 2017, the Tactical Research QRF Alpha B9 WP Boot. This particular line (B9) comes in three varieties with two zip up models (one with polishable leather) and a waterproof focused model (B9 WP), the one I’m reviewing. All three come in flat black duty-based color, although of course the polished variety does stick out a bit more. These models are focused on swift reaction and speed, and they aren’t your normal clunky duty boots. Stealth is also a component Belleville has taken into account with these boots. In essence the QRF line expands on Belleville’s already strong reputation as a producer of versatile and lightweight boots.
Quick Reaction Force (QRF)
Before we go any further, it’s best we take a second to talk about what a Quick Reaction Force is if you’re unfamiliar. Military units, particularly the US Military, have Quick Reaction Forces, usually platoon-sized, that are able to respond to escalating or emergency situations in a matter of minutes. When the services of a QRF force are needed, they’re usually mobilized in 10 minutes or less and function as security or reconnaissance units. Often QRF personnel engage a situation by abseiling from helicopter transport. The Belleville QRF Boots are designed with these forces in mind, although much of the functions of these boots fit well with duty and private use as well. Let’s examine that purpose further.
- Height: 9″
- Upper: Full-grain, smooth cattlehide upper with Destination P Mesh.
- Insole: OrthoLite high performance removable dual density insert. The insole utilizes high rebound memory foam and a heel cup stabilizer.
- Midsole: Highly cushioned, shock absorbent midsole.
- Outsole: RAKKASAN rubber outsole for enhanced slip resistance and grip.
- Fast Rope Channel: Medial side rappelling overlay with high friction rubber channel for controlled rope descent.
- Waterproof and Bloodborne Pathogen-Proof Liner
- Ultra lightweight
In The Field
I’ve worn the Belleville QRF throughout the late summer and fall through varying temperatures and conditions. Since this is an urban / duty boot, I’ve stuck to more work related tasks in the city vs. getting out on the trail like I would with an outdoor boot. This is not to say the Tactical Research QRF isn’t trail-capable. I’m confident it could tackle rocky inclines and muddy trails just fine. However a police officer or similar user doesn’t need a hiking boot, and I’ve rather focused this review on features and specs they would need.
What’s interesting about this design that I don’t see in many other boots is the ankle region. While many boots continue the solid cattlehide leather or other material up the full length of the boot, the QRF offers a much more open design. Breathable mesh makes up the majority of the boot above the ankle, and it creates an interesting hybrid that feels like an ankle high boot 5-6″ but is really a 9″ boot. Laced up tightly you get extra support for the ankle with a flexibility I’ve not seen in a 9″ boot before. This came into play as I performed running and stair climbing tests. True to its marketing, the boot does feel very responsive due to this mesh ankle design. This said, I never felt like I was in danger of turning and ankle in them either, which is truly the best of both worlds. Stealth isn’t overlooked either, and these boots function pretty silently on most surfaces, especially concrete.
It’s always entertaining to test boots to see how they perform in regards to waterproofing, and the QRF boots were no different. There’s never any concern when it comes to the outsole portion of a boot, they all shed water easily. It’s when you get up to the lacing portion of a boot that you get to test the true waterproof meddle of any footwear. Upon pouring bucketfuls of water on the laces or down the side of the boot, I was concerned there may be a little seepage here or there. However the QRF held up admirably, and my socks stayed bone dry throughout the test. Of course your feet do get colder after a test like this, especially in the laces area, but that is an expected consequence. Note: these boots also sport a bloodborne pathogens layer as well, which is something the casual user may never need, but any law enforcement officer definitely will. It’s a comforting extra feature to have in a boot.
Running / Movement Tests
Another big selling point of the QRF comes in its mobility, after all you can’t act quickly with a clunky, heavy boot. What better way to test this than running in a variety of situations and environments. Short sprints in loose rock and hard pavement were no problem, and surprisingly comfortable. Of course you won’t be running a marathon in these boots, but in duty situations short to medium sprints are commonplace, so it’s an important factor to consider. Acceleration is easy in these boots, and the ankle flexibility makes for a more natural stride. Running up and down stairs is easy as well, and there’s no clunky “Frankenstein” walk involved when you’re moving up and down flights of stairs like some boots.
To be perfectly honest, I do absolutely no abseiling. However, the grooved channel on the boot for this purpose is a neat feature, and one that’s welcomed for the select few that need that extra function in a boot. Moving on to the outsole, Belleville has departed from the usual Vibram sole for a Rakkasan outsole, exclusive to the manufacturer. The grip on this boot is substantial, and it’s well suited for wet and slippery conditions common in duty work. I assume the Rakkasan outsole is a tribute to the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment – the Rakkasans. I’m a big fan of this outsole, and it’s a welcome upgrade on this boot. Even with its rugged styling and non-slip channels, it doesn’t weigh too much either. It’s low profile design helps keep your feet agile so you won’t trip mid-stride.
The Rakkasan outsole as compared to the Vibram outsole on the Belleville Khyber boot. You can’t tell very easily from this photo, but the Rakkasan grooves are deeper than the Khyber’s Vibram sole, which should translate to longer life and increased slip resistance. This is not to say the Vibram sole in the Khyber is bad, but rather the Rakkasan is a surprising upgrade from other models.
When I first opened the box of QRF boots, I wasn’t quite sure these boots were my style. But I’m proud to say these boots grew on me very quickly. As far as style goes, they provide a rugged, tactical look you don’t get in an outdoor boot, but they can still absolutely function like an outdoor boot when you need them to. Aside from casual use, if you’re in need of a new duty boot with speed and flexibility, these should absolutely be at the top of your list. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods as well, including on hard surfaces like concrete, and you can always add additional arch support if needed. These boots fit every-so-slightly larger than the Belleville Khyber Boots I have, but not enough to size down a half size. Stay with your normal boot sizing for this model.
The boot is very comfortable and relatively easy to slip on for a full length boot. I’m happy to report this boot is easier to get tightly laced in a short amount of time vs. the Belleville Khyber Boots I own. Not that the Khyber is a bad boot, it was just hard to get absolutely tight in the middle portion of the laces. The QRF definitely solves this problem, and a longer lace in this middle portion of the boot provides a very easy tightening point. Mobility is another big selling point for these boots, and while most of us don’t shop for a 9″ boot we can run all day in, these boots come pretty close to fitting that bill. Those who like the style but need more mobility can also look into the 5″ QRF boots. This style (as well as the 5″ models) is available in Sage and Coyote colors as well (the zip up QRF is in black only right now).
On a heavier note, I own a lot of boots, but in an emergency where I didn’t know what I was getting into, I’d grab the Tactical Research QRF Boots first. That alone says a lot as to what they offer and what they’re designed for. The MSRP of $180 for the waterproof model is worth the extra investment versus the zip-up ($164), and you’ll find the waterproof boot at around $150 on the web, which is a great deal for the level of performance you get in this boot.