Hawk Side-Zip Boots from Original SWAT

June 19, 2015
When I got this pair of Hawk Side-Zip boots for field testing from Original SWAT, I had that usual look of doubt on my face. A couple months of wearing them later and… I’m thinking that maybe side-zip boots aren’t so bad after all.

Long time readers know that I was against the idea of side-zip boots most of my life.  I “grew up” in Uncle Sam’s Army wearing black leather lace up boots that, more often than not, broke in your feet rather than the other way around.  Even in the first twenty years (roughly) that I spent on the streets as a police officer, I preferred for my boots to lace up – and that black leather upper had better take a shine.  Today’s world is slightly different and I’ve learned to adapt to, if not even appreciate, side zip boots.  When I got this pair of Hawk Side-Zip boots for field testing from Original SWAT, I had that usual look of doubt on my face.  A couple months of wearing them later and…  I’m thinking that maybe side-zip boots aren’t so bad after all.

First off, let’s take a look at some of the features.  As I hinted above, some of these features wouldn’t be acceptable for anyone but SWAT 15 years ago. In today’s more realistic law enforcement world, they are finding greater acceptance.  The uppers are a mix of leather and a durable nylon mesh.  The leather CAN be shined but there’s not enough of it to make it worth doing.  Keep the leather clean and supple (saddle soap works great) and buffed.  The nylon mesh can be cleaned, if it gets dirty enough, with a stiff bristled plastic brush when everything is dry.  The laces are polymer and – based on my testing – can take a beating without fail.  Since they’re not metal, they’re “friendly” to metal detectors, scanners, etc.

The tongue is gusseted (folds and stretches vertically) so that dirt and debris don’t weasel their way into your boot during heavy duty engagements or use.  I love the website’s description of the laces: “Tactical performance non-slip laces.”  By the same token, it’s the truth.  Reality is that laces DO stretch over time.  You’re doubly cursed if the laces stretch AND come loose because they slip against each other and the friction we create tying them together.  I saw SOME stretching of the laces over the couple months of wear but I only had to retie them once.

As for the footbed construction, heel, toe and sole features, here’s the list direct from the webpage for the boot:

  • Flex-Lite Support System build technology
  • Moisture-wicking lining with AEGIS antimicrobial protection
  • Removable custom fit EVA insole
  • TPU heel stabilizer for custom fit and stability
  • Lightweight molded dual-density EVA midsole with shock absorption zone for comfort and fatigue control
  • Exclusive airport-friendly Flex-Lite molded nylon stability board with torsional support ridges for the ultimate in lightweight, flexible support and performance
  • Custom-molded thermoplastic heel counter and toe box for instant comfort and lateral support
  • Stitched toe for durability and extended service life
  • Tec Tuff abrasion-resistant toe and heel panel protection
  • H.A.W.K. outsole: lightweight, arch ladder grips, toe grips for climbing, oil resistant, non-marking rubber, exceeds the ASTM F489-96 safety standard for slip resistance

As I mentioned, when I first got these boots to wear test, I was doubtful I’d feel real great about them.  While, on the one hand, Original SWAT boots are – hands down – the most comfortable out-of-the-box boots I’ve ever worn, I’ve had a long standing prejudice against side-zip boots.  I recognize that my prejudice may not be logical or reasonable, and that’s why I decided to start testing the boots right away.  Anytime I was going out to do anything resembling duty, hiking, backpacking, etc. these were the boots I put on.

Like “traditional” boots, I had to put them on the first time with the zipper up so I could lace them properly on my feet.  That done, I made it a point to only put them on or take them off using the zipper.  While I expected the boots to need relacing within a week or so, I was happily surprised to find that I didn’t have to relace them until about six weeks later.  I had put a bunch of miles on them by then and wasn’t disappointed.

I had worn the boots on a myriad assortment of surfaces to include asphalt, concrete, sand, gravel, dirt, mud and grass.  I never got them into a field of grass or anything much taller than my ankle, but they performed well on every surface I encountered.  The only time I experienced any slipperiness at all was on an oil soaked smooth concrete surface – and I defy a boot maker to make a sole that sticks even on that.

Even after about six weeks of wear, the soles showed no sign of it.  The tread, as shown in the accompanying photos, is a mix of various patterns but far from the “self mud shedding” soles we so often see on heavy duty use boots.  The larger cross-thatch pattern DOES shed mud and dirt as you walk.  The smaller tread patterns do require some cleaning out once your day is done.  A quick rinse or brush took care of mine quite nicely.

The end result was that, after six weeks of wear testing these boots, I found myself still putting them on instead of the other boots I have in my closet – and used to wear religiously.  These are comfortable, supportive, clean looking enough for uniform wear and reasonably lightweight.  At 31 ounces – just under a pound each – they ARE pretty lightweight given the types of rugged use they are expected to see and handle.  With an MSRP of under $120, you ought to check them out if you’re in the market for new boots… and aren’t prejudiced against the side zip.

Stay safe!

About the Author

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret), Editorial Director | Editorial Director

Lt. Frank Borelli is the Editorial Director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience in addition to 40 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team.

Frank has had numerous books published which are available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other major retail outlets.

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

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