Review: S&W’s “Athletic Breach” Desert Boots

SW8 inch Athletic Breach SZAbout a month and a half ago, Kit Up contributor Chris Hernandez was sent a pair of Smith & Wesson’s “Athletic Breach” boots to review. Hernandez has yet to give the boots a full test, but he jotted down his initial impressions based off what he’s learned, good and bad, from boots he’s worn in the past. A more arduous evaluation is due in a couple months.

First thing: right out of the box, these boots look pretty impressive. They certainly appear well-made, with no obvious weak points. The boots are solidly built, with much thicker material than any other military boot I’ve worn except for the Danners. The first time I put them on it felt like I had armored up my feet.

They’re also light. Real light. Like, tennis shoes light. I’ve been wearing heavy, clunky Army-issue Frankenstein boots for a long time. Putting these on made me feel like a stripper slipping on her favorite pair of 8-inch stiletto heels. They just felt much more comfortable than any pair of boots I’ve ever been issued.

They also have kind of a bouncy feel to them. They have plenty of built-in cushion, thanks to a removable insole. I’m an old guy now, and because of the abuse I’ve inflicted on my feet in the past they try to get back at me by radiating pain whenever I stand (or walk, or run, or drive) for too long. While it hasn’t really affected my ability to do anything, it’s a constant annoyance. But I’ve noticed it a lot less since I started wearing the S&Ws.

Also, they have a side zipper. I love side zippers. I don’t have to explain how much easier zippers make life for a boot-wearing man. On the other hand, if that zipper fails, that boot is useless. Although they’re plastic, the zippers on the S&Ws don’t look cheap, and didn’t have any glitches in the short time I’ve worn these boots. I’m cautiously optimistic they won’t fail in the future.

Chris Hernandez SW53TZ Breach-Boots 1

As far as bad stuff, there were a couple of things. One might be the fault of the previously mentioned thick removable insole. For about the first week I wore the S&Ws, I felt kind of like my heel was much higher than my toes, which made my feet slide slightly forward and cramp inside the toes of the boot. That didn’t last long, but it did give me some misgivings for a few days. I don’t notice that problem anymore though.

Another thing I noticed was that white fiber is visible along the edges of the material where the lace eyelets are. It’s not much white fiber, and after the first time I walk through mud it’ll never be white again. But it’s something that’s just out of place on a combat boot. As minor as this is, I still think S&W should fix it. The 1980s Marine in me says you don’t market boots with visible white material to combat troops.

But these two issues are minor. Out of the many boots I’ve worn over the last 24 years, I’m pretty confident in saying these are second only to the Danners. And it’s not really a fair to put the S&Ws in that No. 2 spot, because the Danners were with me in some really crappy situations. The S&Ws haven’t had a chance to impress me like the Danners did. But they seem like they would do just as well under stress, or maybe even better.

Chris Hernandez SW53TZ Breach-Boots 2Chris Hernandez SW53TZ Breach-Boots 3Chris Hernandez SW53TZ Breach-Boots 4Chris Hernandez SW53TZ Breach-Boots 5

The Smith & Wesson “Athletic Breach” boots retail for $89.95 on; they are also available in black and without the side zip. They come in”medium” and “wide” width and are available in half sizes. Features listed include:

  • 8″ Leather and Nylon Upper
  • Lightweight EVA Midsole
  • Rubber Sawtooth Outsole
  • YKK Side Zipper
  • Removable Comfort PU Insole
  • Slip and Oil Resistant Outsole
  • Non Marking Outsole
  • Cement Construction

-Respectfully, Chris Hernandez

  • About the Author: Chris “Mad Duo Chris” Hernandez is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There he frequently worked with French elements of ISAF while working with Afghan personnel. He is also a veteran police officer, having spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags and Dropped Rifles: the Truth About the French Army, the book Proof of Our Resolve and upcoming novel Line in the Valley. You can read more work on Breach-Bang-Clear and on his blog.
  • Chris Hernandez on his worst day in Afghanistan.
  • jeph

    how is the sizing compared to Danners? Do they run bigger or smaller? I want to order a set to T&E but I hate buying boots online unless I have already had experience on their sizing.

    • Chris Hernandez

      Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you. I got rid of the Danners (yes, that was a dumb move) years ago when I thought I was getting out. I think these fit just a tad more snug than Danners in the same size, but that’s based on memories from several years back.

  • Adam A

    The heel being higher is to create an action fit that’s good for your back and posture. It forces you to walk on the balls of your feet and lift efficiently. It’s the first thing I look for in performance footwear (with the exception of minimalist footwear). In that case they usually assume you have trained the bad walking habits we all grow up with out.

    • Chris Hernandez


      Absolutely right, and I should have pointed out that the heel felt significantly higher, more so than in other boots I’ve worn (like Danners). No question that there is a reason for it, the boots just initially felt like the heel was too high.


  • Gary Hunt

    How do they size up to the GX-8 Desert Composite side zip boot from Bates? I am into my second pair in 3 years now.

  • Bill

    Boots & stilettos! Is Chris a cross dresser?

    • Chris Hernandez

      For some reason the “just kidding, I swear I’m not a cross dresser” line got edited out.


  • Joshua

    I’ll stick to my trusted Bates. I’m not a fan of side zip boots for serious use.

  • Juanito Grande

    As a big guy plagued with narrow feet, I gotta’ ask, do these S&W boots come in narrow widths?

  • moondawg

    The zippers would be a deal breaker with me. I do not trust zippers on a pair of combat and/or hard use boots.

  • tobabington

    zippers on boots…I HATE zippers on boots!! soonjer or later they break!!

    • moondawg

      Agreed, a major weak area.

  • DB Cooper

    Tanker Boots have a zipper to let you get your foot out of the boot if it get wedge agains something. Heavy zippers only fail if you keep trying to load test them.

    The big problem with all boots like this is that soft sole that makes them comfortable to walk in while in garrison. Soldiers down range are complaining their feet hurt from stepping on rocks so the army is looking at going back to harder soles. They should offered a model for rocky terrain.

  • gruntgoo

    “Putting these on made me feel like a stripper slipping on her favorite pair of 8-inch stiletto heels.” According to all the strippers I know, this comment will guarantee they never buy a pair of these boots. Of course all the strippers I know are late 40’s deuces with compass teeth/tooth and blew eyes. (One blew this way and one blew that way.) 89 sounds like a good price for a medium duty set of kicks.


    I ordered a pair last friday they came in Wed. on the second day they feel real good. I ordered them in Black hospital Security but so far im happy them

  • ARod

    Are they water proof?