In late July I ordered a pair of Aerostich’s Combat Lite boots. They were out of stock in my size, so I didn’t get them until late Friday afternoon, September 3rd. After one month and ~1,200 miles I decided I knew enough to write a review. Sorry for its length, but this is such a talked about product that I decided include all my thoughts. If you don’t want to read it all, here’s the short version:
- Do research on the sizing before you buy!
- They’re heavy. But you get used to it.
- They’re boxy. But you get used to it.
- They’re stiff at first. But wear them every day and after a few days you can feel that they are breaking in. They’re basically comfy after couple of weeks of near daily wear. Don’t be scared away by people who say it takes a year to break in, and you don’t need to soak them in water or anything else too strange. A good leather conditioner and time on the feet is enough.
- I got a bad blister on the back of my right achilles tendon just over my heel. All seems well now, but I’m still concerned about it.
- Assuming the blister problem doesn’t return, these should be great for many years.
Okay, long verson...
MY GOODNESS the box was heavy! The heft of the box and the heft of the boots themselves were a surprise. The leather in the box smelled beautiful, and the new boots smelled great, too. Did I say they were heavy?
The first big test was sizing. I ordered Aerostich’s size 10, which their website defines as a Euro 45. I was worried about sizing, as I haven’t worn a size 10 in anything since I was in 7th or 8th grade. I usually wear an 11D or an 11 medium. My running shoes are a size 12 to give my toes more room, but when asked I’d say that I’m an 11 to 11 ?¢. But, I ordered the 10 (or 45), because Aerostich suggested it as their boots are sized large. Many reviews said the same thing. Most importantly, a number of people told me via PMs here and at ADVrider, that they ordered the same size in the Combats or the Combat Lites as their Oxtars. I wear a 45 in Oxtar, so that’s what I ordered.
So, I wore them around the house for 15 minutes or so to convince myself that the size was okay, and it was. There were stiff, but okay. Aerostich size 10 fits me. And if you wear Oxtar and/or TCX, then get the same size and you ought to be fine.
The First Day of Riding:
The day after I got them, Saturday Sept 4th, was beautiful so I rode to an air show at a local suburban airport wearing the combat lites. I had them on my feet for about six hours which included probably a mile of walking on pavement and ~100 miles of riding. The only problem was that I felt some uncomfortable rubbing on my achilles tendon above my right heel that I thought might turn into a blister. When I took the boots off the spot on my skin was red, but no blister.
Ultimately, though, a blister formed and broke, and that portion of the right boot was very painful. The inside of the right boot now has a nice little blood stain where it blistered above my heel, but I kept wearing them since I wanted this initial break in period to happen sooner rather than later. As of today the blister has healed and there is no pain at all. They feel great! I hope that part of the reason is because the boots have broken in a bit, but it could be because my skin has formed a bit of a callous.
I’ve read all these reports about soaking them in water then wearing them until they dry out, etc… I won’t do that since, regardless of whether it works, it breaks down the leather. So, I decided to break them in the old fashioned way; by wearing them. After a 300 mile day of off and on-road riding, the boots got pretty gunked up, I washed the nastiest stuff off with an old toothbrush and a touch of damp saddle soap. Then, using my fingers, I cleaned and treated them with Bick-4 conditioner (LINK). Then I applied Sno-Seal, again with my fingers, for helping the water resistance. That’s all I ever plan to put on the boots. A little saddle soap (not much, and rarely) when the need arises, a good leather conditioner, and some Sno-Seal once or twice a year.
Otherwise, I’ve now had the boots for a month and just over 1,200 miles of riding, probably five or six miles of walking, and just being on my feet for around 15 full days. I have a 60 mile round trip commute, and most of my work day is in a chair staring at a computer, or walking on carpet. However, after just a week I could tell that the leather was molding nicely to my feet. With the exception of the blister on my right heel, these were becoming those boots that “fit like a glove.” After a month I’m convinced of that. I’ve read all these horror stories about the CTB or CTB Lites taking a year to break in with all manner of oddball treatments. IMHO that’s just not the case.
They’re definitely bigger around the toes then the boots I was wearing, TCX X-Fives (formerly Oxtar Matrix), which are great boots, BTW. I missed a few gears here and there for a couple of weeks, but it hasn’t happened in quite a while. The problem is less stiffness than getting used to the boots’ size. Its really no big deal, as you have to get used to being on a bike with any new boot, and these are no exception. I haven’t tested them in a serious rain yet, but I’ve been through a couple of sprinkles and a puddle or two, and they’ve been fine. The CTB Lites have a stiffer sole than other boots I’ve worn, so standing on the pegs is easier.
With the exception of dealing with that blister, these are comfortable walking boots. As I said, they’re fine now. I don’t know if it’s a result of the boots being more broken in, or if its because of a callous on my heel, or a little of both. Keeping them on for 14 hours on a work day is easy. They remain comfortable all day.
- I like the speed laces, but as many reviews say, the laces you get from Aerostich cling to the velcro, which is a minor PITA. After just a month, the laces are frayed from being peeled from the velcro. After a while I’ll just replace them with something that won’t do that. No biggie, but you’d think that Aerostich would have switched to something better by this time.
- Speaking of the laces, you have to figure out where to put the excess after you tighten them. No biggie, but you do have to figure out your own little system.
- I got mine with the cleated soles. I kept reading that the wedge could get slippery on certain surfaces, and that the cleat was better for walking off of pavement. They do not get hung up on the pegs, which was my only concern. I like ‘em.
- The buckles work, but I can’t get over my not trusting them. I heard a few stories of their breaking. I’m considering buying a couple of spares just in case.
- The first couple of weeks that I wore them it was still pretty hot. Mid-90s, etc… But they don't feel as hot as my gore-tex lined boots. Sure my feet were sweating in the CTB Lites, but they also sweated in my Oxtar mesh boots with gore-tex. This morning I rode to work in 42 degrees, and my feet never felt cool. My guess is the CTB Lites can be an all weather-four season boot.
- I know it’s a heavy leather, but I would like some armor on the shin and the ankles.
The People at Aerostich:
They're nice and helpful. They'll talk to you and answer your questions on the phone, and they promptly respond to emails. When they found out that my size wasn't in stock, they told me via email within hours after I placed my order. From my limited experience, the folks at Aerostich deserve their reputation for excellent customer service.
These are very well constructed boots using wonderful leather. If you can find a pair that fits, and don't mind the weight, then they ought to be a great pair of boots.