Talk about a combat boot. This South African footwear was designed by wildlife Rangers who protect endangered African animals. The boots might work well for you.
by Leon Pantenburg
Disclaimer: Jim Green Boots supplied the product for this review. I was not paid to write it, and nobody had any input in the post’s contents. At the time of publication, there was no advertising nor affiliate agreement between SCS and Jim Green Boots. This is my opinion, and all I ever promise in any product evaluation is a fair and unbiased review.
The African Ranger boots arrived just in time for my nightly two-mile dog walk. I laced them up and off we went. I had been intrigued by the Jim Green African Ranger boots since first hearing about them. I wanted to try out the boots and support a worthy cause.
For the next two weeks, I wore the Rangers all day, every day. This included a cross country Christmas visit to Portland, Oregon, where the boots were wrung out in cold, wet conditions. They also logged several miles in airports, shopping malls and parks. (I walk two miles daily, with or without my dog.) Most recently, the boots were worn on a cross country hike along the Natchez Trace in Central Mississippi.
I like these boots, but there is more to them than tough leather, a good design and durable construction.
For every ten pairs of African Ranger boots sold, a pair is donated to a wildlife ranger on active duty at some African national park. To date, some 2,000 pairs of boots have gone directly to the rangers. To understand why this is a big deal, understand the situation.
The African Rangers are the point-of-the-sword, boots-on-the-ground protectors of endangered large African animals in African national parks. There are about 1,000 Rangers, covering a territory the size of Massachusetts. They fight an ongoing battle against militaristic, well-armed poachers who slaughter elephants for their ivory and kill rhinos for their horns. Profits from this illegal trade go to finance the drug trade and ongoing wars. What does a Ranger do?
Garamba, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is ground zero in the elephant poaching wars. Rangers face ruthless poachers who stop at nothing to kill the large animals. Here is the latest on rhino preservation. There are just 6,487 wild rhinos left in the world, according to rhino conservation charity Save The Rhino, all of them in Africa.
Here’s a really bad part: Many Rangers have inadequate footwear. About 50% of Rangers don’t have access to sufficient boots and gear. Over 40% are required to purchase their own boots.
Jim Green Footwear and The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) came together to do something about that. A survey to Rangers from across Africa was taken to determine what the ultimate all round Ranger Boot would be. From that came the African Ranger boot.
Obviously, this is a worthy cause. But enough background. This is a boot review, and I won’t promote a shoddy, sub-par product regardless of the worthiness of the cause.
Here are the specs:
The boot is designed with three main focus areas: Comfort and Durability at an affordable price.
The wedge sole is designed to grip while the softer rubber compound keeps the Ranger quiet when walking through the African bush.
Toe, Heel and Eyelet area manufactured with a double layer of 2.2mm full grain leather for added durability.
Heel and Toe stiffeners for added durability, support and protection.
Soft leather collar and tongue for comfort and weight reduction.
A steel shank between the insole board and sole offers extra support and stability.
Insole is secured to the upper with a double stitched 2.2mm braided nylon cord.
Can be resoled – Stitch down construction. (All specs are courtesy of Jim Green website.)
The good stuff:
Break-in time: I break-in a lot of footwear. Usually, the tougher the boot, the longer it takes to break it in. It generally takes about 10-12 hours of wear and some 30+ miles before I’ll consider a sturdy leather boot ready to hit the trail.
On my dog walk, the boots initially felt stiff, but they loosened up quickly. There was no rubbing, chaffing or hot spots after two+ miles. They were so comfortable I kept them on for the rest of the evening. Pretty impressive!
That said, NEVER take off on a long walk with new, stiff boots. How to break in boots
Durability: Checking this out comes with time and use. But the leather is thick, the sewing is sturdy, and the rest of the materials appear top notch. The uppers seem to be almost bullet-proof. The sole is attached to the upper with a double stitched nylon cord so these boots can be easily re-soled.
Wedge soles: I’m a big fan of this style of sole. Normally, in day-to-day wear, you’ll never need an aggressive, toothy sole suitable in a mountaineering boot. In fact, these relatively smooth soles have less impact on trails that might get a lot of traffic. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear these boots on a backpacking trip where the route will be mostly on established trails.
Toe and heel caps: There is double full-grain leather caps on both ends of the boots, and I like them very much. The toe caps are some protection against dropping something on your foot, and they keep your big toe from rubbing the top of the toe area.
Wide width: I have EE-wide feet, and these boots come in a wide width that is perfect for my feet. I can wiggle my toes easily inside the boots, and there is ample room for thick socks. Carry a heavy pack, and you’ll appreciate the width as your feet flatten out from the weight.
Lacing: The lacing system allows the wearer to cinch down the heels to prevent rubbing when going uphill. On the downhill stretch, the boots can be tightened down so your toes don’t rub on the inside.
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No moisture barrier: Most hiking boots these days come with some sort of moisture barrier. For overall use, I don’t like them. In my experience, no moisture barrier can remove internal moisture generated as fast as it is produced.
A boot that can’t breathe may be really hot. This leads to soft feet and soggy socks and eventually, blisters. A boot that will be used mostly in the heat of Africa or in the desert doesn’t need a waterproof liner.
Gusseted tongue: The tongue goes all the way to the top of the boot. This seals out dirt, dust and debris the whole height of the boot.
Appearance: I got the green version on purpose, since I already have lots of brown and black boots. The green shoes match the jeans and flannel shirt I wear most of the time in town. The shoes also fit in with my hunting and fishing clothes outfits.
Then there’s this…
These are not mountaineering boots. They don’t have the lateral strength needed for side-hilling, and the sole is too smooth to be safe. The sides could possibly get torn up walking in Boulder field areas.
Walking on the clay hills and ravines of Central Mississippi, covered in damp oak leaves, was iffy at times in these Rangers. The shoes tended to be slippery, and the lateral strength and wide width left a lot to be desired. For a hunting boot, I would want a more aggressive lug pattern.
Insoles: The insoles are just OK. There is no arch support, and virtually no padding.
I get it. The boots use high quality, locally-sourced materials, and the workers make a living wage. To keep the price down, some corners may have to be cut. The best place to save money is in something like the insoles. The standard insoles are easily replaced with those of your choice.
Do you need a pair of African Rangers?
Well, except for some personal-preference nit-picking that shows I’m not writing ad copy, I really, really like these boots. They are simple, uncomplicated working footwear, at home on the African plains, Midwest farm and/or most construction sites or big city college campuses. The Rangers look great with casual wear.
They also make a statement: the boots show you support a group halfway around the world that is trying to save a precious natural resource. The boots are great conversation starters!
All this, combined in a solid walking/hiking boot that can give years of service anywhere you decide to wear them. What’s not to like?
There are a lot of factors that determine how comfortable your hiking footwear will be. Consider these things when you are shopping: