I wasn’t so much walking through the flooded timber as I was sliding. It was by choice and predicated by caution. Sometimes I could see fallen leaves resting under the surface, and in those places I did walk. But sometimes the coffee-colored waters hid the bottom, and there is where I slowly scooted each booted foot in the packed mud. As I searched for solid footing, I tried to keep my weight shifted toward the back because with every tense, tentative toe feel there was a chance that that foot could slide off into a channel or flooded critter hole. If the plunge happened, the best I could hope for was a soaked sock and miserable walk back to the truck. The worst was likely immersion up to my waist. At least I didn’t think there were any deep, over-my-head holes, out here in the swamp. It was a cloudy 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was about three miles from the truck, so it wasn’t exactly a life or death situation. But a long, cold, soggy walk was not how I wanted to end the day.
I was there among the cypress and water oaks scouting for next deer season, for possible bowfin fly fishing opportunities come summer, and to kill a few squirrels. I was also there to test out my newest kicks from a brand I’ve grown quite fond of over the years — the LaCrosse Aerohead Sport boots. Luckily, I never wandered into water deep enough to top the 16-inch boots.
I’ve owned a few pair of LaCrosse boots over the years from the Burly to the Alpha Burly to the original Aerohead. All were purchased as task-specific bowhunting boots. Mostly it was because rubber-bottomed boots help lock up potential ground scent. But it was also because they kept my feet warm and cozy on the way to and in the treestand whether I was traipsing through the muddy bottoms or the frosty uplands. And they were tough. The other pairs had survived years of rocks, sharp sticks, greenbrier and even barbwire before leaking. The boots performed so well and were so comfortable, that I often found myself using them for other activities, including some swamp flyfishing.
This was the second day of putting the new Aerohead Sports through their paces, and after making tracks for about 15 miles or so, I was impressed.
The Aerohead Sports are easily the most comfortable pair of “rubber-bottomed” boots I’ve ever worn. One of the reasons is because the lower portion is covered in a polyurethane (the same stuff used to insulate freezers) shell, not rubber. It would seem a contradiction, but the polyurethane offers both cushiony comfort and surprising support, and does so through a range of terrain. Besides the shin-deep dark waters, I also hiked through briar-choked thickets and rocky uplands.
The boots look “sporty,” too, kind of like a molded trail running shoe was welded on to a neoprene upper. While the Aerohead Sports aren’t substitutes for dedicated hiking boots or shoes, they also weren’t a bother on my treks. The boots weigh two pounds and two ounces each, which is about five ounces lighter than the old Lacrosse Aeroheads. My feet and legs felt fine after all those miles through the muck and the hills. I believe I could have walked another 10 miles or more with no problem regarding comfort.
LaCrosse claims that the boot’s liner wicks moisture, and I’m inclined to agree. My socks were only slightly damp after all that walking. While I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, the relative dryness of my socks was about the same as after a hike in my Columbia trail-running shoes. This is outstanding for a 100-percent waterproof boot — regardless of what it’s made of — with no claims of breathability. To be fair, these were the lightweight model boots (3.5 mm thick neoprene and polyurethane vs. 7.5 for the heavyweights), but I’m confident that my feet won’t be soaked in sweat and then freeze me out after a long hike and cold sit in even my most distant treestands.
Speaking of the neoprene uppers, they’re coated in a combination of Lycra and spandex, which is supposed to help with durability. Time will tell, but based on my experiences with previous LaCrosse models, durability has not been an issue. I usually get four to five years out of a pair, and they’re regularly abused during their service.
Keeping your footing is job number one for all footwear (except bowling shoes and skates, I reckon), and Aerohead Sport outsoles provided secure traction through everything. Honestly, I never even thought about the boot’s traction until I sat down to write this review, which might be the highest of compliments. I could go where I wanted with no worry of slipping.
A few days after the swamp excursion, the boot’s maiden hunting trip was a short sit on a 28 degree morning. Not super cold, and I killed a deer after only an hour in the treestand, so not the most strenuous of tests. But my older pair of Aeroheads saw me through a few frigid mornings with temps down to 12 degrees. As a Southerner, 12 degrees might has well have been Hoth. LaCrosse says that the 3.5 MM Aerohead Sport is rated for -10- 60F. There is no way in hell that I’m sitting in a tree with these boots in -10 temperatures. But based on the brand’s performance over the years, I should be fine down to the teens with a good pair of wool socks and maybe some chemical heat packs.
The boots are also awarded bonus points in my book for helping me fill the freezer on their first go-round.
Honestly, I can’t find many faults with the Aerohead Sports. They stand 16-inches tall, which is two inches shorter than the old Aeroheads. Still adequate for most of my applications, but there were a few times that a couple more inches could have shaved some steps as I had to backtrack to shallower water. Perhaps Lacrosse can someday marry this streamlined boot design to hip waders for the ultimate in swamp-slogging footwear. LaCrosse does make hip waders, but not Aerohead hip waders… yet.
The only other issue is sizing. I usually wear thick wool socks for hunting and hiking, and so I ordered the boots a half-size larger than what I normally wear. The socks filled in most of the gap, and there’s no doubt that my regular size would have been too snug for proper cold-weather insulation (airspace is great insulation, after all), but there was still a bit of slop and no way to control it. The boots are equipped with a gusset to adjust for calf size, but that wasn’t an issue. I’m not sure what kind of technology would be required for an ultimate-fit “rubber” style boot, so maybe I’m just dreaming.
Mostly, these are quibbles about the boot genre in general and not the Aerohead Sport specifically. Please receive them as such. Really, I’ve got no gripes. The boots did what I asked and did it well.
Lacrosse Areohead Sport boots retail from $140 up to $200, which is in line with most other waterproof “rubber” boots. You can occasionally find steals on the LaCrosse website when the company is trying to move sizes or colors that haven’t sold that well. I’ve seen prices as low as $85 bucks, but, sadly, they’re never in my size.
I’ve tried a few other brands over the years, but I always come back LaCrosse, and the boots always end up doing more for me than I had originally planned. If Lacrosse could dial up the solution for a custom fit “rubber-style” boot with some sort of laces or straps, they might find themselves with the world’s most capable boot for outdoors folks. Until then, the LaCrosse Aerohead Sport boots are plenty capable for my outdoor pursuits.