Steve Coulston gets up close and personal to some of our favorite boots in this Garmont T8 boot review, comparing both the BIFIDA and NFS models.
Garmont T8 Boots: Italian Quality
Italy has been long known for style. Italians pride themselves in their heritage and craftsmanship which includes exotic cars, fine dining, exquisite art and designer clothing. Clothing includes footwear, and footwear includes boots. Garmont has been in the business of making high-quality footwear since 1990; however, they trace their roots back to the Calzaturifico Morlin which was established in 1867. Garmont now has a presence in over 45 countries worldwide. They make footwear that ranges from trail runners to technical climbing shoes to military boots.
The T8 series of Garmont’s tactical boots come in four different versions: the T8 BIFIDA, T8 NFS, T8 LE and the T8 Extreme. For comparison, the BIFIDA and NFS have striking similarities, yet are uniquely different.
At first glance, both boots look identical. Above the outsole, both boots have identical construction.
Their uppers are made from 1.6mm suede leather and 250g nylon mesh and polyester webbing. Every part of the boots is double stitched for additional reinforcement. The high, 8-inch ankle is flexible, made of breathable DD Diamesh, and sports a very stout pull assist at the top. The pull is high enough to aid in donning the boot, yet low enough that the laces will cross it when they are doubled back around the ankle.
The entire foot is protected by the suede leather, and the leather at the heel portion of the boot goes higher than other boots in the same class. There are metal ventilation holes on the interior side of the arch which aid in air circulation in hot and humid climates. The boots use zero optical refraction hardware which is combined with roller bearings and hookless rigging hardware. This allows for additional support and lock solid lacing. The laces are flat 8mm laces which, when laid flat, reduce the lace pressure on the top of the foot.
The interior of the boot is very comfortable and contains an injected molded footbed cup system that works in conjunction with the internal heel retention strapping system. This provides extra stability for a more stable and natural stride and works well as a stress reducer for the lower extremities. The insole is 2mm think for extra cushion and additional comfort. The boot is also nicely contoured, hugging the foot anatomy and providing a somewhat minimalist aesthetic.
Garmont T8 BIFIDA vs. NFS: The Outsoles
The differences lay in the outsoles, which are not only different, but also have an impact on the overall weight of the boot.
Garmont T8 BIFIDA Outsole
The T8 BIFIDA is the original T8. It was made for running, hiking and climbing over diverse terrain. They are rugged, yet lightweight and they dry out quickly. They have Vibram “BIFIDA” soles which feature very rugged lugs. The lug pattern is very chunky around the perimeter of the sole and wraps up around the toe and heel for impact protection. The interior lug pattern is fairly abstract, consisting of a series of circles and rectilinear wave patterns.
These lugs are made out of a very spongy and soft rubber that not only grabs the terrain but allows the terrain to bite into the outsoles for extra grab and traction. The lugs are slick, meaning there is not any texture on the wear surface.
The heel of the boot is very pronounced and extends about a half an inch below the arch of the outsole. The heels are thick and are made for heavy loads, which make these boots ideal for long patrols. They are also well suited for vehicle use as well as maritime operations due to their quick-drying technology. They are lightweight, yet solid.
Garmont T8 NFS Outsole
If the T8 BIFIDAs are the work truck of the T8 line, the T8 NFS boots are the Lamborghini. NFS stands for “NEED FOR SPEED” and it shows.
These are multi-terrain boots that have the weight of a high-performance athletic shoe. They are designed for everything from mud to water, from the mountains to the beach. Their outsole has been minimized and optimized for speed. The large outsole lugs of the BIFIDA have been dramatically reduced to small cleat-like treads. The outer perimeter of the NFS is adorned with long and lean lugs that are spaced fairly far apart. These lugs are dotted with micro treads in the shape of small pyramids. The toe, midsole and heel, sport an array of small quarter inch squares which have a raised letter “M” on the wear surface. The outsole wraps around the side of the foot and up the heel and toe, but not as far as the BIFIDA boot.
Even though they don’t have the heavier sole of the BIFIDA, the NFS still are capable of heavy lifting. They excel at long hikes or standing still for a long time in formation.
Garmont T8 Boots Wear & Comfort
The weight difference is noticeable between the two boots, with the advantage going to the NFS. Both boots wear very well. They are sized accurately and are snug enough to prevent the foot from moving around and getting hot spots or blisters, yet are roomy enough to allow the wearer to move the toes and keep circulation in the foot. Of note: because of the solid lacing system, it is required that all the laces be loosened in order to get the boot on. Once the foot has been inserted in the boot, it is important to make sure the tongue of the boot isn’t bunched up, even a little. The tongue is secured to the boot by wrapping under the leather reinforcement that holds the metallic eyelets in place. Because of this design, it is easy to get a wrinkle along the top of the foot, which is very uncomfortable. If the time is taken to properly adjust the tongue prior to lacing the boot, the experience will be much better.
Both boots did well on dry pavement with the edge going to the BIFIDA. Its larger and wider slick treads were ideal for the hard surfaces while dry. The NFS did just fine, but have less surface area on the ground at any given point in time, which in the long run slightly diminishes its gripping capability on dry pavement.
After a hard rain, it is no surprise that the gripping ability of both boots was somewhat diminished on pavement, but the type of pavement was a factor. Depending on how aggressive the broom finish was, both boots did exhibit some slipping while traversing steep pavement grades in the rain. Again, due to the additional surface area, the BIFIDA provided slightly better performance on the wet pavement.
On the trail, the conditions were fairly dry. There was still some moist soil from the recent rains, but the ground was relatively solid. The BIFIDA’s massive lugs really grabbed at the trail and provided solid traction. The downside to the large lug size was that, after a while, organic material really got gummed up in the outsole, reducing the boot’s performance some. Overall, it did great on the hard pack and the mud, and slipping was almost non-existent.
The NFS was a blast to wear on the trail. The weight difference is noticeable between the two boots with the advantage going to the NFS. Even with its smaller tread pattern, the NFS floated over the trail with ease and confidence. The boot gripped the terrain well, and even during steep descents and assents, they didn’t slip. The NFS also filled up with organic material, however due to the lug size and spacing, the material seemed to fall out of the boot better than the BIFIDA.
When it came to running on the trail or pavement, both boots were impressive. They exhibited athletic characteristics that warfighters would really appreciate. Thanks to the stability support, both the BIFIDA and the NFS had good impact resistance and really aided in protecting the joints and feet from stress. It should be no surprise, however, that the NFS really stood out during the runs. After running with the BIFIDA, which are fairly light weight, the NFS experience was borderline comical.
The featherweight outsoles made running a pleasure. It was almost like the boots weren’t even there. They provided excellent stability, yet didn’t restrain the natural movement of the ankle and foot. The boot didn’t require the natural running stride to be modified; rather it allowed for normal motion as would be expected of a running shoe.
Ironically these Italian boots are made in Vietnam. Go figure. If you can get over that fact, you’ll be very satisfied no matter which T8 boot you purchase. The T8 line is very rock solid. The boots are a fine example of craftsmanship, durability and functionality. Regardless of which boot is worn, the BIFIDA or the NFS did not disappoint.
The boots are available from US Patriot Tactical in Desert Tan and qualify for free shipping. As always, US Patriot Tactical offers a 365 day return policy.