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RockBoots: The Story Behind the Design and Innovation of RockBoots

DUI RockBoots for drysuit scuba diversTen years ago, DUI introduced a new innovation called RockBoots. It was an entirely new concept giving divers superior durability, traction, support and comfort for their feet. Whether you are a shore diver doing beach entries or a boat diver climbing up a ladder, RockBoots became a staple in the drysuit divers’ diet!

Since then, many have tried to copy DUI’s RockBoots. Some copies are so bold as to even use the name “RockBoots”. Yet a lot of thought and engineering went into our design which has been completely overlooked by others in their attempt to capitalize on DUI’s innovation.

While DUI RockBoots may not be the “hottest” footwear on the market, they outperform all others on form, fit and function. Here is why a DUI RockBoot is a DUI RockBoot:

Original RockBoot Design Objectives:

  1. Provide the diver with a secure fitting boot to better facilitate walking and climbing over irregular surfaces found at dive sites by eliminating the play found in traditional drysuit or wet suit boots.
  2. Provide the diver with ankle support both in and out of the water
  3. Protect the bottom of the diver’s foot from sharp and irregular surfaces in and around the dive site.
  4. Make replacement of boots easier and less expensive to the diver

RockBoot thicknessRockBoots Design Strategy

Sole Thickness: A deep lug sole (typically found on work boots) is desirable in most shoes for durability. However, DUI’s design approach for RockBoots was to achieve the objectives while keeping the thickness of the boot under the foot to a minimum. Deep lug patterns add stiffness and thickness. The diver’s foot needs to be able to move during swimming and the additional thickness compounds problems that arise in wearing the boot with a fin (the bigger the boot, the harder it is to find a fin that fits).

Sole Edging: This needs to be kept as narrow as possible – again, to allow the foot to slide into the fin pocket. Most shoes and boots (as well as RockBoot copies) have a thicker edge that surrounds the entire foot).

RockBoot drysuit overbootBoot Width: The RockBoot must be able to accommodate the sock on the drysuit as well as the diver’s choice of insulation. At a minimum, DUI required that it be able to accommodate Thinsulate Ultra 400. The boot needs to be wider than a typical boot so DUI’s RockBoot is in the E to EE width range.

Size Range: DUI has always prided itself on being able to fit the widest range of divers. Therefore DUI has RockBoots in sizes 4 – 15. For most divers, this is the actual size that they wear. DUI has already taken into consideration that the diver will be wearing insulation.

Note: Women’s sizes – most go down 1-2 sizes, depending on insulation. Men typically wear the same size RockBoot as they do their shoe size. For half sizes, go UP to the next size

drysuit boot heightBoot Height: When you look at the top of the RockBoot (the part that goes around the ankle), the back of the RockBoot is lower than the front to facilitate pointing of the toes which is crucial for proper fining. A high back can dig in and irritate the Achilles tendon. The combination of high front and low back provides ankle support seen in taller boots.

Boot Heel: Behind the ankle, there is an area of support that is called the “heel counter”. Heel counters are needed for ankle support and stability. In DUI’s RockBoots, these are lower than normal to facilitate pointing of the toes. In addition, RockBoots do not have raised heels because they are not compatible with many of the popular styles of fins. Your foot simply would not slide into the fin – the heel would get caught on the bottom of the fin.

Your drysuit boots should be flexible like RockBootsWhy Laces: While there are other forms of closures like Velcro, zippers, bungee laces, etc, DUI has found that though laces can be a nuisance, they are still the best form of closure for a number of reasons:

  1. Velcro: It loosens when wet; Velcro tabs can get in the way of sliding the foot into the fin pocket, and sand can get caught in the Velcro.
  2. Zippers: Zippers can mean “one size fits nobody.” It lacks sizing adjustability.
  3. Bungee cords: They loosen over time and have the possibility of allowing excess air into the feet.
  4. Laces: Laces allow for the greatest adjustably due to individual foot width and the wide variety of insulation choices available (divers can range from heavy insulation to no insulation at all).

Lace Management System: A large bow-lock cord lock is use to lock the laces in place. The size was chosen to make it easy to operate with gloved hands. It also has no metal parts to corrode.

RockBoot drysuit lace capture systemLace Capture System: This is perhaps the most difficult thing to explain! In the back of the boot, a tab is placed that serves two purposes:

  1. After you tighten the laces, the laces can wrap once, twice or even not at all around the ankle depending on how long the laces are (the insulation the diver is wearing can greatly change the width of the ankle thereby changing how the laces wrap around the ankle). Regardless of the wrapping, the remaining lace is then twirled around the tab. At the end of the lace is a Velcro hook which is then placed under the tab. This keeps the laces securely in place during the dive.
  2. The tab also has the extra benefit as acting as “shoe horn” giving the diver something to pull on when putting on the RockBoot.
Velcro tab on the RockBoot photo two of the velcro tab on the RockBoot RockBoot velcro tab close the velcro tab - easy for drysuit divers

Material: DUI tested the materials by freezing the boot for days in a freezer and by leaving it stored in the trunk of a car for days during the heat of the summer. It was determined that the materials used will stand up to most any conditions the diver will subject it.

DUI RockBoot ready to go divingReplacement: In previous drysuits, if a boot wore out, the diver had to return the suit to the factory to have new boots installed. This can be an expensive repair. Yet with RockBoots, the diver can simply purchase a new pair which does not affect the water tight integrity of the suit or necessitate the return of the suit to the manufacturer.
In conclusion, The DUI RockBoots may not be the most fashionable footwear, but the design of the RockBoots is based on proven and durable materials and they are configured to work in harmony with the diver and their fins.
Thick hiking soles, buckles, tabs, zippers, etc. may look “cool”, but you need to ask yourself:

  1. Will the closing method (laces, buckles, tabs, etc) interfere with my fins?
  2. Will the thickness of the sole interfere with my fins?
  3. Will the width of the boot accommodate my drysuit AND my insulation?
  4. Can the boot accommodate a range of insulation choices?
  5. Can the extra laces come loose or get tangled in any way?
  6. Will the construction of the boot allow me to move my feet comfortably while I swim with fins?
  7. Will the material of the boot hold up in salt water?
  8. Will the boot hold up in extreme cold?
  9. Will the boot hold up in extreme heat?

There are virtually thousands of fashionable hiking boots from which to choose. Yet, if you are looking for footwear that can meet the demands of the dive site, the dive and, most importantly, the diver, then you are looking for DUI’s RockBoots.