Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oakley SI Assault Boot Review

Thanks to the Oakley Forces Program, I was able to pick up some 8" Oakley SI Assault Boots recently at a great price. I got a black pair for business, and a desert pair for pleasure (and by pleasure, of course I mean Milsim paintball). Both are nearly identical except for colour and the materials used, and throughout this review I'll be focusing on the black version.

Note that these are the 8" edition, and that there's also a 6" edition available. There's very little price difference between the two ($10 or less), so buy whichever version you prefer. I personally go for 8" boots whenever I can, first for the extra ankle support, and second because I find the top rim of 6" boots tends to dig into the achilles tendon on my right ankle when I drive. This should be a consideration if you're like me and wear your boots driving to the paintball field and back.

Just a quick point of trivia: These are the boots worn by Christian Bale in the recent film "Terminator Salvation" (it's good to know that not only is this a badass boot, but it can be handy for stomping a T-600 in the face).


The boots come in a grey box, with a large logo on top that reads "Elite Special Forces Standard Issue". It's a bit odd that they'd be labeled this way, as the actual "Elite" edition of the boots hasn't hit the market yet, and will retail around the $500 mark when it does.

Another noteworthy detail on the box is that the boots are made in China, which is a departure from earlier versions of the Oakley boots, which were American-made.

There a a few Internet reviews to be found saying that they're not as durable as they used to be, and this is probably due to this switch to Chinese manufacturing. A lot of the complaints come from professionals serving in Iraq and Afghanistan however, and needless to say these guys subject their footwear to a lot of abuse. If you're only playing paintball in them 30-40 times a year, you could potentially make them last for several years.


The boots' construction is solid at first glance. They're made using Cordura Nylon, soft leather, and a man-made material around the toe for extra reinforcement.

The other sides of the boots have 2 draining holes on them, to avoid having your boot stay filled up with water after you wade across a creek.

There's a lot of padding inside the boot, but remarkably it doesn't get too warm when worn for a long time.

User complaints recounted how the old version of these boots used to have problems with squeaking on wet floors. However, the latest version has a simplified sole that doesn't have the squeaking problems. I've walked on a ceramic floor in these boots while the soles were wet, and not a squeak was heard! The new sole is pretty boring to look at, and doesn't have the aggressive pattern of the older one. Not that anyone will be admiring the soles of your boots, but it was probably a change made to address the squeaking issue.

Despite their pedestrian appearance, the treads seem to grip well. Keep in mind though that I haven't done anything challenging with them in wet weather yet.

There are metal loops near the top of the boot for "speed-lacing", which is odd because the industry is moving away from metal on footwear these days. Metal eyelets are being replaced by plastic ones, and steel-reinforced toes are increasingly being replaced by composite ones. All this to say that if you work some sort of secure job that has you crossing through a metal detector to report to work, this feature might become a daily nuisance for you.

Another consideration for duty wear is that although the toe is made of leather, the cap is made from a man-made material that doesn't polish very well. This is something to keep in mind if you're a member of the Canadian Forces or some other job function where it's required that your boots be kept shined.

Adding to the cool factor are the laces that Oakley includes with the boots. The tips have the Oakley "O" logo on them.

Unfortunately, you probably won't be using the included laces, as they measure in at 96 inches long! A 72-inch lace is a much better fit for this boot with its 9 pairs of eyelets, and leaves a lot less extra to tuck in or wrap around after tying.

Fit and Function

Okay so enough about the details already! By now I'm sure you want to know what they're like to wear.

Well, my first impression when putting these boots on was "WOW!!!" They slide onto the foot easily, without having to pull out the top laces to put them on (which is typical of most 8" boots). The boots feel broken in as soon as you put them on, and I haven't seen that in any other pair of combat boots or tactical footwear I've had to wear. Usually I've had to endure at least a few days of arch pain and the occasional blister to start feeling comfortable in this class of boot, but not with the Oakleys!

The boots eliminate a lot of the bulk seen with other footwear in this class. Other boots like the Hi-Tec Magnum Stealth and certain 5.11 Tactical models look "fat" on your foot, with a lot of excess padding and size. The Oakleys on the other hand fit like running shoes with a very high top, and conform very well to your feet and ankles. You don't feel like you have moon boots on! And if you wear your pant legs over your boots, either on the paintball field or as a uniform requirement, you won't find your pant cuffs riding up the boots, the way they do with the bulkier boot models out there.

Speaking of running shoes, the Oakley SI Assault Boots are a pleasure to wear, and are VERY light. They're only slightly heavier than a cross-training shoe, and are a blast to run in. The soles are soft enough that you don't pound your feet when you sprint either. They literally feel like sneakers on your feet.

The Downside

So my final word on the Oakley SI Assault Boots is that these are great boots, that I would recommend to anyone who needs footwear for duty use, working in harsh terrain, or for standing on your feet for long periods.

However, for Milsim paintball use, these boots are priced beyond what's reasonable. Oakley charges the general public around $200 CDN for a pair of the 8" ones, which is overkill for going out for a few hours on the weekend and laying down paint. If you're lucky enough to have a paintball buddy who's a reservist or full-time member in the Canadian Forces, you can get him to order them for you through the Oakley Forces Program for a lot cheaper ($80 CDN for the Wide version, and $133 for the Regular). If you happen to know someone with CSIS, police, CBSA, or another government agency that's part of the program, then you'd be in luck too (to see a full list of who's eligible, click here). But for those without an "in", 200 bucks is a hell of a lot to shell out for paintballing footwear!

For those looking for a somewhat lower price point while still wanting quality, I'd recommend the Converse Tactical line of boots, which can be had for about half the price (about $100-$120 CDN depending on where you buy them).

Although I've never had the chance to try them on, Converse Tactical boots have garnered some very positive user reviews, with some comparing them to the Oakleys in terms of comfort and quality.

Or, if you're comfortable playing without ankle support, a low-cut shoe version is included in the Oakley SI Assault line, and retails for $120 CDN.


  1. The pretty laces with the logo are the first thing to go. I suggest getting tougher ones with metal or hard plastic tips. I have the older generation with the poor drainage & squeeking problems. I've had them for about 6 years now and use them for paintball and motorcycling too. They're holding together but will prolly need a new pair soon. How do you like those gromets for drainage? Dirt get in easily? Looking foward to an update of review after a few months.

  2. I have 2 pairs - both "desert" 6" wide models purchased in the last 2 months. When wet they do squeak. I have used mostly Danner/Wellco and Bates issue boots over the last 10 years and thought I'd give these a try.

    Out of the box - great look, very light. Required little break in, but I find them VERY hot compared to my Wellco and Danner hot weather boots. These do not vent or disipate heat well at all.

    Its important to remember these are "assault boots" not an infantry combat boot (ICB). There is no steel shank in them so you will feel rough stone if it hits the sole in the right place. The treads are interesting looking, but useless in mud as they quickly clog and do not shed the mud as you move. The soles are glued not stiched, so waiting to see how they hold up.

    Apparently the US Issue Oakleys have none of these issues, and they off load the made in China versions to civs and the CF program. US made issued Oakleys are apparently very well done.I will use them for day hikers over duty/paintball boots.

    When compared to US Issue Wellco hot weather boots, the Oakleys just don't measure up, especially when you can get brand new Wellco's from US surplus stores for $30 USD, compared to even discounted $80 Oakleys. FOr $200 you can get an amazing set of Danner ICB ( USMC or Arcadia) and the Danner customer service is the best I have ever experienced for any product.

  3. Thank you for the comments gentlemen! I've noticed a couple issues with these boots as well, and I'll be posting a follow-up review on them during the upcoming Grey Ops "Boot Week" theme week, which will take a look at those and other milsim paintball-suitable footwear. Anonymous #2, is it alright with you if I quote some of your comments in my follow-up to support some points?

    I'll also be reviewing more models during Boot Week, including the Rocky S2V, Original SWAT, Danner Striker, and Danner Telson GTX. Stay tuned.

  4. Anon 2 here, no problem post my comments as you please. Here are some more for you...

    1) The stiching by the lace eyelets has let go near a flex point in the boot, it will need to be repaired, but Oakley only warranties the boots for 90 days and I'm just past that. Danner would issue me new boots and ship return to me for free if this was a Danner boot/issue.

    2) Had these in the mud today after heavy rain in the NCR..the treads clogged with mud walking down a path next to the office ( not even in the bush) and did not shed...meaning I was skating along on essentially flat bottomed boots. It took 10 mins with a pencil back at the office to dig the mud out of the treads. Maybe ok in sand and dry conditions, but these are as good as sneakers in mud.

    3) The US issue boots are a totally different boot than the china made crap they pawn off to civs and the CF ( look at the Oakley site. Those boots are Berry Compliant (US made) and feature vibram treads amonst other features. They sell the "made offshore" version that we get next to the US vers...different boot, way different quality, same name.

  5. Anon 2 here again, BTW a co-worker ordered the Oakley Assault shoe...these were really unimpressive in terms of look and form, Merrell makes some great hiker/shoes with great features for less than $100 that would be better suited to the role of "Assault Shoe"...whatever that is exactly?