Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oakley SI Assault Boot Review Update - Boot Week

Back in June I reviewed the Oakley SI Assault Boots here on Grey Ops. In a nutshell, I remarked how the boots were extremely light and comfortable, but pricey and probably not that sturdy. Since then, I've had the opportunity to wear both the black leather and tan suede versions many times, and want to provide an update on them.

First off, I want to go over the good points about this footwear. These boots look great, are as light as a cross-training shoe, and require absolutely no break-in time. But their best feature is their EXTREME comfort. They literally feel like wearing SLIPPERS on the job and on the field, and I've jokingly referred to them several times as "a couples retreat for the feet".

That said, they do have their problems. A Grey Ops reader mentioned some in the comments section of the original review, and I'll quote from his comments to highlight some points.

"I find them VERY hot compared to my Wellco and Danner hot weather boots. These do not vent or disipate heat well at all."

I have no experience wearing hot weather boots, however I don't find the boots that warm at all. Certainly my feet have sweat worse in the Vipers, and definitely in a pair of Danner Telson GTX (probably due to the GORE-TEX lining).

"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".

This is true, however I don't feel that an ICB is needed for playing paintball. Unless you're constantly playing on gravel or very rocky ground (which wouldn't make for a very hot paintball field), a steel shank only adds needless weight in a game where you need to move fast and be light on your feet. Although I can see how an actual infantryman would need them if he had to carry 150 pounds of equipment on him...or maybe 150 pounds of bodyfat.

Under such circumstances, the immense weight would cave in the midsole in no time, and tactical boots like the Oakleys just wouldn't cut it. But in my opinion, for Milsim paintball, unless you're playing around the Grand Canyon or in the Rocky Mountains, an ICB is overkill.

"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 stitched, so waiting to see how they hold up."

I haven't had any issues in mud (yet), and the soles on mine seem to clean themselves pretty well. However, when the soles of the boots are wet, I slide every now and then on metal surfaces, and when getting in and out of the car (my right foot slides on the plastic flooring in the footwell). And I did notice squeaking on polished floors for a time at first, but as the surface of the soles has worn a bit, the squeaking has diminished.

"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."

I'll post the link to the Oakley U.S. Government Sales site to illustrate this. Note how they highlight "Manufactured in U.S.A." in bright red - is this another way to say "NOT cheap crap"?

"The stitching 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."

I've also had this issue. At the stress point where the foot of the boot meets the ankle portion, two of the eyelets have been pulled out of position, and the leather's been torn. This has happened on both sides of both boots:

Interestingly enough, this has only happened on the black leather version, and not on the desert suede ones. With build quality like this, it's not surprising that Oakley is only standing behind this product for 90 days. I've worn these black boots for a grand total of 160 hours (about 15 shifts), which consisted mostly of driving. I can't imagine what they would look like had I been walking most of that time instead.

In summary, the Oakley SI Assault Boots are extremely light and comfortable, and I'll keep wearing mine until they completely fall apart around my feet. I love the way they feel on my feet, but unfortunately with all of their problems I can't recommend that anyone buy them at the $200 CDN Oakley is selling them for to civilians. Even at $80 through the Oakley Forces Program, I feel they're a bit overpriced - especially when the Vipers can be had for $60 CDN, and in my experience last a lot longer.


  1. Hey,

    I mentioned the steel shank, as aside from offering protection from rock etc, it does add stability to the sole/tread on obsticles and rough terrain..which is on all the fields I play on. While not a feature I would pay extra for, it is standard in 99% of US issue boots...even the $30 surplus wellco's.

    The US versions must be Berry Compliant - a US law that states gov issue must be made in the USA with materials made in the USA - so they have to meet strict guidelines, not the case in the Chinese version...they can cut corners as they wish and it shows.

    My boots failed in a different part than yours, the stiching between the inner and outer parts failed at the eyelet, so the eyelet itself is intact however the boot will eventually unravel on that side if I don't get it restiched. On my boots the metal eyelet is actually on the inside part of the boot not the outside, which is actually a feature I like.

    I disagree that you don't need a combat boot for paintball, ICB's are designed to protect the foot/ankle in rough terrain under aggressive movement..sounds like paintball to me. While you don't "need" it why not have it if the price is right? You can order great boots ( brand new) from the US for $30 or less and shipping if you know where to look.

    My summary would be that the design of these boots have a few great features, but very poor workmanship and materials. Way overpriced for what you get, especially in comparison with other boots.

  2. BTW - hot weather boots ( USGI desert/coolmax) are ideal for paintball - made with very light and breathable material they keep your feet cool and offer the same support protection as a combat boot. They are also pretty light on the feet. If they get wet they dry quickly ( its not like you are in the field for days in wet boots anyways) and in the Fall just put some warm socks on underneath.

    Bradley's Surplus at Fort Drum NY has them ( 2 hrs drive from Ottawa)and Allegheny Surplus Outlet in PA has them too although their shipping is a little high.

  3. Thanks for your continued participation/commenting Anonymous! Nice to know that you're following the site. Now we just need to get a moniker for you, so we referring to you based on your anonymity... care to provide a pseudonym?

  4. I think the civvie/CF version of the Oakley boot can be summed up as a combination of good intentions and poor execution. Oakley wanted to make this a lightweight, comfortable, and durable military boot, but the durable part was unfortunately a check they wrote that the Chinese manufacturer couldn't cash.

    As for the ICBs, I say if you enjoy playing in them and they keep your feet and ankles safe, then by all means keep doing it. However, my experience with combat boots in the Canadian infantry was less than stellar, with the MkIII being a major cause of knee pain and regular blistering at the time. Although the current all-weather GORE-TEX boots out now are an improvement, they could still double as ankle weights. I've never tried any of the US-issue ones so I can't comment on those, but if they're anything like the Canadian ones, they trade comfort for durability and weight.

    With the exception of the Rocky S2V and the Danners, I don't think any of the boots I've reviewed this week would hold up too well to brutal infantry life like an ICB would. But for wearing to a paintball field for 6 hours every week (with only about 2 of those hours or less actually spent playing due to deadbox time, breaks, etc), they'd be more than adequate. So my way of thinking is, sure you could play paintball in ICBs, but why go heavier than "tactical footwear" if you don't have to?

  5. Anon 2 here address Mike's comments, Canadian boots are terrible, I've worn both US and CDN boots for 20 years, and the CDN issue stuff is terrible, porrly made, ill fitting and heavier than current US issue.

    I will tell you that most CDN issue boots would never be issued in the US and a lot of guys I know get waivers to wear US boots on medical grounds as the comfort and support are so much better. Recent US stuff is way better designed and manufactured, with the purpose of being light, rugged and comfortable. On the scale that the US military eats boots, they can also afford to do it a lot cheaper than we can (volume)also is a competitive market for troops buying boots after market (non issued)...just ask Danner/Wellco/Bates etc how much boot sales they do outside of GSA contracts!

    As for the tactical vs ICB debate, my point is that you don't "NEED" and ICB or tactical boots for paintball, there are plenty of other great options...however US ICB's are plentiful, designed for the activity, light weight compared to ICB's of old and best of

    Footwear is a personal choice, I know guys that love to play in sneakers, so be it. But if you are looking for a good boot, and working on a fixed budget for your hobby, ICB's are a great low budget alternative that allow you to reallocate part of your hobby budget to masks/markers/parts/camo/extra play time etc.