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Editor’s Review: Oakley Light Assault Boots

Way back in… well, I’m not going to say exactly what year, but I enlisted in Uncle Sam’s Army and was issued a pair of combat boots.  Two pair actually and they were of all leather construction with a heavy sole.  They broke in my feet rather than the other way around.  I will never forget the 22 mile march we did near the end of my Military Police Academy that ended with my left heel bleeding pretty well inside that boot.  I admit I was crying tears that were a mix of joy to be finished, and have made it, and pain from that worn out heel. Recently I was offered a pair of Oakley SI Light Assault Boots to evaluate and my first day wearing them was a five mile walk (march).  If I had only had these all those years ago.

Let’s start out with a quick look at the features and construction – some online published material – and then I’ll get into the more subjective report on comfort and performance.

With high durability carbon rubber for serious endurance and an ultralight injection-molded EVA midsole to protect your feet, this Assault Boot will take whatever the job dishes out. SI’s low profile canvas construction ensures breathability while its nylon-coated quick-lace loops eliminate excess friction.

  • Self-cleaning sole; as the boot flexes underfoot, the tread pattern expels mud and dirt. Full gusseted stretch-mesh tongue keeps dirt out while maintaining full breathability.
  • Nylon shank gives the Light Assault Boot torsional rigidity and arch support, while keeping the weight down.
  • Injected molded EVA midsole is built under a secondary cushioning insole board
  • Nylon coated, fast lace loops eliminate scratching
  • Height is 8”
  • 9.2 ounces

Now if you take a look through those features carefully you can see why that last bullet point – a weight of just 9.2 ounces – is attainable.  I admit a little bit of disbelief that the boots were truly “light weight” until I got them.  When I pulled them out of the box I was pretty amazed at just how light they are.  But then my next thought was, “What do they sacrifice to attain such a light weight?” Hmmm…

They have a sole that provides good traction and sheds junk as you go.  It’s not so stiff as to make walking/marching uncomfortable but it’s not running-shoe flexible either.  The tongue presented me a challenge as the ones in my test pair of boots seemed to want to keep curling up on itself; not from the top down but from the sides in. I think this is a side-effect of the stitching along the edge of the tongue that makes the edge more rigid than the body of the tongue itself.  At any rate, the solution was to lace up the boots loosely, make sure the tongue was positioned properly and then tighten up the laces.

The nylon shank provides some protection from punctures to the bottom of the boot and also increases the rigidity.  That’s the difference between these boots and running shoes: the protective shank that doesn’t flex like a running shoe’s pure rubber sole.  That’s also the difference between these boots and many much heavier combat boots: the nylon shank in these is lighter than the steel or other alloy shank that is full length and much stiffer in the combat boots. (As I type this I can just hear people thinking, “Well, that’s COMBAT boots. What about other ASSAULT boots?”  Understand, assault is combat.  The term “assault” as used to describe items of apparel is like using “tactical” to describe any piece of other kit.  It sounds more high speed and contemporary than “combat” so marketing folk prefer to use it.)

The midsole / insole construction makes for a very comfortable foot bed that is just cushiony enough to make longer humps easier on the feet, but not so cushiony as to make foot movement easy thereby increasing the chances of blisters, etc.  The best comparison I could give you is that they feel like a good pair of walking shoes… with more security in the fit.  I’ve seen people try to run in their walking shoes and I’ve also seen them run right OUT of their walking shoes.  These boots won’t come off your feet unless you really work at it.

The 8” nylon upper is exceedingly light weight as compared other nylon, nylon/leather or leather uppers.  The tradeoff is that they don’t, in my opinion, provide as much ankle support and stability as the other heavier (and stiffer) uppers.  Of course, given the conditions that such light weight boots would be worn, the tradeoff is both expected and preferred.

The boots are available in three colors as shown: Black, Coyote Tan and Desert.  My test pair is black and my first wear test of them, as I said, was a five mile walk.  I expected to experience some discomfort as the boots conformed to my feet, or vice versa, but I was pleasantly surprised NOT to experience either one.  The nylon uppers proved pliable enough to conform to the shape of my ankle upon lacing.  Properly laced – snug enough not to move, but not so snug as to squeeze off circulation – the boots proved comfortable and adequately supportive during that first five mile excursion.

Next up was a ten-miler during which I was sure some kind of issue would arise with this still pretty new pair of boots.  No joy; or, should I say, excessive joy.  There were no issues.  The boots proved just as comfortable over ten miles as they did for that first five.  In fact, they’ve proven comfortable enough that I’ve worn them on walks and during plenty of outdoor chores (see the included photos of the boots covered in saw dust from cutting up wood for my woodstove).  I’ve decided to wear these boots around SHOT Show 2015 – which is next week as I type this but going on as this review is published.

Overall, the boots have proven good quality, properly supportive and as protective as they can be given the goal of light weight construction.  If you’re in the market for such, check them out on the Oakley website.  A Google search found them from online retailers as low as $140 which is a reasonable price in the current market and for boots of this quality.

Stay safe!