Issue 13 Sole Survivors Patrick Vuong 0 COMMENT Summer Footwear Face-Off for Shooters The mercury’s rising, the days are getting longer, and the skirts are getting shorter. It’s time to bust out the summer shooting kit. But that’s not to say you should wear slippers and a bikini to the range (well, unless you’re a model for one of RECOIL’s “Going Hot” photo shoots). In fact, it’s never OK to wear sandals at a shooting range, Kris Sutton says. As co-founder of and firearms instructor at Shoot and Move, LLC, Sutton teaches in balmy northern Florida and has seen students arrive for class in flip-flops. Sutton turns them away unless they change into more sound footwear. “Hot brass ejected from a firearm can land in between their toes or get caught in the wedge of their sandals,” says Sutton, who’s also an experienced police officer. “Not only can it burn them, but it can also present a serious safety hazard.” Muzzle sweeping and negligent discharges are just two dangerous byproducts of an undisciplined shooter doing the hot brass dance. So, something as simple as lacing up a pair of reliable shoes can help ensure range safety. And when everyone feels safe, we can all focus on the real task at hand: turning live ammo into brass. Sole Searching Personal preference is paramount. Don’t let Internet commandos influence your shoe buying. “Selecting footwear must be based on serviceability, not what’s in fashion or is the latest trend,” Sutton warns. That might mean going to a store to try on several models or returning a few pairs if you shop online. The other factor is how you’ll use them and on what terrain. Oxfords are great for board meetings, but not so much for an advanced carbine class. There are as many types of footwear as there are missions, from sneakers to mountaineering boots. And then there’s Sutton’s favorite — hybrids, which combine the look and mobility of athletic shoes with the stability and durability of a boot. To simplify things, we can group footwear for shooting into the following three styles. Low-cut: This broad category covers any models with uppers that end just below the ankle. Low-tops make a natural choice for summer, because they’re lightweight, yet still offer good traction and cushioning. The drawbacks: there’s no ankle support and limited protection against weather and debris. Therefore, they’re best for flat terrain in dry conditions. Mid-cut: Here, the uppers extend above the anklebone and cover the entire foot. The disadvantages (heavier, more material, and not as fashionable) can be outweighed by the boost in armor, ankle support, load capacity, and stability on uneven terrain. High-cut: “High-tops in the scorching heat?” Yes, but many models feature state-of-the-art technology that reduce weight and prevent overheating. After all, these are what our soldiers wear in the 120-degree temps of the Middle East. Hiking, athletic, or tactical boots of this type can help you not only schlepp a lot of gear, but will also shield you from ticks, brush, rain, rocks, and the like. Take heed: They’ll take the longest to break in, and you’ll need to wear high socks to prevent their collars from chaffing your calves. Kick Characteristics Consider the following attributes when picking your warm-weather kicks: Comfort: The rule of thumb is that footwear should fit snug everywhere, but not tight anywhere. Your feet shouldn’t shift while walking, but you should be able to wiggle your toes. The insoles should conform to your arch, and the midsole should provide cushion. Breathability: “A lesson learned from serving in the military and working in law enforcement — all footwear must breathe,” says Sutton, a former U.S. Army Ranger. Sweat-drenched feet can lead to serious issues like blisters and athlete’s foot. Summer shoes should have tiny holes, mesh vents, or breathable uppers. Avoid uppers made of only full-grain leather. Though they offer excellent durability and water resistance, cowhide uppers can be like little saunas in warm weather. If you just can’t live without dead animal skin wrapped around your hooves, stick with split-grain leather, which is often paired with nylon to reduce the weight and increase breathability. Durability: Whether used for shooting drills on dirt or pounding the pavement during a jog, footwear takes a beating during the middle months of the year. Look for pairs from reputable companies with quality construction. Be careful of counterfeits sold online. Despite looking like the real McCoy, these copycats are made of inferior materials that get shredded quickly. Walk Your Path Choosing the right footwear for sunny days goes beyond color coordinating with your chest rig — wearing the right type of boot is as vital to your safety as using proper eye and ear protection. So, in these pages we take a closer look at summer footwear that could perform well at the range. Because shoes are so personal, we’ve included a range of styles. There are trainers for the CrossFit cultists, military-style boots for the tactical mall ninjas, and hybrid trail-runners for those who value versatility. Regardless of your preferences, there’s sure to be at least a pair or two in this group that strike your fancy or at least give you a better idea of what you might like. Glossary We’ve deciphered the footwear industry’s most commonly used terms so you can better select the right shoes or boots for your summer shooting needs. EVA: Ethyl vinyl acetate is a foam rubber often used to make midsoles because of its stability and cushioning; variations include injection-molded (IMEVA) and compression-molded (CMEVA). Footbed: Synonymous with insole (see below). GTX: An abbreviation of Gore-Tex, which is a windproof and waterproof membrane that’s breathable and used in footwear and outerwear. Insole: The thin material at the bottom of the shoe’s interior where your foot rests; it’s key to a comfortable feel and to moderating the midsole. Midsole: The layer (usually a type of foam) between the insole and the outsole that is arguably the most important part of footwear, as it determines cushioning and shock absorption; sometimes it has stability-control features built in. Outsole: The part that makes contact with the terrain, providing traction and durability; more commonly referred to as just the “sole” of a shoe, boot, or sandal. PU: Polyurethane, a polymer that can be formed into dense foam for use in midsoles and insoles. Rand: A strip of material (usually rubber) that wraps around the shoe where the midsole and upper meet; provides additional protection on tough terrain. TPR: Thermoplastic rubber is used to make outsoles. Upper: The largest portion of a shoe or boot that holds your foot down to the insole. Vibram: An Italian company that makes rubber outsoles for a variety of footwear. 5.11 Tactical Recon Trainer Material: Stretch mesh upper, OrthoLite insole, full-length CMEVA midsole, rubber outsole Color: Black, dark coyote, sage, scope orange, shadow, storm MSRP: $101 URL: www.511tactical.com First Impressions: Though intended for CrossFit, the Recon Trainer seems ideal for summer shooting. Not only are they the lightest of the bunch we tested, these shoes are well ventilated and quite stable laterally, while providing good grip. Plus, the minimalist design appears both fresh and functional; wear them on the range, at the gym, or to a pub. Note: These are low-cut shoes and therefore offer reduced ankle support. Danner Boots Desert TFX G3 Material: Upper made of rough-out leather and 1,000-denier nylon, PU insole, EVA midsole, Vibram Striker Torrent outsole Color: Desert MSRP: $150 URL: www.danner.com First Impressions: These 8-inch tactical boots balance waterproof leather (which doesn’t breathe) with a moisture-wicking mesh lining (which does breathe). They’re smartly designed and good-looking boots that offer protection, stability, and mobility with heat management. Plus, the gusseted tongue provides easy foot entry whilst preventing debris and weather from getting in. Be aware, though, that they’re rugged high-tops, so don’t expect them to be as light as your Chuck Taylors. Use ’em for hardcore activities or daylong (or multiday) adventures. Garmont Tactical T8 Bifida Material: Upper made of suede leather, nylon mesh, and polyester webbing; breathable PU footbed; PP insole; Vibram Bifida outsole Color: Coyote tan, desert sand MSRP: $150 URL: www.garmont.com/en First Impressions: This military-style boot provides serious armor against the elements yet is comfortable and flexible enough to allow for freedom of movement. The insole and midsole provide coziness and shock absorption, and the Vibram outsole assures a solid footing. The tongue is sewn in place to stay put and keep the elements out. Garmont’s made a robust door-kicker that’s fit for any terrain you’ll encounter in the summer. The catch? It won’t win any weight-loss competitions. LOWA Z-6S Material: Split leather/Cordura upper, Climate Control insole, PU Monowrap midsole, Cross Duty outsole Color: Desert MSRP: $285 URL: www.lowaboots.com First Impressions: LOWA is renowned for quality engineering and construction that goes into its trail and hiking footwear, and the Z-6S appears to be no exception. Though a three-season boot, it’ll shine in warm weather — it has perforations for airflow, LOWA’s Climate Control footbed, and a Dri-Lex 3D lining that’s breathable and moisture-wicking. If you can afford them, these multifunction boots shouldn’t disappoint. A heads-up: These are as heavy as some of the 8-inch high-cut boots. Nike SFB Field 6-Inch Material: Canvas upper, Molded EVA insole with PORON pads, Phylon midsole, rubber outsole Color: Black, coyote, sage, tan MSRP: $150 URL: store.nike.com First Impressions: Nike tactical boots? Believe it. Thanks to the ventilated canvas, they also feel like you’re wearing a pair of well-supported Air Max court shoes instead of mid-cut boots. The gusseted tongue won’t slip down while keeping debris out. Oh, and we like that the Swoosh logo isn’t plastered all over the upper. These kicks are a good fit for everything from warm-weather shooting to casual street wear. Oakley SI-6 Material: Upper made of microfiber, breathable Cordura, slash-proof SuperFabric, and more; fiber strobel board insole with PORON; CMEVA midsole; vulcanized rubber outsole Colors: Black, coyote, desert MSRP: $190 URL: www.oakley.com First Impressions: Innovative design meets high-tech materials. The SI-6 has perforations around the collar, a breathable upper construction, and a lightweight chassis inspired by trail-runners. It also has a notch for your Achilles and a fast-rope protection panel for climbing and rappelling. Alert: these Oakleys might take more time breaking in compared to the other high-tops in this group, as our sample pair came out of the box quite stiff. Reebok Dauntless 6-Inch Material: Leather/ballistic nylon upper, removable open-cell insole, EVA midsole, rubber outsole Color: Black, desert tan MSRP: $144 black, $139 desert tan URL: www.reebokwork.com First Impressions: At first glance, we didn’t even realize that these are Reeboks, partly because they look like your standard duty boots and partly because the company kept the branding subtle (an unexpected move by such a well-known sneaker company; one we applaud). To combat the heat, the Dauntless features a relatively lightweight frame, perforations at the mid-foot, a moisture-wicking insole that’s both breathable and removable, and an anti-microbial moisture-wicking lining to balance out the waterproof leather. Its side zipper is also a nice touch, as it makes for not only easy entry and exit, but allows for additional venting without unlacing. Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX Material: Upper made of woven fabric blend, synthetic rubber toe cap, TPU mud guard; OrthoLite insole; dual-density EVA and Energy Cell 2 midsole; Contagrip outsole Colors: Black/pewter and olive/black/moss MSRP: $160 URL: www.salomon.com First Impressions: A quick test explains why Salomon is so popular at gun ranges: It can endure punishment without sacrificing comfort or freedom of movement. The trademark Contagrip outsole has a blend of hardness to balance grip with durability. The OrthoLite insole and asymmetrical lacing system delivers a soft but secure fit. In fact, Salomon’s patented Quicklace dispenses with tying knots altogether and can tighten with one pull. The waterproof Gore-Tex lining allows for breathability — great for shooters in the Southeast who get more rainfall in the summer. Salewa Firetail Evo Material: Upper made of ripstop nylon with framework of PU, footbed made of two thin foam-injected PU insoles (either one can be removed), EVA midsole, rubber outsole Color: Black and citro, moon and red, red and emerald MSRP: $149 URL: www.salewa.us First Impressions: These could very well become our go-to range shoes in warm weather. These hybrids combine the comfort of a sneaker (thanks to the microfiber tongue and Lycra lining) and the well-supported mobility of trail-runners (due to the EVA midsole, customizable footbed, and grippy tread pattern) with the armor of a hiking boot (courtesy of the rubber toe bumper and the Kevlar rand that wraps around where the upper and midsole meet). Also, these low-tops feature an innovative lacing system that tightens a steel cable over the mid-foot and heel to boost stability. The Firetail Evo is high-tech badassery. Under Armour Valsetz Venom Low Tactical Boots Material: Ripstop nylon upper, OrthoLite sock liner, EVA midsole, UA Spine outsole Color: Black MSRP: $110 URL: www.underarmour.com First Impressions: Under Armour was founded to create moisture-wicking apparel that keeps athletes dry and cool, and these low-cut “boots” carry on that lineage. They’re ideal for tactical training during the summer, thanks to a lightweight chassis and a breathable and water-resistant upper. Plus, they’re comfy; wearing these on our hooves felt as natural as sliding on a pair of our favorite socks. The UA Spine outsole is a unique design that’s simultaneously tough and flexible — though very slippery when wet. Use in dry conditions only. Thong Song Let’s be very clear: Never wear sandals or open-toed shoes if you’re going shooting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little tactical while at the beach or a waterpark. Here are a couple of new flip-flops that’ll make you feel operator as funk this summer. Cobian Sawman Signature Sandal Material: EVA top-sole, clear TPR outsole, Kevlar-reinforced toe post Color: Desert camo MSRP: $45 URL: shop.cobianusa.com First Impressions: Sandals don’t get more badass than these. Inspired by Top Shot coach Craig “Sawman” Sawyer (a former Navy SEAL and DEVGRU operator), these bad boys feature military-inspired aesthetics, Cobian’s patented Draino drainage system, and an ergonomic footbed with texture and arch support for superior grip as well as comfort in wet conditions. Part of the proceeds goes to Operation Hawkeye. Freewaters MultiCam Scamp Sandal Material: Therm-a-Rest top-sole, sponge rubber outsole, webbing toe strap Color: Green with MultiCam MSRP: $40 URL: www.skdtac.com First Impressions: Freewaters teamed up with SKD Tactical to offer the first commercial sandal with authentic MultiCam. This version of the Scamp has a waffle-like footbed to create a cushioned yet ventilated feel and its toe strap fe`atures IR-compliant, U.S.-made MultiCam. Also, a percentage of Freewaters’ sales help provide clean drinking water in impoverished areas. Now you can be a tactical ninja at the pier and help those in need, too!