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Preview – Sole Survivors – Summer Footwear Face-Off for Shooters

Photography by Jorge Nuñez and Patrick Vuong

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.

Preview   Sole Survivors   Summer Footwear Face Off for Shooters photo

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.

Preview   Sole Survivors   Summer Footwear Face Off for Shooters photo

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.

Preview   Sole Survivors   Summer Footwear Face Off for Shooters photo

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.

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