Some people like to play paintball wearing running shoes. Some like to play while wearing cleats. Both these options are good if you don't play often, and cleats are actually ideal if you speedball and only intend to play on a small flat field. Unfortunately for cleat wearers, some fields, the one I work at included, don't allow cleats because they have a habit of tearing up the earth they bite into and it's rotten if you have to swap out your shoes and put on your every day footwear which ends up getting dirty with various forms of paintball filth. I think it's safe to say that regardless of the terrain you play on, ankle support is a much desired feature in the footwear you paintball in, be it for milsim or speedball. No one likes it when a rogue tree root sticks out of the ground and makes you roll your ankle when you're dashing along, eyes on the enemy and not on the ground. Paintballer or not, we all know that feeling and it has a habit of ending with us hitting the ground hard and it's not always an easy injury to walk off. Just last year I had a friend take a spill off uneven terrain which put him out of work and play for more than a month. Let me introduce to you a boot with ankle support which I don't think can be beat for the money you pay for it.
|Very good ventilation on the soles to keep your feet cool|
These are the 5.11 Coyote ATAC boots in the 8 inch format and I gotta jump right into some of the really neat features of this boot right away, I'm too excited not to. First and foremost: I love the side zip on the boot. The zipper runs from the top, all the way to near the sole of the boot, and it lets you slide in and out of the boot with ease, even when it's fully tightened up.
Cool feature number 2: The sole of the boot itself is amazing. It's a comfortable one but after extended wear you may wish to replace it once it's compacted from enough abuse. What makes it so fantastical in my mind is it's the best anti-bacterial sole I've ever used, even after a year of wearing these, there's no noticeable foot smell from them in my entry foyer.
Cool feature number 3: one way vents along the sides of the boot. When you take a step with these boots on, your foot moving around in the boot causes some air to be pushed out. Not a whole heck of a lot can sneak back in and that which does helps to keep your feet at a nice temperature. Water isn't likely to get in through here so a short dash through a creek or a walk through a dewy environment is possible while still keeping your feet dry. The boots are also pretty good for a couple of hours in the snow, but after about 4 your feet are going to start getting damp even if you've applied copious water-proofing.
Last two cool things: the boots have small pouches on the outside which 5.11 says is ideal for “hand cuff keys or a small pocket knife,” whether you need either of these on the paintball field is questionable but it's a nice spot to stash a Leatherman or some O-rings for on the go, and the last thing, almost not worth mentioning for paintball, is the really neat treads around the toe of the boot. It's a V shaped pattern for those times when you need to vault a chain link fence real fast, You can tell that a lot of effort went into the design, they really pulled out all the stops on this 130$ boot.
|For when you just have to vault that chain link fence|
Holy cow, all that talk so far and not a mention of fit or comfort. Good news, the 5.11 ATACs have that too. They come in a broad variety of sizes including wide ones and I'd have to recommend getting a pair that's half a size too small and suffering through the early wear stage. This will break them in to the ideal size for your foot. In regards to wide sizes of the boot, I wear a wide size and it fits me like a glove (or boot?). The widest point of my foot is just shy of 4.5 inches across so if your foot is in that ball park then wide is what you should order. As for the ankle support thanks to the 8 inch height, it's fantastic. The boots have a nice firm upper portion which will keep your ankle in an upright position without restricting the ability to flex your leg forward, such as when crouching. These boots were great for a full season of reffing and playing paintball on rocky, shaley, uneven mountain terrain and I even took to wearing them off the field in my day to day errands as well; once you try that ankle support out it's hard to go back to wearing whimpy little Sketchers! Not to mention the boots are pretty stylish when poking out under a pair of jeans. The boots are very light too, and 5.11 is definitely not lieing when they say it was built off a running shoe platform. I've shown these boots to several friends and they have been very surprised by the light weight; these really beat running around the field in a pair of old steel toe work boots.
|Small side pocket for a a knife of handcuff key,|
you can insert it all the way in, it's located just below the top
I have just one complaint about these boots. Story time first: By some stroke of luck I have ended up with two really good pairs of these after A: I ordered a new pair to replace my old ones and B: 5.11 offered to replace the old boots free of charge as a product honouring thing which was great. Product wear and tear is supposed to happen though, so why did they so willingly replace them? The boots' heels wore out after less than 6 months. Part of the problem here was me on account of my placing new insoles over top of the old ones. I guess this caused there to be friction where friction shouldn't be, but in the end this made the boot heel wear out quicker than it should. Alas, I'm working my way through pair number 2 which doesn't have my silly added pair insoles installed on top of the existing ones and there's already some wear in the same area of the heel of these boots. I slowed the wear by removing the sole, and laying a strip of duct tape along the foot and up the heel area, then reinstalling the sole to make the friction occur against my sock and the duct tape and not the fabric in the heel of the boot. ADDENDUM: Pair 2 has just recently died on me here in July of 2011, so that's 2 pairs in just over 1 year. I dragged the life of these ones out well beyond where I should have and the heel wore so badly that it created a hole where my foot could slide into, but not slide out of making removal super difficult. 5.11 has suggested that people purchase a pair of boots one or one half size small to create a better fit and remedy this. That's what I tried to do with pair number 2 but they still died on me. No one else who visits the local tactical shop has had this problem once, let alone twice like I have, so it must be user error or my own mutant feet. I might not wear many more pairs of these boots but I still don't hesitate to recommend them because they are So. Damn. Comfy.
The 5.11 ATAC 8 inch boot is a brilliant system overall, and I know 5.11 is constantly taking suggestions from owners of their gear for ideas to improve the design. They actually asked me to send them my worn out boots for the them to inspect and keep documents about on hand for future design reference, that's good customer support right there, very cool! Sure, my first pair wore out after 6-ish months but I'd say that I'm partly to blame for that; 6 months is probably the minimum life span of the boot and even if that's all you get out of them that's still 180 paintball days! If you need some proper quality footwear for paintball (or even hiking and day to day life) and don't mind the 130$ price tag these are an excellent pair of boots that you can't go wrong with. Unless 5.11 followed these up with something better, I can see myself wearing pairs of the 8 inch ATACs for awhile.