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Product Review: Oakley's S.I. Assault Boot

Military boots step over to law enforcement

Plenty of products have been created specifically for a niche demographic that perfectly match the needs of another. For instance, hikers originally sported tactical pants, and look who's wearing them now — cops, FBI agents and paramedics.

The same can be said for Oakley military boots.

Originally developed for the U.S. Military for short-duration missions, the boots have since been altered and perfected through past eight years into ideal duty footwear. In its latest form, the S.I. Assault Boot combines the qualities of both a hardcore boot and a lightweight athletic shoe. Despite its military roots, the current design is geared toward long-term durability and civilian use.

"We have a huge following in the law enforcement community," said Troy McMullen, Oakley's head of product creation for footwear, military and motorsports. "But the look has to be acceptable to their command. Some agencies think it's too combative or ninja-ish. Others love that look and aesthetic."

The fourth-generation boot is offered in 6-inch or 8-inch style in black or desert. While it certainly has been tweaked here and there, the boot's sneaker-like appearance has undergone little cosmetic alterations. One major difference from the first-generation boot released in 2002 is the amount of squeaky noises produced on a wet surface.

"We spent countless hours and an immense amount of money developing an outsole that has a traction profile allowing you to go over all sorts of terrain but has a reduced sound signature," McMullen explained. "Literally we were out there with microphones down at people's feet to determine which tread pattern was the quietest and the sneakiest."

The assault boot uses a three-layer system of urethane that McMullen compares to shock absorbers in a car. This system provides additional cushioning and durability. Other features include a gusseted tongue to keep out debris and a vulcanized rubber sole, which compared to natural rubber is said to be more abrasion resistant. The boot is also ergonomically built to keep you steady while carrying a heavy load.

Oakley makes both an import and USA-made version of the boot. Manufactured in Asia, the import boot is carried by most retailers for between $175 and $185, MSRP. Currently the USA, Berry Compliant boot is only available on Oakley's official site for military and government sales, usstandardissue.com, at an unspecified price.

"The fact that it's been adopted for a wider range of use including law enforcement hasn't changed its name or its original purpose," McMullen said. "We're are an unrepentant supporter of military and law enforcement. We don't shy away from the fact that our stuff is used by men to do very serious jobs."

Looking ahead, Oakley will launch a new boot in early 2011. At the request from Special Forces units, the manufacturer is returning to the sneaker boot, McMullen said. Its unofficial code name is LF, or Lite Fast, and features include a puncture-proof bottom, a fast-rope channel outsole as well as an asymmetrical upper for fast-rope use.

"It's a very lightweight, well-cushioned boot," McMullen explained. "The features that we've developed for the military do not preclude it from law enforcement use, especially for SWAT — they also do fast-rope insertion too in major cities."

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