An often-neglected consideration for practical shooting is the choice of footwear. Two key events have shaped my decisions in this area. First, in my early days of USPSA we had a practice during mud season that involved the need to retreat from one shooting box to another. I was wearing hiking boots that had moderate tread but were somewhat worn. The result was that on planting my pivot foot it went right out from under me. I fell ungraciously, rolled and wound up pointing the gun all over the sky, undoubtedly past the 180 plane. My solution ultimately was to wear football cleats.
My local sporting goods store had the excellent and inexpensive Adidas Corner Blitz and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They offer deep cleats, are comfortable and offer fantastic support and breathability. Other team members have adopted them also to very good effect. For sand, mud, and any other warm-weather surface I think they are a great solution. I’m sure other companies have similar offerings but these have been so good I’ve never looked back. Even wearing them all day has been a pleasure.
The second event that shaped my current choices occurred at a winter match. I was wearing insulated boots that had aggressive tread and were very warm. Our northern Vermont club holds matches year-round and it gets down to single digits routinely at the start of matches. Unfortunately we also get a lot of snow and ice, which creates big challenges for stage construction but that’s another story. At this match there was a stage that required moving around a low wall which unfortunately had a sheet of ice under it. As I was moving around the wall I tried to plant and turn which resulted in falling face first onto the ice with a loaded pistol in my hand. Luckily there were no safety issues, i.e., breaking 180, muzzle sweep or worst of all, an accidental discharge. I slowly regained my footing and continued shooting the stage, albeit slowly. Obviously I needed to find a solution. The result was that I started wearing Yaktrax Pro traction devices over my boots. These are now an indispensable part of my winter kit. There are other solutions that use different designs but these work nicely for me.
Then in 2013 I started shooting IDPA, which I now consider a fundamental part of my competition experience. However with IDPA’s emphasis on real-world equipment they do not allow cleats of any kind. Of course as with any “game”, people will use whatever equipment is within the rules to gain competitive advantage and IDPA is no different. While my football cleats are not allowed, “trail running shoes” are as well as a host of other shoes that are functionally similar to cleats. The solution for me was the excellent Merrell Moab mid-top hiking shoe. These light yet sturdy hikers are made with a generous amount of mesh and padding, making them very comfortable even standing all day during the height of summer. While the tread isn’t quite as aggressive as the cleats, it is better than most hikers and works well for IDPA. As with the previous solutions I have mentioned, there are certainly comparable offerings from other manufacturers but for me these are an excellent solution.
In addition to shoes, boots, and traction aids, it is worth mentioning that that proper socks can make or break the footwear experience. I really like wicking fiber socks and for winter a good wool/polypropylene blend is hard to beat. Lastly, I will also say that I love having sandals for the ride home. After a long match day it feels great to let those tired dogs have a rest. 😉