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When it comes to the best footwear for a paintball session, there’s no definitive right answer, and the shoe you choose will depend on quite a few variables. For example, the shoes required for a fast-paced game of speedball will be vastly different from those suitable for long woodsball matches in potentially muddy, treacherous conditions.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more popular options.
Combat boots are the most obvious choice, and they’re favored by many. Their rugged, durable construction makes them the perfect choice for a sport that is, after all, military themed! Combat boots are an excellent choice for most forms of paintball, and their tough exterior won’t be damaged during even the most rigorous matches. They tend to lace up well above the ankle, too, which helps prevents sprains and ankle rolls.
These shoes really excel during woodsball matches. Combat boots are usually made of leather, which is waterproof, and the durable exterior is more than a match for woodland. Moreover, the boots often have steel-capped tips, so if you happen to stub your toe against a stray root, you’ll barely feel it. For woodsball, they'll pair beautifully with a camo coverall like the Maddog Tactical.
If all this makes combat boots sound like the perfect footwear for paintball, there are a few caveats you should keep in mind. For a start, combat boots are very heavy. They’ll slow you down, and if you’re wearing them for long periods of time, they’ll tire you out. While they do offer a lot of protection, they’re not at all conducive to agility. The lace-up style hinders easy movement and makes quick changes of direction more difficult. In short, combat boots offer a lot of protection, but that comes at the expense of speed and dexterity.
One of the big advantages of paintball cleats is that they’re designed specifically with paintball in mind! They come with spikes along the outer sole (similar to soccer and football boots), which are excellent for fast-paced matches that involve a lot of running. Paintball cleats provide great traction and will help to prevent trips and falls. They’re also useful if you know you’re going to be performing a lot of twists and turns, and they generally help players be a little more dexterous.
They come in high or low-top variants, so you can choose depending on your style of play. The Exalt Trx, for example, are designed with pure speed in mind. Their low-cut design and flexible sole make them exceptionally agile, and the spike layout provides great control. Paintball cleats are overwhelmingly popular in tournaments, and they’re favored by professionals who need freedom of movement and grip.
If you’re looking for serious tournament footwear, paintball cleats are probably the way to go.
Not everybody wants to compete at a professional level, and for many, paintball is simply an enjoyable hobby with friends. In that case, running shoes could be for you. These are certainly the most comfortable option on the list as running shoes increasingly opt for heavily cushioned or even gel soles. Other advantages include speed, flexibility and, of course, the fact that these shoes are usually very light.
They won’t offer the same level of protection as combat boots or the traction of paintball cleats, but they are comfortable and you will be able to move fairly quickly in them. If you’re considering running shoes, there are a few things to think about. High ankle support will give you some added protection, but lower-cut shoes will enable you to move more easily. Similarly, some running shoes have toe cleats, which will give you a little more grip.
Generally speaking, these are comfortable shoes that strike a balance between flexibility, traction and protection. They don’t excel in any of those areas specifically, but if you’re a purely casual player, you'll likely appreciate a little more comfort!
Hiking boots are becoming increasingly popular for paintballers. Think of them as a lighter and more flexible alternative to the full combat boot. They’re a little more breathable and a lot lighter but still offer protection during more rugged woodsball matches. Athletic cleats are a good alternative to paintball cleats, too. While they don’t offer quite the same level of intense traction and aren’t designed with the varied movements of paintball in mind, they’re usually cheaper and more commonly available.
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