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Oakley Steps Into Paintball
by Bill Mills

Oakley is a name well known in skating and other extreme sport circles, especially for their sunglasses, and now they are expanding their scope to include paintball.  Among the products they are now marketing to paintball players are the Teeth shoes and MTB Factory Pilot gloves.

The distinctive tread pattern of the teeth shoe is designed all terrain use, and is a natural fit for paintball – in fact you’ll see them on the feet of top ranked pro team Ground Zero this season.  A row of offset color teeth rings the outside of the vulcanized rubber sole, providing grip on the edges, and following through to the center.  The body of the shoe comes in a variety of materials, all of which are well ventilated so that they don’t trap sweat (or footstink) inside.  They are also luxuriously padded which allows them to be laced up tight, offering maximum support without feeling too restrictive on the feet.  Overall the shoe is surprisingly light for its size and has a contoured insole with arch support that we found to be quite comfortable.

The shoe-shape is a mid-top that cradles around the ankle providing a substantial amount of support and protection against sprained ankles.  The teeth shoe comes in three styles, Big Teeth, Teeth, and Teeth Low, with men’s and women’s styles of each.  While some of the differences are cosmetic, there are also different shapes to the collar of the shoe affecting the fit between the collar and the ankle.  This is an area where test-fitting at the store can find the best match between shoe and foot. tried out the Teeth Low and Big Teeth versions.

Testing the shoe for review meant trying it out in a number of environments and activities, seeing how it handled the situations.

  • Concept Fields – Dirt and Grass - The tread proved more than adequate for the terrain, which wasn’t much of a challenge, and the level of ankle support had a good balance of protection and flexibility.
  • Woods – Paintball Long Island - Dirt, mud, boulders, branches, and roots – The tread performed very admirably here.  In the dirt it provided traction, but unlike paintball shoes with longer hard plastic cleats, the Oakley Teeth also did very well on hard smooth surfaces like rocks and logs.  All of the contours on the sole are convex, so they did not trap and accumulate mud in the few instances where it was encountered.  For serious woods play the shoe does not give the level of ankle support that many older players are looking for, but is substantial compared to a low topped shoe.
  • All Terrain Jogging – Grass, pavement, dirt, sand, soil – This is where the light weigh and ergonomic internal shape come to life.  Sprinting, jogging, fast turns – no problem.
  • Motocross – Trail riding on the Spacecoast of Florida – Dirt, sand, grass, and moto-x pegs – Again the versatility of the tread worked well.  It provided traction on the ground, but rode well on the motorcycle [editor’s note: ever tried to ride with paintball cleats? I did that once at a tournament – never again].  The shoe lacks the shin protection and heavy ankle support needed for hardcore riding, but it is definitely well suited to casual trail riding.
  • Urban – Escorting a youth group to Star Wars Episode II, and an afternoon at Universal’s Islands of Adventure - pure concrete -  Sure, on hard surfaces they work well – but this is more about style.  Available in a variety of colors they look good as a casual shoe [editor’s note: This was of course while they were clean and pristine – before we mucked them up in Long Island]
Also in Oakly’s lineup are their MTB Factory Pilot gloves.  They are made of a variety of materials, and get style points that put them on par with any of the gloves in paintball today.  Higher friction grip pads in the palms are countered with web material that vents them for comfort.  The index and middle fingers include rubber like beads which give grip on either the frame or the trigger.  Like most gloves in the sport, they feature a hook and loop closure in the back. 

What really sets them apart is the carbon fiber knuckle protector.  It is serious protection for the knuckles.  While this may appeal to the casual paintballer who is looking for the maximum protection from injury or welts, it’s a definite downside for the tournament player as it provides a hard surface for paint to break, as opposed to the soft armor used on most paintball gloves that will promote bounces, keeping the player in the game.  For fit, the gloves performed well, gripping paintguns, and motorcycle grips – and the carbon fiber armor proved excellent for trail riding through brush and brambles [editor’s note – we skipped the theme park for the gloves as they would look kind of goofy there.]

Paintball is a huge sport, and as it is rapidly gaining attention in the extreme sports world, these offerings from Oakley are likely to be the first of many crossovers giving paintball players more choices in their gear.

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