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Why Special Forces Operators Wear Sneakers as Tactical Shoes

Photo credit: Viktos

Who remembers in the mid-2000s when Converse All-Stars had a comeback? Perhaps this is why: Special forces operators in the US military—Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and more—choose sneakers instead of boots for tactical shoes.

Why? Wouldn’t it make sense for heavy duty work to require heavy duty tactical shoes? Not necessarily.

A flat-footed sneaker doesn’t sound like footwear that would beat an outdoor boot with plenty of traction.  But surprisingly, Chucks are excellent land-and-sea shoes. They grip the terrain well, especially in wet and sandy conditions. And the sneakers fit easily into a pair of fins, so for operators conducting amphibious warfare, there’s no need to change into a different shoe once you hit the beach. Useful for when every second counts.

altama maritime assault boots

The minimalist design of the shoe also makes it easy to feel the terrain through the sole. For operators doing work at night, it’s advantageous to always know what kind of ground is under you, especially when you’re not able to see it clearly. Whether it’s wet grass, the rungs of a ladder, or a boat deck, every step gives you confidence of where you are.

Try out Tactical Shoes on Your Next Op

Speaking of maritime ops, these sneakers dry off quickly after they get wet. The tactical footwear brand Altama took this one step further, putting dual drainage ports on their OTB Maritime Assault Boots. With every step, the wearer physically pushes water out of the drainage ports. Plus, with a nylon exterior—even the laces—it’s a shoe that dries even quicker than standard canvas. In other words, Altama boots made a better Converse sneaker than Converse.

altama maritime assault boot.
A closer look at the starboard drainage port on the Altama Maritime Assault Boot.

There’s also the Overbeach Shoe from VIKTOs, a light and nimble amphibious shoe designed to quickly move from water to dry land. Inspired by skate shoes, the outsole is especially grippy, making the Overbeach ideal for sure-footed drills at the gun range.

Sneakers like this are also incredibly easy to pack. Everyone knows a sturdy pair of combat boots take up an insane amount of space in a rucksack. But with sneakers, just crush them down and enjoy the extra space in your deployment bag.

Viktos Overbeach Tactical Shoes
The grippy, versatile Overbeach Tactical Shoe by Viktos is built for combat.

A pair of sneakers probably won’t pass inspection, but come on, no one can remember a time when special forces cared about uniform standards. (Especially the bearded ones with overdeveloped egos who’ve seen Black Hawk Down too many times.)

Sneakers aren’t recommended for long patrols. They’re completely flat, have zero arch support, and aren’t suitable for mountainous terrain. But if you’re the kind of warrior tasked with lightning-fast, get-in/get-out missions, consider a pair of tactical shoes for yourself. You can even bring a pair for the hostage you’re rescuing.

Want a pair of your own? More tactical shoes available here.