Comfortable support, a grippy all-terrain tread, and total sealing from the elements. As a do-it-all range, work, or hiker goes, the new A/T Mid Waterproof from 5.11 is tough to beat.

by Rob Reaser

Footwear is one of those items that I look upon as tools for specific applications. It is no different than the hard tools that fill my gun chests — a tool for each purpose.

My wife has often asked, “Why do you have so many boots?”

Oh, let me count the ways!

There is, though, some consistency to my madness. My daily wear for probably the last 30 years has been some form of hiker or mid-boot. In my earlier career as an off-roading auto journalist, mid-boots were part-and-parcel of the lifestyle. Living in the country also demands practical footwear because I’m always trekking uphill or downhill, in the woods, or somehow encountering on a daily basis the kind of terrain where sneakers dare not tread.

As a purveyor of outdoor and firearms content, mid-boots and hikers continue to be essential tools of the trade. So, I’ve become a bit particular (demanding?) when it comes to my treads, and I’ve sampled the offerings from most of the leading manufacturers. One manufacturer that has escaped my notice until now is 5.11.

While I still think of 5.11 as a tactical gear brand, younger enthusiasts in the outdoor and shooting segments may look to the company as more of a lifestyle apparel brand. Fair enough. The truth is, 5.11 is both, and manages to straddle that fine line between practical and aspirational.

When we were introduced to the company’s line of new gear and apparel for 2024 at this year’s SHOT show, I was intrigued by some of their new tactical packs but was absolutely drawn to the latest addition to their footwear lineup — the A/T Mid Waterproof Boot.

Among my list of must-have features for a daily wear boot is waterproof construction. Thus, I knew I had to give this one a try and so I quickly put in my order.

I’m always a bit hesitant when donning a fresh pair of mids. That’s because I expect, from past experience, that a solid week of sore ankles will be forthcoming since it takes a little time for me to become used to the pressure of the unfamiliar and typically stiff collars. Time is also required to become accustomed to the new insole and tongue padding. In short, the honeymoon rarely starts off on a good note.

Not so with the A/T.

On the second day of my all-day wear, I anticipated the usual uncomfortableness around the ankles as I laced up the boots. Not this time. These shoes wear like comfortable sneakers from the get-go. The upper and tongue padding is almost plush, making for instant comfort, but not so gushy as to compromise ankle stability.

Because these mids are primarily intended as work or duty foot gear, stability and load mitigation are core to their design. For this, 5.11 started with what it calls the All Terrain Load Assistance System (A.T.L.A.S.). Working from the top of the footbed down, the system begins with an Ortholite insole. This is an open-cell foam insole that is lightweight, compression resistant for long life, and exhibits good breathability and moisture management to keep you cooler and drier than conventional foam insoles.

Positioned beneath the insole is a removeable 5.11 support plate. This adds stiffness to the footbed and is the heart of the A.T.L.A.S. Think of this as a modest rebound spring that both helps maintain foot stability and also provides the proverbial “spring in your step” when the load is heavy and the day has grown long.

Digging further down we find a dual-density mid-sole. The forward portion of the mid-sole features 5.11’s high-rebound Echo foam that further assists the support plate in the “spring” department. Trailing this is the 5.11 Force shock-absorbing foam in the heel area. I find the heel cushioning to be firm enough to prevent sore heels and that dull ache you get after a hard day on equally hard surfaces. A combined interior heel counter and a robust 3D molded rubber outer heel counter add stability and help keep the heel locked firmly in place during rigorous activity.

Moving to the bottom, I must give the A/T Mid a five-star rating because here is where I find most boots failing to meet my standards. These outsoles have some serious grip. The full rubber construction is slip- and oil-resistant — a claim most work boots make but usually fail to back up, in my experience. This isn’t that slick stuff I find on most modern boots. The rubber, instead, has enough pliancy to maintain good friction on smooth surfaces while the sensible, open-lug, multi-directional tread design latches onto the loose stuff and digs into the ground when needed. Uphill, downhill, or sidehill, the A/T is amply surefooted.

The A/T comes with 5.11’s Tac Dry technology. This is a breathable waterproof membrane that is also blood-borne-pathogen resistant. I’m not sure how much the latter will factor into your footwear needs, but there it is.

Helping support the mesh upper construction are welded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) panels. This is some tough stuff that blends seamlessly with the mesh upper and provides the strength for stitching and high stress point areas. The welded construction eliminates irregular surfaces that can lead to abrasion or wear points over time and gives the boots a sleeker overall profile. The offsetting color accent is a welcome design touch.

The boot is offered in four colors: black, dark coyote, ranger green, and umber brown (seen here). Sizes range from 4 to 14 in D or E widths. At a $165 MSRP, it is neither the least nor the most expensive waterproof mid in its category. I find the 5.11 A/T Mid Waterproof Boot to be an approachable buy with a solid performance return on the investment.

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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