Footwear in Survival Situations
We all have our favorites. Different foot widths and toe lengths lead us to various top brands. Preferences in how we step and where we like to get outdoors makes for different choices, too. Some of us sleep in combat boots while others feel put out to have to bother with socks at all. But one thing we all agree on is you aren’t ready for a nasty situation if you don’t have the best possible grip you can from durable, hard rubber soles, which wrap up, over, and around all those big and little toes.
Hold Brands Accountable
One frustrating thing we’ve discovered over decades of abusing our shoes on any and all terrain is that brands sometimes go through changes of their own. We all have stories of at last settling on our one great shoe, only to find that the third or fourth time we buy a pair, all of a sudden it’s letting water in after only a month of reasonably light hiking. Or it’s not even being manufactured anymore, and the old stock is all gone. Plus shoe companies sometimes change their materials. They’re always trying to innovate and occasionally that can mean a wrong decision. They’re often getting bought out, and their manufacturing facilities relocate, with a whole new set of quality controls. That said, some trusted brands have proven themselves over the long haul, and they’re definitely worth trying.
The other bit of good news is that whether you go into a well-stocked gear outlet or order online, you have the option to put them on and see how they feel.
First tip: they should feel absolutely incredible from the very first step. None of this, “If it’s a little hard and makes your feet ache, that’s okay in the beginning. Just means they’re tough and will last longer once you break them in.” Nuh-uh. Not anymore. We’re not talking about slippery soled cowboy boots, although they certainly have their merits in several circumstances.
Put on a thin liner sock. We don’t always, every single day of our lives, wear them, but when we don’t we shed a soft, quiet little lonely tear, when nobody’s looking. Because they’re that comfortable, all day and all night long.
The Happiest Most Shameful Place on Earth
Which hearkens to the time one of our people thought he could get away with wearing crocs to take his family to Disneyland.
We won’t name him, but his shame is very real, and permanent.
The kids ran him around all day and then wanted to go back for fireworks at night. By midnight of day-one the skin at the front of one of his big toes had already started to crack. The next morning, while his wife took the little hooligans on their first ride, he snuck off to an outdoor store in Anaheim. The liners he bought were made of silk, the thick, breathable, hiking socks were similar to wool, except a blend of modern fabrics that didn’t smell when damp and wicked moisture away even better, and the low top hiking shoes with added sole inserts were so good on his feet he could tell the minute he had them on that they would break in on the fly just fine.
The crocs went in the trash can, and the only saving grace is he admitted this all later, as a cautionary tale for the rest of us, and for you. But we still call him ‘Crocs.’
As he tells it, even with the damage already begun to his feet, and even with brand new shoes that hadn’t been broken in, his feet logged another three-and-a-half days (and nights) at Disneyland, and by the end of that second day alone, the split on his toe was already getting better, in spite of all the action. It was ninety degrees in the sun, and his feet felt cooler inside their special hiking socks and all those layers of hi-tech breathable materials than they had in that soft, sad, laughable, blue rubber full of holes.
Be Picky With Your Boots
It’s harder to pick boots. In spite of all the technology that has gone into hiking shoes, once they get up over the ankle there are still those brands that feel a little achy at first, but then break-in after a day and last for ages. The problem with that is it can be hit or miss. Depending on the way your calf muscles work, how thick or thin your bone structure is, and simply the way you move, sometimes even top brands for just the wrong individual never stop aching or biting into that one spot on the shin or calf. So our rule of thumb is that if the shoe does not feel absolutely great in the store, or out of the box, if you have any doubt whatsoever in your mind after walking down the hall and back, try another brand.
We do love great boots, but if we had to pick just one piece of footwear, not knowing anything in advance, we lean toward the lower tops, even though there is less all around protection. It’s mostly a comfort issue, because that relates to attitude and endurance. But the one other thing we have against that tight ankle support is the tendency people have to over-rely on it. Ask any ski instructor. If the boot won’t let the ankle turn, then something else has got to, which means the knee.
Don’t Throw Out The Baby With The Bathwater
Don’t forget about arch support. Most brands put in an extremely comfortable, removable sole insert, but they tend to be so comfortable because they’re a little soft. They wear out faster than the rest of the shoe. So we always buy the inserts you can browse in the same section. They are designed so that you can use a pair of scissors to cut them just right for your shoe, and it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Once you’re walking around with them, they may take that brand new pillowy comfort down just the slightest notch, but they provide added support and last a much longer time, and we don’t buy a new pair of shoes without them.
So be patient. Find the one pair that feels like it was made with your feet in mind. And once you’ve found it, go back to that brand first when you’re ready for a new pair, but make sure to try on a few of the newest options. Technology and innovation continue to work their wonders in footwear, and you don’t want to miss out just because a few years back you bought yourself the most wonderful, bestest, long lasting faithful foot companions you’ve ever had in your life.