Survival shoes? Really? You bet. I mean after all had you intended to run around the woods at your Bug Out locale in bare feet like a Hobbit? I didn’t think so. Even if you Bug In, you still need decent footwear for the durability and comfort of everyday task completions. Anybody that works on their feet knows the value of good shoes not only at work but once the day is over, too. Whether it’s military, law enforcement, construction, factory work, or any other trade requiring you to stand or walk all or most of the day, then quality shoes are a top commodity. The same goes for all outdoors people from lumbermen, commercial fishermen, ranchers, farmers, hunters, and yes, survivalists as well.
By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author
Proper Footwear Basics
Before I venture into my list of suggested footwear style categories to consider for survival existence regardless of your plan, let’s talk some common sense basics. Obviously any kind of shoe you put on your feet have to fit properly. So, in your lifetime how many pairs of shoes, boots, tennis bop arounds or other footwear have you bought that in pretty short order found their way to the back of the closet? Well, go look in your closet now at the shoes you no longer wear. I bet they don’t fit.
Admittedly it is sometimes disappointing to buy any kind of footwear at a retail shoe source or on line and then discover several months later they rub here or there or are already falling apart after the first time they got really soaking wet. I’d like to be able to make the easy recommendation to buy a quality brand shoe or boot, but then that is getting more difficult, too. Product names with assumed quality are no guarantee anymore, but I will name some that are. Just be careful what you buy.
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First, have your feet measured. Remember when they used to do that? If you need wide shoes or boots like I do, then do yourself a favor and buy another size wider to be sure. Five years ago I wore the standard 11D. Now I buy some shoes in 11.5 or 12 up to widths of 4E. Feet change over time, too especially as you get older.
If you have any doubt about a shoe or boot fitting, try the next size up and use thicker socks if that is what it takes. You don’t want your heels slipping out of the back of the footwear, but you don’t want them rubbing anywhere on your feet either. If you are buying boots for hiking, working, hunting, or such, make sure the soles are sewn onto the upper construction of the shoe. Every boot that I have used in which the soles were glued on has come apart in time. Don’t be fooled by fake stitches on foot bed soles either. Sometimes those are just molded plastic and won’t last.
In terms of shoe materials, everybody has their favorites. I buy only leather in hunting-outdoor boots that are lace up. I buy rubber or synthetic bottoms with neoprene uppers for water wading and mud boots. For athletic shoes we are limited to various forms of nylons or other synthetics often with plastic or “rubberized” soles. If in doubt, don’t ask the “Big Box Shoe Salesperson” that worked in automotive yesterday, but ask around to your family, friends, or other contacts what brands, types, styles, and materials have given them good service. If you buy cheap, you get cheap. So here is my suggested list of the types or styles of shoes or boots you will need for serious survival scenarios. I am sure you have other suggestions, too. Occasionally I will honestly mention brand names, because I paid for them and they work.
Say what? I have to be kidding, right? Not on your life. Within fifteen minutes of coming in from outside, work, hunting, fishing, shopping, yard work, shooting at the range, or patrolling my Bug Out perimeters, my boots or shoes are off and my comfy house shoes are on. House shoes need some durability so forget cloth soles of any kind. Get house slippers with leather soles, rubber soles, or at least a durable plastic that can be worn outside to grab some firewood, or walk to the mailbox even in rain or snow.
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For over ten years I have exclusively worn house slippers from L.L.Bean. Each pair lasts me about 2 years, but I keep a back up new in the box at all times. I buy the Hand Sewn Slippers-Fleece Lined. The uppers are nice durable leather and the soles are a gum rubber that wrap up to a sewn edge to the upper. They cost $40. They also have a flannel lined model and also similar models for women. Slippers will dress your feet in sheer comfort and quickly melt away the drudgeries of the day. Trust me on this one. Bug In or Out, have some good comfortable house shoes.
When I was a kid, these were “tennis” shoes but that terminology has been lost to time. And back then our tennis shoes were almost assuredly Converse high tops, white. These types of footwear are good for everyday wear when conditions are not too nasty. You don’t want to get these shoes wet or muddy, or they can fairly quickly fail. Some brands are better than others, but stick to a known name and know that the mid-range priced ones are just as good as the top end ones some basketball player wears.
I could do without these, as I wear other types as substitutes. Good quality hiking boots are a substantial step up from athletic shoes. Usually made of nylon, leather or rough out suede they should have good gripping soles and well stitched construction. Soft sided hikers made with nylon side panels will leak water. Typically they are lace up so you can adjust the fit somewhat for different types of walking, hiking, working, or climbing conditions. Get a pair that is waterproof so a shallow dip in the creek won’t soak your socks. If your budget for shoes is tight, then I would opt for a good hiking boot over an athletic shoe for everyday wear in a Bug Out environment.
Particularly if you are going to Bug Out especially under wilderness conditions under a tarp or tent out in the wilds, you will want the luxury of a good “mud” boot. I have pair of classic L.L.Bean rubber bottom boots for this, but my main mud boots are made by Muck Boots. I have three pairs of them to date and have my eyes on a fourth. The bottoms are a sort of rubberized thermoplastic with good gripping surfaces, and easy on/off neoprene uppers. Insulated models are available, too. Mud boots can get you into water up to 15 inches or so deep, and mud just as nasty, but these will simply wash off with a hose or in the stream. Good mud boots will find plenty of uses around SHTF camp or the Bug In homestead.
Cold Weather Boots
Get at least one pair of the most durable, best insulated hunting-working-survival boots you can afford. Full leather boots are best and tend to be the most durable over time. Brands I own and use include Schnee, LaCrosse (insulated leather), and Browning (inspect models closely). The Schnee Boots out of Bozeman, Montana with the wool liner inserts and rubber bottoms are the warmest boots I have ever used. I like the aggressive air-bob type soles. Get at least a 12-inch upper. There are other good leather cold weather boots out there, but frankly some of the best known names are cheap Chinese made junk. Also look into Kenetrek, and Danner. If your budget is pinched some, check out the Cabela or Bass Pro Redhead labeled boots.
Ok, that is my list. Others may certainly wish to add or subtract their own choices. I do think though, that if you have at least one pair from each of these styles you should be set to have your survival feet comforted, supported, and protected.
All Photos By Dr. John J. Woods