5 Shoe Styles For Your SHTF Gear List

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 How to pick survival shoeslike 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 to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Proper Footwear Basics

Before I venture into my list of suggested footwear style categories to consider for survival existence regardless of your plan, How to pick survival shoeslet’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.

Also Read: A Basis SHTF Wardrobe

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.

House Slippers

Say what?  I have to be kidding, right?  Not on your life.  Within fifteen minutes of coming in from outside, work, hunting, best survival shoesfishing, 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.

Also Read: Best Boots For Bugging Out

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.

Hiking Boots

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.

Mud Boots

Particularly if you are going to Bug Out especially under wilderness conditions under a tarp or tent out in the wilds, you will Survival Bootswant 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

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17 comments… add one
  • Leon June 18, 2015, 9:19 am

    The best pair of boots is as elusive as that mythical all-around survival knife. Here are some that work for me: http://survivalcommonsense.com/how-to-pick-the-best-pair-of-huntinghiking-bootsfeed/

  • UltimateOrdnance June 18, 2015, 3:51 pm

    Get a good pair of waterproof snake-proof boots and you can eliminate the Cold Weather, Mud, and Hiking categories. If you live in venomous snake country, that’s the only pair you need, and the pair you better be wearing when you bug-out!

    • bamaman September 14, 2015, 4:08 pm

      just bought a new pair of danner snake boots. they are the lace ups but they are twice as light as the lacrosse rubber boots and three times lighter than the leather slip ons. highly recommended.

  • Rob June 18, 2015, 4:56 pm

    I have several pairs in each category, and I’m continually adding to them. Found a nice pair of Sorels at a garage sale this year for $2.00, and a nice pair of Skechers low profile hiking shoes for 50 cents. I also have steel toe boots covered, and Crocs are my indoor and around camp shoe.

  • Codpiece June 19, 2015, 12:09 pm

    Carry 100 feet of black paracord to lace up your battlefield pickups. Not the best stuff for shoes and boots, but it works in a pinch when you have to cut the laces to remove shoes from a bloated corpse.

  • Kidney Healing June 19, 2015, 3:20 pm

    An Inspiring Scenario For Many Who Experience Kidney_Condition https://www.facebook.com/peter.fawler/posts/1634272283468938

  • Pineslayer June 19, 2015, 10:44 pm

    Hey Codpiece, correct and thanks for keeping things fun. Footwear has become a OCD issue around here, luckily they store well in tubs. I really need to hoard and use more lightweight hikers. I live in my combat boots most days and reach for them every hike. There is a saying, ‘ A pound on the feet is like five on your back’. I might need to evolve.

    • Codpiece June 20, 2015, 12:30 am

      Glad you caught the humor. I’m OCD about boots too. Actually CDO.

      (OCD in alphabetical order)

  • irishdutchuncle June 20, 2015, 5:28 am

    if you had to limit yourself to just one pair of shoes,
    what would they be?

    yeh, I have a lot of footwear, myself. I agree with Rob, see above:
    Crocs. my wife bought me a pair, in “real tree” camo. they’re more practical than my slippers, or moccasins. maybe expensive sandals would be better…
    the sandals would be easier to run in than the Crocs. it’s a good idea to have something for your feet, if you need to flee the house, in the middle of the night. I like the idea of Gore-Tex, or neoprene socks for waterproofing my feet, in preference to waterproofing my shoes.

  • Roger June 20, 2015, 3:44 pm

    For me house slippers means barefoot! People who wear foot ware all the time have very soft feet. Ever watch a ‘survival’ show called ‘Naked and Afraid’, after the realization that their naked asses are going to be on television hits them, the next thing most of them realize is that their bare feet hurt! Duh! Cheap tennis shoes are good for everyday, light duty wear, but IMHO lace-up leather boots with composite toes (steel toes are cold in winter) are best most of the time. I prefer Herman Survivor boots but to each his own. Don’t forget to wear a size larger to allow you to use a second pair of socks in cold weather.
    Waterproof boots just make my feet sweat in warm/hot weather so I keep a pair of military chemical overboots (three sizes larger) rolled up in my backpack to put onto the leather boots when crossing wet areas and/or just the chem boots if crossing deep water. I used to cross streams barefoot until I stepped on a broken-bottle bottom mid-stream, thank the Budda (or whoever) for duct tape; only way to keep the bandage on, still have the scar many years later. Quote the Raven “Never More”! Good Luck!

    • Anonymous August 11, 2015, 11:55 am

      Buddha, really ? What did Buddha ever do for me? This is America we believe in God and His son Jesus, who died for me and you. We don’t worship idols made by human hands. The Ten Commandments say : thou shalt have no other gods before me (I.e.-the one true God).

      • ohio e.m.t. September 19, 2015, 9:37 pm

        Lighten up. Not everyone has the same belief as you. I’m an ordained minister… and when I hear believers belittle anyone else for their own beliefs… It saddens me. Remember the first amendment and then remind yourself that you have that right due to a forward thinking deist named Jefferson and an atheist named Madison.

        • Echo December 8, 2015, 10:49 pm

          thank you for your reply to Anonymous. you made my heart smile!

  • Anonymous June 23, 2015, 10:24 am

    SHTF slippers? I think we know how long this guy will last.

  • BamaMan July 9, 2015, 5:10 pm

    if you like a traditional leather boot (upland bird hunter boot) then Filson makes a pair that are unbeatable, except for the price!

  • ohio e.m.t. September 19, 2015, 9:38 pm

    Lighten up. Not everyone has the same belief as you. I’m an ordained minister… and when I hear believers belittle anyone else for their own beliefs… It saddens me. Remember the first amendment and then remind yourself that you have that right due to a forward thinking deist named Jefferson and an atheist named Madison.

  • TPSnodgrass January 16, 2018, 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the stroll down Memory Lane, I grew up wearing Chuck Taylor LOW black Converse. Was the uniform footwear grow8ng up. As I beat them up and got new ones, the old ones were re-purposed into fishing/wading shoes. Worked well back then.
    Now, I like my feet comfortable in sturdy Old Man Comfort boots and shoes. (Not a brand, just what I call them)


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