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There are 3 critical factors about footwear to remember. The footwear that you choose will help you or hurt you in a survival situation. Footwear is one of the standard pieces of gear that transcend wilderness or urban survival scenarios. In a previous article, there was a discussion on how to maintain and care for your feet was the focus. However, footwear, itself will be the topic of this article. I will not discuss a particular brand or style. Yet, the following factors for choosing and wearing footwear will help you decide on the other concerns. Let us see what the critical factors are to consider regarding your shoes.

Proper Fit

Properly fitting footwear is critical for the health of your feet. It is also essential for ensuring your survival in an emergency situation. The purpose of a shoe fluences its design. The fit of the shoe also will reflect how they fit your foot. For example, a running shoe will fit your foot different than a tactical military boot. Therefore, ensuring a proper fit of your footwear should be an essential aspect of what you purchase. There are two keys to remember about finding proper fitting footwear: your foot size and your foot arch.

Foot Size

The length and width of your feet can be easily measured with a device called a Brannock Device. The Brannock Device is the measuring tool that the salesman uses at your local shoe store. However, these measuring devices are available to the general public for purchase. The Brannock Device Company offers instructions on the proper measurement of your feet and the use of their equipment. Moreover, it is essential to know the length and width of your feet when choosing footwear.

 

Some will advise purchasing outdoor footwear that is ½ to a full foot size larger than your actual foot measurement. You should be careful about this technique. Others may recommend buying an equivalent female shoe if you are a male and cannot find footwear in your size. It could cause your feet to get tore up in a long term wilderness survival situation. Remember that outdoor footwear will feel snug and stiff on your feet when new. However, over time, the shoe material will get wet, dry, hot, cold, and muddy. As a result, the outdoor environment causes the shoe material to stretch and become pliable. Afterward, your feet will begin to move and slip within the footwear. Consequently, your feet will develop blisters, hammer toe, and other foot problems. These are problems you want to reduce or avoid in a field environment.

Foot Arch

Another aspect of footwear that is essential to a proper fit is your foot arch. The Brannock device will help measure your foot arch using the heal-to-ball of the foot technique. The technique is useful for finding the beginning and end of your arch. However, arch height is critical also to a properly fitting shoe or boot. Is your arch high, flat, or normal? The arch of your foot will influence if you need arch support insert (orthotics). Some footwear companies make orthotic inserts for their shoes or boots. Thus, your feet and ankles will become fatigued very quickly if you have not accounted for your foot arch type, even if the foot or shoe fits properly in length and width.

 

 

Break Them In

Another critical factor about footwear is breaking them in. Hiking shoes or boots will fit snug when you try them on in the store. However, after a few days or weeks in the field, they will become loose on your feet. There are many techniques for breaking in new outdoor footwear. Military or tactical boots that are mostly leather, such as the jungle boots by Altama®, require some effort to break-in. By contrast, commercial hiking shoes or boots made of a combination of materials, just wearing them for a couple of days or weeks as your primary footwear will break them in.

Another factor concerning breaking in the hiking boot is whether it has a Gore-Tex® liner. When you try Gore-Tex® boots on, your feet feel very snug in them. However, over time that “padded” feeling tends to lessen with the use of the boot. There are several reasons for this. First, Gore-Tex® does not have an extensively long lifecycle. Second, the principal material in Gore-Tex, latex, will lose its elasticity and other properties over time. Additionally, improper care of Gore-Tex shoes or boots will hasten this process.

Proper Maintenance

Another thing to be mindful of about footwear is adequate maintenance. All-leather boots require much more diligence in keeping them maintained than Teflon material boots. Gore-Tex lined footwear should be air dried.

Cleaning Non-Leather Footwear

You do this by removing all of the laces and folding out the tongue to open up the boot to as much air as possible. If you have a 5 to 8-inch tall boot, then you will need to try to fold down the top of the boot if it is flexible enough. Otherwise, just leave it as is. With Teflon or Teflon/Suede combination material, you can use a stiff, but a flexible brush to clean the outside. If your Teflon boots have a Gore-Tex liner, then you can wash them in clean, cold water and let them air dry on your porch or in your washroom.

Cleaning Leather Footwear

In caring for all-leather boots (not suede), you can wash them in luke-warm water with mild dish soap on the outside. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to clean off any excessive dirt. Let them air dry as described above for the Gore-Tex lined boots. You will notice after a while that your leather boots will have some white, chalky residue appearing on the surface of the boot. Do not be alarmed, this is some of the leather salts coming to the surface after being wet.

After the boots have dried, you can take saddle soap and clean off the white chalky stuff. Rub the saddle soap into the leather very thoroughly, this includes the boot tongue and seams. After using the saddle soap, you can wipe the boot down with a damp cloth to get the excess saddle soap off. Let the boot sit for a couple of hours or for a day or two to let the soap work its way into the leather.

When this process is complete, you can apply the boot polish or, in some cases, mink oil, as a way of waterproofing the boot. However, I have found if your boot leather is not waterproofed already with oils, like the Matterhorn Boot, then a boot polish is the first layer of defense in keeping the leather in top condition. You do not have to polish the boot to a high sheen, put the boot polish is critical in preventing the boot leather from deteriorating. So do not ignore its importance.

Final Observations

Footwear is a fun and exciting topic to discuss. Additionally, there two other considerations related to footwear that influence how they fit your feet: socks and lacing. Proper lacing and proper socks are essential to keeping your feet healthy when wearing your footwear. Remember when it comes to boots and the things related to your shoes, what works for you is what is best for you.

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