It is vital to keep your feet healthy at all times when outdoors. Survival, bushcraft, and outdoor activities require healthy feet. The U. S. Army gives important instruction to soldiers on the proper care of feet. The U. S. Army field manual, FM 21-18 Foot Marches, offers excellent advice on taking care of your feet. There are three basic principles to remember to keep your feet healthy at all times.

1. Properly Fitting Footwear

Your footwear must fit properly if you wish to keep your feet healthy. It goes without saying that poorly fitting footwear is a menace to healthy feet. Footwear that is too tight or too loose will deteriorate foot health very quickly. Outdoorsmen with the most significant experience are prone to blisters, corns, stress fractures, and hammer toes from wrong footwear in the field. Many extreme athletes become sidelined very quickly by significant foot injuries due to wrong shoes or boots. There are some simple tips to remember about getting the correct footwear for your feet.

Proper Size and Breaking In

Before purchasing footwear, get your feet measured by a professional while wearing your outdoor socks. It will ensure purchasing boots or shoes that are the proper size. Commercial footwear that is available for outdoors is heavily cushioned and lined with Gore-Tex membranes. Thus, outdoor boots or shoes feel snug when you first put them on. However, after wearing those expensive boots or shoes in the field, they lose their snug fit. Your foot will begin to slide inside causing blisters and sore toes. Break in any footwear before wearing it in the field. You might have to purchase footwear ½ size smaller or larger than your standard size to achieve properly fitting footwear after breaking them in.

The Right Footwear from Reputable Manufacturers

Additionally, purchase the right boot or shoe that is suited to your purposes. For example, a pair of running shoes may not be suitable for an extended trek into the wilderness to hunt game. If you are going on a survival adventure in the wilderness for an extended period of time, purchase footwear designed to be outdoors for long periods of time. Furthermore, it is crucial to buy footwear from reputable manufacturers. Many companies are selling military-type footwear that is both low quality and dangerous to wear in the field. Berry Compliant (USA made) military footwear is available directly from the manufacturers like Altama, Belleville, or Danner. Some other great companies to buy footwear are Salomon, Merrill, Lowa, and La Sportiva. Therefore, spend a little more money and get the right footwear. Your feet will thank you for it.

2. Dry Feet and Dry Socks

A second principle about foot health in the wilderness is to keep your feet clean and dry and to also keep your socks clean, dry and changed regularly. Feet will get wet inside footwear from perspiration. Waterproof boots will accentuate the sweating of feet if you are hiking through the outdoors for long periods of time. Remember that having wet feet is a fact of life in the wilderness. Thus, it is critical to dry your feet regularly along with changing your socks. It is recommended that you carry at least two extra pairs of socks in your backpack at all times. One pair you will wear. The second will stay dry in your pack. Your last ones should be cleaned and drying out. Wet socks can hang on the outside of your backpack while trekking if the weather is allowing it. Otherwise, they might have to dry next to your fire in your bivouac site.

Furthermore, the best socks to wear in the wilderness are merino wool or military wool blend boot socks. Socks made of wool give two critical benefits: quick drying and the promotion of foot respiration. Wool fibers will pull the moisture away from your feet. Moreover, it will help keep your feet warm even if your feet are wet inside your boots. These two qualities of wool allow your feet to breathe inside your footwear. This promotes the circulation of blood to your toes. Thus, keeping your feet and socks dry will help your feet stay healthy in the field.

3. Foot Hygiene

The final principle about caring for your feet in the wilderness is to conduct foot hygiene often. Dirty and unattended feet will fester problems that may hinder your movement in the wilderness or bugging out in an emergency. It is dangerous enough just trekking through the bush while tracking down that big buck. If you add a foot injury into the equation, then life becomes complicated very quickly. Furthermore, if there arises a foot ailment or infection caused by lack of foot cleanliness, then a disaster and medevac situation ensues. Therefore, it is needless to say that those clean feet are critical to a successful experience in the wilderness. You can keep your feet clean by remembering to take care of them when resting during a movement. Here is a simple checklist to help you keep your feet fresh while at rest during movement in the outdoors:

  1. Pull off your footwear and socks. 
  2. Elevate your feet for 10-20 minutes to help reduce swelling from trekking.
  3. Wiggle and spread your toes to let the air blow through them while they are elevated.
  4. Inspect your feet after you have rested them.
  5. Clean your feet with a wet wipe
  6. Apply antifungal foot powder on your feet (top, bottom, and between toes) before putting on your socks and footwear
  7. Put a clean, dry pair of socks on after powdering your feet.

These simple steps for conducting foot hygiene will go a long way to keep your feet healthy while outdoors or bugging out during an emergency.

Conclusion

Your feet are your best friend, or they can be your worst enemy in a critical moment of survival. You do not want your mortality to rise or fall on the condition of your feet. If you take care of your feet in the wilderness, you will enhance your chances of survival in a critical situation. Remember these three simple principles of foot care, and you will have a more enjoyable experience outdoors.

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