Ask any experienced backpacker or outdoors-man and they will tell you that the single most important piece of equipment is their shoes. Take away his or her knife, tent or jacket and a resourceful person may still find a way to survive but….
Poor footwear limits your ability to move and you lose heat fast through your feet. In some conditions, taking away a man’s boots is a death sentence. Given the new Bushcraft and back to basics revival the casual reader may believe that in the good old days people went by barefoot. This isn’t an accurate estimation.
There´s been archeological discoveries showing the existence of sandals as far as 500,000 BC. While some societies did use to go barefoot, mostly thanks to permissive climate and topography, at the same period other civilizations saw the advantage of proper footwear. The Romansdominated and marched all over the known world using tough hobnailed sandals. They were made of strips of leather reinforced all over with iron nails and studs for added traction and feet protection.
Today, intelligent selection of shoes presents several advantages as well. While most people will go along with what fashion dictates at the time, the modern survivor should have other considerations in mind. I can relate a couple good examples of the advantages provided by proper shoe selection.
During a trip to Spain with my wife and two kids we experienced car problems in the middle of the highway. There was no sidewalk and the only thing we could do was walk along the side of the road between the guardrail and the railway’s fence. This place was roughly two feet across and full of tall grass and junk, everything from cans to broken glass bottles. Having trekking shoes made the little ordeal easier. My wife and oldest son had to advance carefully, and given that had better shoes I could advance with better footing while carrying our youngest child. The strobe in myLED flashlight proved to be a lifesaver when crossing that highway as well, signaling the cars to stop as we crossed.
In the crowded trains of Buenos Aires, having working boots with steel toe protected my feet from the unavoidable stomping by the human mass of commuters that packed into the wagons like sardines in a can. Those same shoes proved to be too much during a hand to hand fighting class and I had to change them so as to spar safely with a partner. Its nice to know that if the need arises, you can kick with a steel toe shoe.
Footwear Requirements for the Modern Survivalist
The shoes you chose should be above all comfortable yet tough so as to tolerate more abuse than common footwear chosen for esthetics purposes alone. Thanks to the broad selection available, its not hard to find something both functional and esthetically pleasing for common casual ware.
Soles should be thick enough to provide adequate insulation as well as being slip resistant. The material surrounding the feet must tolerate a reasonable amount of wear and tear and breathable waterproof layers such as Gore-Tex are preferred.
Cross trainers or hiking shoes would fill these requirements nicely.Columbia, New Balance, Nike, Hi-Tec and Timberland are just some of the better known brands out there that offer such footwear.
I have found that working boots and shoes have some of these traits and more. Usually they will come with oil, slip and electric shock resistant soles, materials that can tolerate chemical spills better, rugged leather construction, steel or reinforced plastic toes and puncture resistant soles. Imagine how useful this could prove to be after all kinds ofdisasters, from earthquakes and tornadoes to terrorist attacks, where debris cover the ground and broken electric cables present a danger all around you. Imagine a 9/11 scenario. You may have to crawl and climb your way through collapsed structures and then walk miles getting away from the potential danger.
While trekking boots and light trekking shoes are good and look nice, I’ve found that safety shoes such as the ones made by Caterpillar give you more resistance and better capabilities for the money. The cheapest models are more functional and better suited for work environment, but in most lines of safety shoes their top of the line offerings will not only be neat looking and well made, but comfortable as well without losing the desirable specifications.
Now you know that there’s more to footwear than just walking comfortably and having rugged looking soles. Look around and find something that fits what you need!