Shoes Are Tools
And just like any other tool, in order to determine the best one for a situation, you first have to define the needs you're filling. Above all else, prepper footwear needs to be comfortable, support the foot and ankle, and protect the foot from injury.
- Wandering around in a tame environment, a standard sneaker is one of the most comfortable shoes out there. Unfortunately, the soles are fairly soft, and there is no support for the ankle and only minimal protection for the foot itself. They're awesome on flat, stable ground if you've got it.
- For a plethora of personal reasons, I detest sandals. The only real use I have for them is around swimming pools and other bodies of water. My wife assures me that ladies' high heels are about as functional, swapping dress environments for bodies of water.
- This brings us to my preferred footwear: boots. Boots can be had in a wide range of styles and materials, adapting them to an amazing number of roles.
|My personal boots. L-R: work boots, hiking boots, and dress boots.|
Boots, Boots, Boots
The picture of my boots illustrates the range that boots can occupy. There are far too many brands and styles of boot to make specific recommendations, so instead we'll look at the features to look for in boots for various tasks.
I like my boots to have a solid sole with a defined heel. I also like them to have a bold, luggy tread pattern for increased traction. A solid sole also keeps sharp objects from penetrating and injuring the foot. Soles that are listed as "slip resistant" are a good starting point.
I like all my boots to be waterproof, because wet feet are disasters in the making and waterproofing is easy protection. Waterproofing does needs to be reapplied as it wears out, though; you'll notice it wearing out because your feet will get wet where they used to stay dry. Fortunately, sporting goods stores will have waterproofing treatments in their shoe department, and they can even be used to waterproof boots that didn't come that way from the factory.
I like my boots made of leather. I've owned boots with vents made of some manner of synthetic material, and boots with full fabric uppers, and while they weren't horrible, they didn't hold up as well as leather does. For the weight and the cost, I've yet to find a material as good for boots. My work and hiking boots are a rougher finish, contrasted with my dress boots that are finished in such a way that they take a polish easily.
Unless I have a specific need for it, I tend to avoid insulated boots for daily wear. They're awesome when the weather is cold and nasty, but your feet sweat horribly when it's hot outside. Instead of having a pair of boots for cold days and one for hot days, I buy uninsulated boots and wear heavy wool socks when the weather is questionable.
There are a host of other features to look for in boots.
- I like a composite toe on my work boots, as a concession to the concern that steel and aluminum are conductive and I'd rather not get shocked. My non-work boots don't have any kind of reinforced toe, because that protection really isn't all that comfortable.
- I also like my boots with laces instead of slip-on, but that is a matter of preference, and a problem finding slip-on boots that fit my feet and calves.
- I also lean toward a 6" or 8" boot instead of a lower top. This provides much more ankle support, as well as protection from bushes and scrub, and small animal bites.
Consider the needs you expect to face day-to-day. Prioritize those needs to help you streamline your decisions. With a bit of practice, boot selection becomes fairly simple, and you can pick the tools that will support and protect your feet -- and therefore your body -- all day long.