Survival Footwear

Survival, Survival Knife, Survival Rifle, Black powder, Survival Shoes

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….

By FerFal, a special guest post for SurvivalCache.com
Author of “Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse

……without good shoes a person’s chances are significantly reduced.

Caveman Shoes

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 Romans dominated 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.

Survival Shoes

Today, intelligent selection of shoes presents several advantages as well.  While most people will go along with what SHTF Shoesfashion 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 my LED 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 TEOTWAWKI Doomsday Prepper Shoeschosen 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 of disasters, 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!

By Fernando Aguirre (FerFal)

About FerFal’s book:  My book is a Modern Survival Manual based on first hand experience of the 2001 Economic Collapse in Argentina.  In it you will find a variety of subjects that I consider essential if a person wants to be prepared for tougher times:

1. How to prepare your family, yourself, your home and your vehicle

2. How to prepare your finances so that you don’t suffer what millions in my country went through

3. How to prepare your supplies for food shortages and power failures

4. How to correctly fight with a chair, gun, knife, pen or choke with your bare hands if required

5. Most important, how to reach a good awareness level so that you can avoid having to do all that

These are just a few examples of what you will find in this book.  It’s about Attitude, and being a more capable person and get the politically correct wimp out of your system completely.

Photos by:
FerFal
Blaircook

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Instructor April 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Good article but I would have liked to seen some specific suggestions on what boots would be good.

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joseph vickers April 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

try out some altimas you can go for the cheaper boots which will last forever and are about $70 but loose traction as soon as you step in mud. (otherwise excellent boots that have helped me make it up a few mountains on a few continents. or the newer style they have that take almost no time to break in are like walking on air. can't say how long they'll last as I kinda got them to close to the fire and melted them. both boots are great once you break them in. Blackhawk makes a great boot. good for any kind of terrain, and comfortable. unfortunately they fall apart very quickly. belleville makes a decent boot if you're a cheapass, but if you have weak ankles you should go elsewhere for boots.
these are all boots that I've used as an infantryman and have been battle tested in some of the harshest terrain in the world.

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bucklesman May 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I hiked once in steel-toed boots and found them very uncomfortable. The metal covering doesn't give, and makes the boot very inflexible and heavy. They're designed for concrete-floored factories, not rugged, mucky terrain.

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KansasScout May 28, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I own six pair of tactical/ hiking boots. My oldest pair is a reproduction of the WW-2 Type II combat shoe. These are a 6" at the ankle high boon-docker style boot of natural rough-out suede leather. These take on a russet brown coloration once treated with mink-oil for water proofing. These I got whe I did WW-2 reenacting from World War Two Impressions, three other pairs of more tactical type boot are a pair of the issue boot for the Air Forces ABU uniforms. I find these to be painful to wear if you have a high arch and corrisponding instep,

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KansasScout May 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

the other two pairs are a pair of the old black jungle boots with the Panama sole, comfotable when you get a Dr. Shoals workboot or hiking boot insole to replace the mesh issue one, and a pair of all weather desert style combat boots from Bellevelle. The Bellevelles are American made and for me fit great right off the shelf. The next two pairs of field boots I have are a pair of Harley-Davidson 6" high hiking boot style motorcycle boots and a pair of Bates 6" tactical duty boots. I've hiked in all of these through various conditions from, snow, mud, rain, dust, hot, cool, cold, etc. that can be found in eastern and central Kansas. The only two pairs I'm not happy with are the JBs and the ABU steel-toed boots. The JBs because the were from an out sourced contractor and the ABUs because of my instep issue with them.

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KansasScout May 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm

The Bellevelles, the Type II Combats, the H-D hikers, and the Bates tacticals I were just about every week trading off with two pairs of cross-trainers and a pair of sport sandals.

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Guest November 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Red Wings. I spent a few years @ US Steel and a simple pair of heavy duty, leather pull-on metatarsal boots has lived through all sorts of industrial strength calamities and protected my feet from disaster to boot, plus they're warm and comfy – even with my bad leg…

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RealistMe April 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Agree 100%, I’d also like to add that going with durable wool-blend socks instead of cotton can be a life saver. Cotton won’t insulate when wet and doesn’t insulate well when dry. Wool-blend socks on the other hand tend to regulate temperature pretty well, are pretty durable and very comfortable. Just remember you get what you pay for and footwear/socks are an area that one would be well advised in paying more now for something that will last you for a while.

I remember back in my construction days, they guys that had the better footwear always seemed to move faster, easier, were more productive and could work longer, the opposite was true of the guys that cheaped out.

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its_exit April 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I agree with both previous posts. I would have liked to have seen some more detail in the article. Specifically, different boots recommended for different occasions. Socks can be just as important as the shoe. You don't want to have wet feet in cotton socks because insulation goes out the window. I also think its a good point to add that it may be advantageous to get certain boots a half size larger to accommodate for 2 layers of socks.

Before this article came out I was already looking for some good hiking boots. I've tried on some Merrells but wasn't impressed by the fit for the price. After recently completing a 14 mile hike, I decided I need some boots that could take a beating but didn't make my feet feel like they had been through one. I have yet to make a purchase and I am still researching for the right boot. It would have been nice to see some more specific suggestions. Feel free to comment on hiking boot suggestions.

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Michael April 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

For actual hiking you want hiking boots not work boots, work boots are made for standing in, hiking boots are made for walking with weight on your back. Some folks have issues with walking long distances with steel toed boots; I've never tried it.

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Instructor April 7, 2012 at 4:47 am

There is a newer safety toe that uses fiberglass or some other type of polymer material that is lighter and does not conduct electricity or cold.

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its_exit April 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Oh I know that.

They're much too heavy and the probability of actually needing steel toe out in the wilderness is pretty low.

I was curious more as to if a particular shoe was excellent for long distance, slope climbing, etc.

I suppose I'm on the wrong website to be expecting that much detail about hiking boots.

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joseph vickers April 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

my altimas have been awesome for long distance slope climbing. its like a saw cutting up the mountain. they don't do so hot when its muddy out but most boots don't. A lot of guys in my unit are using Asolos, but I'm finding my much cheaper altimas are doing just as well. plus it offers a little more ankle support.

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jb April 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm

U really need to try them on for at least 20 min in store and take ur time. I would recommend my personal fav north face Jannu II. Or Asolo boots. I’ve seen both go 50 miles/day Literally right out of the box. They are expensive. But u may have luck at department of goods.com. eastern mountain sports (ems). Or sierra trading post . Still I would try them on locally, then search online for best price

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TOMMY May 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

WELLCO (AFGAN) HIKERS…..239.00 BUT WORTH EVERY DIME OF IT.

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TOMMY May 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm

WELLCO WATERPROOF MILITARY HIKER (AFGHAN) WITH GORE TEX $235 FROM US.CAV….GREAT BOOTS !!!

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Dan April 13, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Solomon Quest 4D GTX for around $215.00. They are rugged, light, and have tons of ankle support. I know some of the upper tier military units use these, but they don't look military, and they come in various colors.

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socalocalypse April 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Why are there no timestamps or dates for the article? I dont know if this was written last night or last year.

I went hiking in street boots, which was a horrible mistake. I switched to some mil surplus goretex air force boots. I wish I'd gotten them in a regular and not wide, but if you cinch them tight you get good support, even with regular socks.

From the hiking forums I've read, it looks like getting proper inserts is really important, and that commonly you have to get some to get the proper fit.

A lot of people don't seem to like their boots, regardless of the money spent.

These were $60 delivered and make my daily work boots feel sloppy in comparison. They've got a vibram sole and the goretex really does breathe, amazing stuff, although sometimes I wish Id' gotten the hot weather ones instead. Just because I don't know what I'm missing.

I tried on some regular old jungle boots. Only as a last resort would I wear those.

I keep these in my trunk with my bob.

I have to be honest, it does chap my hide to think of having to spend another $30 on 'green' inserts or something that 'all' the hikers use, but I suppose I'll suck it up and do it in the end. Supposedly they give you an arch support made of hard plastic covered in foam and people rave about them.

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Joe May 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

You never say what brand you paid $60 for. I like goretex and vibram soles in my footwear.

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Fran April 6, 2012 at 10:59 am

Timberland Pro boots. Composit (not steel) toed. http://www.timberlandpro.com I dont think you can do better for form, functionality, comfort, ruggedness and style.

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Buds April 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Buy a well used pair of combat boots($20)and you will be able to go all day & all night.

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tapuz12 April 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Good article. I have a pair of Danner quarry that work just fine. Lighter than my combat boots and they didn't have any steel toes in them.

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Adam April 7, 2012 at 7:15 am

I think the reason he did not give specific boot recommendations is because people have different feet. I searched for over 6 months before buying my hiking boots. I have heard good things about many different brands, but they did not fit my feet right. Each person is different. I highly recommend going to someplace like REI, Gander Mountain or Cabelas to look at their boots and try them on, walk around in them a little. REI has an excellent return policy, don't know about Cabelas or Gander Mountain. Do some research, take your time and make the right decision for your feet.

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jb April 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm

If u believe that u get what u pay for, then I will give u the top 5 hiking boots of all time. 5 any boot from Zamberlan. 4 Vasque Sundowners. 3 Solomon Quest. 2 Asolo -any of there boots will do. #1. North Face Jannu II gtx. If u have ever had a better hiking boot with better engineered ortho’s, u should do your homework. This is a big part of my job. They are all well over $150. Comfortable feet are the most important tool any one could EVER have.

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Agree with Adam April 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Footwear expert here (2+ decades w/ several retailers and one manufacturer)

I agree entirely with everything Adam says above. Read it again and give it much respect.

Different feet + different needs = different recommendations

No footwear is the best: there are many great options and there are many more poor ones.

Price does not always indicate quality, so don't avoid the mid priced options but imho you always get what you pay for when you buy cheap footwear.

Only you are able to determine what is best for you.

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zig zag April 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Like all your gear, footwear is largely dependent on terrain and environment. In extreme cold, steel-toed boots will cause your toes to freeze. In extreme wet environments, like the Pacific Northwest Coast, water-proofing is important. In extreme hot climates, your feet need to breathe… etc. Overall I agree with those who posted that general purpose combat boots are the best deal both in price and durability.

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Ben228 April 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I picked up a pair of desert tactical boots with composit toes and shanks. I have worn them almost daily for 8 months and except the stains and such they’re doing fine. Picked them up from U.S. Calvary for around $110 and another $15 for some Dr.Scholl’s and I have been fine. Worn them in 100 degree desert and 1″ an hour rain and up in the mountain snow. Zero complaints from my feet.

Totally agree about the socks comments.

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Ben228 April 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Did a brand check. They are Rockports.

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SurvingJerry April 14, 2012 at 7:39 am

ok, I'll go ahead and say his name,,,
Cody Lundin :)

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wesp22 April 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Keen makes some fine footwear. I used to wear Merrel hiking boots but have found the Keens last longer.

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Jerry April 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

A good pair of broken in combat boots. After 21 years in the Army using them everywhere. you can walk a long way with them and do hand to hand too if needed. they can take a lot of punishment, you can also take some wet weather boots and put over them if needed, and that helps with insulation too. I have done 12 mile road marches with the over boots on in the winter with no problems. Just make sure you have extra socks and powder and change them during your trek. this will keep your feet healthy

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jasoncookies April 24, 2012 at 6:08 am

I agree. I wear my composite toe boots everywhere, much lighter than steel-toe

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clark April 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I disagree with this: "For actual hiking you want hiking boots not work boots"
My work boots (Redwings) are just as good as my hiking boots. My Redwings may even be better because they last Much longer.

Also, Dr.Scholl's bites, they are really really terrible, imho. I've found leather insoles to be far superior. YMMV?

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tony April 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I agree with Clark's post about Redwing boots. They have any kind of lace boot you could desire,…steel toe, non steel toe, short, tall, numerous sole types/characteristics and all are very durable. I'm 61 years young this year and I have peripheral neuropathy in mey feet. Look up that definition; its too complex to describe here, suffice to say I must have good footwear. I have worn a pair of Redwing workboots without steel toe for about five years now for yardwork, hunting and exercise. It is a copy of the standard, steel toe, tall work boot that Redwing has sold forever and it has that good sturdy, leather construction that it soooo appreciated. Neatsfoot oil every 6 months or so after water washing (fan dry) is all I do to maintain them. 3 miles a day, 4 times a week for 5 years + around 3,000 miles rounded and they have miles to go before I would consider replacing them. My exercise is on grass I will admit but still thats quite a few miles on a pair.

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Raymond August 3, 2012 at 5:56 am

Try a pair of whites boots my friend. you will never go back to redwings. http://www.whitesboots.com. I work in the oil and gas industry. These are hands down the best boots going.

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T.R. May 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

They make several good low top work boots that are comfortable and rugged without the "platform " sole . That would be my choice . That or the new design surplus combat boots if your on a budget . I'll post the brand of C. boots to avoid as soon as I look it up because one manufacturer was bad , the soldiers were complaining that they were falling apart in the extreme heat , when they switched manufactures , the problems stopped .

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Travis May 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I find that those fabric loop eyelets tear. I look for mid hikers with regular eyelets. I currently have a pair of Keen's, and they are great.

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aleks May 9, 2012 at 12:14 am

Anyone ever think about using Vibram 5 fingers? Thinking of taking my new pair on my camping trip coming up soon.

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TOMMY May 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

ID LIKE TO THINK IV BEEN TO HELL AND BACK….HEARD NOBOY HERE MENTION wellco..matterhorn..bates..brownings.. people YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. IF BOOTS DONT COST AT LEAST 100.
00 THEYRE GONNA KILL YOU. I DID HEAR ONE SMART GUY MENTION COTTON SOX…SOMETIMES GRANDPAS DRESS SOX WILL SERVER YOU BETTER UNTIL ITS GETS WET OR COLD. DO YOURE HOMEWORK PEOPLE. IF YA WANNA RUN TO WAL MART AND BUY YOUR BRAHMAS YOULL BUY FIVE OR SX PAR BEFORE I PASS OU ON THE ROADSIDE WITH MY WELLCO OR MATERHORNS.

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ADRskew July 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

In the long run IMO it comes down to what you are comfortable in since I wear composite military boots everyday and I am on my feet all day I am comfortable in them on noneskid to sand, snow and mud. But 9 years in boondockers will do that to you.

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Raymond August 3, 2012 at 6:01 am

Try whites boots folks. they are a custom boot, but well worth the effort and price. I've tried danner, redwing, vasque, and a bunch more. i'm on my feet 10-14 hours a day. These are the best I've worn! been wearing them for 12 years now. will never put anything else on my feet. Dress, work, casual. it doesnt matter. whites boots will not let you down

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chainman1379 October 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

i agree you get what you pay for and everybody is not the same ..for everyday wear my wife wears the reebok freestyles from back in the 80's laceup and 2 velcro straps at the top great ankle support and extremely light weight i wear the newbalance all terrain series for boots i currently am useing the cabelas iron ridge full leather boots and she wears cold weather combat boots with woolblend socks ..

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blind_redneck March 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Wich ones are better slip on or tie on boots? I have been getting $40 work boots from walmart, and they last twos – three years before I need to get new boots.

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Willow June 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

Something I’ve noticed is lacking in the article is the hunting boot/snake proof boot. I actually own a pair of rocky prolite snake boots and they’re very comfortable for long hikes. Breaking them in was painful because I had to buy a men’s size and it wasn’t a perfect fit, my heels slipped until I got an insole. However, in areas that have many poisonous snakes, or if you have to hike through any sort of tall grass or brush these would be a life and leg saver. I can say they’ve saved me from quite a few nasty gashes and two diamondbacks.

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clinique dentaire July 18, 2013 at 6:25 am

wow i really need those pair, i really do

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Justin December 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm

VC fought us in sandals made out of tires. Romans as mentioned used sandals. Vikings used something similar to sandals, paired with wool socks in freezing temps. Samurai fought in sandals made from straw. They paired them with wool tabi socks in freezing temp. We have become weak and reliant on technology. Boots deform ones toes, trap sweat, create trench foot, and lower proprioceptive capabilities. I trek in huaraches. If it is freezing I put on 3 tabi socks. two layers of wool with an outer fleece layer. Boots are no good.

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Roger January 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I prefer jungle-boot-style foot ware with canvas sides and composite/steel toe, mostly for comfort. I usually wear cotton/wool blend socks since any sock when wet will stay wet until removed and dried. For colder/snowy times, I add canvas mukluks (with waterproofing) as an overboot so if I'm going into a heated structure such as workplace, store, etc. for any length of time I can remove them but still have boots on. A pair of heavy socks or felt can be worn between the jungle boot and the mukluks for extra warmth if needed. I try to walk bare-foot at least part-time in fair weather no matter the season because otherwise your feet will be soft and if forced to walk bare-foot SHTF or otherwise, you'll be in trouble! Finally, I suggest that learning to make your own foot ware could be a very important skill to learn, SHTF or not!

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