The (not so) Lowly Boot

by Erich

I can still see George Washington pictured astride a gallant white horse. Perched on the generals head crouches the tri corner hat. A dark coat with white piping accented by white breeches is finished off with shining leather boots. 

 But let your gaze fall lower, and beneath the general and the wafts of breaths from the steeds flared nostrils, is the scarlet trace of blood on the newly fallen snow. For the Continental army has fallen in short supply of shoes.

Fast forward almost a hundred years and a new set of armies rip up the young country. A new southern general rides atop a white horse. This general has a similar problem, once again the army needs shoes. In Southern Pennsylvania, two great armies clash and the Southern hope begins to fall. 

 Perhaps if you would stretch the facts far enough, one could say the Civil War was won because of sore feet!

Probably most of us who travel in the outdoors have heard of trench foot, that awful bane to the soldiers who failed to mother their feet. 

 As odd as it sounds, one could say if your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t going anywhere or at least no where fast.

 Capitalizing on this truth, businesses abound that offer the glib outdoorsman high priced choices. Glorified sneakers cost you more than a green Franklin. Boots zip, stretch, gel, hook, and shine; but do they work? 

Today I propose a trip into the low underworld of the boot!

The Hobnail. – the Old Trooper

survival bootsIn WWII the German soldier wore the hobnail boot for its tough durability. For years, boots were favored for their ability to be worn not for a season of style, but for years. The nails gave extra endurance.

 Russia also supplied hobnailed style boots, especially to officers. I came across these boots on eBay for about forty dollars. They seem to be made of thick leather. They are probably 70’s Russian boots, but they still bear a hint of the past. I cringe at the thought of marring their bright sheen with snarling thorns or the fists of craggy rocks.  

They remind me of a day when soldiers looked like a crisp, decisive professional. Close cut boots, tight jacket, and a thick Sam Brown style belt cut a smart looking officer. But now comfort has replaced such lofty ideals. 

 Perhaps for the better.

The Hobnobber- Rich trash

boot2If you are serious about your gear, you early on become a tester.

Some years ago, I bought these Bates boots for over a hundred dollars. They were on the store’s free points or I would be even more bitter about the deal. I eagerly took them to work and began breaking them in. 

In a short time, it seemed the tread began to wear and the rubber split. Eventually the side split opened, and I became Doc Backstuffin fixing the rip with a liberal amount of superglue. The superglue seemed to melt the fibers back in place.

I still use the boots, even though the toes are horribly scuffed and they look war battered. Some how I guess, I expected more.  

What I’m trying to tell you is- don’t waste money on names if you can get a good deal on a real boot.  

Hobo Boot-eBay bounty

boot3On another eBay scavenger hunt, I found a “lot” of ten boots. Some I’ve sold. But this pair, I kept. Seemingly military issue, these boots have marched miles over my concrete warehouse floor.

These boots have kicked pallets and thudded against metal carts. They have pivoted on the wood floors of semi’s and squashed along in the rain. And after all that, they hardly look different then when I first saw them. 

 I don’t know what the army did, but a $5 boot has lasted far better for me than a $120 one. I understand that when those leaflets come in the mail about a break thru in foot technology some just feel the addiction to buy, but for me I’ve learned the hard way, you have to be skeptical of what you put your feet in.

Heat or Mud- The Light Giant

boot4Another $5 boot I found was this jungle style boot. Already dog eared when it reached my abode, I eventually gave it a try. I was surprised how comfortable it was and especially by its lightness. 

 So often as survivalists we load ourselves with abundant gear. But this boot seemed just the right balance of tough but light. 

My pair desperately needs replaced, but for a $5 test run, now I am willing to buy a decent pair some day. 

 The advantage of these style boots is their mesh sides. Provided for the military fighting in Vietnam, they were designed so the inevitable rush of water would drain out. These boots are on purpose not waterproof. Their sides are still thick enough to offer fair protection for a long hike.

The High Roller-Mickey Mouse himself!

Sadly, I can give you no picture of the boot that has won my enduring admiration. 

Years ago at a yard sale I spotted the pair. For $0.25, I picked them up. Designed for the air force, these boots are tough rubber with the inside providing a soft gel like feel. I suppose one could label them advanced muck boots. At surplus stores these boots run from $50 to perhaps $100. 

In my eyes, these are the king of hiking boots. Although at first, rather awkward, they swath one’s feet in a tomb of comfort. After several miles and no blisters, the boot becomes more than a purchase. but a dear friend. You don’t have to baby these boots, they will send you safely over rocks and jagged protrusions.

These boots gained the nomenclature “Mickey Mouse boots” because of their obvious blob style. But ugly or not, they really spoil your feet. 

My pair met its demise when a sewer line had to be dug up. At a quarter, these became the martyr for the job. With refuse caked to their sides, I regretfully disposed of such a loyal friend. Now I dream of finding another pair, perhaps my dream will one day materialize.

I used to wonder why a UK based survival magazine always had monthly articles showcasing new boots. Somehow feet gear seemed boring and monotonous. But I have a new appreciation now of how important the choice of a boot is. 

 Find what’s right for you. Try different options and don’t be afraid to come up with a bizarre favorite. Someday you might take a wrong turn and your feet might have to march for hours. It is a good idea to pick out good footwear now, rather than to have it fail when you need it the most!

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Comment by davidjbloom93
2015-11-21 19:43:24

I have become a proponent of GOOD footwear as early as 35 yrs ago. I am constantly searching out quality and affordance and have amassed a selection of boots to cover any instance. From Magnums, Bates RAT, Converse Desert Combat, Vasque Alpines,New Balance. With the winding down of conflicts and troop numbers, EVERY manufacturer has surplus to get rid of. Some Great, some OK.

Comment by Erich
2015-11-22 03:28:28

Good point David. Especially being on the lookout for surplus given the decrease in troop numbers.

Comment by Myke
2015-12-01 05:01:34

As of late I have also been on the prowl for good boots. I have found many at my local thrift store (more so in the fall/winter than in the summer). I have found brand new Danner Gore-tex boots for between $6 and $20. I have found military, used, boots for $6 that are Gore-tex and still have a lot of use left in them. It’s amazing what you can find at these thrift stores. I’m finding 100% Wool sweaters for $4. I recently found a M/R Desert Gore-tex jacket for $12. I’m constantly finding used and New BDU tops and bottoms from between $6 and $8 each. I find M-65 jackets in great condition for $8 to $10 each. I’ve accumulated about 6 Coleman stoves (white gas versions) for between $5 and $15 each (these go new at Wal-mart for $70 to $90. The values are there if you go and look.

Comment by Chuck
2016-02-19 00:15:36

I was a Marine for 28 years, most of that in the infantry. I cannot stress enough the importance of quality, well-fitting boots for taking care of your feet in all different types of terrain and conditions. It’s great if you can find boots for bargain prices, but you get what you pay for, especially with footwear. I would avoid the cheap foreign made knock-offs of military boots. The quality of boots procured by the military in the last ten years is very good. If you can get them at a decent price, they will serve you well. Unless you’re doing urban tactical ops that require good traction on smooth surfaces and non-squeak soles, stay away from the boots that resemble high-top running boots such as Bates, Oakley, etc. They won’t last very long in the woods or on the road. Don’t sacrifice comfort and durability to save a few bucks.

2017-05-14 15:44:40

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