The (not so) Lowly Boot
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
In 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
If 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
On 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
Another $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!
- Posted in Gear