Proper Footwear For Survivalism

January 13th, 2011   Submitted by Seth King

This sort of injury can be debilitating. Fortunately, it can also be prevented with the proper footwear.

Imagine speeding down the German Autobahn at over one hundred fifty miles per hour in a brand-new Ferrari. The several hundred thousand dollar racing machine is limited only by what you can do with it. Now imagine your car is equipped with a set of bald and unbalanced tires. In this case your safety is in serious jeopardy. This is because the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It matters not how finely tuned the automobile is when the few square inches of rubber it rides on are in disrepair. The same is true when it comes to the few square inches of rubber that protect your feet in a survival situation.

As we’ve discussed before, each individual is likely to either be mobile or stationary in a time of crisis. Whichever your preference the necessity for quality footwear should not be underestimated. It doesn’t matter how many work tools or backpacking supplies you’ve amassed, when things get ugly and you are required to work outdoors or hike twenty miles everyday, you will have made a terrible blunder if you stare down at a pair of fifty dollar tennis shoes on your feet.


Without proper footwear you can easily develop blisters or ankle sprains that will render you completely useless for weeks. In a survival situation that could mean death. Better to find the right type of boots for your survival plan now than to be found wanting later.

As an individual with very limited resources I make sure to balance any survival gear I purchase with practical utility. That is to say I rarely buy gear that I would only use in a worst case scenario. This is because while we can read the writing on the wall, there is no guarantee that the upheaval will be as bad as our imaginations can conjure, or even if it will directly affect us as greatly as those dependent on the current system or living in certain geographical locations. Therefore, I cannot justify spending money on items I may never use. Powdered milk and MRE’s are a couple examples of foodstuffs that preppers like to stockpile despite having virtually no use outside of a survival situation. I do not advocate spending money, time, or space on purchasing products that only serve a purpose if or when the shit hits the fan.

Standard issue combat boots are meant for every scenario, but aren't optimized for hiking or outdoor labor.

This is why I will be focusing on the process of purchasing either hiking or work boots. And while I understand that military grade combat boots are universal in times of war, they simply make poor hiking or utility boots for peaceful scenarios. On the other hand both hiking and work boots can suffice in combat scenarios.

I think it is safe to say that government will not be abolished in one brilliant campaign, or protest, or money-bomb. And being an anarchist activist is not just about being anti-government. It is a lifestyle choice. The government dies a little each time an individual chooses free and open source software over proprietary software or each time one encrypts their email and anonymizes their web traffic. Each time one chooses to engage in a healthy outdoor activity over spectating corporate entertainment the state loses a little bit of revenue and subsequently a little bit of demand for corporate health care.

Survivalism isn’t just about preparing for pending doom. It’s about better enjoying the here and now in such a way that better prepares one for social, political and financial storms. Buying combat boots that you’ll likely never wear is the result of misplaced priorities. Buying hiking and work boots that will be used for outdoor adventure and home improvement is an investment in not only your present but also your future.


After you have determined which survival tactic you would most likely adopt in a crises you can purchase the proper type of boots accordingly. Hiking boots lend themselves to mobility as work boots are better suited for the stationary.

There are a few nuances of purchasing boots that must be respected. Failure to do so could result in a foot-care disaster. It is for this reason that I highly recommend purchasing footwear in person and never online.

It is very important to make sure that you get the exact size of boot correct. It will likely not be the same size as your other shoes. In order to properly determine your boot size you must wear the required socks. Let me repeat that you must wear the required socks. This means that when you go shopping for your boots you should make sure to wear the exact types of socks for trying them on as you would for actual use. If you do not do this you will not be able to properly gauge the size of the boot to purchase because you will be wearing the wrong thickness of socks.

Hiking boots offer ankle support and plenty of tread for traction and comfort.

For hiking boots you will always wear two pairs of socks at the same time. Remember that many people make poor decisions when it comes to proper foot care and will not practice this sound advice, so do not feel weird for doing the right thing. When it comes to hiking socks be sure to avoid cotton like the plague. It retains moisture, causes terrible friction and poorly insulates the feet against extreme temperatures. Be sure to wear thin, wicking socks that touch the skin. This will prevent moisture buildup and help to prevent blisters. The second layer of sock should be a thick wool. The two layers of socks will increase cushioning, prevent blisters and allow for greater thermal regulation in times of extreme temperatures.

Understand that thick wool socks are to be worn even when temperatures are very high. Your feet will not overheat or cause overheating of the body. If you remove your wool socks you will no longer be wearing the correctly sized boot which will cause ankle insecurity as well as blisters. Having your boot correctly sized for two layers of socks, including a woolen layer, will allow you to switch to a heavier wool sock in extremely cold temperatures without sacrificing the comfort of your boots. It is best to wear short wool socks in the summer time but to also possess full length medium and heavy duty wool socks for deep winter. Remember to wear both layers of socks when trying on your new boots.

The next step is to find the right type of hiking boots. Many people wear hiking shoes on the trail. Under no circumstances do I recommend relying on hiking shoes in a survival situation, nor do I recommend them even for casual day and overnight backpacking trips. They are tempting because they are so lightweight and easy to put on and remove but they offer absolutely no ankle support and will devastate your feet if you are carrying significant weight on your shoulders. Be sure to find quality waterproof boots that cover your ankles and is designed for carrying heavy loads.

Knowing how to get the correct boot length is every bit as important as every other step. I suggest purchasing your new hiking boots from your local REI. They have lifetime money back guarantees, good products, knowledgeable and enthusiastic employees, and strong rebates for members, which I recommend becoming. But aside from that, they usually have an inclined phony rock to walk up near the boots section. That rock isn’t just for show. After you’ve put on both of your boots, not just one, walk up and down that phony rock. It will tell you whether or not you are wearing properly sized boots. If you find that your heel rises up from the back of the boot at all during ascent then you know you are wearing too large of a size. And if you find that your toes are touching the front of the boot on descent then you are wearing too small of a size. It is paramount that you find a pair of boots that neither allows your heel to rise up in the back nor press on your toes in the front during incline. Failure to wear correctly sized boots will spell disaster for your feet. If you purchase the right type of boot, correctly sized, and with proper socks, your new footwear should feel as if it is an extension of your body, requiring very little breaking in.

I recommend Red Wings 10" Logger Boots. A good pair, with proper care, should last you the rest of your life.

For work boots I recommend finding a local boot store. It doesn’t need to be corporate if you take my advice on the type of boots to purchase, as you’ll likely need to order it from the factory anyways. The purpose of going in is to make sure that professionals help fit you with the right sized boot. Most people nowadays wear short work boots that barely cover the ankle. But I find that logger boots that extend well beyond the ankle offer the best protection and comfort. Logger boots protect much more of the leg for people who use chainsaws or have to weed eat in rattlesnake country. Pant legs can even be tucked in to better protect against ticks, mud and water. And if the worst case scenario does arise you can easily engage in combat in these boots. But be sure to wear the proper socks when trying them on at the store. You’ll only be wearing one pair of socks for work boots but they’ll run you around ten dollars per pair. They’ll be a lot thicker and longer than your standard fifty cent pair of everyday socks, but they’ll protect you from blisters. Remember to always avoid the blisters.

Following these steps should make you very happy with your new pair of boots. If you already own the right type of boots for your survival scenario, congratulations. You don’t need to spend any money this month. But for those of you lacking proper survival footwear I strongly encourage you to procure them as soon as possible. In survival situations many things can be improvised, such as food, water, and shelter. Footwear, however, is one item you do not want to improvise. If your footwear lets you down it could easily remove you from the game. Don’t let that happen.

Your new boots should also encourage you to spend more time outdoors. Perhaps you’ll only go hiking or do serious outdoor labor one-half dozen times per year. But even if that is the case, the bright side is that your new boots will make your time outdoors more pleasurable. They will also be there for you in times of emergency, and they’ll likely last you the rest of your life.

9 Responses to “Proper Footwear For Survivalism”

  1. JustSayNoToStatismNo Gravatar says:

    I like the survivalism series. Continue it.

  2. CitiZenPeteNo Gravatar says:

    SK: Thanks for the post. Having just gone through the purchase of some boots myself I can relate to the trials and tribulations. It literally took me over 3 months to acquire boots that matched my wants and size.

    I am the kind of guy who keeps boots and shoes pretty clean and I am not afraid to polish them. So, one of my last favorite pair of boots were originally purchased over 30 years ago when I was in High School. Believe it or not the soles of these hikers were never replaced (good ol’ Vibram soles). Unfortunately, I destroyed them on a 2 day job I got myself into demolishing a automated steel storage structure on a concrete warehouse floor. My 30 year old boots disintegrated apart on the inside under the padded insert and the steel shanks came loose. I wanted to have a funeral for them, but my wife told me to heave them into the bin. I did, but not before a personal boot moment in the garage, thanking them for great times in the Grand Canyon, Mountains of Virginia, etc. 🙁

    My other pair of boots that I loved were flat rubber bottomed steel toe boots made by a division of Red Wing called WORX. These were extremely comfortable and good fitting boots for concrete floors. I got a job working on an outage for a full fuel offload at a nuke plant, and the place was so crapped up that the bottoms of my boots literally came apart. Because they were molded they couldn’t be repaired. Shame light and comfortable. I lost these before the hikers.

    My third pair are a crappy 10″ military style boot – 20 years old and not water resistant at all. These are past ready for the bin and they always pretty much sucked to begin with.

    So here I was with no boots and very limited funds. Meanwhile I am logging, and working in the woods with the crappy military style boots way past their expiration date. And they were killing me after a full day of tree clearing.

    Time to buy new boots!

    I started by going to local stores: everything from the Tractor Supply to Camping stores to the total crap they sell at Wall Mart. I was trying my best to “cheap out” and still get a quality boot. Cheap out meant under 100$. The crap at Wall Mart and similar stores did not come close to any quality. So I went bargain shopping on eBay. After ordering and returning two sets of Georgia Boots that did not fit, or were horribly designed and painful enough to qualify as Gitmo “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, I was out over $40 in shipping and still had no boots.

    Note to self: Don’t order (unknown or untried) boots via the mail. Try them on at a store first them order them.

    Drastic times call for drastic measures (and reasons to sell some silver stash to facilitate a bigger boot budget.)
    SK, please note that those loggers you reference in your article (depending on features) could set you back $150 to $200. Top of the line loggers (e.g.: Chipewa) could be over $300 with taxes, tags, permits, title, and county filing stamps. A “boot for life”… for $300 is a boot my damn grand kids should be wearing them 100 years from now.

    So after months of failed attempts, but now being endowed with a war chest of $200 from my Ag to fiat exchange, I regrouped. I decided one boot could not provide me with the range of requirements I had. So I broke my needs into two groups:
    killer outdoor work / WTSHTF boots
    and light weight hikers.

    Because I live where the snow is a constant 1-3 feet in the winter and I am still clearing trees for fire wood the initial focus was my immediate need for the killer outdoor work /WTSHTF boots.

    Here were my MMRs (minimum mandatory requirements) and NTH (nice to have) for boots:

    Steel Toe – ASTM F2413 (NOT composite – composite protection will allow your toes to fully experience an over achieving chainsaw.)
    Welted Goodyear Construction (so soles can be replaced)
    Waterproof (not just resistant)
    Removable insoles (orthotics)
    Strong and professional construction, superior materials (leather and metal eyelets) and double stitching.

    Vibram Stitched Soles (or equivalent)
    Made in the USA

    Then I headed south of my town, away from the Walmarts camping and hiking stores and started vising the harness shops in Amish country. The Amish harness shops are NOT discount or bargain shops, but they carry good product. Another benefit is that if we see a WTSHTF of Hyper-inflationary collapse the Amish will be fiat poor like everyone else (storing their wealth in bits of green linen), but they will still be functioning and producing some products and food if the electric and fuel gets scarce. I want to know these folks.

    (After cancelling one last screwed up order from one Amish harness shop, who had a phone: “we ordered them and they will be in about 4 months from now”), I ended up with a pair of 8″ high Red Wings (model 4401) that met all my MMRs, plus they are insulated (Thinsulate), and have Vibram soles. They were made in China… but that is hard to overcome. I got them one half size too large and wear double socks, they fit well. The quality and materials are excellent.

    After a break in period and several polish/Mink oil sessions these are now my favorite outdoor work boots. They are “tanks” and a fit for logging activities. A bit clunky and definitely heavy, I can still jog with them through the woods with a shotgun in my hands and a carbine and fully loaded bandoleer over my shoulder. I have hiked through the woods and up rocky snow covered ravines breaking through the ice at least 10 times into the freezing stream underneath the ice and my feet stayed perfectly dry and warm.

    With extra care, I can also drive my Acura TL sedan with them, but that’s when you realize they are truly Frankenstein boots as compared to athletic shoes or hi-tech hikers. I take tennis shoes (or crocks) with me if I’m going to someones house as these heavy boots are not very practical to march around someones house with.

    Everyone’s feet and MMRs are different, but none-the-less I recommend a look at these for heavy duty outdoor or survival applications. As SK mentioned above: “They should last me a lifetime.” 1-red-wing-mens-8-inch-boot-brown

    Cost (with a few pairs of synthetic socks): about $130
    (not accounting for the shipping costs of the first returned mail order boots off eBay)

    Post Script: I fantasize going back in time and showing up with crates of these boots at the start of the 1777/78 Winter at Valley Forge — Men later camping and fighting with frozen feet looking much worse than SKs posted photo of the skinned heels. Imagine their faces at the sight of a modern durable boot like this. Survival boots, these most definitely are. Dance shoes they are not – unless your this talented Frankenstein:

    Next I need to start looking for the light weight hikers after Ag goes back above $29. Any suggestions?

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Great story!!!

      You had me cracking up several times while reading it. As far as hiking boot recommendations go, I think there are a lot of companies out there that make high quality hiking boots. In fact, I hate to have to admit this, but my wife found a really killer pair of hiking boots at Wal-mart for $5.

      She was rubbing it in so bad when she found out that I paid $200 for my hiking boots and hers were almost identical and only cost her five bucks. Hell, she could go through 40 pairs of boots at that price for the cost of my one pair. She’s been hiking in them several times and never gotten a blister. Seriously though, I think it was just one of those freak deals you run across once in a lifetime. I doubt you’d ever find anything like that again.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. anatomyNo Gravatar says:

    For those in AU, Red Wings are hard to find, certainly not listed anywhere online (so no trying them on in person). I’m saving for a pair of mining boots which have some pretty awesome properties (not sure about replacing the soles), you can get them for around AU$160 on eBay, depending on the size: Style 65-691 350mm (14″) Lace Up Mining Boot

    • ElkieNo Gravatar says:

      There is a Red Wing Store in St. Peters, Missouri. It’s on the south service rd along I-70 at the Cave Springs exit.

  4. MattNo Gravatar says:

    Danner Boots. Period. Get the stitched on soles, made in USA. They have some that are imported- beware! But made in Oregon Danners are superior boots, just choose the style for the job. Good luck!

  5. left coast chuckNo Gravatar says:

    I bought that pair of Redwing boots that CitiZenPete talks about in 1965 at a Redwing shop in Orange Co. CA. I still have them. They don’t have thinsulate which didn’t exist then and they are only water resistant, not waterproof — no gortex then either. They are still good. I oil them religiously. I am now using a beeswax based waterproofer on them. Without going out to the garage to check the name if is something like Baumgartners or some such. Keeps the leather soft and supple. I also polish my shoes. Was at a hunting lodge a couple of years ago and one of the people there scoffed at my polished Redwing chuckers with the comment “Who polishes their hiking boots?” What that sucker didn’t know was the chuckers he was scoffing at were purchased just a couple of years after the boots above. They are well broken in and I use them after hunting or hiking to relax in. I’m not a shill for Redwing, they just happened to be around almost 50 years ago and some of the others didn’t — at least I didn’t know about them if they were in business that long ago.

    Some years ago I read about an experiment the Marine Corps was doing with antiperspirant on feet on hikes. They found it eliminated blisters in some very high percentage point. I don’t remember if it was 80 or 90%. Not eliminating them 100%, but enough to make it a valuable tool. On a 6-day hike around Mt. Fuji in Japan put on by a Japanese marching club (not hiking, MARCHING) that covered 350 km in 5 1/2 days, I used the USMC option, applying a.p. to my feet four times a day. I developed hot spots but never had a blister. There were many, many blisters among the experienced Japanese marchers, but I managed to escape any, a first for me.As the USMC indicated it doesn’t work for everybody, but it sure came through for me. It has to be antiperspirant, not deodorant. See if it works for you on your next long hike.

  6. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    Hi, any body have a recommendation for a diabetic type 2?

    Thanks Kevin