So your going out in the woods and you’re going to be out there for a while. What do you wear on your feet? You’re not bringing your slippers or sandals for the beach; you need something tough, with support, that can get you from point A to point B. The most important rule of entering into the wild, if you’re moving camps a lot is this; TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET! If you don’t have your feet, let me tell you, you got jack shit. You won’t be traversing tough terrain if your getting all kinds of foot problems. If you need exit the area in a hurry; your done. Finished. So getting a quality pair of boots is a key purchase you do not want to cheap out on.
Now we all know that you need different tools for different jobs and seasons. Winter is a whole different ball game of preparation, so lets assume for the moment that you’re dealing with a generally fair, spring to fall climate. However, all climates and temperatures have various factors you need to be aware of when selecting footwear. Tactical boots are a good bet. Having spent over a decade in the military, I’ve worn my fair share of boots and have had a myriad of foot issues. So I’ve had plenty of time for trial and error with regards to knowing what to look for and finding the best boots that work for me.
First thing I would avoid are boots with zippers. Those that know me are aware that I’m not a fan of mechanisms and boots are no exception. Zippers freeze, break and become caked in sand and muck. If you can’t enclose your feet, you are then exposing them to the elements, such as water, cold, dirt, debris, insects, you name it. Laces can quickly be replaced if need be; zippers cannot, and if you’re in an emergency situation, this is no good.
Secondly, make sure your size is correct. Try them on, walk around in them. If you buy them; wear them in your house for a week or two without taking them outside. That way if they become uncomfortable you can still return them. If after that time they are broken in and still feel comfortable, you’re probably in the clear. Remember, you will be wearing socks, as well as possibly a liner system, so plan for that. If your boots are too tight once you head into the wild you are going to experience a wide range of problems. From blisters, loss of circulation, stress on your tendons and joints, dead toenails, corns and many other nasty issues. Constantly dealing with this in a survival situation will be extremely hindering to your progress and painful to say the least. When checking the fit, make sure your toes do not touch the front. If your heel rubs against the back of the boot, try a new pair.
Thirdly, if you’re going to be travelling or staying in the wilderness for an extended period of time your feet are going to wet. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re just going to “keep them dry”. Not going to happen. The key word for this is GORE-TEX. Without getting too scientific here, think about it this way. It’s made of a porous material covered in holes which are microscopic. These are much smaller then a drop of water, stopping moisture from getting in. However, the holes are big enough for vapour to escape from the inside ,making it breathable. So in short, water can’t get in but it can escape. Now for the love of god, please don’t think that if you completely submerge your boot in water your feet won’t get wet. That’s not how it works. Don’t get your feet unnecessarily wet, keep them as dry as possible.
Now that you have taken all that in, let’s get into my top contenders for the best all purpose outdoor boot.
Originally founded in 1932 in Nelsonville, Ohio, what today is known as Rocky Brand is one of the most trusted and tested companies around today. During World War 2 and the Korean war this company supplied soldiers with over a million pairs of footwear and is still used by many militaries today. In 2010 Rocky was awarded Footwear plus magazines’ Plus award for their excellent quality work boots. I have owned and worn many pairs of boots during my time in the military including Rocky for a large portion. I have beat the hell out of them in various climates and they are still going strong today. Any boot released from this company I would hold in high regard.
Rocky S2V Tactical Military Boot
Probably Rockys’ most popular boot and for good reason. This lightweight, rugged boot has a list of features on it like a sports car, and they all work. Aside from the standard model there are many variations of the S2V that you can pick from depending on your style or what situation you entering. The standard boot comes outfitted with Rocky’s “S2V Sieve” which pushes water out and with the water resistant leather, makes it quite resistant. It does come in a Gore-Tex version as well. With Vibram soles as accompanied by their Air-Port Cushion footbed, these boots are COMFORTABLE. Even after moving over kilometres of rough terrain my feet were still in great shape. The list goes on, however the other styles include Jungle Boot, Steel toed, lightweight and waterproof. All of those are worth looking into and I have absolutely no doubt that you will find a pair that suits your needs. There are also numerous other boots in Rocky’s product line which you should explore as well.
Also founded in 1932 in Chippewa Falls Wisconsin, Danner was originally a boot marketed for loggers. After moving to Portland in 1936 this company is still producing hiking, logging, military and law enforcement boots at the highest level of quality. In 1992 Danner received the American Podiatric Medical Associations seal of acceptance for their own “Airthotic” inserts; a true testament to their brand. In 2010 during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, service men and women required a new service boot for the extreme climate, in which 2 new models of Danner boots were born. All in all Danner remains at the top of the food chain for producing rugged, durable all purpose boots.
I refer to these as the “Black Cadillac’s” of durable tactical boots. Used very frequently by military, law enforcement, firefighters etc. around North America, the Acadia serves in a variety of important rolls by those we trust. This boot comes in different variations to suit your needs, however an absolutely huge selling point with these comes in the form of a standard issue Gore-Tex liner. That combined with full grain leather, your mind should be at ease with regards to keeping your feet dry. The Vibram Kletterlift Outsole provides excellent traction and protection, as well these boots are a slim fit for extra ankle protection. This boot and brand are one the most reliable in existence today. I highly encourage you to explore the many products that Danner has to offer and make your own decision, however if you do choose to go with the Acadia, it will not disappoint.
Shifting gears away from the United States for a moment, brings us to Hanwag. Originating from Bavaria, with their original headquarters still in operation near Munich, Germany, the creator Hans Wagner started the company in 1921 . Different than the other companies we have explored so far, Hanwags’ were designed for Alpine Skiing and branched into other areas such as climbing and paragliding. In 2009 the company developed its own “IceGrip Sole” that boasts 7 times more traction on icey or slick surfaces. For over 90 years Hanwag has produced top quality boots for the classic outdoorsman. These boots are of such excellent design that many of their models actually remain unchanged from their creation decades prior.
Hanwag Alaska GTX
Developed in 1996 the design of this boot has not changed since its inception and is one of their top sellers. The Alaska GTX is made for long journeys carrying a heavy pack. First thing I must point out about this boot is that when actually wearing it, it feels like you are almost being pushed forward when you walk. Which I found very strange, however with a little more research I discovered that the Vinbram Fuora sole was designed to prevent over pronation and supination, which I would assume was it doing its job. The Alaska GTX also has a Gore-Tex liner guaranteeing water protection and breathability as well as a number of other features including the “Air Pulse system” for a greater level of air circulation. I would describe this boot as nothing less than fantastic and designed to withstand some of the toughest terrain and obstacles on Earth.
As like most things, there are numerous quality products or brands out there for you to discover. These are simply my top three picks for the best tough, outdoor, all terrain boot. Remember; avoid zippers, ensure your size is correct and the boots fits, keep your feet as dry as possible and of course take care of your feet! If you never experienced multiple blisters, blackened toe nails, joint problems or even the dreaded trench foot (look it up), save yourself the trouble; do your research and make a proper purchase. Before I sign off, I would feel guilty if I didn’t touch on trench foot briefly, since I have actually had it and thankfully caught it in the early stages. While travelling long distances you should always be monitoring your feet and changing your socks regularly however sometimes depending on the situation you may not get to perform this drill as often as you’d like. If this does happen to you and trench foot does begin; stop what you are doing, if it is raining get under cover, remove your boots and socks, allow your feet to dry for as long as necessary and apply foot powder should you have some (you should if you prepared well). Your feet should return to their normal colour and appearance, then ensure your feet are dry, change your socks and allow the moisture in your boots to evaporate as best as possible before continuing on. I can’t stress enough the importance of foot safety. Now that you’ve had time to process all that, do your research, maybe take my advice or make your own decision. It’s entirely up to you.
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