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Planning For the Unexpected – Choosing and Wearing the Right Footwear Everyday

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In a high percentage of survival situations; you might argue all of them, clothing is a major component. For your Bug Out Bag we generally see recommendations of a change of clothing, or clothing to protect you from the elements, should you be stranded. Clothing is a part of a larger area of concern and that is shelter because clothing can help protect you from the elements. It is not the same as having a building to go into, but the proper clothing can save your life. We talked about this in our article on controlling your core body temperature and I think most people understand that you need to have the right clothes for whatever you are doing.

For example, in the winter you may have shelter in the form of an abandoned building, but no heat. Perhaps you are under a tarp camping in the woods. The right clothes can keep you warm enough so you survive. If you are hiking, you would wear hiking shorts or pants, hiking boots or shoes and a comfortable shirt, possibly a hat to protect your face. All of this makes sense because we can see ourselves in situations where that fleece can keep us warm, or those hiking pants could dry quickly or that hat could protect us from the sun or rain.

Logic tells us what to pack in survival situations if we are getting a load of gear ready, but that same consideration isn’t given to everyday situations. We routinely leave our houses without any of the same thought about what we are wearing and how that may help or harm us in an emergency. The concepts of EDC are lost below the waist and it’s as though we forget that disasters don’t really call you up and let you know when they are coming. Why do we only think of survival if we are packing for it?

Some people wear flip flops everywhere.

Some people wear flip flops everywhere. Image Source: Vuurwapen Blog

A pet peeve of mine is people who wear flip-flops during a normal day. I don’t mean at the beach or pool. I am talking about people, and you may be one of them, who wear these every single place they go. These days, there is no occasion sacred enough to shame people into not wearing this stupid footwear. It used to be for the overwhelming majority of Americans, that flip-flops were a great beach shoe or something you wore in the shower in the military so you didn’t get athletes foot. Now, flip-flops are everywhere. People wear them to weddings, work, semi-formal dances, airports, churches, funerals, concerts, the mall, at the gym, to their gynecologist, and on and on. Honestly, I think this is the dumbest form of protection for your feet that you can choose regardless of how cute they are ladies.

This probably lumps me into the “In my day…” territory of grumpy old curmudgeon’s throughout the eons and that’s fine. I have felt this way ever since the “Business Casual” trend brought about changes like this, but in the years since flip-flop use has become even more common. I’ll admit I am biased in my derision of this fashion trend because women do catch somewhat of a break. Men, in my opinion should never wear flip-flops unless you are near a visible body of water or you are a lifeguard. This includes boys too.

Now, I fully appreciate that sandals have been worn for thousands of years. Even the mighty Spartans and Gladiators fought in sandals and did just fine, right? The Viet-Cong wore flip-flops and did a pretty bang up job of dealing the United States a major thumping. However, I don’t think I would get too much push back on the statement that sandals aren’t the most ideal shoe if you are going to be in a fight or running. Do guerrillas in sub Saharan Africa wear flip-flops? Maybe, but still does that make them the best footwear?

I have to believe that if you are prepping for some type of emergency situation for your family, not having footwear that will be up to the task could be a big Achilles heel in your preparations. (pardon the pun) This got me to thinking about what the best footwear would be in a survival situation. To further clarify what I mean. What do you want to be wearing if you are faced with a survival situation? It isn’t enough in my opinion to have your spare pair of boots loaded into the trunk of your car. What if something happens while you are in the mall in your flip-flops?

In my day-to-day duties, I can easily wear my pick of lots of acceptable shoes. I can wear boots, dress shoes, sneakers, loafers, anything.  With the outfit and occasion I wear something that is appropriate but it covers the following conditions.

Can you run in it?

My daughter and I like to talk about Zombies. They are simply the motivation in her mind for some of the things we do and I don’t think there is anything wrong using this as a device to get her to visualize things. One of the things we talk about is will her shoes be good for running from zombies. This started off as a joke I would use, but I think it has her thinking on a practical level now and she will routinely tell me about choices she made that will “be good for running away from the zombies”. She knows that zombies aren’t real, but she can appreciate the fact that if you have to run, you want something that can actually stay on your feet. Nothing like losing a shoe in the middle of fleeing from a herd of zombies and having to say time out, need to put my shoe back on.

This applies to a myriad of other scenarios too. What if you are in a mall and some lunatic goes on a rampage. Would you rather be running out of that store in a good pair of sneakers, or slipping around on the floor in your flip-flops? Making these choices when you leave the house can affect how you are able to respond in an emergency.

Does it protect your feet?

When I am flying I think about all of the people wearing flip-flops and sandals and think about what if we have to crash-land? Granted, having an airplane crash is pretty slim odds and they are even slimmer if you consider crashing and walking away from it, but anything is possible. Let’s say you crashed in the mountains and the pilot was able to bring it in so that most everyone survived. Would you want to be navigating panicked people, through the wreckage, possibly fire in flip-flops? Maybe the scenario is a hurricane and there is a lot of glass broken, sharp edges of sheet metal and exposed wires. Would you want to be in some cute little shoes to navigate that destruction?

Will it stand up to abuse?

Finally, will that shoe take a beating? I can appreciate a good-looking shoe on a woman, but they aren’t practical at all. What if the grid went down while you were on a business trip and for some reason you had to walk back home over a great distance. Would your shoes that you are wearing hold up? A lot of shoes today look nice, but the quality of construction is so cheap. They aren’t meant to be abused or last a long time. If you only had one pair of shoes to last you for years, would you want it to be the ones on your feet right now? Those nice canvas slip on shoes wouldn’t last against a sharp stick much less sharp metal. The high heels that you love to wear look great, but could you walk 500 miles in them?

So, what am I trying to say? Am I advocating the abolishing of all flip-flops and high-heel pumps? Absolutely not. I am not saying that everyone needs to be walking around in steel toed combat boots all of the time, but if you are routinely in shoes that you don’t think would be good in a survival situation, it may be worthwhile to consider different options for when you get dressed. At work, I would make sure I have comfortable shoes appropriate for the dress code that can get me back home safely and without injury. They might not be the toughest shoe, but they do offer protection from sharp objects like debris and are comfortable enough to walk a long distance.

When I travel, along with any dress shoes I pack hiking shoes or boots in the winter. These will be what I wear if I really have to hike back home. Regardless of the distance or disaster, I want something that will protect my feet and enable me to worry about other things. If I am on a plane, I don’t take my shoes off and get comfortable because something may happen that causes my shoes to get kicked away and then what would I do if I needed to evacuate quickly? Just think about the situation you may be in before you plan your wardrobe. You may be thankful you chose a different shoe one day.

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  • Sabre

    I had experience of flip flops as a child and that why I have closed-toe and open-toe, rugged, non-slip trekking sandals.

    There are also steel-toe sandals rated for impact measured in joules and available for certain occupations e.g. medical orderlies. Those sandals

    1. do not look unusual on other people (OPSEC)

    2. keep you cool

    3. protect against foot injury from crushing weights.

    4. are an unobtrusive attack weapon if needed, and one that will definitely be a surprise.

    But you wrote:
    “Now, I fully appreciate that sandals have been worn for thousands of years. Even the mighty Spartans and Gladiators fought in sandals and did
    just fine, right? The Viet-Cong wore flip-flops and did a pretty bang up job of dealing the United States a major thumping. However, I don’t
    think I would get too much push back on the statement that sandals aren’t the most ideal shoe if you are going to be in a fight or running”

    I dispute the casual equation in this article of flip flops with the sandals of Spartans, gladiators, or Viet Cong. Because just look at pictures based on archaeological remains or Vietnam War photos. You will see that none of these 3 sandals had the central rubber pillar between big toe and first toe that breaks so easily or tears free when running at SHTF (or when you were a child, in my case).

    That breakage makes you stumble or gash your toe or both and you cannot repair the pillar. So you have no foot protection and you are on hot sand at 45C with 10km still to walk……

    VC sandals were made of tough old rubber tire casing and enclosed the foot with no breakable central pillar. The link below shows a photo of a left-foot sandal apparentlly in US Navy possession:

    https://ixquick-proxy.com/do/spg/show_picture.pl?l=english&cat=pics&c=pf&q=%22viet+cong+sandal%22&h=480&w=640&th=120&tw=160&fn=7706068262_cb94fbdcc6_z.jpg&fs=50.6%20k&el=boss_pics_2,boss_pics_1&tu=http:%2F%2Fts3.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DH.4972847337572946%26pid%3D15.1%26H%3D120%26W%3D160&rl=NONE&u=http:%2F%2Fwww.flickr.com%2Fphotos%2Fnavalhistory%2F7706068262%2F&udata=bdbe6a23db7d3297fed4452b9d748cd7&rid=LCLNRQLPLQOK&oiu=http:%2F%2Ffarm9.staticflickr.com%2F8166%2F7706068262_cb94fbdcc6_z.jpg

    The Ancients used leather sandals studded with (non-slip) hobnails which enclosed the foot with no central breakable pillar. Military wearers knew how to repair leather and insert new nails.

    Conclusion;: the following are recommended at SHTF in my view.

    1. occupational-type steel-.toe open sandals or summer-type perforated shoes such as available in Europe.

    2. closed-toe deep-profile sole trekking sandals (preferable to the open-toe ones shown in your photo, I think, because of the risk of toe injury if you trip forwards)

    Neither of these items shout “military” or “prepper” so they meet OPSEC needs, I believe.

    • prepperjournal

      Thanks for your comments Sabre!

      For the sandals, thank you for your research. I was generalizing to prove a point, but I did know that regardless of their footwear construction, they were still sandals. I agree with you that they were more substantial than today’s flip-flops, but that kinda proves my point. If you are wearing the sandals of today you are very likely to receive those injuries you talk about.

      Thanks for visiting!
      Pat

      • Sabre

        Pat

        I believe that the wearing of what we agree are risky (and medically-condemned) flipflops in Anglo countries in warm weather (the trend does not seem so strong in W. Europe) is due to 2 things.

        The first is price: my closed toe trekking sandals cost several times a pair of flipflops.The second is cultural: people who want to look as if they spend their time at the beach or at the pool at a warm place being casual i.e. not having to work for money. This seems to have been the origin of the flipflop style in the 60s: the California Look. But I am not saying that people in 2013 consciously wear flipflops for that reason. I think the reason in 2013 is price plus herd-type conformity.

        A car-based culture of obese and overweight flipfloppers means trouble ahead.

        For preppers, this means at SHTF that we need to know how to deal with foot injuries and to improvise foot covers for selected flip-floppers whose footwear has broken or who cannot walk any further because of what flipflops do to your feet (see Wikipedia article for this)

        This scenario means stocking improvised footwear material and tools and knowing how to use them. This thought had not occurred to me until I read your article, so thanks.

        Concerning your apparent rejection of all sandals, i.e. exposed-skin footwear, including fllpflops at SHTF you wrote:

        “When I travel, along with any dress shoes I pack hiking shoes or boots
        in the winter. These will be what I wear if I really have to hike back
        home. ”

        I can see that, and practise it myself. But what about warm weather? You say you are concerned about sharp metal, sticks and debris. I am too. However, looking at my closed-toe trekking sandals, I see that the instep is much more protected by the sandal (straps, buckles) than is the case for the open-toe ones in the photo you supply.

        So ahead of SHTF, I will be trading a hopefully quite small instep injury risk for the benefit of foot coolness in a sandal. I am fairly confident that my closed-toe “milspec” sandals, which have deep-profile soles, can get me home.

        To minimise instep injury risk, possibly my 2 multipurpose triangular bandages in my belly bag can be tucked securely under the straps/buckles too.

        But I think that taking spare sandals and/or footwrap material along as a backup is advisable.

        I also submit that metal can get through a shoe/boot sole from below, unless that sole has a metal plate/layer above it. However such safety boots/shoes are not always good hiking boots for that reason.

        So I have no solution for that one, as I have never tried to walk any distance, especially downhill, in indusrial safety shoes with steel toecaps and steel soles.

        • prepperjournal

          Sabre,

          Great points all around. I personally have Keen sandals which offer more of the toe protection you mention. The photo in this article wasn’t meant to illustrate my recommended choice of footwear, it was the opposite.

          To your point, will closed toe trekking sandals be better than flip-flops? I agree completely. That is why I have the Keens. Now, are they better than hiking shoes for all of the reasons I mentioned? I don’t believe so but again, your mileage may vary. You are right that sharp metal will go through a hiking shoe also.

          My intent was to point out the pitfalls of the traditional wearing of standard flip-flops that is so prevalent in today’s society. Anything that you can do that gives your feet more protection is a great idea.

          Thanks,
          Pat

  • Gino Schafer

    Why no recommendations on the best shoes or boots?

    • prepperjournal

      Gino,

      That is another post, but a great suggestion! My point was to initially get people thinking about what footwear choices might be best, but you are right that the next step (pun intended) would be to give specific recommendations. If you have any of your own, I would love to hear your experiences.

      Thanks,
      Pat

      • Gino Schafer

        I own both Keen and Merrel hiking shoes as well as casuals. The Merrels out perform the Keens in every way. As far as heavy work boots, I have a pair of steel toed work boots I bought at Sears 10 years ago that are in great shape still and I wear them a lot. I heat my house with wood and I always wear them when cutting, splitting and stacking. I also have a older pair of Danner leather hiking boots but compared to the Merrells I own they weigh a ton, and thus get little use.

        • prepperjournal

          I have had several pairs of Keens and I love them, but I must be too hard on them because the soles and the insides show a lot of wear. I only have one pair of Merrel’s but they are dressier casual shoes and they squeak every time I walk. I might try there hikers out sometime though.

          For boots I also have a pair of steel toed boots, but they are cheaper. Looking at some Timberland steel toes and might make that plunge later. If money was no object on leather, I would get Red Wings again.

          Pat

  • dgv

    I think I remember being instructed to take my shoes off if exiting a plane on the inflatable slide.

  • flyfishrman

    I’m a runner and have found Goretex Asics trail shoes to be highly durable. I run in the snow with them and my feet stay dry. They also work well in the summer. Highly recommend them.

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