Caring for boots and feet

June 18, 2017

Many people have written to me to ask what brand of boots I wear. Usually I tell them – it’s pointless to get a pair of expensive boots IF you don’t know how to care for them to extend their life. Decent work boots will always be very expensive – there is no way to negotiate around the economics that goes into crafting safe and comfortable work boots. That is why it’s jugular to learn the field craft on how to take care of your investment.

Boot and feet craft is a lost skill. As these days men rarely ever need to go out to the field.

Here are the following rules:

(1) Never buy a pair of boots online. That is a very bad idea. As every boot manufacturer uses their own unique last and sizes will ALWAYS vary from vamp width to length – size 8,9 or 10 from my experience is never spot on. Even slight variations will result in blisters and lousy fit that will do you in when you’re in the field. So get it right the first time! Go for a physical fit. Wear a pair of thick socks that you normally wear in a field. Never switch brand. Stick to ONLY one specific type of sock and use that as the fit standard for the whole life of that boot. A field boot should fit snugly with no lateral or front and rear feet movement without crunching your toes. It will not be comfortable in the beginning. As ALL seriously well constructed boots require breaking in. This whole propaganda of a comfortable boot on the first wear is all metrosexual half man marketing spin. In the lost art of manliness there is no such boot…it doesn’t exist. ALL serious boots require breaking in. Hence pay close attention to the fit. If the fit is no good. No matter how much you admire the brand. It’s no good. As the fit is everything!

(2) Always powder your feet before wearing your socks and putting on your boots. This is the cardinal rule of fieldcraft. No need to be fancy like medicated, peppermint etc etc. Normal talcum powder is good to go. Make sure you get the powder between your toes so that they stay dry and to avoid rubbing that will result in blisters and callouses.

(3) Never wear a wet or damp boot. You should have at least 3 pair of boots in the field. The golden rule goes like this. You can wear the same boot every other day providing they don’t ever get wet. Once they’re wet even a bit – they should be left to air dry for a day or two. Nothing destroys boots faster than wearing them when they’re damp or wet. As wearing them will stress the leather resulting in either splitting or cracking. Fastest and surest way to destroy boots and end up with cancer of the wallet.

(4) Never remove mud from your shoes. Dry mud is actually your best friend. As what it does is help dry out your boots by drawing moisture from the inside out. This is old desert trick. There is no real urgency to brush off the caked mud and moisturise your boots every time it gets muddy. Boots are like land rovers. They’re supposed to get dirty and even unsightly. You should really only brush off the mud in the beginning of the dry or wet season and give them a thorough treatment. IF done right one treatment is good to go for the whole season – no need to bother about leather nourishing treatment every time it gets muddy. That is secondary to function, durability and longevity.

(5) Separate your boots into dry and wet boots. This is absolutely crucial if you’re serious about foot care and comfort. Understand this – not all boots are weatherproof. Some boots take on water. That’s not a bad thing. You just need to learn not to wear them during the rainy season. Boots that take on water are excellent in the dry season. As they breathe and keep your feet dry and cool when it’s hot. Hence weatherproofing is not always a desirable thing. Wet boots on the other hand don’t breathe that well or at all – they may keep water out. But they also trap heat and moisture and can be very uncomfortable during the dry season. So it’s really a trade off. Get to know your boots and use them according to terrain and weather conditions.

(6) Whenever possible buy only boots that can be recrafted – this means if the threads wear out – and it will in no time at all, if you’re in the field all day like me! You can take it to a cobbler to put on a new sole instead of throwing away that boot along with getting cancer of the wallet. Be very specific about what type of sole you want to put on. I use only Vibram soles. Nothing else. They’re mil spec. Be mindful about entrusting your cobbler – I find this can be challenging as there are generally so many useless cobblers who really don’t take much pride in their craft these days. Get to know a no nonsense cobbler who loves his job and that will go a very long way to extend the life of your boot.

Do all this and there is absolutely no reason why your boots should not last a life time. Never get into the bad habit of buying boots all the time – no girls will want to go out with you as you will always be broke! – the only way to do it is as follows: buy a super expensive no nonsense mil spec full steer hide boot, learn to take care of it like an aircraft, be highly disciplined on (1) to (6) and your boot will keep your feet strong and healthy.

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