When we’re walking, we have to rely on our feet. They are the point of contact that matters, and if they are damaged, mobility is greatly reduced. This is one of the reasons that we choose to wear shoes. They add protection and comfort along with a level of style. That said, all shoes are not equal.
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to looking for shoes to weather an emergency. The last thing you’d want to do is walk 5 miles in a pair of 2″ high heals because you ran out of gas, or trudge through mud and snow in those fancy wingtips because you got stranded in a snow drift on the way home.
We have some opinions on how to choose some good footwear to weather the emergencies that may occur. We won’t go into specific brands or even tell you that one type is better than the other. This is entirely personal, and will differ from person to person. What we will give you is some specific information about what to look for.
The first and foremost thing that a person needs to look for in a pair of shoes or boots is fit and feel. If they aren’t comfortable, that will only be exacerbated if you have to put miles under you for any reason. So, you need to look for something that fits comfortably, and they also need to be snug. Don’t confuse snug with tight. Your feet will tend to swell over longer distances, and if your shoes are too tight they will get more and more uncomfortable. The inverse of this, if your shoes are too loose, you will be more prone to blisters.
One of the biggest issues we have with our feet are blisters. Once you have them they can be detrimental. Along with proper fitting shoes, you need to keep them dry. This can be accomplished by wearing some type of sweat wicking material, and changing them routinely. Cotton socks are a terrible choice, but better than nothing. If you are stuck with wearing cotton, ensure you change them frequently.
Another issue we run into when walking is stumbling and the possibility if a sprain or break. It’s due to this that we really need to take into account the stability of a shoe or boot. What you’re looking for is a high level of support and stability and through the mid-sole, with flexibility through the toe area. You should be able to flex the shoe just ahead of the laces, but the rest of the foot should remain fairly rigid.
The same rigidity should be seen when twisting the shoe. This twisting can lead to a twisted, sprained, or broken ankle. It can also lead to slipping which can further lead to a multitude of issues.
This leads into the sole of the shoe. It should provide traction as well as protection. Let’s face it, when we walk down a sidewalk or the road, we can come across some pretty nasty stuff like rocks, nails, and glass. A good sole can and should protect against the vast majority of these things.
We would recommend shoes with a medium stiffness as opposed to the most stiff shoes or boots out there. While the stiffer boots and shoes are better for heavier loads, they also have a much more intense break-in period. Medium stiffness shoes can typically be worn in comfort after very little break-in, the stiffer shoes should be worn for an hour or so at a time, increasing, until you’ve worn them for 20-25 hours. Of course, if you plan on carrying more than about 50 lbs, you probably want to look at the stiffer shoes.
This leads us into low-cut vs. medium-cut shoes. This pretty much boils down to preference, however there are a couple of things to consider when making your decision. Low-cut shoes will likely be lighter and often times allow for more agility, but offer less protection. Medium-cut shoes / boots will add ankle protection and stability. We think that if you’re route is likely going to be cross country, the medium-cut shoe is the better choice. However, if you’re in an urban setting, the low-cut shoe might be the better choice.
One option you will come across is waterproofing. As with everything, there are pros and cons to buying waterproof footwear. The obvious pro is that your feet will remain dry while walking through wet grass, shallow streams, and puddles. A con would be that waterproof shoes are slightly hotter than their non-waterproof counterpart. The socks you wear can exacerbate or alleviate this to a point. It’s our opinion that the pros outweigh the cons here, and for very little sacrifice, having the waterproof shoe is the way to go. With that said, if you live in the desert, you may opt out as there is very little chance you feet might get wet.
The best thing to do is get out and try them on. We can’t stress enough that fit and feel are paramount when making your decision. Subsequently, the environmental factors should drive your decision as related above. Take your time, and you’re sure to be able to endure should you have to rely on your feet as your only mode of transportation.
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
~Leonardo da Vinci