In the past, I have done numerous articles about material items you should buy or keep around to either bolster your chances of survival or just add ease to an enjoyable trip. The most important piece of equipment we possess is with us at all times and requires the most care of all; our feet.

Lieutenant Dan (a la Forrest Gump) wasn’t lying when he said socks can mean the difference between life and death. The shoes/boots you wear and the condition of your lower appendages can make or break a hike or totally break a survival scenario. So here are some helpful pieces of advice when it comes to your hooves:

1. Keep ‘em Dry

We don’t always go hiking or camping in ideal conditions. This was the one week you could get off from work, and dang it you’re going to have some outdoors time regardless of Hurricane What’s its Name because it’s going to make a good story later. (FYI, I do not advocate doing that, but I’m not naïve to human stubbornness)

Rain or shine, snow or swelter, you should change out your socks as often as possible. It will keep the blisters away and keep you from thinking about the friction pain above your heel. Also, stay away from 100% cotton. There are Smart-Wool and blends aplenty these days which will do wonders.

If you need to make a quick getaway, store two pairs of hiking socks in your boots so you don’t have to search through that bottomless sock drawer between adventures.

2. Let Them Breathe

Along with keeping them dry, you need to let them get some air every so often. Find a nice spot just off the trail and ditch the boots and socks for a few minutes every so often. Bring a pair of sandals with you to wear around the campsite instead of living in your boots (You’ll thank me when you really need to pee in the middle of the night).

We also always want to spring for the “waterproof” boots because it’s a good ad campaign. This basically translates to “not-breathable” and your feet will sweat more in them. Waterproof also doesn’t do a lick of good if you step in water so deep it flows inside. Not you’re wearing small aquariums on your feet. Dry them out as soon as possible!

3. Be Prepared

Good socks and reliable boots aren’t the only way to ensure you don’t have to worry about your feet. Moleskin is a first aid kit essential for any outdoor adventure. Small first aid kits are available everywhere and often come with a small sheet of moleskin. My advice is to go to a drug store and add about 3 or 4 extra sheets, especially if you or your hiking buddy is a newbie.
The first time I took my spouse hiking, she didn’t have proper boots and the only thing holding her feet together was the 5 sheets of moleskin I have brought along and half a dozen ibuprofen.

Plus you never know when you might not have the option to stop for proper care. Life doesn’t always have a lunch break.

4. Get Proper Boots

If you’re like me and enjoy the outdoors year-round, you probably have a few different pairs of hiking boots. One for summer, winter, and something in between. This is essential for excursions longer than a weekend.

Make sure they fit properly. Don’t ever settle because you “don’t feel like going to another shop” or “they’re close enough”. This is a tragic mistake that you will regret the second you get a mile down the trail.

One thing new hikers never anticipate is that your feet swell up after a few miles from the warmth and the blood flow, so hopefully, you have some wiggle room, to begin with. This will turn into a comfortable fit and you’ll be good to go. Too loose, or too tight is going to cause blisters and pain you can’t afford and you’ll wish you had been pickier.

During Civil Affairs Selection many years ago, I watched a 48-year-old former Special Forces NCO stop in the first mile of an unknown distance ruck-march because we had passed through a knee-high creek. He sat down, took off his wet boots and socks, dried his feet thoroughly, replaced his socks and boots, and then continued the event. Everyone in the class had passed him while he did this.

By the end of the event, he had passed all but a few other candidates and blew the cadre away. Every person he passed was panting and heaving and complaining about their now blistered raw feet. When he finished it looked like he did little more than enjoyed a brisk walk.

Some say it was old man strength and his cheery attitude, but really it was because he knew how to upkeep his most important assets. Be like that old operator. Prioritize the things that truly get you where you need to go.

Stay safe and keep adventuring.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bryan Bintliff

Bryan Bintliff

Bryan is an Army veteran, Masters Student at NYU, and a freelance writer dabbling in travel advice and survival tips... sometimes both at once. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and is enjoying his new weekend warrior status.
Bryan Bintliff

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