It’s not unusual to discuss gear and equipment that practical, functional and efficient in the event that an emergency situation arises. Whether it be weather emergencies, environmental disasters, social unrest and so on.
However, a super important topic – footwear – is often neglected.
First things first, it’s necessary to discuss some basic considerations, discriminating between critical issues of a personal nature but also between different seasons, climates, altitudes and landscape.
Choosing the right footwear for a Bug-Out Situation: basic considerations
There’s nothing more personal than choosing the right footwear that we would like to wear in dangerous situations.
Each of us have our own physical characteristics that effects the way we walk, which can in turn effects the heel, the forefoot, and the inside or outside of the footwear.
Our habits also helps determine determine what footwear is the best for us.
However, there are fundamental requirements that should guide our choices:
Along with these requirements, fit and comfort are absolutely essential. In the event that the shoes do not fit your feet perfectly, the risk of incurring discomfort, or suffering from painful blisters (which can lead to infections), remains high.
You don’t want your feet to become an issue to yourself or the party of people you are moving with.
Ultimately, it’s necessary to note that the aesthetic factor plays an essential role. If we’re accustomed with solid and aggressive footwear, we’ll obviously consider them more suitable to carry out their task properly in a situation where every single step could make a difference.
Anatomical structure of footwear
Starting from the sole, and continuing towards the ankle, we find:
- Upper: The largest part of a shoe or boot that holds the foot up to the insole.
- A rigid material is positioned immediately above the upper, sandwiched between the insole and the mid-sole. Referred to as a “shank,” and often made from nylon poly, it provides support and stability.
- The rand (“rim”) is a strip of material (usually rubber) that wraps around the shoe where the mid-sole and upper meet; provides additional protection in difficult terrain.
- Sole: it is the part in direct contact with the ground.
- Mid-sole: The layer (usually some type of foam or ethyl vinyl acetate) that sits between the mid-sole and the out-sole. It represents the most significant part of the shoe, as it determines the cushioning and shock absorption, ensuring general stability.
- Insole: The thin material at the bottom of the inside of the shoe where the foot rests; for several years it has been made of ventilated material to ensure breath-ability.
- Membrane: usually present in windproof and waterproof materials, breathable, it represents the part in which the rest of the foot and the ankle are wrapped.
Different materials, different applications
In recent decades, the evolution of footwear designed for specific weather conditions has lead to the design of avant-garde materials.
New technology has lead to the creation of some new types of foam, along with synthetic fabrics, rubber, and leather, which are used to provide comfort, cushioning, support, protection and long-term durability.
Breathable waterproof membranes, such as Gore-Tex, provide a barrier from the elements through reduced pores to prevent water penetrating.
The different applications addressed by a specific shoe are not only linked to the specific characteristics of the shoe in question, but also to the design, the materials used and, above all, the needs that a particular situation can – and must! – dictate.
Substrate versus soil
Discriminating between urban and suburban areas, dominated by substrates such as concrete, asphalt, tar, cobblestones, tiles, and outdoor areas where instead earth, mud, sand are predominant, the type of terrain that everyone most commonly expects to encounter and the challenges dictated from it will greatly influence our selection of the most suitable footwear for a Bug-Out Situation.
Seasons and climatic conditions
Not all footwear can adapt to different seasons, as well as to altitudes and the relative morphology of the land. As a Man-tracking Instructor (reading, identifying and following human footprints), I often find myself stressing this concept.
It is therefore necessary to carefully study the final destination as well as the entire journey that will lead us to it.
On a general level, some footwear particularly suitable for cold climates, is badly suited for use in urban or suburban areas. Conversely, some shoes designed for warmer climates cannot find a good application in areas above a thousand meters. The right compromise is possible, but always starting from considering our itinerary.
My personal selection
This paragraph will only deal with the most suitable and versatile footwear for a Bug-Out Situation context. The Italian market has a long manufacturing tradition that many countries envy us! Associated with each category, you will therefore find only a few of the multitude of tricolor proposals that can become your primary and secondary Bug-Out footwear.
I personally go for Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX Tactical. They can be considered a very versatile hybrid shoe, lightweight as sneakers but with an excellent grip on the terrain. I tested them several times on the craggy slopes of the Alps, and they never disappointed me.
Military boots & Hiking Boots
In this case my choice go to Police Patrol Boots 01 as well as to Military Protection Boots, both of them from the Danish brand “2be Footwear”.
Needless to say, military boots have a more aggressive and consistent design which is possible due to the employment of thicker, stronger and more reliable materials. This is a guarantee for durability, protection of your ankles as well as stability.
These kinds of boots are less comfortable for walking, but new technology has managed to create the right balance between stability and flexibility, offering a good deal either with warm temperatures either with cold ones.
Military boots are supposed to protect you, especially with extreme weather conditions, debris and harsh bushes.
Testing footwear: when and why and conclusions
Whichever type of footwear you choose, you need to take the appropriate time to break them in.
Synthetic and suede materials tend to require the least amount of testing, while leather takes significantly longer to adjust to our feet.
Starting with short journeys up to longer itineraries (and several days), especially on varied terrain, with loads on the shoulders and with different weather conditions, we will be able to determine if we are satisfied with footwear that we’ve chosen.
Kyt Lyn Walken
- Certified Wildlife Conservation Ranger at Conservation Ranger Operations Worldwide
- Official Representative & Instructor at Hull’s Tracking School
- Directora de Rastreo Humano por Dynamic Tracking (Spain)
- The way of Tracking – European Mantracking School