Your Feet: They Need To Be Pampered, Too!
Although this may seem like a generalized statement, it is probably truer in many of our lives than we care to admit: Happy feet equal happy hunting. Granted, there are many other factors that lead to a happy and successful hunt, but none seems to be overlooked more than one’s footwear. How many times have uncomfortable boots hurt your feet after a long day of walking? How often have you had wet feet because your boots were not sufficiently waterproof? How many pairs of “Wal-Mart” special boots have you replaced because they did not hold up under the pressure and stress put on boots by hunters? If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that these things have happened to us more times than not.
After recognizing that the above problems have happened to us sometime in our hunting career, what should we do about it? The answer is simple yet, for many people, difficult to put into practice. We must buy quality footwear and then spend the time necessary to maintain that footwear.
What passes for adequate footwear? The answer, of course, can be as varied as the terrain and climate in which you are hunting. However, I will give some personal preferences from someone who lives in the Midwest.
I would recommend a boot that is between 8”-10” tall. The height of the boot will help support your ankles on uneven or rocky terrain and it will help keep your feet dry in the event that you have to cross a small stream, a field full of standing water, or to keep the dew from tall grasses from soaking into your boots. In addition to the height of the boot, a full Gore-Tex bootie (liner) is necessary! Gore-Tex cannot be overrated in its ability to keep water out of your feet. I prefer full leather uppers, but leader/nylon combinations also seem to work well. The amount of insulation you choose should be based on the season/temperature in which you hunt. Your best bet is to buy two (or even three) different pairs of boots depending on the temperature. Un-insulated, low insulation (200-400 grams Thinsulate) and heavy insulation (800+ grams Thinsulate) are my three choices. These allow you to hunt comfortably in any season. I do not believe that “one boot” can cover all the different needs of a hunter in the four-seasoned Midwest. These recommendations can be adapted to your specific climate situation, but they should work well for the majority of hunters.
Now that you have purchased quality footwear, how are you going to maintain it? If you have purchased Gore-Tex footwear, do NOT to put ANY mink oil or wax product on the boot. These will clog the pores of the leather (making it water resistant), but will not allow your foot to breathe (making your feet sweat). The result is that you end up with feet wet from sweat, rather than from the environment. To care for your leather boots, wash them with mild soap and water after your have worn them. Then, apply Kiwi brown (or black) shoe polish according to Kiwi’s instructions. This will keep the leather healthy, but will not clog the pores of the leather. Gore-Tex will allow your feet to breathe from the inside out, but will not allow moisture from the outside in. (I don’t understand the technology, I just appreciate that the makers of Gore-Tex do!) Furthermore, after tramping around in the mud, do not let your boots sit for days (or weeks, or months!) before taking care of them. Maintaining them after each hunt will ensure that they are soft, comfortable, and ready to go next time. Most importantly, properly maintaining your expensive boots will make them last for a long time.
If you are patient, good deals can be found on quality footwear from retailers at the end of winter. Be sure to wear your new boots around the house for an hour or two to make sure that they are comfortable and that they fit you correctly. If not, send them back. (Footwear cannot be returned after it has been worn outside. Once you do, you are on your own!) Spending the money on quality footwear may seem unnecessary, but when you consider how important your feet are to a happy and comfortable hunt, you will see how vital it is to buy good boots and take care of them.
Copyright 2008 by Jonathan Edwards. All rights reserved.