A lot of time and effort is placed into most preppers’ survival plans, or at least the ones who intend to survive: bug out bags, radio communication, firearms, food storage and, a personal favorite, etcetera. However, many of us forget two of our most important assets to survival; our feet. Foot care isn’t just something for your podiatrist to worry about. Perhaps, it’s so mundane and simplistic that many of us don’t even think about those two guys down under doing all the stepping so they may find this surprising; your feet will make or break your entire survival plan.
Have you thought about how much you use your feet? It may sound stupid, but take a moment and think about your survival plan and include three painfully large blisters on your feet after your first day walking because you didn’t take the proper precautions. You won’t be going anywhere quick; blisters are painful and, if you took the moment I suggested you take for reflection, you’ve realized you use your feet a lot. Diabetics need to be especially careful about their feet because they are more likely to have adverse effects from foot injury.
In the military, they are very fervent about foot care and with good reason. In a combat situation, you need to be able to move: jump, run crawl, etc. In a SHTF scenario, who knows what will be required of you at any given point. However, the fact of the matter is if you don’t learn proper foot care, you’ll be sitting this one out.
Basic Foot Care
1. Buy boots that fit: Your boots are one of the most important things that you’ll wear. You need to make sure they fit right, and do the job. More on this later.
2. Change your socks often: Your feet are nasty after roughing it for miles in the same socks. If you don’t believe me, walk a 12Ks tonight and, upon returning home, take your foot out of your boot, place it to your nose and take a whiff. When you wake up, you’ll agree. Keeping your feet clean keeps them healthy.
3. Keep your feet dry: If your feet get wet, change socks as soon as possible. You don’t want to be trudging around with wet feet due to the increased friction it will add on your skin and therefore giving you blisters.
4. Use foot powder: This goes with 2 and 3 but it deserves its own category. Foot powder will help keep your feet clean and dry. Therefore, it’s a good idea to stash a couple bottles of it in your survival gear.
5. Insoles: Not necessary but a good idea for more support and comfort. Remember, walking is hard work, and your feet have to carry you and all your gear; treat them nice.
Blisters are perhaps the most common foot ailment. Usually blisters are caused by friction. They are bumps on the skin that are filled with fluid. Excessive friction or rubbing to one portion of your foot, for example your heel, will cause a blister to form. Usually, this is from wearing poorly fitting or unbroken in boots or shoes, poorly fitting socks, etc. It is important not to pop blisters, especially if they are smaller as this could lead to an infection. Large blisters should be drained using a sterile needle (hopefully you have a few in your medical supplies.) If you need to lance and drain a large blister, do not remove the layer of skin because it will keep the blister somewhat protected from infection.
I know you’re all tough dudes and dudettes. You’ll want to push through the pain, it’s just a little blister after all, it can’t really hurt you. Unfortunately, friction blisters need time to heal and continued friction on the area will only continue to break down the skin and bring more fluid to the area thereby increasing the chances of infection. Blisters become infected by the introduction of outside bacteria. The blister will show symptoms of becoming more painful, swelling, and reddening. and you’ll notice a thick fluid filling the blister. Also, infected blisters lead to foot ulcerations which are extremely severe.
1. Cover it:
I speak from experience when I say Moleskin is a lifesaver, not to mention it’s cheap. If you don’t have Moleskin because you don’t take my advice seriously, you can make use of gauze or a band-aid or even duct-tape if you’re feeling especially industrious mixed with a little lucky and perhaps a dash of MacGyver. The important thing here is to add padding to remove the friction from the blister.
2. Clean it:
Clean the area with disinfectant something or other. Alcohol or iodine are especially useful, for disinfecting (remember not to use iodine if you have a shellfish/penicillin allergy or at least check with a real medical person about your allergy to see if it’s affected by iodine) however, use whatever is clean and available.
3. Pierce The Big Ones (As mentioned before, only advisable on large blisters)
With a sterile needle, pierce the side of the blister and allow the fluid to drain. This will ease some discomfort and also will allow healing to begin. It is important not to rip the skin off but to place the loose skin back over the injury so that it offers some protection.
4. Finish up:
Apply antibiotics if you have them, or else just make sure the area is clean and bandage it up. If you absolutely must push on, make sure that your bandage allows for little or no friction to the area in question. Remember, bandages like to come off and so it’s important that you apply the bandage well and securely so that it won’t come undone while you’re walking and reintroduce friction to the area. Changing the bandage every day or so is helpful to maintain cleanliness.
If your blisters become infected, there is a chance that they may turn into foot ulcers. ( As mentioned before, diabetics need to be especially careful because they’re more susceptible to adverse foot conditions.) A foot ulcer is literally an open sore. They can become increasingly deep and even stretch into other fundamental parts of your feet: tendon, nerves, bones, etc. Foot ulcers that are left untreated can become abscess and even become gangrene. Try surviving TEOTWAWKI after that awesome amputation performed by none other than your father-in-law who you feel only survived the SHTF because he wants to make your life even more miserable post-collapse.
It is important to make sure your footgear fits well and does the job you’re asking it to do. Boots are not the place to get stingy with your money because in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, those might be the last pair of boots you find in a long time that fit correctly. I’m not saying you need to spend $500 on a pair of boots or anything crazy like that. You do need to ensure that your feet are comfortable and there is no discomfort with your footgear. If you must, bring your mom along so she can do the toe-push thing and make sure your toes are up there. Since she’s there you could also try on pants so she can grab and shake the front of your pants while asking loudly if the crotch fits; just an idea. If you have a specific type of arch (normal, high, or flat) and need extra support, buy insoles.
There are several different kinds of boots out there for you to choose from, as you may have guessed. Also, there are many different accoutrements that come with these boots: steel toe, water proof, etc. Obviously the most important factor is fit. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to lug the extra weight around by having steel toes, either. I’m sure someone will avidly dispute my reasoning, talking about how to protect your feet but then not wear steel toes. However, steel toed boots are made for impact protection, not hiking. I’ve had a pair of Bates combat boots for years now, issued to me by Uncle Sam none-the-less, and never have I had an instance – in the military or out – where I thought they needed to be steel toed. [JWR Adds: The only exception to this is getting a dedicated pair of boots just for wood splitting and shop work, in warm or cool weather. Never wear steel toe boots in sub-freezing weather.] If you live up north like I do, it would be a good investment to get another pair of boots specifically designed for winter. You can find awesome Gore-Tex, waterproof boots for reasonable prices. Break all your boots in right when you get them, don’t wait for SHTF before you take them out of the box.
Your feet are important. You should be adding foot powder, extra socks and moleskin to your survival supply regardless. Make sure you own a good pair of boots that you wouldn’t mind wearing for a long, long while. Remember to check out insoles if you know you need them or think they would make trudging around more comfortable. In short, make sure you’re taking care of your feet so they can take care of you.