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Footcare is not something you can overlook for long during an SHTF situation without running into trouble. Taking care of your feet can be harder to do during a major emergency. I have always known about this because my father has always suffered from foot issues due to the conditions of jungle combat in Vietnam. As a child, I saw what he had to go through and was amazed that there seemed to be nothing that could totally cure the symptoms he had from “jungle rot”.
You don’t have to be in a jungle war to get this condition. A few days of wet socks and walking and you may find yourself with something that doesn’t go away easily or ever. Flaking skin, cracking, thick calluses, and deformed toenails are all possibilities.
My Dad would sometimes soak his feet in rum, and it seemed to help him. Of course, looking back it was likely just that he was killing some things off with alcohol. My Dad did go the veteran’s hospital off and on over the years but they never even tried to do anything for feet unless the situation was severe.
Keep your feet dry.
If you are doing a lot of physical activity, then try to take off your shoes and air out your feet when at rest. Even if we are just at a halfway point in the workday, Matt and I will take our shoes off for lunch. This will go a long way towards preventing other foot issues. If your socks are wet, then change them if at all possible.
Stash back some socks. Make sure to put back a variety for different conditions.
We keep a lot of white cotton socks on hand. They are inexpensive and are okay for most of the time around here. Since they are affordable and you can have a lot on hand, it is not such a big deal if you need to change them a few times a day. Even in my hand-cranked washer, I can wash six pairs of socks in a few minutes. If your regular washer is going, you can stuff a lot of socks in it. Of course, cotton is no good for wet and cold conditions.
Wool socks are another item that I buy a lot of when I find them on sale. Most of the time they are impractical in our Southern climate but the deeply cold parts of winter, they sure are nice to have.
High-quality synthetic blend socks are very nice to have as well and have the advantage of being antimicrobial and easy to dry out. These would be ideal in a lot of cases, but I think it is good to have a variety of socks on hand and realize that any sock is better than no sock or wearing dirty and wet ones for extended periods.
The right type of shoe can make a big difference when it comes to foot health.
Remember that you need good footwear for a long term emergency. While times are good, put back an extra pair or two of good shoes. Close-toed shoes are something that an amazing amount of people don’t even own because they live in warmer places and don’t do many activities that require them. Check out “Best Boots For Preppers.”
You don’t have to put back the most expensive boots either. While I love good quality shoes and feel they are worth it, any boot is going to be better than having nothing put back at all. The boots Matt and I like the most when buying a standard work boot are often found for about $100 which in today’s prices is fairly low end for a full leather work boot. Carolina’s have been very reliable and tough over the years of building houses, putting up fences, planting grapes, etc. We have walked countless miles in them too.
I have several types of antifungal creams put back. The spray versions are nice to have too but it doesn’t store in as small a space for what you get, and I have my concerns about damaged spray cans during a real long emergency.
There are several types of drugs that work against foot fungus so you can decide which one you prefer or get a variety. There is something to be said for having several different drugs on hand to treat foot issues just in case you or someone you are caring for has a fungus that seems resistant to one drug. The price point is not much different between antifungals either.
Natural Anti Fungal
Some essential oils and soaps that contain them can help fight fungal and bacterial infections. Tea tree oil and peppermint oil can fight off foot issues. Washing with the soap that contains these oils is a good preventative approach.
Remember that essential oils can vary a lot in quality so make sure to choose an oil that is known for potency if you are going to be using it on your body. Backdoor Survival recommends Spark’s Naturals. Other good brands are NOW and Planet Eden.
Editor’s Note: Spark Naturals has provided a generous discount for Backdoor Survival readers. Use the following coupon code: backdoorsurvival
Applying a paste of water and baking soda to areas of the feet that are suffering from a fungal infection can help kill it. You have to apply the paste and leave on to dry and then rinse well. This must be done for at least five days, and it stings and hurts. You have to be careful using this method, but it is worth mentioning because in a survival situation you may have to use what you have and baking soda is cheap and common.
Toenail and fingernail clippers
While the typical toe and fingernail clippers are great, I prefer the small sets of wire clippers made by Kobalt. I know this sounds weird, but Matt and I have discovered they work a lot better and can take on hard to cut toenails with ease and no splitting.
There are all types of fingernail files out there. Emery boards work too but are not as tough or long lasting as some files.
A pumice stone or callus remover
Letting callouses and growths get too big can affect the way you stand and move more than you realize. This can lead to sore feet, heels, ankles, and make your shoes wear funny.
Heavy duty moisturizer or oil
Coconut oil works just fine for moisturizing. A specific balm made for feet is good too. I like the Alba Botanica lotion because it is either nonscented or just lightly scented, and you can buy it in a gallon jug which lasts for what seems like forever. It can be used for your whole body too. You just don’t want your feet to get cracks that can harbor fungus or infection.
Disinfecting your foot care kit is essential between users
Every once in a while you see on the news a horrible story about how someone got a manicure or pedicure at a salon, and it resulted in a big infection. This can be prevented by good disinfection and sanitation methods. If things are going to be shared, then wash and sanitize them however you can. Fungal and skin infections can be transmitted to others in your group.
Small surgery kit for removing splinters and other objects
Even if you are very careful, you may find that you have more splinters or that you accidentally step on something. A small surgery kit can help you safely remove objects and can also be useful if you have to dig out an ingrown toenail. I have had to do this on someone before. It is not fun but having the right tools and the ability to sterilize them makes it go a lot better.
Special band aids that help cushion and heal can provide comfort and infection prevention during long days.
While blisters can happen to anyone, they are even more likely to happen to those that are not used to a lot of time spent on their feet. While a blister during good times is pretty easy to deal with, you will want to be extra careful during hard times to keep it clean and infection free. It is best to avoid blisters of course, but during a long term emergency, there will be a lot of people getting blisters just from having to do more things for themselves and things they never thought they would have to do so much of.
Moleskin is useful for covering blistered areas and cushioning so you can keep going. Remember that over time, feet will toughen up, but during the beginning of a period where many people are suddenly being forced to walk and do labor that they are not used to, blisters are going to be a big problem. In fact, blisters are something very few people prepare for at all.
Your foot size may change during a long term SHTF scenario
Weight loss occurs all over the body, and that means if you experience significant weight loss during an SHTF scenario, the shoes you put back or the ones you just happen to have, may not fit as well. Loose shoes wear differently and can lead to blisters. One solution is to put on extra socks if temperatures allow for it, but you can also stuff something in the toes to make them fit better. I remember using toilet paper when I was a kid to do this. Some soft cloth would be better and last longer, but insoles are even more comfortable.
Insoles that can be sized to fit almost anyone. Have some really good ones and some less expensive foam insoles.
While I prefer the fancy Dr. Scholls work insoles because of the high level of support and how long they last, any insoles will be nice to have in a long emergency. Put back a mix if you want. I know that I think it is worth it to have some really good ones and then maybe some cheaper ones to help resize shoes to fit or add extra support to shoes that have seen better days.
Repairing shoes during a long emergency
There may be a time when you find that you really need to make a small repair to your shoes or even re-sole them. Having a few items on hand can help you repair, waterproof, and extend the life of your shoes. Floppy soles and ill-fitting shoes can actually be dangerous if you are working or having to move quickly.
I am going to put back several tubes of this stuff because I know from experience that it works. A lot of people don’t know this but I used to skateboard for hours each day when I was in my early to mid-teens. It was my sport of choice for sure and it was very hard on shoes. Skateboard shoes were expensive back then so I tried to get as much out of them as I could and I would sometimes buy the colors that no one else wanted. Shoe Goo was excellent for applying to the sides that would abrade from doing tricks that required flipping the board and rubbing your foot on sandpaper. If Shoe Goo worked on those shoes than it will work even better for some other things. it doesn’t last forever but it will allow you to reattach a sole or plug a hole in your shoe. There is a cure time so it is best to do this overnight.
Being able to apply pressure when gluing shoes will yield a better bond and result. Small clamps used for woodworking and other small projects are useful for many things so don’t think you are just getting them for shoes. Every prepper should have a few clamps at home.
Needles and strong thread for sewing leather and other thick items
Shoes are still sewn together. The stitching is tough on a lot of boots, but once it experiences enough abrasion, you may find seams opening up. Sewing them up may take a little time, but it will last quite awhile.
Boot grease and waterproofing agents
There are a lot of things you can use to condition shoes or waterproof them. Some may darken or stain fabric and leathers, but I don’t think any of us are going to be worried about that in a long term emergency.
Silicone sprays or Scotchguard
I think Scotchguard stinks a lot when applying, but it works. Some people don’t like the idea of spraying their clothing down with something like Scotchguard, but it is important to realize that outer layers are not touching your skin very much or even at all, especially when you are waterproofing boots.
Despite the name, mink oil is not made from the oil that comes from the mink. This is excellent for keeping leather shoes and boots waterproofed and supple so that they don’t crack or split as easily. It is useful for getting leather to relax and give a little if your shoes feel too tight or stiff.
Beef tallow, rendered bear fat, or lard
I rendered some beef tallow and some lard and had that for various projects and cooking. It used to be very common for people to use animal fats for shoes, but after rendering a lot of fat, I have to say that the fats I just listed are smelly and would no doubt make your shoes more attractive to some animals. I can guarantee you that my dogs would chew up a shoe that was saturated in beef tallow or lard and they never chew up anything like that normally.
Do you have any products to add that are useful for foot or shoe care?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.