Here is an other entry in the informal outdoor equipment series featured on this site. This time, we’re focused on boots. I wrote about training outdoors in minimalist footwear a long while ago–you know, before it was cool. It is important for martial artists–and most other athletes–to train barefoot as much as possible, as strengthening the feet improves striking, balance, and agility among other attributes.
That being said, after many years of training barefoot–or as close as is practical using minimalist shoes–I’ve changed my stance, so to speak, regarding footwear. This is especially true of outdoor training. As we age, it takes longer to recover from workouts: muscles stay sore, joints may ache, and our performance suffers. My greatest weak point as an athlete approaching middle age, however, has been my skin. Cuts and scrapes take much longer to heal. My hands stay dry and crack even after the winter passes. And, worst of all, I repeatedly tear up my feet with barefoot-style training. I had a cut on the bottom of my big toe that took more than a year-and-a-half to fully heal. Through constant abuse through training, hiking, yard work, travel, and by wearing minimalist shoes all day while teaching high school, my once-merely-callused feet look like I’ve been walking on hot coals.
This is the potential dark side to minimalist footwear no one mentions.
Further research and experimentation have helped. Collagen supplementation helps to repair skin damage and to maintain healthy joints. Darn Tough socks are probably the greatest clothing invention since the saber tooth tiger tunic: they’re comfortable, protective, and have a lifetime guarantee. Combining these have really helped my tired dogs. But, I think I waited too long to implement these changes to diet and equipment, and, in addition sustaining a separate foot injury, I decided to finally invest in some boots for outdoor training and other activities.
Over the years, I trashed a few pairs of Timberlands and killed a pair of Cabela’s boots and had nothing to switch to. Here are a few boots I’ve tried this year that are worth talking about. If you suffer from or are developing foot problems, wearing a good pairs of boots–even if only some of the time–can make a big difference.