If you are a geoscientist you are going to need field boots. Even if you are being a "geoscientist" just for a few days, then owning a set of field boots is still going to be on your list of 'must haves'.
For people who join me in the field, I insist on them having field boots rather than just 'joggers'. And here is why:
- Field boots protect your feet. Both from the bottom on sharp outcrop surfaces - like lava - and from the top for when you or your partners drop samples on your feet.
- Field boots protect your ankles. The most common mishap in the field is a twisted ankle. A good set of high sided field boot can provide support and protection from major injury.
- Field boots can keep your feet dry. Nothing is more horrid than walking for hour after hour in wet shoes. Good boots can stop your feet getting wet, or dry out quickly.
- Field boots can be comfortable. Just cause they look bulky, does not mean they have to be a burden. My field boots are probably some of the most comfortable shoes I own. They have to be - as I walk in them further than any other pair of shoes! A good solid pair of boots will stop you getting sole fatigue that you get some joggers when walking on rough and uneven ground.
- Field boots can be an investment for life. I am on my second pair - the first were stolen from my car in Sydney, Australia. I have had the second pair since 1989 and they are still wonderful. Mine happen to be Redbacks.
What field boots should you get?
Field boots come in so many varieties and the final decision is always going to be up to the individual. That said, I think you should consider the following:
What are they made from?
Field boots are made in basically two materials - leather or man-made materials. The leather boots are heavier and sometimes slightly more expensive than the others. However, leather is so much easier to maintain over a long period of time, can be made waterproof and will protect your feet better from dropped rocks than man-made cloth.
Man-made cloth boots can be extremely light, will dry out faster than leather and are cooler to wear. My geo buddies tell me that they last about two or three strong seasons in the field before you have to buy again.
So what you go for maybe dependant on what parts of the world that you will work in. For example, if I knew I would be working in the tropics, in the rain and the heat, then I might lean towards man-made boots as they will dry out faster, be cooler and light to walk around in. If I was going to be in cooler temperatures where it is not always wet, I might lean towards leather.
In some very special cases, boots in which the soles are stitched onto the uppers is fantastic. Glued on soles is asking for issues when you wear boots in extremely hot locations, or on still hot lava flows. The glue melts and the next thing you have is a boot with no sole and no way to put your foot down.
It is rare to find boots like this nowadays. Old army boots used to be great. Its something you may only have to think about once or twice in your geological career,
What about style?
Field boots also come in a number of styles. For ease I will divide them up into two major groups - low cut and high cut. Low cut boots do not come up over your ankle or just cover it. They are lighter, but provide little protection from twists and strains. High cut boots rise up over your ankle. They provide maximum protection, but the downside is that they are heavier.
Also check out the tongues of boots. The best are those that are stitched up the sides to stop water getting in past the laces. This is especially true of leather boots.
Are they comfortable?
Field boots MUST be comfortable, as you will travel a lot of miles in then. Make sure you try them on with the same socks you would wear into the field. If you are going to be using them in cold climates, then maybe even double socks or at least thick ski socks.
Field boots are not a fashion statement. They have to be functional rather than look good. Sometimes you can get both, but always err of the side of them being comfortable, strong and sturdy over their color or style.
What about price?
Get the best pair you can afford. Treat them as a long term investment.
How can you make field boots last?
The obvious first step is to buy the best quality that your money can get you. Then follow these simple steps:
- Keep them clean. When you come back from the field wipe off all the dirt and dust and air them out. Remove the socks you have shoved into them. Take them out of the plastic bags you backed them in.
- Keep them dry. Store your boots in a warm, dry part of your house. The garage and the damp basement is not the place. Put them under your bed, in the wardrobe - just remember where they are!
- If they are real leather, then you can rub in some dubbin or mink oil to protect them once a year. You can also add some shoe polish after every trip. It keeps them very waterproof and the leather soft.
- If they are not leather, you can spray them with a silicon waterproof spray - but check on a small area first that it will not ruin the fabric.
- Check and replace the laces if they are worn or starting to break down. You should carry a spare pair of laces in your emergency kit in your day pack.
Field boots are such an important part of your geoscience 'kit'. I hope this helps you to choose wisely and love your boots for a long long time.