When that dirty stuff hits the fan, most modern forms of transportation will be rendered useless without gas or electricity. You will rely heavily upon those two little toe-holders dangling from your legs to propel yourself through all the dangers that lie ahead. Yet proper foot care can be easily taken for granted, and the consequences if you ignore it can be deadly.
Socks On Lock
The best form of protection is prevention, and that usually starts with investing in quality socks and boots. Stay away from cotton socks, because once wet, cotton does not dry quickly or provide heat insulation. Modern forms of wool and several new synthetic fabrics are durable and provide great cushioning for your feet. Both materials are designed to repel water, retain heat and keep abrasion down, thus preventing unwanted blisters, too.
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If The Boot Fits
When searching for the perfect boot, look for several qualities, including comfort, water resistance, toe protection, durability and ankle support. If you plan on trudging through cold weather, make sure to stockpile heavy socks and warmer boots to prevent frostbite, which can lead to gangrene. Gangrene is a potentially life-threatening disease that happens when a lack of blood supply to an affected area results in cell death and possibly the loss of your foot (adversely affecting your footsie game).
It can take several attempts with trial and error to select the right boot, so if you come upon “the glass slipper” of boots, it’s a good idea to buy a few of the same model to store in your stockpile. Remember to break in your boots by wearing them before you really need to put some major miles on them.
Rub a Dub Dub
Even the best boots cannot fully protect your feet from infections. Cleanliness is the key to avoid infection, so routine scrub-downs with soap and water are vital. Bacterial infections can cause wet gangrene, so pay close attention to early signs of swelling and pain. You should use topical and oral antibiotics in the event of a bacterial infection. Fungus infections are common on the feet, especially on the toenails. Fungus loves humidity, so keeping your feet dry and routinely allowing your feet to air out when you are resting will prevent fungus growth.
Open wounds on the feet are open invitations for infections. The first step in treating any wound is to stop the bleeding by putting pressure directly on the wound. Once the bleeding stops, you must clean the wound, apply topical antibiotic ointment and dress it with sterile gauze or cloth. If you sustain a wound in an area where heavy pressure is applied when walking, it can be extremely painful and ultimately debilitating. If you need to keep moving, wrap the wound in extra padding to cushion it from the pressure and spread the force to a wider area.
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Blisters are the most common injury associated with heavy foot use. These small pockets of fluid under the skin usually form when a sock or shoe creates intense friction against the foot. Early signs of blistering include redness or hot spots. A slight adjustment to your boot or putting an extra buffering layer on your feet — including a layer of commercially available second skin, such as Moleskin — can prevent blisters from forming.
You may need to treat large or broken blisters before continuing any activity due to pain (unless you’re into that sort of thing — and who are we to judge). If the blister is not open, use a sterile knife to pop it and release any accumulated fluid. Clean the blister and remove loose skin tops that have come detached. Apply a secondary skin and cover it with some gauze or tape. Alternatively, if you just happen to have spare superglue lying around, squeeze some on the blister and let it dry. This might sound strange, but it’ll do in a pinch. Cover it up with cloth and tape, and you should be good to go until you can get proper treatment.
Sprain, No Gain
Serious injuries of the foot include bone fractures and ankle sprains. Signs of fractures and sprains are similar and include pain, swelling and tenderness to the touch. Simple minor sprains are readily walked off with very minimal treatment, but higher-degree sprains require immediate treatment.
If you do suffer a fracture or a severe ankle sprain, immediately stop any activity that may cause further damage to the surrounding tissue. Use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) method to treat your foot. In short, stop all activity, then place ice or a cold pack on the injury. Apply compression on the injured area to prevent inflammation, and elevate your foot above the level of your heart to minimize blood flow to the foot. If you need to remain mobile, splint the foot to reduce pain and reinjury.
No Callous Disregard
Overuse of your feet can cause corns and calluses, and though not life-threatening, they can be a nuisance. This condition is cause by dead skin buildup in areas of repeated friction. If it doesn’t bother you, then no treatment is needed.
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You should remove the corn or callus if it causes too much pain or discomfort. You can remove them by soaking your feet in warm water for 10 minutes to soften the skin. Gently file down the layers of dead skin, but pay close attention not to file away live skin. Apply antibiotics around the area just as a precaution to prevent infection.
Your mobility can be as important to your well-being as food, water, fire and shelter — especially in a survival situation. Keeping your feet healthy and ready for the road ahead is essential to your survival. Unless you learn how to walk on your hands, you will only be able to go as far as your feet take you. Remember to take good care of what you rely on for standing and walking, and they’ll take care of you when you need them most.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of BALLISTIC™ magazine. Print Subscriptions are available here.