September 2008
Howle's Hints

Fitting Footwear for Fall

  Click to enlarge
Your local Co-op employees can assist in finding the right boot to meet your needs. Tim Brown (left), manager of Randolph Farmers Co-op, showed John Howle the latest features in boots.
By John Howle

If you are trying to save some money on gas and diesel this fall, you can use the time-honored tradition of walking. If you are seeing about the cows, visiting a neighbor or checking food plots, let the rubber meet the road with your soles instead of tires. You’ll save some money and gain beneficial health benefits.

With foot power in mind, you’ll want to pick a pair of boots that fit your feet as well as your needs around the farm or on the hunt. For the famous coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn, yearly footwear was a serious matter as her quote illustrates:

"In the summertime we didn’t have shoes to wear,
But in the wintertime we’d all get a brand new pair
From a mail-order catalogue, money made by selling a hog.

Daddy always seemed to get the money somewhere."

In the absence of commercial boot dryers, an electric fan will work.

 Use the following tips for footwear this fall

• Since the leather on boots is basically skin without the lubricants that naturally occur, it’s important to keep them conditioned. When leather gets wet, it stretches and loses strength. If it dries too quickly, it hardens and cracks. Any mud or dirt should be removed with water and a brush. Even dry dust and sand can work its way into the pores of the leather causing it to break down. Applying Sno-Seal waterproofing, which contains bees wax, will recondition the leather without breaking down the leather or rotting the threads giving the boots an extended life.

• During the winter, leather boots worn while hunting get wet from rain, snow and mud. Placing the boots on commercial boot dryers will have them ready to wear the next day. Without a commercial boot dryer, a small, electric fan will suffice. (Fig. 1, below) Lay the boots on their side with the open ends facing the fan allowing the air flow of the fan to slowly dry the boots, and they’ll be ready to wear the next morning. Avoid placing the boots close to the fireplace or using a hair dryer because this dries the boots too quickly, cracking and hardening the leather.

• I looked for a slip-on boot I could wear around the farm, in the mud and on the hunt, and I found it. It’s called the Mississippi Muddog and it is made by Georgia Boots. These 12-inch slip-on boots have a molded waterproof rubber foot and full grain leather shafts. These boots with Comfort Core air flow inserts provide shock absorption and cooling while wading in creeks, walking through morning dew or catching a load of cows in a muddy, catch pin. Finally, for extra grip, the outsole is oil-resistant and has just enough lugs to prevent slipping.

Georgia Boots offers the 12-inch Mississippi Muddog slip-on.

The thing I liked most about the Georgia Boots "Muddog" is the foot is made of rubber which results in less scent on the hunt and easier clean-up from mud. You can work all day around the farm and get in an evening hunt without having to change boots. For more information on the "Mississippi Muddogs" visit

• The rain and mud of fall can take its toll on the feet when staying outdoors all day. Wool socks offer the best protection against moisture because of their ability to wick moisture away from the skin. Cotton socks, once they get wet from rain, snow or mud, remain clammy and cold for the duration of the day. Merino wool is favored for its softness.

• Picking a pair of lace-up hunting boots that fits and gives plenty of ankle support can prevent sore feet and a sprained ankle. Before lacing, push the foot forward in the boot. One finger should fit behind the heel. Once they are laced up, you should be able to kick a wall without your toes touching the end of the boot.

Boot soles can be made from inner tubes.

• A blister on the foot can ruin a productive day on the hunt or around the farm. At the first sign of a "hot spot" on the foot, apply a band-aid, if available, to the problem area. A piece of T-shirt or other soft fabric will suffice and can be placed between the "hot spot" and sock preventing the formation of a blister.

• Tire inner tubes often get discarded because of punctures can be used to relieve tired, sore feet or they can fill in space when boots stretch. Cut an insole for each foot out of the rubber to go inside your hunting, hiking or work boots. A pattern for the insole can be the insole of another pair of boots or shoes, or simply trace around the foot with a ball point pen or permanent marker onto the rubber. The insole can be easily cut from the inner tube with a pair of scissors or sharp, pocket knife. This will help you fish more fervently, hunt more heartily and hike more happily. (Fig. 2)

• You might run across a snake or two as summer turns to fall. If you are extra cautious when rambling through the brush, you might want to invest in snake boots. These boots are constructed of thick cordura and are designed to resist any snake bite as long as the rascal doesn’t bite you above the knees. (You might want to sleep standing up in your sleeping bag.) Rocky Boots,, offers a line of high profile snake boots. I watched my friend, Steve Scruggs, allow himself to be bitten repeatedly by a rattler while wearing the boots during a high school wildlife presentation, and he simply wiped the venom off the boots without harm to himself.

• Dusting your feet with talcum powder or corn starch before a walking hunt will prevent blisters and help keep the feet dry. Common areas where blisters form are the heel, ball of the foot and big and little toes. Also, changing socks during the day will rejuvenate and dry your feet. Use these tips to make your walking and working experiences more comfortable this fall.

Click to enlarge    
At left, Steve Scruggs holds a rattle snake that bit 

his snake boots several times without causing harm. Right, Rocky Boots makes a line of high profile snake boots for late summer/early fall protection.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Editor’s Note: All sketches shown in this article are by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.