Thursday, July 28, 2005

Boot fetish

Going through my collection of shoes for the , I realise I have a lot of boots.

I blame the army: I was perfectly happy with regular shoes until I tried on my first pair of army boots, and realised that they were so much better than anything else. You could tramp all over in boots, and no harm would come to your feet. Mud, water, sand, and (later in England) snow and slush - whatever - army boots treated them with the same disdain. Even back in the old days of stiff rubber soles that offered no cushioning, they were a damn sight better than just shoes. And they were free.

(well, there was the 2½ years military service that came with the boots, but hey ...)

I was in the infantry, and the quality of boots was of painful importance: if they were going to let you down, you'd only find out 15 km into a 24 km march, with every blister emphasising the problem and no turning back. I became very aware of how boots could either reduce or induce pain. We used to wear out boots at the rate of a pair every 6 months, but I've kept a pair from every generation of boots the army has given me, as a momento of everything we went through together.

Anyway, meet the gang:
the usual suspects

The grubby pair slouching on the left is the pair that took me through basic military training. Pebbled leather, hard rubber soles that offered no cushioning, and a quick lacing system that came loose easily. Stiff, looked good on parade, not so good in the field. Leaning heavily on it is a pair of the type that was issued in the mid-90s, with a panama sole that offered much better traction than the chevron patterns of the previous one, and a different lacing system that tended to hold together better on the lower half. When I came back from England to rejoin the army, this was the type of boot that took me through my time in my battalion, 3 overseas training trips and a wide variety of terrain. Standing proud on the right is the latest issue, with side panels, and a cushioned sole that would do a sports shoe proud. It's also the lightest of the lot: feels like nothing compared with the leftmost pair, which weighs in at almost a kilogram. This is the boot for the reservist, who needs every advantage he can get!

My ankles still feel naked in normal shoes, and I've continued to wear boots in everyday life, with concessions to my laziness by getting zippered ones: I just can't be bothered with laces anymore.

No comments: