The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Farm boots

The cheapest kindMark's take on shoes: It's worth spending more to protect one of the most important parts of your body.

Anna's take on shoes: I work them so hard, the Wal-mart ones only wear out a few months faster than the expensive ones, so it's better to just get the cheapest kind.

Mark's threat (offer?) to take me shoe-shopping came at a weak time.  We'd bought matching pairs of waterproof work boots at Wal-mart just a month before since this same style lasted nearly two years for Mark last time around.  But my new boots came with a slow leak that Red wing bootsquickly got bigger.  I'd suffered through wet feet for three weeks and was so sick of plastic bags in my shoes that I was ready to grasp at any straw, even if it was fancy, expensive, and stylish.

We were in Ohio visiting Mark's mom at the time, so she and Mark cooked up a plan to take me a real shoe store.  There, Mark shod me in two high priced pairs of shoes --- calf-high Bogs ($95.95) for really wet weather and ankle-high Red Wing work boots ($169.95) for drier periods.  A little research at home suggests that I could have reduced the price by about 15% by buying online (or by 35% if we'd selected an off-brand), but I suspect Mark considers that extra price worth it because it allowed him to strike while the iron was hot.  (Or, rather, while cold, wet feet were on the front of my mind.)

Bogs bootsSo far, I can tell you that both pairs of shoes are quite comfortable.  The Bogs, especially, are much superior to other types of muck boots I've worn since they feel like real shoes (not flippers), they're warm, and they hug my calf so that even when I wade through water too deep for the boots, my feet don't get as wet.

The real question, though, is how fast my expensive boots will wear out.  I've pretty much given up on wearing muck boots because I walk them into the ground so quickly --- six months is a good lifetime for the cheap versions under heavy farm use.  Since my Bogs cost five times as much as the cheapest boots, they'll need to survive until May 2014 to make it worth our while.  Think they'll make it?

Our chicken waterer kept our flock happy and healthy while we were out of town for five days.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Congrats on the Red Wing boots- Mark is right, footgear is important. And RedWing boots are fabulous- Minnesota made!
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Dec 19 08:45:29 2011

Rubber (rain/work) boots are generally made by injection moulding these days. They are generally made from PVC, (artificial) rubber or polyurethane.

These materials are usually not reinforced (although boots generally have a moulded-in liner). So while these materials are very flexible and tough, they are generally much easier cut or pierced than e.g. leather. So don't use your boots as an extra pair of hands to kick or shove things. The rubber will not appreciate it. :-)

But a small cut or leak in them can be glued or sometimes even melted shut (with thermoplastic materials only). I think that in general rubber or PU boots are preferable. PVC requires softeners that will migrate out over time and ara potentially harmful.

For farm use you should probably consider steel-toed boots.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 19 09:41:31 2011

We bought Bogs while we were out visiting our homestead at the beginning of December. While we certainly didn't put them to any hard use, feeling like you're wearing slippers outdoors is pretty sweet and worthwhile in my opinion. ;)


Comment by Sarah Mon Dec 19 11:22:20 2011
And don't forget You also helped a local economy vs the WM
Comment by Anonymous Mon Dec 19 11:50:32 2011

Anna, did you wear out the brand name Muck Boots?

The neoprene boots are sure warm in the winter. I were mine while trapping and went through the ice into thigh deep water one day. The initial shock of the cold water was intense, but the water in my boots quickly warmed to body temperature and was actually comfortable on the walk back to the truck.

Comment by Heath Mon Dec 19 13:23:12 2011
Go Mark!
Comment by Heather Mon Dec 19 13:31:54 2011

Eric --- Interesting --- I had no clue the brand had a loyal following. :-)

Roland --- Thanks for the science behind the materials! I have noticed that these are made of a different material than the really cheap ones (though don't know which each one is....)

I'm not a fan of steel-toed boots, though. In a perfect world, I'd be barefoot, which means I wear Tevas all summer (except when shoveling or mowing). Steel-toed boots are so darn restrictive....

Sarah --- They are very comfortable....

Anonymous --- That factored into our decision too. The shoe store was really cool --- half a sales outlet, but the other half was a real shoe repair shop! Worth the price of admission just to see and smell them working on leather.

Heath --- No, the ones I've worn out were whatever the cheapest brand is at Wal-mart.... I didn't realize "Muck boots" was a brand name. The warmth of these Bogs is definitely a major feature!

Heather --- I'll tell Mark you're impressed by him. :-)

Comment by anna Mon Dec 19 14:16:39 2011

Would suggest treating those Red Wings with Sno Seal or similar waterproofing material. The leather will last longer.

When buying waterproof boots (that aren't rubber), GoreTex is the key.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Dec 19 14:22:28 2011

The bottom of the boots looks like injection molded plastic. The top half looks like foamed neoprene maybe. The label inside should tell you which materials it is made of.

If you have steel-toed boots that restrict your toe movement, they're too small. :-) I've found it comfortable to get steel-toed working shoes at least half a size bigger than normal.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 19 16:53:19 2011

Anonymous --- I was wondering if I should treat my boots with something to extend their life. I did try that one year, putting on waterproofing each time they got wet as instructed. And I still walked through a fancy, Gore Tex pair of boots in 12 months....

Roland --- Good tip with the label. It says, "Fabric upper. Balance rubber and manmade materials." Not that helpful, but sounds like maybe a blend of rubber and some kind of plastic?

I wear all of my boots too big because I just don't like feeling constrained (and my feet are awfully wide, so unless I get special shoes, I have to focus on width, not length.) And I still hated the steel toed boots I had once.

Comment by anna Mon Dec 19 18:00:19 2011
I also only buy cheap boots. Quality seems to be a luck of the draw. In October, I bought a new pair of steel-toe for work. Cost $35 at Walmart. The right boot is already torn completely apart on the upper at the edge of the steel. The left boot, aside from some scuffing, looks brand new.
Comment by Edward Antrobus Mon Dec 19 18:47:34 2011
I prefer second-hand army boots. I bought a pair of these for $20 when I was a student. Since then, they've carried me through several thousand miles across the Norwegian mountains, which can be very wet, muddy, or snowy. They're now almost 20 years in my possession, and still keep my feet dry in the heaviest downpours. They have steel noses, which come in handy when cutting firewood and heavy work like that.
Comment by Rhesa Tue Dec 20 07:33:52 2011

Edward --- Interesting comment about luck of the draw with cheap boots. I guess that's why Mark got those awesome ones and I got duds, all from the same brand....

Rhesa --- Those boots sound awesome! I wish I could get a pair of boots to last a fraction of that time.

Comment by anna Tue Dec 20 15:09:15 2011
I farm year round and while I have tried muck boots, they tended to cripple me due to the instep being in the wrong place for my foot. I switched to Bogs and swear by them. I've had my current pair for three years now. I wear them year round. In the summer I flip down the top and in the winter I just add an insulated liner.
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