They shaved my head, gave me new clothes and told me to take care of my feet. My hair's still short (not shaved), I still prefer a uniform and take care of my feet.
I'll never forget that day many years ago at Fort Leonard, Missouri. I was a fresh-faced recruit with a newly shaved head. Our platoon was sitting behind the barracks with one of our drill instructors. His name was Staff Sergeant Beager.
We were sitting there polishing our boots to a high shine, just to mess them up again, and he told us, "Take care of your feet boys and they'll take care of you."
I have no idea what happened to SSG Beager after I graduated basic training for the U.S. Army, but his words have always stuck with me.
Whether on patrol in the Army or on a hike in the wilderness, his words of wisdom ring true. If we take care of our soles, then they'll take care of our souls by carrying us to places of splendor and beauty that can only be seen by going pedestrian style.
Human beings cram their feet into ill-fitting contraptions some call shoes and boots. These wrongly sized, poorly-made contrivances do more harm than good and you're probably better off going barefoot.
However, with the proper research and advice you too can follow the wisdom of SSG Beager.
Know Your Feet
Look for a boot that fits your foot properly. I may have my favorite boot brand (and I do), but they may not be engineered for your foot. You may have high insteps, high arches, wide toes, or any number of other things specific to your foot.
Know the Boot Make Up
Once you know your foot needs, which can be done through proper measurement or just knowing what hurts, figure out what brand of boots is geared toward your needs.
Try BOTH On
Once you've figured out what you're looking for, be sure to try on both boots and walk around the store for a while. A good retail store will let you spend time in the boots.
Key Things for ALL Boots
Be sure to look for good arch support and ample toe room. Also, be sure to purchase boots or shoes based on your type of hiking. Do you need all leather or breathable mesh? Ankle-high or low cut? We could go on and on and on, but the key is to know your feet and your plans.
Once you've chosen your boot, be sure to pay attention to your feet. Don't think, "Well, it just needs to be broken in."
Sometimes this is true, but foot pain is never a good thing.
Remember the words of SSG Beager: "Take care of your feet boys (and girls) and they'll take care of you."