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How to make urban shoes into emergency bad weather footwear

improvise waterproof shoes, keep feet dry, keep feet warm
600 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

So the stuff hit the fan, the rain is turning into sleet and snow, and you have to walk to safety through the icy slush. And you’re wearing your office shoes.

Here is how to improvise some waterproof footwear.

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by Leon Pantenburg

Freezing your feet is a seriously bad thing. And that is possible if your feet get wet, the temperature drops and you can’t get out of the elements.

The best idea is to keep your feet warm and dry in the first place, and get some insulating materials between your foot and the ground. Insoles can be a toesaver.

Improvise footwear, keep feet warm, keep feet dry

Improvise footwear to help keep your feet warm and dry.

But suppose you are caught far from your winter boots – how do you turn your regular shoes into waterproof, semi-insulated footwear? The necessary material may be as close as the nearest trash can or dumpster.

Here’s what you need. 

Bread sacks: Find some sturdy plastic bags that bread came. Other bags will work, but the bread sacks are typically stronger and thicker, and don’t come with holes already poked in them. Obviously, you’ll have to use whatever you can find.

Styrofoam plates that meat or fish come on: This material is relatively thin, and tends to be fairly flexible and tough. Corrugated cardboard is also usable, with good insulative value and it is probably easier to find.

Here is what you do:

Put the bread sacks over your socks before you put them in the shoes.

improvise waterproof shoes, keep feet warm, keep feet dry

Put the bread sack over the sock.

I learned this technique from Jim Prestwood, a veteran scoutmaster and search and rescue team member. Jim is outdoors in the worst weather, preventing Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” from happening to unprepared visitors to the Central Oregon backcountry. Jim recommends the bread sacks as a way to keep your feet dry.

Your feet will sweat anyway, he says, but the bread sacks will keep the moisture from getting into your shoes. The plastic sacks will also keep moisture from the outside from soaking your socks. If you have Scotch or duct tape, wrap the top of the sacks around your ankles to hold them up. The bread sacks will also protect your socks if you have to wade in water, or if the slush builds up.

I’ve used this technique to wade a wide, shallow creek when deer hunting. It works better than having wet, soggy socks the rest of the day.

Make insoles out of the Styrofoam or cardboard. Trace around your foot, or take the regular insoles out, trace around them on the Styrofoam, and cut them out with the pocket knife you always carry. If you’re lucky and your shoes aren’t too tight, the additional insoles may fit right on top of the regular insoles.

improvise waterproof shoe, keep feet warm, keep feet dry

Trace around your foot to make insoles fit.

Insoles, IMO, are the best way to add several degrees of insulation warmth to your shoes. I regularly wear alpaca insoles in my hunting boots when it’s too cold for uninsulated boots, but don’t want to hike all day in heavy insulated ones.

It also helps if you are wearing wool socks. Wool stays warm even when wet. Cotton is the worst – it will suck the heat from your feet, and chill them.

Neither of these adaptions will work very comfortably if your shoes are really tight. In fact, it may require some careful folding to get the bags to fit inside the shoes.

The best idea is to dress for the weather conditions, or carry winter boots, hat, coat and gloves in your get home bag. But these ideas might help if you ever do have to improvise.


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