By Kellene Bishop
2.4 BILLION of these are purchased every year. They are a critical part of our society, not likely to disappear even in the midst of the most gruesome of disasters. In fact, the more serious the disaster, the more needed these items will be.
99% of them are made in China.
More than 90% of ALL of the materials needed by the handful of U.S. manufacturers come from overseas.
The number of qualified U.S.-based repairmen to make these is a dying breed and requires weeks of advance notice and airline and hotel expenses on top of the work, thus bringing a manufacturer to a costly halt in the meantime. The manufacturing or the repair parts and machines needed to produce this product are nearly as difficult to come by.
There are less than 6 manufacturers in the U.S.—clearly representing an insufficient amount of resources to fulfill the needs of hundreds of millions.
What are “these” widely purchased items? Shoes. And why should you care whether or not you can get them here in America? Is it because the average woman owns 19 pairs of shoes today and if she can’t have her shoes she just might go crazy? Hmmm…perhaps, but that’s a topic we’ll address when we’re talking about hormonal imbalances. *grin* The reason you should care about “da feet” is because, you’re a prepper, and you KNOW that shoes can make the difference between survival and death in extremely tough times. Whether it’s snow boots, athletic shoes, or specialty work boots, proper covering and protection for your feet are critical even in today’s world, in any kind of temperatures. But the problem is, there’s a very real and often understated vulnerability that threatens all of us in a very painful way should there ever be a crisis which resulted in a loss of access to the hundreds of millions of shoes that are imported to the U.S. ever year!
What would you do if there were a massive power outage nationwide, or an earthquake in the New Madrid area, or a completely collapse of the value of the dollar—how would you obtain comfortable, functional, and protective footwear? What about your kids who seem to grow out of shoes 3 times a year?!! “Just go barefoot”, you say? Yeah, think again. Even the Cody Lundin characters of the world can’t get away with traipsing 10 to 15 miles everyday in freezing temperatures and yet it’s quite possible you could find yourself presented with such a scenario.
The key thing to understand here is that shoes won’t be available on every street corner like they are now. Most people don’t appreciate that the U.S. doesn’t really make shoes any longer. There is only ONE athletic shoe manufacturer in the U.S. (with over 350 million athletic shoes being sold in America each year). The heavy duty hiking boots, work boots, and other necessary “roughing it” kind of footwear comes from overseas primarily. So if there ever were a crisis that interrupted or even an export ban on them, we’d be in a world of hurt—literally. Even if we scaled WAY back and only thought about providing ONE pair of shoes for each “survivor” of the crisis, we’d still be in a world of hurt. The average time it takes an experienced cobbler to make a shoe from raw materials is about 1 day. Yeah, I don’t think I’d want to be on THAT waiting list, do you? And besides, do you even have a cobbler in your community now? Even with today’s technology applied to education it takes about 4 years to learn the skills of a cobbler. Can you imagine having to walk 10 miles everyday in your “everyday” shoes? Even if you DID purchase a great quality of shoes, how in the world would you be able to know how long they’d last? How many of us could leisurely shop all day in a presumably comfortable pair of shoes without griping about our “aching feet” at the end of the day? The fact is, very few shoes nowadays are MADE to withstand much more than aesthetic use. Even under the BEST of circumstances that would include no interruption of supplies, raw materials, expertise, and the application of technology, the handful of shoemakers presently available in the U.S. are woefully insufficient to meet the needs of the citizenry who need shoes. Yup, quite a predicament we’ve got here. This is why I take the matter of shoes very seriously!
To properly prepare of such a contingency, I believe it’s important to invest in quality shoes that will take a beating and that are proven to be comfortable for long hours of walking or running. At the very least, be sure to have a SPARE pair of walking/hiking shoes the completely cover your feet in your go-bag. I keep a spare pair of athletic shoes in my car for both the Hubster and myself. (In fact, I even keep a pair of paw coverings for all 4 dogs because they are frankly too pampered and have never had to walk more than a mile in “the elements”.) When it comes to kids, I’d be certain to have at least 2 years’ worth of sizes for each one. That may seem stiff, but you can at least start your efforts at the local thrift store. I actually have found that preparing ahead for shoes for kids actually helps SAVE money. You KNOW your kids are going to grow out of their shoes. So if you by them good shoes NOW for the next couple of years, then you get to purchase them at TODAY’s prices instead of when inflation has had a chance to hit ‘em.
When considering your “preparedness footwear be sure you’re taking into consideration quality arch support and ankle support as well. Not knowing when you’ll ever be able to get a new pair of shoes again is NOT the time to skimp on these details. I’m personally fond of the tactical boots that the law enforcement industry wears or the military boots. The latter can often be found at the army surplus stores still in quality condition. Also be sure that you focus on quality socks that you stock up on that don’t shred to bits after a few weeks of . (Again, you’re saving money getting them now instead of later and you KNOW that you’ll need them later). Along those same lines, I’d strongly suggest you investing in socks for severe winter conditions that will keep your feet dry. (You’ll want to use layers of protection in extreme weather rather than just one layer of a really thick sock.)
To find out what kind of shoes may be necessary to support your entire body in a crisis I’d suggest doing a little searching to find out what postmen wear or chefs or servers or marathon runners or even Mormon missionaries (Those guys tract miles on their feet everyday in all kinds of areas of the world. Rockport shoes have long been their go-to brand specifically for the ability to withstand the abuse such distance will handle. Typically one pair of shoes will barely eek out a years’ worth of support for these ambitious walkers.) Regardless of what the quality shoes may cost you now, it will most certainly be less costly than what you would have to pay in an environment in which there are NO MORE shoes being made foreseen future. Even with others perishing and thus no longer having a need for shoes on the Other Side, I still wouldn’t trust that my shoe needs will be met by those who weren’t capable of preparing to survive a crisis in the first place, would you?
This article would be incomplete if I didn’t also address being sure to stock up on the other items necessary to properly protect and care for the feet. Athlete’s Foot Powder, moleskin, ace bandages, pain relievers, nail clippers, band-aids, and even Dr. Schools foot pads would be wise investments. Those handy-dandy foot warmer inserts might come in handy too. The good news is that if you’ve embraced couponing, I have no doubt that you can obtain plenty of these items FREE or cheap, so no excuse there. I would also suggest that you do a little search on YouTube and learn how to darn socks—no, not curse at them, mend them, and make sure you have the proper supplies to do so. And hey, if you have the chance to enroll in a cobbler class at your local community college, you may want to consider it. You’d be the King of the Hill in just about any community striving to succeed in the aftermath of a disaster.
As a reminder, the Principle of Clothing/Shelter Preparedness holds the priority position of #5 among the 10 Principles of Preparedness making this aspect of preparedness one that may be more important to you than even water and food needs.