Thursday, June 01, 2023

The Collapse CIV: Footwear

 25 May 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

In going through my weekly review of items in the house, I realized that at some point footwear is going to be an issue.

Footwear is one of those things (like many others) that I think many people took for granted in a world where it was available at their fingertips. Few knew where their footwear came from or how it got to them. It was made out of miracle materials that were lightweight and stylish (and highly artificial) or durable and rugged (and again, highly artificial). No matter what the size of the foot was, a pair of footwear was always available in just the right size and shape: regular, narrow, wide. We even had things to put in your shoes to compensate for the shape of the foot.

Was. Were. But no more.

The need for me is not acute, not yet. I have the work boots that I typically wear and a pair of sneakers for lighter walking and a pair of general boots for “going out”. But other than two pairs of backup sneakers (if I found something that works, I always bought more – once upon a time, one never knew when they would suddenly go “off the market”), a formal pair of Japanese sandals for my martial arts, and the “gum boots” for working in dirt and mud, the shoe cupboard is bare.

The practice of the cobbler is one of the skills that I have never even considered mastering (although of interest), nor does anyone I seem to have made contact with have the ability to make a pair of shoes. Apparently there is someone two towns away that can work leather, but the ability to manufacture footwear remains unknown. Perhaps because it has never been tried, perhaps because it has never come up before.

The sneakers, I assume, are done at some point. Even if I walk carefully, the materials will eventually rip, the soles become slick and eventual separate, the inside lining wear away. There will be no possible repairs. The same could be said for my work boots – artificial materials will wear away eventually, although the uppers may survive. Only my general boots, completely made of leather, have any chance of making it long term.

What will I do? The options seem limited. Perhaps I will get lucky and another set of footwear will “magically” appear, although given my shoe size/width ratio, that seems rather unlikely. In a question of large or small, large is always better as at least my feet are not confined to the point of pain – although they will rub. Sandals in this climate would be almost useless for anything other than traction during a long part of the year. Perhaps some version of moccasins – not unknown in this parts once upon a time – might make a comeback, but only if someone knows how to make them.

Such a simple thing, Lucilius. Yet all too soon, so sorely missed.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Nylon124:36 AM

    Find footwear that's comfortable that fits, time to have back-ups but how many and storage room? Everything we take for granted with a modern supply chain, out the window with a collapse. Now with socks, I'm good there........(heh heh).

    1. Oddly enough Nylon12, this is where everyone in my family is likely better off than I am. They have a dozen pairs or more compared to my relatively few pairs...

      Socks I am good on as well. And with my darning skills, I should be good for a long time.

  2. Anonymous4:58 AM

    Can you imagine lack of shoes in a Life in the summer desert where rocks and spiny growth are common ? Methinks that land will become uninhabitable. Some type of wood soled sandal might be able to be made ?

    1. I cannot imagine - which of course, is the sort of question that generated this week's missive. My knowledge of pre-industrial footwear is pretty slim. Undoubtedly people would figure out some sort of solution, but some locations would indeed largely become tough to live in.

  3. Nylon12 beat me a little to socks.

    Darning-repair of socks and general repairs to clothing.

    Back in the 70's I was working with a sister unit in the British Army and was taught about "Domestic economy" as they did it weekly, little repairs to their clothing-equipment and darning socks. They re-heeled, resoles of boots too. Polishing your boots was not just for parade but the wax-oils was to keep the leather protected.

    If you've ever done any mountain man reenactments you'd know the value of those TRADE GOODS of steel sewing needles, thread and such. Really hard to make a darning needle, crochet hook from bone and wood.

    A stout pair of socks and a recycled auto tire sandal works really well in South America. Same idea with moccasins, without protection from the rocks and thorns they become shredded pretty fast. Desert Indians drawings show them wearing sandals with them.

    1. Michael, I have been darning my socks for about two years now and have extensively extended their lifespan.

      I try to make sure that I have a good supply of needles on hand for that very reason.

      My cousin used to do the Leadville 100 mile bike ride. A week after that ride was the 100 mile foot race. Apparently it had been won for years by runners from the highlands in Peru that ran the race in sandals with recycled tire tread, so it really is a solution.


    1. Anonymous5:21 AM

      Yes, thank you for that link. Sounds like a great cottage industry to learn. Even if society continues to function, using up worn tires as foot ware is a good use.

    2. The power of the Social Internet. Why I am a fan. I highly recommend the videos Leigh posted as well at Permies.

  5. I guess if such an event were to come to pass, I would take a page from our local Amish and learn to go barefoot, at least during the spring/summer/fall seasons to prolong the inevitable. During winter, I would have to take a page from the Indians and make some sort of moccasin boots out of deer hide.

    1. Ed, I have thought about that as well - many cultures have gone barefoot. One in mind particularly was the Zulu, who actually trained their warriors having them walk on thorns until their soles toughened up. The lack of shoes certainly did not impede them.

      Even in the Mediterranean world, the Romans wore boots in Winter quarters.

  6. Anonymous9:00 AM

    If my history is remembered right, boots were the first item stripped from the dead in war.
    Another item of clothing- gloves- very difficult to make.
    BTW, almost all our boots come from overseas...
    I buy the same boot, just got a pair yesterday- that pair will not be used for at least a year. Red Wing work boots.
    The boots get cycled thorough a useful career-
    in order, there is the new spare pair on the shelf.
    The current pair to wear
    and the 2nd older pair to wear alternately
    This gives the boots a day or two to dry out and rest.
    The 3rd pair which is the garden muck boot.
    The oldest pair, with the laces replaced with a very light bungee cord, for slip-ons to go and bring out the trash, etc.

    1. Boots were definitely among the first, although I wonder how well they fit their finders.

      Your boot rotation is a good idea. I do a similar thing with my tennis shoes, have at least three pairs at one time with similar uses.

      One thing I should do when I regain employment is get a good set of work boots.

  7. There are a couple of projects on about making shoes and boots. Really interesting:

    There are several videos there and it's quite a process! Those shoes and boots are extremely well made and should last a long time. That said, I'm not sure if it's something I would try myself. But I think it would be a good trade for someone who loved it. Not to mention an important community service.

    1. Oh, lovely Leigh! Thank you!

      I can imagine it is quite a process. That said, I have to admit that when I have had my boots resoled I am always fascinated by the equipment there. It looks like something that could be very interesting. Also, sadly, a trade that has largely disappeared due to the "global economy".

  8. The more useful and challenging the trade, the more valued its products are.

    Basic shoe repairs is a worthy side gig.

    1. I would think so as well Michael. Even now, there are limited options. Just being able to do it for one's self would be a money saver.


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