When going in the woods for scouting, hunting, fishing, or hiking, the primary way you get there since the beginning of time has been on foot. This simple mode of transport is the key means of transit around the great outdoors, especially where the ATV trails end and the roads disappear. Keeping those tootsies clean, warm, and dry will make sure that you do not make it halfway in and wonder if you can make it back out again.
The fundamental thing of left-foot / right-foot / your body will follow is in making sure your feet are up to the task. The old term tenderfoot harkens back to those would-be outdoorsmen who had little experience moving about the woods. A good way to toughen your feet is by walking around barefoot whenever possible at home, especially outside to develop a thick hide on the contact surfaces of your soles and toes. Take care of your feet and they will take care of you. Keep your feet clean, dry and toenails cut short and strait across before you start your hunt. If you have a history of blisters in a certain area, invest in a $ 3 pack of moleskin to guard those sensitive areas. You can thank us later for that tip.
Start with the socks
Sock choice is the foundation of keeping your feet going in the woods. Stay away from ankle socks, thin athletic socks, and for that matter, most of your normal everyday around town foot sleeves. Looking around any Tractor Supply, Bass Pro Shop or other big box store will soon turn up a large selection heavyweight hiking socks that go as thick as a loaf of French bread. This is a better choice as many of these include natural wool blends that will stay warm even when wet. A good standby that hunters have used for years is the old two-sock combo. This is simply a white synthetic athletic 'sweat sock' for moister wicking on first, covered by a thick green anti-microbial army boot sock to cushion the feet. The longer these socks are the better. Pull them up as far as possible to provide both a layer of protection against ticks that may make it under your pants cuff and insulate your lower legs during cold wet hunts. If possible, take an extra set of dry socks out in the woods with you to change out if needed, stuffing the old wet ones in a sealable sandwich bag. The clean socks can also come in handy in first aid situations.
To ensure that your sock plan is going to work with your hunting boots, break em in and try them out on a walk through the woods a few times before the first day of hunting season. This will break in your boot / sock platform and help alleviate blisters on the hunt later. It is going to be too late then to turn around on opening day and find a plan B.
Trendy hiking shoes with thin soles are nothing more than brown sneakers. Save your money and your feet and look for two things in your hunting boots: a thick sole, and a high top. Sure, those lightweight under the ankle hikers feel like your favorite running shoe and do not have a break in period, but what they also lack is support. If you hunt in an area that is wet, muddy, or root-laden (come on, this is Mississippi guys!), Leave these at home as you are just asking for a lost shoe, a twisted ankle, or barking dogs by the end of the day.
Look for a decent hunting or backpacking boot with deep lugs on the sole and a high ankle. If possible, get one with a shank in sole as this will help keep the bottom of the boot from flexing too much, which can save a slip on a mossy oak root. The high ankle will help keep your foot from extending and twisting in oddball ways that it was not designed to and keep you from a nasty sprain, or in turn, change what would have been a broken bone if wearing a sneaker into a sprain. You want to try on multiple pair and get one that will fit with the socks you have planned, leaving a little extra room in the toes so you do not get your toenails hammered moving downhill.
Finally think about waterproofing your boots, or buying boots with enclosed lowers. Not only can this keep you comfortable on those cold and wet winter mornings trekking to the tree stand through the muck, it can help keep in your funky foot odors. While your wife may not complain about your green steam feet, bambi could get a whiff through boots that are too breathable and give you a wide berth.
Even if he did not walk a mile in your shoes.