The United States military can bring an unprecedented amount of firepower onto any battlefield. Starting at recruit training, service members learn how to fire, handle, safe-keep, and most importantly, clean their weapons. You're also required to memorize the four rules of Marine Corps rifle safety:
Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
And as essential as weapon training, starting as a recruit, one must learn to take care of the most vital piece of equipment in their arsenal, their feet. And like their weapon, there are rules to proper foot care.
The iconic movie Full Metal Jacket made the legendary Rifleman’s creed famous, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life…” Mobility is key to a strong military, and thus for this article, we will rewrite the creed, “These are my feet. There are many like it, but these are mine. My feet are my best friend. They are my life.”
For most service members, their military-issued boots are the first set of boots they have ever worn. And with anything new, there is a wearing-in period, that more often than not can be very uncomfortable.
The military has come a long way in providing state-of-the-art boots to not only protect the foot but sustain a variety of activities. From daily marching to ceremonies to the battlefield, foot care is vital to accomplishing the mission. Although the military focuses on providing the best protective boots, they must rely on the service member to properly care for their feet and not compromising the mission.
Because of this, proper foot care has always been of the utmost importance - one who does not take care of his/her feet will soon be out of commission as sure as if they were hit in combat.
There are three ways one can protect their feet.
Washing and drying of feet
Proper fitting boots & socks
Preventive Measures (including moleskin)
Feet need to be washed at least once a day. Otherwise, the tissues that naturally shed will build up over time, causing smelling feet, and worse, athlete’s foot. After washing, it is essential to dry the feet thoroughly, especially between the toes.
Tip: in washing feet, if water is not available, use baby wipes.
Make sure the boots fit correctly. The foot must fit firmly to the boot’s heel and still allow movement of the toes. Any movement of the foot inside the boot can cause blisters – and as we say in the military, that’s bad juju.
Socks are almost as important as the boot itself. And more importantly, dry socks will be the recruit’s best friend. Recruits should try to have extra socks in the cargo pocket or pack. Socks should be changed every three hours when humping (military word for hiking). Even if not exposed to water, sweat can still accumulate, causing unwanted foot issues.
Tip: keep a single pair of socks in a zip lock bag in case you encounter rain or need to ford a river.
The best practice in keeping feet protected is preventive maintenance. Preventing blisters and rubbing can be thwarted by using bandaids, or better yet, moleskin. Moleskin should be placed over sensitive foot areas, preventing any potential friction caused by poor-fitting boots. No matter if you are a recruit or seasoned service member, pack your moleskin.