Whether youâ€™re mucking stalls or digging potatoes, having the right farm boots can keep you safe, dry and efficientâ€”whatever the dayâ€™s tasks throw at you. Mud can create an unsafe situation for anyone without proper traction, and a pair of rubber-coated boots that can be hosed down quickly after each wear can be the difference between getting back out within an hourâ€™s time and losing an entire day to the unperfected art of “air-drying.â€ť
A “mud bootâ€ť shouldnâ€™t be so light that it canâ€™t handle penetration hazards, such as nails or glass, but it also shouldnâ€™t be so clunky that it continues to hold mudâ€”and extra weightâ€”on the soles. Look for boots that extend high enough up the leg to prevent leaks over the lip when trudging through the deepest areas of soil and bedding on your farm.
Most farmers own two to three pairs of task-specific shoes in addition to their mud boots. These can include a quality pair of steel-toed boots for working around construction materials, as well as riding boots for those who depend on horses to keep their farms operational. Other types of dedicated footwear include snow shoes, protective gardening clogs and hiking boots. Your foot wardrobe will depend largely on the terrain and climate for your area, as well as your farmâ€™s outputs.
Some situations warrant an extra designated pair of boots. Angela England, author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) (Penguin Group, 2012), keeps an extra pair of mud boots just for working with chemicals or quarantining new livestock. In addition, snow shoes and snow boots should be purchased in sets of two for households with blustery winters; the spares can be kept in the car for easy access during an emergency.
How can todayâ€™s small-scale farmer afford the cost of buying so many boots? Use these tips to avoid losing money on your footwear:
- Look for brands that offer a money-back guarantee or a generous manufacturerâ€™s warranty. More expensive brands tend to offer protection against premature aging, wear and flaws in the materials, and might offer a refund or replacement if they donâ€™t meet expectations.
- While beautiful boots abound in farm-supply stores, most professionalsÂÂÂ skip the cost of a pretty-patterned pair in lieu of trusted, plainly adorned brands that perform for decades.
- Buy off-season to save on shoes aimed at a particular climate, and ask your local farm-supply store when they put their boots on sale. Many liquidate last yearâ€™s inventory at a particular time, offering you a chance to save 30 percent or more.
- Try before you buy; specialty boots (such as steel-toed) can fit wide or narrow compared to “fashionâ€ť boots. Donâ€™t assume that youâ€™ll wear the same size even in the same brand.
- Look to prolong the life of your boots with protective sprays, custom laces or specialized drying racks. Donâ€™t, however, do anything that will void your warranty!