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Real Farmers Wear Sneakers

Photo by Jason Detzel.

Spring is wet and that means that I am blazing through multiple shoes, socks, and pants each day while completing my work at the ranch. It could be worse though-come late summer if I don’t get some areas mowed down, the goldenrod can reach up to my collarbone, soaking my shirt and underwear, and necessitating a full clothing change upon reaching my day job or before I settle in for dinner in the evening.

Typically, most of my ranching wardrobe is procured at second-hand shops. Those of you who know me understand that I do not put much stock
into expensive clothing. Footwear is one glaring exception to this rule and it seems as though I have as many pairs of shoes as there are days in the month. But let me assure you that each set of shoes has a specific purpose and job. Farm clothing is designed to protect the wearer and once you start asking your footwear to protect your feet in all types of weather, you will quickly recognize the strengths and weaknesses of certain footwear.

What follow are the different types of shoes that I wear and my opinions on each one and why I have them in my arsenal.

Muck boot type: These things keep my feet dry for a little while, but in their defense, no type of footwear can keep your feet 100 percent dry. Muck boots come pretty close for about the first three months, but then they begin to crack and wear and no amount of shoe glue, regular glue, industrial glue, or latex can patch them back to their original defenses. Once this stage has been reached they head to the back of the closest for the summer as they are heavy, clunky, and tend to slow me down

during chores. They will be welcomed back to the show when temps dip in late fall and we are reminded that the frost on matted grasses is a beautiful as the spring rains that made them grow so tall.

Slip-on boots: I have become a huge fan of this style of boot that has become beaucoup popular with cafe hipsters and cornfield farmers alike. I have no problem telling you that I wear Redback brand boots as they are my favorite boot I have ever owned. Tough, with synthetic toe protection, they are light enough to allow me to run yet tough enough to take the general day-to-day abuse that I
meter out to them while working under rusty trucks or working cattle in the corral. I consider the hard toes of these to be a tool that will allow me to drop or lift heavy objects on my feet while controlling their descent. The biggest downside with this style of boot is that they do not have very good ankle support and can be precarious on steep or uneven ground (like you find in cattle pastures).

Crocs type footwear: Yup, I’ve got em and don’t’ knock em until you have slogged at least 10 miles in your boots with wet feet. These things are great for post-farm or ranch work once you get home, or if you are really tired, for the drive back itself. This particular style of footwear allows your feet to dry out and breathe after a long day of work, and much like the grass in our pastures, your feet can only recover after enough rest and this style is a signal to say I am done for the day so leave me be! Putting these babies on with dry socks is one of life’s purest pleasures.

Running shoes: These are my summer favorites. I have eschewed the use of vehicles to take in what is usually the best part of my day
communing with the outdoors, the livestock, and the quiet. I average about 5 miles of walking each day while doing chores. Sneaks allow me to feel that I am part of the farm as opposed to just visiting it because I can feel what I’m walking on or thru. Oh, and did I mention that they can dry out in about one night on the windowsill. These things have great grip, but they’re absolutely, 100 percent not waterproof and I like them so much that I am considering investing in a boot dryer so that I can wear them every day instead of switching.

Galoshes: I am biased towards these ever since I jumped from a small incline on a construction site and thought I broke my ankle, it was sprained so badly. These things tend to be cheap, permeable, unbreathable, and lacking any integral support. These are the boots that I keep around for farm guests that visit us. There isn’t enough time for guests feet to get tired, blistered, or chaffed while wearing these during a short farm tour and I guarantee that everyone who gets to wear a pair will have a more authentic experience as they stomp through mud pies with impunity…that is if they don’t sprain an ankle.

Logger boots: These have been popular with the Hudson Valley ladies, high school boys, and actual loggers. These are not what I consider to be good farm wear. They take forever to take on and off, they are really heavy, have a heel that messes me up, and are as waterproof as the rest of our selections, which is not at all. These are great for heavyduty logging in high mud situations, but since I work hard to contain muddy areas of the farm to those spots around waterers or mineral feeders, I don’t need logging boots and I truly don’t understand why I see so many farmers wearing them.

So to sum this up, I have found that a variety of different tools for the job is the best way to ensure that you are covered and protected no matter what Mother Nature throws your way. So how do you separate the farmers from the wannabees and trends? Easy, just check out their shoes.

Please send hate mail regarding this piece to jasondetzel@gmail.com.