April 29, 2014

"Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear."

Says the Army. Those "FiveFingers" — foot-glove shoes — "detract from a professional military image."

I had to wonder how this controversy even arose in the first place. Whatever happened to uniforms and uniformity? And there seems even to be some complaining about this new rule, that the powers that be are too closed minded and uninformed about the benefits of FiveFinger shoes.

What is the history of shoes in the military? Surely, there have been many soldiers who have gone without any shoes at all. From a Civil War letter:
"We slept on the ground for four nights with only one blanket apiece, and what was the worst thing that happened to me was that in going up the mountains I lost one of my shoes in the mud and it was so dark that I could not find it and then of course I had to carry one until I came back to camp. You must wonder at soldiers having to do without shoes and blankets sometimes. I believe men can stand most anything after they get used to it. The hardest part is getting used to it."
ADDED: "One of the most persistent legends surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg... is that it was fought over shoes."
"On the morning of June 30," [wrote Confederate general Henry Heth], "I ordered Brigadier General [Johnston] Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day." That parenthetical phrase "shoes especially" has taken on a life of its own over the years....
AND: Continuing to the end of that article at the last link:
[F]rom a literary standpoint, "shoes especially" represents the perfect detail, quickly translating abstract historical forces into blisters on aching feet and the smell of new shoe leather. The Battle of Gettysburg readily lends itself to being read as a three-act tragedy, dominated, as many have argued, by Lee's hubris... That it started by accident, over something so "pedestrian" as shoes, is too perfect for writers to ignore. Shelby Foote certainly did not, crafting a scene in The Civil War: A Narrative (1963) in which A. P. Hill airily dismissed the possibility that the Army of the Potomac was in Gettysburg:

In Foote's dialogue, Heth was quick to take him up on that. "If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."
From a literary standpoint, it's no surprise that a man named Foote would fixate on shoes.

31 comments:

Nichevo said...

Shoe logistics were much worse in the War of Independence.

So your point about history would be...a dozen or two decades ago men sometimes lacked shoes, so today, anything goes?

I have no strong opinion on toe shoes except they might be good for parkour or rock climbing, bad for kicking in doors or being stepped on. Probably if the SOF community want and need them they can have them despite the regs.

If there is no better answer than that they creep out some commander, good enough, RHIP, as who knows better than you? It's not your Army and it is not responsive to your whims and if you don't like it, have a taste of history and go pull a train for some horny victors.

Mr. Forward said...

Shoes should not fight
Unless they both are right.

the jackal said...

Running shoes are the only uniform item that isn't even mildly uniform. Army Regulation 670-1 prohibits wearing logos on socks but hot pink Asics and flourescent Nikes are no problemo.

Henry said...

From a literary standpoint, it's no surprise that a man named Foote would fixate on shoes.

Good thing the Confederates weren't on their way to Gettysburg to collect shells.

Bob Ellison said...

Your post comes across best when read aloud, Ken-Burns-style:

My right foot is injured. Yesterday I lost a toe-boot in the mud. Sergeant Yellee helped me put it back on, but then leaned too heavily on his shovel, breaking two of my toes. The others were spared, thanks to their individual compartments. I don't know whether to be grateful or forewarned.

--MacTuckus Foote
April 29, 1863

James Pawlak said...

If "someone" has the energy to form up such regulations, I suggest that they be transferred to some "hot spot" in the Middle East for a reorientation to military reality.

chickenlittle said...

Civil War battlefield photographs often showed the shoeless dead: link

rhhardin said...

Shoes for the horses are the usual problem, when it comes to losing kingdoms.

Skyler said...

It wasn't so long ago when there was no uniform for the USMC for exercising, unless a specific unit coerced its members to buy their t-shirt and maybe shorts, but mostly just the t-shirt.

Nowadays, the Marines have copied the other services and now have very expensive workout suits. For what purpose, I couldn't say.

The toed shoes are a fad, and one I don't understand (doesn't it just provide more places to get blisters?) but they are hardly worth banning. Maybe they are eccentric, but I really think we should worry more about how people smell when they exercise and less about silly shoes.

RecChief said...

I can tell you from expereince, there is a lot of complaining from the younger soldiers about all sorts of uniformity issues.

I recently had a newly promoted NCO tell me that he was "only in the military during duty hours," and everything else was "his" time.

We calmly walked over to the Sergeant Major's office where I had this young 9 to 5 sodier reassigned.

Tarrou said...

The shoes in question are for PT, not worn during the day. And there is a PT uniform, but in a rare bit of common sense, the Army allows soldiers to wear whatever shoe is most comfortable to physical training. I recall that there was a subjective standard that they not be "flashy" in my units. Showing up with neon shoes would have had a joe focusing on his upper body endurance in the front leaning rest.

Big Mike said...

Then there's The Field of Lost Shoes at the Battle of New Market. The VMI cadets who fought and died there were in their early teens. The heavy rain made the ground so boggy that troops from either side could barely move, however the VMI cadets, being young, weren't bother when their shoes were sucked off their feet so and were able to keep advancing. Or so the traditions state.

In the end the Union general was forced into a fighting retreat and Grant sacked him. The Shenandoah Valley continued to feed Lee's troops until Grant was able to send Sheridan south from Winchester. Grant's orders were to burn out the Valley farms "so a crow flying over the land would have to carry its own provender." Sheridan followed orders and then some.

dbp said...

I am a big fan of these five fingers type shoes. A few years ago I nearly had to give up running due to degeneration of my joints. In desperation, I started running in Vibrams and eventually graduated to barefoot running for roughly 1/3 if my mileage. My legs feel great now.

For Army purposes, wouldn't it make sense to run in boots? If you have to run in the line of duty it is likely to be while wearing boots and so it would pay to be good at that mode.

LCB said...

Chickenlittle,
When the South won a battle, they usually stripped the Union dead of their shoes. There are several cases where Confederate soldiers marched barefoot in the snow...leaving bloody footprints.

Larry J said...

For Army purposes, wouldn't it make sense to run in boots? If you have to run in the line of duty it is likely to be while wearing boots and so it would pay to be good at that mode.

When I was in the Army (1975-77), we did all of our running in combat boots. A lot of us suffered shin splits and other problems as a result of it.

RecChief said...

For Army purposes, wouldn't it make sense to run in boots?

I'm so old I can remember doing PT in boots. And green uniforms.

holdfast said...

Doing PT in boots, especially cheaper issue ones, on asphalt, is a good way to end up with broken troops.

When I joined the Cdn Army in the early 1990s, there were issue runners (a/k/a Cornwallis Cripplers), but every CO I ever had let us wear our own runners. Molding an individual civilian into a soldier is tough, but molding his feet is much harder. The Chinese have to begin in infancy.

Trashhauler said...

The military academies cadets used to perform PT and "motivational" runs in rigid leather combat boots, putting up with the occasional fatty who couldn't keep up.

That changed with the inclusion of women in the academies. Too many shin splint injuries, too many falling out of runs. In came light-weight running shoes.

John said...

in the Navy, in the 60s and 70s, we wore uniforms but there was always some leeway.

Navy issue work uniforms were cotton, button fly pants, long sleeve (only) chambray shirt all very wrinkly and ill fitting. Many of us wore dungaree pants and shirts (long or short sleeve) made by Seafarer. They were permanent press, zipper fly and fit well. No problem except at inspections.

Crackerjack dress blues were wool. Many of us had gaberdine dress uniforms. They fit better and were more comfortable. They were also black instead of Navy blue. Again, no problem except at inspection.

John Henry

Tarrou said...

@dpb

The rate of repetitive motion injuries is too high for long distance running in boots. Once in a while is no problem, but a lot of units run 60+ miles per week, plus road marches. Doing this in boots will render your entire command useless permanently.

I do know the Rangers still do their PT test in boots, but they still PT in shoes.

Big Mike said...

@RecChief, my drill sergeant made me drop and give him 50 for referring to my fatigues as "green." Now and forever the color was OD.


(That's olive drab for you folks who never received an induction notice in the Christmas mail.)

John said...

Speaking of Navy uniforms, in 1971 the Navy introduced a new work uniform with gabardine pants and jumper style shirt.

The denim and chambray dungaree uniform was no longer issued or available. All hands were officially encouraged to wear the new uniform.

30 years later, most enlisteds, E-2 to E-6 were still wearing the denim/chambray uniform. The only ones who wore the official uniform were 1) Sailors right out of boot camp, 2) sailors who didn't give a shit how they looked or 3) Sailors who were too cheap to buy decent uniforms.

Now they have these horrid camos (why does a sailor need camo?) that everybody hates and that everybody MUST wear.

Glad I got out when I did.

John Henry

RecChief said...

@RecChief, my drill sergeant made me drop and give him 50 for referring to my fatigues as "green." Now and forever the color was OD.

Sorry Mike, the official color was OG-107. That stands for Olive Green shade 107. I had that as a board question.

dbp said...

I don't think soldiers should train exclusively in boots for reasons mentioned above. But they should do enough to assure certain things:

1. The boots fit and design are up to the task.

2. The soldier is capable of running in boots: This means he needs to be able to run fast for short distances and be able to run a long distance at a moderate pace. All of this without tuning his feet into hamburger.

Larry J said...

dbp said...

2. The soldier is capable of running in boots: This means he needs to be able to run fast for short distances and be able to run a long distance at a moderate pace. All of this without tuning his feet into hamburger.


When someone starts shooting at you, you'll find a way to run regardless of what you're wearing on your feet. Even if you ditch your pack, you'll still be carrying over 30 pounds of body armor, your weapon plus your web gear. It takes a toll on all of the body. My wife used to manage an out-patient pain center in Colorado Springs, home of many military installations including Fort Carson. When the first group of soldiers returned from their deployment to Iraq, many had to come in for treatment of chronic back pain. We're talking about men in the 19-24 age bracket whose backs were being destroyed by humping all their gear (often 100 pounds or more).

Tarrou said...

@dpb,

Rest assured, the Infantry, at least, maintains good PT standards. And we road march every week, which keeps feet tough and calloused. About nine months after I left the service, I had a three-quarter-inch thick slab of foot callous slough off each foot.

And any experienced Infantryman is completely anal-retentive about his boots. I had one pair of trainers the whole time, and about twenty pairs of boots. I probably had three thousand dollars worth of boot in my closet, many of them modified (pull the shanks, new soles, insoles etc.).

Big Mike said...

@RecChief, are you trying to tell me my drill sergeant was wrong? Hell, forty-five years later I'm still way too scared to say that!

Wayworn Wanderer said...

I'm reminded that the army banned running with headphones on, something I always did when I wasn't on Army Reserve duty.

There's nothing that some dickhead won't do to control others and prove his is bigger than yours.

They are all pigs.

Billy Oblivion said...

"Nowadays, the Marines have copied the other services and now have very expensive workout suits. For what purpose, I couldn't say.
"

I think this comes about in large part from behavior "down range" or "in country".

In Iraq and Afghanistan US Military personnel are not allowed to be in civilian clothes outside their CHU/room/whatever. They are required to be in either their BDUs or "PT Uniform".

To be in "PT Uniform" there must be a PT uniform.

If there is to be a PT uniform some officer has to guide it's creation so as to have it as a line item on his fitness report. Usually this officer will be what is un-affectionately referred to as a REMF.

dbp said...

@Tarrou Nice to know the infantry are keeping themselves in good running shape. Whenever I see them in the news they look like bodybuilders rather than runners.

I was Marine Air Wing and never had to run in boots beyond basic training. Though I did just for "fun" sometimes.

Tarrou said...

@dpb,

I don't knwo who you see in the news, but it was a long standing joke when I was in that Infantry never get big, we ruck too much. POGs have time and energy to hit the gym and bulk up. You see a big muscly soldier, chances are he isn't infantry. Exceptions, of course. In the higher enlisted ranks especially there are a lot of pretty small guys. Big guys tend to blow out their knees and ankles within a few years. Too much strain.