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Mobility is a key advantage survivors have over zombies. During a zombie outbreak, one will need to get around fast, across varied terrain and perhaps even climates. Proper footwear is an aspect of survivalism and warfare often underestimated by newcomers, but never by the experienced.
Sneakers are light, comfortable, easy to put on, readily available and are made to not only let you run well, but often give you more bounce in your step. They do have their pros: comfort, aesthetics, and low weight, but they are also weighed down by a bog of cons. They offer almost zero protection, since they are often not made of very hardy materials, and they tend not to be higher than the ankle The rubber soles are soft, and are not made for walking for long amounts of time without discomfort on unimproved terrain. They are not waterproof, and will essentially be ruined by any water that has anything but pure H2O in it without immediate and thorough cleaning. Water will also make the generally non-textured bottoms squeaky and less able to provide traction. Sneakers are essentially only good for usage in dry environments with medium-to-high temperatures. However, these problems apply only to the cheaper sneakers. The higher end sports sneakers for basketball, running, and other such sports are made with copious amounts of movement in mind. You'll occasionally find that such sneakers are waterproof up to a point. The bottoms are sometimes even lightly armored. One of the better brands is Under Armor, which offers sneakers with many of these benefits- but shop around and see what you can find.
Dress ShoesGenerally speaking, these shoes sacrifice function for form. Men's and women's dress shoes are usually quite painful after extended usage. Some shoes, like loafers, can be fairly comfortable, but generally speaking, these are poor choices, and finding something better should be almost as high of a priority as securing weapons and food. High heels should be abandoned for bare feet. Only a few brands of men's shoes offer any sort of good quality, but they are expensive. Get boots. Doc Martens are the only dress shoes that are anything more than dead weight in a zombie apocalypse. They have boot soles and are pretty durable too. Come to think of it, they're more like "utility dress boots" than dress shoes. "utility" because they're more than just decorative—they're practical too! If you can't find a proper pair of boots, then a pair of Doc Martens are your best long-term bet.
Slippers and SandalsSlippers and Sandals come in many varieties. Almost all are totally useless in a pinch. One notable exception are the thin, sleek Chinese slippers made famous by Bruce Lee and Kung Fu movies. For indoor use, these slippers are as light and maneuverable as sneakers. Outdoors, they can take a very limited pounding, but substantially more than other slippers. They are completely inadequate for anything but a dry, mild climate, however. Sandals as secure and light as those used in ancient Greek and Roman times are similarly flexible, and good for short term usage, so long as the terrain is not terribly difficult. In dire straits, these types of sandals can often be improvised out of other materials. Ancient Roman legionaries (soldiers) wore sandals made of tough buff leather with iron-studded cork soles. These could withstand 60-mile marches over the roughest terrain that stood in the Roman Empire's way. If you live somewhere hot and rocky these are optimal. If you live somewhere cold and rocky, then screw these and get some snow boots. Also, they're even more difficult to find than the Iron kneecaps mentioned earlier, due to the fact that they don't get much attention from the companies who are busy building gladius replicas. (A gladius is a Roman short sword. See Melee Weapons for more on the gladius.)
For those that can sacrifice a bit of comfort and agility for toughness, boots are the way to go. It is no coincidence that soldiers are issued boots and not sneakers. They last much longer, offer more protection against the elements, and give a boost of strength to one's kicking technique. If one is not accustomed to them, one might find initial difficulty with balance, running speed, blisters, and back or leg joint pain due to less cushioning than normal. Most of these problems eventually vanish, or are easily compensated for. They also have the most advanced types of comfort, fabric, construction, and protection available on the market. Get boots. But watch out, not all boots are made equal, as shown below.
Combat BootsWorn by armed forces, these boots will be made out of tough leather and/or synthetic materials, meant for running, marching and extended periods of use. The bottoms will be made of tough rubber. These boots will usually be a great choice for footwear, coming up to the calf in most cases. Initially, they may be uncomfortable, and leather boots will require extensive maintenance. However, most flex well at the ankle and can be run in easily. Check your local surplus store or police station/military base for them. They are be the best choice in the long run. It is highly advisable to have a pair of OD Green/ Black boot socks. Long socks work too, just make sure they come above the top of the boot. If you don't, the boots will rub your leg raw.
These can range greatly in usefulness. There are cheap rubber boots that come to the calf, usually in gaudy colors and are often made for children. Do not wear these or similar boots. They are essentially bigger versions of sneakers, and offer few benefits over sneakers. They will squeak and cause noise easily, and the bright colors may attract unwanted attention. Of course, there are the more rugged, outdoors rain boots. These are made of a more solid rubber and come up to the calf as well ,and have thick soles. They don't flex well at the ankle and thus can not be run in easily, but they are an excellent choice of footwear barring combat and hiking boots. They are usually available in stores like Target, Meijer's, or Walmart.
These boots are similar to the more rugged rain boots, with the added advantage of insulation and traction and similar disadvantages. They are excellent in cold conditions, especially in an area with lots of snowfall. Many snow boots can be considered hiking boots and vice-versa.
Hiking BootsThese things were meant to take on Mother Nature's worst and spit in her face. They will be made of advanced, tough materials meant to protect you from animal bites, rocks, and broken glass on the ground. Their thick, textured rubber soles will provide great traction and stealth, and some even have steel toes for a bone-crushing kick. The best ones go up to the calf or just below the ankle. Some cover the ankle and make it harder to flex, so it's much harder to run in. These are essentially combat boots for civilians. Get them if you can, and get a rugged pair, as it's easy to mistake glorified leather sneakers for legitimate hiking boots.
Unless it was designed by a outdoors company or a military contractor, do not wear these. Cowboy boots fall under this category. They are stiff with small, elevated heels. They are not a good choice unless you want to sit down for an extend amount of time.
Uggs are sheepskin boots worn primarily by women, but are technically unisex. They are certainly confortable in the short term, but they aren't made for long walks in unimproved terrain, so they may cause problems in the long run. The fleece inner lining provides great insulation, but only in dry conditions, for uggs are not waterproof. The soft material does provide some protection against punctures, if only because of its thickness. And the sole is thick and treaded for above-average grip. In summary, uggs are decent enough boots to start out with, but it is recommended to replace them with something else later on.
These boots are the epitome of form over function. They are essentially thick socks with soles. They do provide some insulation, but are outclassed by pretty much every other type of boot in all categories except for cuteness (and even that's debatable). The fabric is pliable enough to be recycled for many other uses, but that's pretty much all they're good for.
The boots of a logger, engineer, or any other worker using heavy machinery or dealing with BIG stuff seem great, but in the long run, they are actually not. They could take an axeblow with little worry, but they sacrifice comfort, mobility, agility, and weight for that kind of solid defense. In water, they will probably be a hindrance, unless they are part of a heavy diving suit.
These are a rather interesting category. Sports (games, not activities) shoes will either be cleats or bowling shoes for the most part. Cleats are somewhat useful in muddy terrain because of their spiky soles, but are not good for any other terrain. Bowling shoes are a joke with their tight construction, flimsy materials and smooth, thin soles. So, the only kind of sports boots you should consider are the various types of biking boots, which are often made of leather, Gore-Tex, or synthetic materials. These things are custom-built to withstand wear and tear, and some even have steel or hard plastic toes and shin plates to cushion blunt damage, stabbing objects, and blades. If you can't get hiking or combat boots, get a pair of these bad boys. You may not be able to run for long in them, as they are stiff, but they are very durable for their reasonable weight.