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"How to Protect Your Feet" from Intelligence Bulletin, November 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   The following article from the November 1943 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin describes foot care for soldiers.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]




This section is based on a pamphlet titled "Watch Your Step," which was published by the British Army. The pamphlet is prefaced with the following statements:

"Your feet are among your principal weapons."

"They need just as careful attention as your rifle."

"If you fail to look after them, you are a hindrance, and not a help, to the Army."

"Therefore, constantly read this pamphlet until you know it by heart, and above all, carry out the simple instructions it contains."

These statements and the information which follows are as important to U.S. troops as to the British. It will pay you to read this section more than once.


To avoid sore feet:

a. Remove shoes as soon as convenient after a march;

b. Wash your feet as often as possible;

c. Dry thoroughly, especially between the toes; and

d. Wash your socks at every opportunity.

To harden your feet:

a. Wash in cold water, using soap freely;

b. Rub the bottom of your feet with soap or grease; and

c. Soak the feet in a solution of salt.


a. Fitting Shoes

The best time to fit shoes is on a hot day and after physical exercise. This is true because the foot expands in length and width 1/4 to 1/2 inch when the soldier is on the march in hot weather.

Always fit shoes over army socks—never over the bare foot—and always stand up and walk a little while determining a fit. The sides of the shoe should feel comfortable and should show no signs of bulging.

b. Care of Shoes

After having been worn, shoes deteriorate fast if not used often thereafter.

Rub a light coating of some acceptable leather preserver on the inside of the shoes at least once per week, but:

(1) First remove all dust and dirt (if necessary, use a damp cloth).

(2) Put paper or some similar substance inside wet shoes so that they will keep their shape while drying. (Dry slowly.)

(3) Remember that it is better to apply leather preserver when your shoes are warm and slightly damp. (Apply the preserver until the leather is flexible.)

c. Care of Socks

Excessive rubbing, sweating, or boiling in water will cause wool to shrink.

Always mend your socks from the inside. If the edges curl, they must be trimmed.1

If your socks are worn out and none are available for issue at the time, you can give good protection to your feet by wrapping them in a triangular piece of cotton cloth, or even paper, and then putting on your shoes. Your medical officer will show you how this is done.


a. Sweaty Feet

Symptoms of sweaty feet are tenderness, local areas of redness, and the tendency of the skin to peel off.

Treat sweaty feet as follows:

(1) Wash them with soap and water; and

(2) Dry them thoroughly and apply foot powder.

b. Blisters

Treat blisters as follows:2

(1) Remove the obstacle which caused the blister:

(2) Clean the blister gently with soap and water;

(3) Apply an antiseptic;

(4) Sterilize a needle by passing it slowly through a flame, and then run the needle through the blister—in at one side and out the other—to drain out the fluid;

(5) Do not remove the skin covering the blister; and

(6) Apply an antiseptic to the area, cover it with absorbent cotton, and cover the latter with a piece of adhesive tape.

NOTE: Often you can manage to march in comfort with a blister if you fit a piece of cloth or bandage under your foot, over the instep, and around the ankle. Buckle the cloth over the outer ankle bone, pulling it tight. This arrangement lessens the friction between the shoe and the foot.

Serious abrasions and ingrowing toenails should be shown to the medical officer at once.

1 FM 21-10, par. 108c (2) has the following to say about socks: "Darned socks, or socks with holes in them, should not be worn on the march because they will cause abrasions and blisters. Wearing two pairs of socks will aid in preventing friction between the shoes and the feet."
2 FM 21-10, par. 108c (3) (b), has the following to say about treating blisters: "If blisters have appeared on the feet, they should be painted with iodine and then emptied by pricking them at the lower edge with a pin which has been passed through a flame."


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