A lot of planning goes into survival preparation, even for those who are fairly new to it. What do you pack in the all-important bug out bag? What weapons should you carry? How much ready to go food should you keep at home? In your bag? However, there’s one crucial thing that many preppers either pay minimal attention to, or overlook entirely. As most combat vets or wilderness experts will tell you, one of the most important things you can do when you’re in it for the long haul, in uncertain and dangerous circumstances, is protect your feet.

It’s one of those things that you don’t usually think about – until it’s too late. Blisters and other injuries lead to infection, and in emergency circumstances, especially, infection can lead to death. No matter how hard you’ve prepared, or how careful you think you’ve been, if you can’t move effectively, you’re dead in the water. So, it’s key to make protecting your feet a priority.

Here are five expert tips for protecting your feet in a survival scenario.

Do Your Research – and Don’t Be Cheap

Often, people just don’t give much thought to the boots they would be wearing if a survival situation arose. They assume they’d wear whatever they happened to have on, or they just pick up a pair of boots to keep with their BOB bag until it’s needed. Both of these are bad – and possibly dangerous – approaches. The shoes you wear day to day might be debilitating after a solid day of walking. Also, even the best hiking boots should be tested out and broken in before going with your bug out bag supplies.

So, what exactly should you look for in a survival hiking boot to protect your feet? First, your footwear has to be waterproof. Having feet that are wet – even a little bit – for a long period of time can cripple you (more about that later). You also need a good balance of breathability and warmth. Fortunately, many hiking boots now are made of materials that allow your feet to sweat naturally, and protect your feet without retaining that moisture constantly as you walk. Make sure you do your research, ask around, and make your survival footwear a solid investment.

Pick Quality Socks

In many ways, socks are just as important as the hiking boots you choose to protect your feet. When choosing socks for long distance hiking, you need to consider sock height, cushioning, fabric and fit. Just like the hiking boots, you need to wear them with your boots of choice, and make sure they fit comfortably enough to minimize friction and maximize comfort. After all, the average person has to take two thousand steps just to cover one mile, and you want to protect your feet as much as possible.

Give Your Feet a Break

When you’re on the run or even hiking, stopping to take your shoes and socks off might seem ridiculous. Unfortunately, it’s something that you need to do to protect your feet, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If feet are wet, even from sweat, for extended periods of time, it puts you at risk for a problem known as “immersion foot”. This leads to your feet looking wrinkled and pale, and can eventually cause tissue death.

Don’t Forget the Powder

This is in line with the above advice on giving your feet a break. Powder is a great way to reduce friction and help keep your feet dry on long hauls. Some people prefer straight talcum powder, which works well. Others like one of the many specialty foot powders on the market today. Whichever powder you choose to protect your feet, it’s good to stop and powder at least once or twice a day.

Treat Issues Immediately

You’ve been walking for hours, and your feet are starting to get sore. In fact, you’re pretty sure you’ve got a blister – or several. It’s important to protect your feet with both prevention and treatment. Stop and check if you feel a problem coming on. Adding an extra pair of socks, some powder or even a couple of bandages can help protect your feet from further damage. It’s also important to have some sort of antibacterial agent on hand, so you can disinfect any potential breaks in the skin before covering them with bandaging to prevent infection.

Keeping your feet in optimal shape during a survival situation can give you the best possible chance to survive and thrive in any environment. If you can’t walk, you can’t hunt, travel, fight or gather resources. So make sure you don’t skimp on the essentials, and protect your feet from day one.