Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 71

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Affordable muck boots

Iron Duke Safety Knee Boots

Sometimes you just need to go around in the muck. Since 2006, these American-made boots have kept my feet dry in snow, ice, mud and everything in between. They have excellent, deep cleats for traction, a steel shank for stability and are steel-toed for safety.

A heavy fabric liner is bonded to the inside of the boot, to make it easy to slide your feet in and out. They’re not insulated, which is a virtue for me: if water comes in over the top, a change of socks will put you back to work.

What makes this a Cool Tool is that you can get these in farm supply stores for under $30. — Robert Paxton

Ultimate shoe horn

Long Handle Shoe Horn

You can get a long bamboo shoe horn at any Asian market for $3, or the previously reviewed one from IKEA, but I have one I really like that is sturdy and long-lasting and expensive. But it is SO worth it. Because of the spring at the bottom it is more maneuverable than regular long shoe horns, ending a lot of frustration. Over the lifetime of the shoe horn, the price is justified in my book. — Olivia M. Brown

Extra-long shoe horn

IKEA Omsorg

I know it’s not sexy, but this tool to me is as simple as it is indispensable. I’ve used it almost every day since I bought it years ago. It’s just the perfect shoe horn, especially if you have lowerback problems. And it costs a dollar, which might very well be the best dollar I’ve ever spent. — Sean O’Brien

Quick-zip, heavy-duty footwear

Rocky Side-Zip Paraboots

I basically own three pairs of shoes. One is a pair of flip-flops that I wear around the house like sandals. Another is a fancy pair of dress shoes that I dust off for weddings, bar-mitzvahs, funerals, and schwanky dress-up events. But for everyday wear in professional office environments, during travel, and for general romping about, I keep a pair of 10″ Rocky side-zip leather boots on my feet seven days a week.

The handy side-zip means that getting in and out of these boots is loafer-fast — an essential feature for daily wear or moving quickly through airport security lines. The lacing enables me to customize the fit for my feet, but once that’s done, I go months without retying the laces. These boots are designed for use by police officers and other law enforcement and EMS-types, so they’re versatile, rugged, and incredibly comfortable (once they’re broken in). The black, all-leather uppers have clean and simple lines, so they look good in any casual office environment. The boot styling provides ample ankle support, which is nice for hiking, long walks, or keeping my feet dry in wet, snowy, sandy, or muddy environments.

During a typical week, I’ll wear these boots to work from Monday to Friday, then keep them on my feet during the weekend as I wander through the deep snows of Lake Tahoe, or explore abandoned buildings, or stroll along sandy beaches of the Pacific Coast. Yet even after all that abuse, 20 seconds’ worth of buffing is all it takes to clean the boots up in time to walk to work on Monday. When new, there’s an initial break-in period that lasts for three or four days (during which I carry band-aids to prevent blisters). But the leather softens up quickly, and thereafter they feel perfectly natural on my feet. An occasional dose of shoe polish is all that’s needed to keep them looking great. I’m on my third pair now, and with regular shines to condition the leather, I easily get 3 years of daily wear out of ’em before all the cumulative abuse makes them sub-optimal for office wear. I buy mine from Galls. Check out all the testimonials — kind of hilarious. — Todd Lappin

Superior outdoor socks

Smartwool Socks

Warm wool socks that don’t itch. Using a terrycloth weave of 100% Merino wool, these socks are blister-proof, machine washable, and come in four thicknesses, from a very light liner, to a heavy mountaineering sock. I use the Light or Hiker styles, which give incredible comfort with no feet moisture. They stand up to wear and repeated washing amazingly well. I haven’t had a blister yet, even with new boots. And they really don’t itch. Well worth the extra dollars. — KK


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