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Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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OTB Footwear


I attended the 2007 Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) show recently in Orlando, where I had the good fortune to be presented with a NOGI Award for Science from The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences.

It's always fun to stroll through the huge exhibit hall at the DEMA show and check out new equipment, publications, and services for divers. This year was no exception. I was particularly impressed with the boots and shoes on display by the company OTB Footwear, LLC. The footwear was designed for use by the U.S. Navy Seals, to withstand regular use in and around water. In fact, the footwear can be completely immersed in water and still function properly.

OTB Footwear was kind enough to allow me to demo a pair of their Abyss boots, which retail for $115 U.S. The boots are comfortable and provide excellent support for rocky or muddy situations. As is typical for OTB products, the boots utilize materials molded with perforations through the sole, which allow instant water drainage. The boots are shipped with a combination of insoles, including a full length molded shank and perforated ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) sheet, so that the inside fit can be adjusted for situations ranging from barefoot to a thick pair of socks, neoprene booties or dry suit.

The shoes are really quite comfortable and suitable for dry as well as wet conditions. Thus, they are useful not only for persons in and around the water, but for tactical work, such as special operations associated with search and rescue. I intend to give them a try this winter, to learn if all of the ventilation and drainage features are functional and desirable in colder weather. Proper use of these boots would be in situations where one wishes to achieve prompt drainage when the feet are exposed to extremely wet conditions, including immersion, but the mission must continue. In any circumstance, the wearer would hope that the exposure can be followed soon enough by drying and warming to avoid a cold injury exposure ("immersion foot"). OTB footwear seems to be a great improvement over standard issue leather-type or plastic footwear that become waterlogged and/or retain moisture, without any practical drainage feature, for use in wet or muddy conditions. They can be washed and rinsed easily, and put back into immediate use if necessary.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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