I've not thought about that as the number one answer until now. After all when we take Scouts and other youth groups caving we supply helmets and lights. The rest of the gear they must supply themselves. So he's saying not worry about the helmet and light, I'm taking care of and worrying about that. Here's your number one concern for personal safety equipment. BOOTS!!
What He Said!!
He goes on to explain, "The correct footwear can literally save you underground. Boots offer great traction to save you from spills, slips and falls - and the wrong footwear leaves you more prone to all of the above. Caves are full of mud, loose rocks and crumbly dirt that are properly dealt with by footwear with deep, open lugs and a firm (but compliant) sole. Overly soft shoes (tennis shoes/sneakers) don’t grip the dirt, while overly rigid boots (mountaineering boots) don’t flex around obstacles to grip them and equally as bad...."
I've also found that the deep open lugs can release mud better that sneakers. After a while caving in sneakers they get so caked with mud you're literally walking on mud to mud which has no traction. Your chance of a slip and fall dramatically increases at this point.
What Else Is There??
Phillip goes on to talk about the different types of footwear, both good and bad, that folks take in caves. Hiking boots, tennis shoes, military / desert storm boots, cleats, and mountaineering boots are covered and his opinions and observations are very well thought out and informative. One that I've been asked about that Phillip didn't cover is rock climbing shoes. To that I'd say NO! Once they get muddy there's no traction and they don't really protect your feet from the abuse that a cave offers. Cave walls are generally wet which will reduce your friction as well. Maybe Phillip will give his opinion on rock climbing shoes.
Wanna Know What I Think??
I did write an article about cave cloths which included footwear. You can read it here http://www.youcave.org/2009/11/personal-caving-equipment-cave_24.html. I do have my personal preference as well. But then it all depends on the cave.
Read It At Cave Now..
If you haven't already, read Phillip's article http://cavenow.com/?p=1446. Let me know what you think with a comment below, I'd be glad to hear from you and will try to answer all comments. Click on the "share" button below and share this with your friends. And if you haven't already, in the upper right column subscribe to YOUcave's eNewsletter and get each article sent to your email inbox.
“Take nothing but picture, leave nothing but well placed footprints, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed