When Li Zhixiang from the PLA’s armed police recently stepped out in his new military-designed anti-fungal and odour-resistant shoes, he was making more than a fashion statement — it was “liberation” from smelly feet and foot-related diseases.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel wear “Liberation shoes”, a type of rubber footwear first used in the 1950s. As it turns out, using them has meant fungus between toes and feet so smelly that the odour could have been substituted for a biological weapon. But not anymore.
“The new breathable black shoes will be distributed to all armed police units by July-end,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The new shoes are “anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and odour-resistant,” Man Xiangdong, the officer from the armed police in-charge of shoe design said, adding that the new design offered better support to the ankles. The new shoes went into mass production this year after extensive testing.
Zheng Jianchun, a logistics official with the armed police, said besides the tests, the armed police spread out to solicit the opinions of more than 1,80,000 soldiers and officers on the shoes. “It’s light. I feel like stepping on spongy cushion while running,” Li said. “Our dorm no longer smells like feet since we got the new shoes last year.”
The “Liberation shoes” underwent many changes and improvements over the years — they are still used because they broadly fulfill requirements. “The traditional liberation shoes, in dark green or camouflage colour, are still widely used by most PLA units. After several rounds of improvements, the shoes are light and easy to carry,” the Xinhua report said.
But they were “not puncture proof, nor water resistant, and the low-waist design easily lets sand into the shoes and does not protect the ankle”.
“In recent years, liberation shoes have been gradually replaced by combat boots in military training, but soldiers still wear them during their downtime.” But then who would want to come back from her or his downtime with smelly feet?