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Gravel mines were tiny explosives the US scattered on the McNamara Line during the Vietnam War. Bernard C. Nalty's Air Power and the Fight for Khe Sanh claims (pg. 105) the Viet Cong cleared them by using oxen to drag logs over the fields of gravel mines ("though at some cost in oxen if [they were] dealing with the casualty-producing kind") and states certain sub-variants were powerful enough to mutilate feet or pop truck tires.

However, some folks aren't the Viet Cong, and don't even have oxen to their name, let alone any they can afford to sacrifice as living deminers. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of gravel mines in the environment around said people, originally intended to notify people when zombies were nearby by the sound of their detonations (long and irrelevant-to-this-question story). They've cut sole-shaped sections from steel road plates like these and plan to attach them to the bottoms of their shoes as armor plate, allowing them to ignore the pebble-sized landmines as they go about their post-apocalyptic days.

If attached to the bottom of shoes, would a slab of steel thick enough to protect from such explosives be light enough those wearing them could walk normally/semi-normally? Obviously this would be almost completely ineffective against normal landmines but these ones are tiny and contain at most a the equivalent of a couple tens of grams of TNT.

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    $\begingroup$ Steel shoes wouldn’t protect you if you stepped say, half on and half off one, causing it to send shrapnel around the shoes, potentially injuring you, which would happen with practically any thickness of steel $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Dec 26, 2023 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ a pebble sized land mine might be stopped by a normal boot much less a steel soled one, mines that small just don't have much punch, even the smallest gravel mines which could not reliably cause serious injury were as large as a deck of cards. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 26, 2023 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Topcode if you bent the edges up and had a small overhang to move it a just an inch away it could if you were wearing durable pants, you are not talking about much force. as long as it does not hit naked skin you should be fine. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 26, 2023 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ I found a YouTube video showing button mines here $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Dec 26, 2023 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @John That source claims they could wound humans and apparently kill oxen (presumably with repeated detonations). After your comment, sphennings posted a paper in which a slightly more powerful device fractured someone's foot through an anti-mine boot. They are certainly not just something you can step on in normal boots. $\endgroup$
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:38

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There is not an effective way for an armored shoe to protect someone against gravel mines.

The state of the art for "mine-proof" boots are at best harm reduction tools, reducing the likelihood of fatal or permanent injury. They aren't a required or even recommended by International Mine Action Standards standards for PPE. When the boots are mentioned in mine clearing incident reports the victim is still in need of medical attention. In this 2006 incident report the victim slipped and stepped onto a mine with similar explosive power than the larger gravel mine. He was wearing a blast boot, and survived with the following injuries.

a) laceration of the distal part of the sole of the right foot and multiple lacerations at the roots of the toes.
b) Fractures of bodies of all the metatarsals of the right foot.
c) Fractures of the proximal phalanges of the 1st to the 4th toes of the right foot.
d) Dislocation of the ankle with talus slipping forwards.

The report concluded that the boot may have contributed to the unexpectedly reduced injuries, but also that wearing a heavy raised boot may have lead the victim to slip in the first place.

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...originally intended to notify people when zombies were nearby by the sound of their detonations...

Taking your statement at its word, those mines are little more powerful than firecrackers. Thick steel is overkill for your purposes and would be very difficult to use under "normal" everyday circumstances. Shoes are designed to bend and flex with the foot. If you want to know what such a sole would be like, take a chunk of 1x4 lumber about 10" long and strap it to the bottom of your shoes... then try to live your day like that.

Frankly, normal shoes would be more than enough for mines like these. If you wanted something more, adhere two layers of good, thick leather to the bottom of the shoe. They'd be uncomfortable to wear, but they'd work.

If the mines are powerful enough to harm someone walking on them, first, you should have said so. Those mines are completely germane to the question and a list of details was warranted. I couldn't tell if the Vietnam-era Real World description was there only as a point of reference or if was intended to factually describe your mines.

Second, it isn't just the foot that's exposed to a mine. @Sphennings answer is excellent in that it points out that the force of the detonation harms both feet, damages the legs and joints, and can lead to ancillary injury due to being forced out of balance — not the least of which would be detonating more mines when you landed on them after falling over.

What people without oxen might do instead is replace the ox with a 10" or 12" diameter tree trunk or branch about 3 feet long. Carve the center thinner than the rest so that a forked rod can be placed in it, allowing the object to be pushed along in front of you. They would take the time to meticulously clear paths only as wide as necessary to live life and then go out of their way to train their children to stay on the paths, which isn't far from what people today do living next to legacy mine fields or mined areas.

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    $\begingroup$ As I said it's supposed to be able to protect people from such explosives. However, sphennings posted a source in which the equivalent of ~37.5 grams of TNT managed to cause severe injuries through a metal-lined boot specifically intended to protect against explosives, and that's not much larger than the larger gravel mines, so I think I'll go with the tree trunk. $\endgroup$
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Dec 26, 2023 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ Mountaineering boots (the ones you can ice climb in) basically don't flex at all and you can walk many kilometres in them. They are pretty uncomfortable. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 27, 2023 at 6:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael That's a good point (+1). Dutch clogs (klomp) fit into the same category. Yes... one could live their life like that. I prefer my sneakers. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 27, 2023 at 18:49
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I've worn many different weights of Boots, from Motorcycle boots (which I'm able to walk quite comfortably in) all the way to proper hiking boots (which feel like a Feather compared to my Motorcycle boots) - Given enough time, one will adapt to the extra weight/strain if needed.

Granted, you might have to train up-to-it - a good comparison would be look at the Neck strength of professional racing drivers (especially F1 drivers) vs regular humans - but on that aspect - I would say 'Sure, feasible'.

Where I think the issue occurs though, is Spalling. Sidney Alford (RIP) - did a great bit of TV on this years ago - here to demonstrate why a projectile doesn't necessarily need to penetrate a solid piece of steel armor to cause damage, due to the effects of Spalling.

In case the video goes dead - he places a small amount of Plastic Explosive against a solid sheet of Steel, with a Watermelon behind it. Fires the explosive, confirms that no penetration has occurred, yet the watermelon is shredded because a piece of Spall flew off from the other side of the steel plate.

This is what I'd be far more worried about than weight - I'm not sure the Steel would be thick enough or there would be enough space for a Spall liner to catch/stop this from being an issue.

Unless of course your Anti-Mine boots looked like something Gene Simmons of the Kiss fame would wear in the 80s.

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Let's just talk about the large ones, since the small ones are just noisemakers.

The shrapnel in gravel mines was basically broken glass. Have you ever watched the glass bullet demos on Youtube? I think a quarter-inch of hammered steel could handle it.

The problem would be that, if you stepped right on it, the shock wave would still shatter your bones. If it went off because you stepped next to it, you'd want a full set of armor pants or you'd be picking glass out of your junk.

What you really want is a herd of oxen -- no, wait -- a strand beast -- no, wait, too complicated -- a bunch of plungers on a cylinder that you push in front of you, like fifteen feet in front of you, like a wheelbarrow. You could have fun with what the "feet" look like to maximize disturbed area and minimize the cost of running into one.

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...some folks aren't the Viet Cong, and don't even have oxen to their name...

You don't need oxen. The oxen were used by the viet congs for convenience. What you need is something that emulates a man-powered plough. Metal and wood are cheaper than cattle. Make it so that it shields you, and ask a friend to help you push the demining plough. You can even make a drinking game out of it: for every pop, a sip.

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You would be able to walk with these plates on the soles of your feet. You'd get used to them over time just as you do to heavy steel capped gumboots and other protective footwear.

You wouldn't be able to run as fast, but heavy footwear has many benefits.

This is thick, heavy steel so expect some getting used to.

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You could use stilts, with the ability to "ratchet" down to the ground in emergencies and ratchet up by walking a few paces.

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    $\begingroup$ Walking on stilts through a minefield seems like a recipe for tripping and falling onto a "toe popper" with far more vital parts of your body. Do you think someone would be able to remain upright after stepping on a landmine? What standoff distance would you need to remain safe from the blast and any fragmentation? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Dec 27, 2023 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ I have seen mine resistant boots that had little "legs" that extended out from the boot so the area of ground that carried the wearer's weight was four points outside the footprint. The intent was that by having the little legs there was less chance of triggering a mine, and if a mine was triggered then the blast impact would be lowered by being elevated from the ground and the shock from contact being more of a twisting force on the foot than a shattering wave directly up a leg bone. I could not find an image as I recall to give as an example, just boots that had an MRAP style "belly" to them $\endgroup$
    – MacGuffin
    Dec 27, 2023 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Stilts have been used since times unknown. They are boring, and boring is good. if needs be to distribute the weight, add a brush like structure at the end. Make it a tripod dronr, that strolls ahead. $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Dec 30, 2023 at 13:40

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