How Do I Keep My Feet Dry While Hiking?
As a hiker, your feet are one of your greatest assets. For that reason, neglecting them could leave you suffering from nasty wounds and blisters, and might even make it impossible to finish a hike.
So, how do I keep my feet dry while hiking? To keep your feet dry while hiking, you need to have the right gear. Check the forecast before you venture into the wilderness, and be prepared for whatever weather is coming your way. Make sure you have dry socks (and an extra pair in your pack!), river crossing shoes, and either lightweight hiking shoes or hiking boots with some water resistance.
Prevention or Treatment?
To manage wet feet, you have two main options. First, attempt to prevent the problem by keeping your feet dry: prevention approach. Second, embrace the elements and allow your feet to get wet.
Assuming that you are on a multi-day backpacking trip, you would then focus your energy on drying your feet out at night.
First of all, a “prevention” approach is a better fit for someone who does not anticipate heavy rain or many water crossings.
Furthermore, a “treatment” approach is easier for someone expecting many water crossings, wet trails, and/or heavy rain.
If you decide to let your feet get wet, choose lightweight shoes that can dry quickly. Bring several changes of socks. Besides, pack an absorbent powder like Gold Bond Medicated Powder to treat your feet at night and wick away excess moisture.
Why is it important to keep feet dry during a backpacking trip?
For a hiker, healthy and strong feet are not just a plus – they’re an absolute necessity. So much so, that a successful hike starts with your feet, and protecting them from the elements will make your backpacking experience much more enjoyable.
Wet feet may lead to many uncomfortable problems. When your feet are wet your skin becomes softer, and you become more likely to develop blisters.
Hiking through dirty water causes dirt, sand, and other irritants to scratch your skin, causing red rash-like areas. Wetness is uncomfortable and cooler weather leads to a chilled feeling.
On the trail for several days? Trench foot?
If you are backpacking for several days straight, your wet feet might even turn into what is known as “trench foot.” Named after the condition of men’s feet in the trenches of WWI, trench foot occurs when your feet remain wet for long periods of time with no chance to air or dry out.
Wet feet causes nerve damage, dead skin, and loss of circulation, and it’s both painful and ugly. Trench foot may lead to permanent damage if it’s not treated. That’s even more reason to quickly return your feet to a dryer, happier state!
How to keep feet dry in rain or snow
There’s no such thing as bad weather… only bad clothing! For that reason, a rainy, cold, or snowy day can be the perfect day for a hike if you have the right gear.
Remember the old bread bags?
On a rainy day, wear rain pants that cover the top of your boots so that water does not leak in from above. If you’re wearing waterproof boots, your feet should stay comfortable. If you need a waterproof layer between your feet and a wet pair of boots, plastic bags (especially bread bags and newspaper bags) make a great DIY “waterproof sock.”
Mostly permanent solutions
For a more permanent solution, look into waterproof socks made with materials like nylon and spandex. This pair of waterproof socks from Dexshell is 20% nylon. These materials dry quickly, retain heat. On the other hand, cotton dries very slowly, retains little heat, and leaves you with the chill that we talked about earlier.
A snowy day might demand socks that are a little warmer, take these Wetsox waterproof socks, for example. If you are hiking through snowbanks, you might also want gaiters, which prevent snow from falling down into your boots. This pair from Outdoor Research has high reviews and does the trick.
How to best keep feet dry during a river or stream crossing
If you need to cross through water on your hike, first pause to assess the situation. Check up and downstream for an easier crossing. And look try to avoid stepping in the water.
Furthermore, look for a narrow section of the stream, a sturdy fallen log, or a rocky area to carefully walk across. Move up and down the edge of the stream surveying for an easier passage. You may find, the best crossing point is not along the marked trail.
Should I attempt it barefoot?
Avoid walking barefoot across the stream. It might seem like a good idea at the time to take off your boots and avoid getting them wet. But, think of it this way: would you walk barefoot on a hiking trail, where rocks, sticks, and critters might harm your feet?
Going barefoot into a stream is dangerous and not so smart. Most often, you can’t see the bottom clearly, and sharp and slippery rocks create an opportunity for serious injury.
Try some river crossing shoes!
Instead of going barefoot, pack a pair of river crossing shoes. While this type of shoe is designed to be lightweight, breathable, water-resistant, it is also less expensive than trail runners and hiking boots. Strapping your river crossing shoes to the outside of the pack allows for easy access.
Tevas, Crocs, and Chacos make great river crossing shoes. Also, heel straps prevent the shoes from slipping off your foot during that crux move during your river crossing. However, don’t go too cheap and purchase flip flops as your water crossers; they can too easily fall off your foot and away they go down the river!
After you’ve crossed the water, dry your feet quickly, and change back into your hiking boots. In nice weather, re-strap your river crossing shoes to your backpack and allow them to dry as you continue along the trail.
What are some of the best dry hiking boots and trail shoes?
Whether you’re looking for sturdy waterproof boots or quick-drying trail runners, water-resistant footwear is a great investment. Here are some highly-rated boots and shoes to get you started:
Best quick dry hiking shoes
Best overall waterproof hiking boots
Best bargain waterproof boots
Best winter hiking boots
With the tips, tricks, and products in this article, you should have no problem maintaining comfortable, dry feet. Although some waterproof boots or water-resistant hiking gear is expensive, you also have many inexpensive options at your disposal. In addition, we discuss different types of footwear in a recent blog post.
For example, extra socks, a pair of crocs, and a few plastic bags can be just as useful as fancy hiking gear! Whatever your preference, good luck on your next adventure.
Have a great hike, and make sure to stay dry!
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