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Best Tricks for Keeping Dry Feet Through (Really) Wet Trails

Even with waterproof boots, sometimes it is a challenge to keep those ever-important dry feet dry when on long treks during deeper slogs in spring melting, especially in meadows that tend to be a bit soggy even in summer.  What are your favorite, go-to tricks for maintaining dry feet/"protecting your transportation" for the rest of the backpack mileage?

3 Replies

There's a few things I do to keep the feet dry. First off, I often use waterproof boots as well, as the Northwest is notoriously wet. However, many people, especially thru-hikers, swear by trail runners that are super breathable, because they can get them soaked in a river crossing or something, and they will dry out within a few hours. If I know I'm going on a wet trail, I'll often bring an extra pair of socks to switch into if my feet get wet, and maybe a bandana or something to help get some moisture out of the insides of my shoes. Having a good pair of gaiters/rainpants also helps a lot, as this drastically reduces the amount of snow that can get to my feet, and is useful in muddy conditions or in the morning dew on the trail. Finally I always have wool socks, as they retain their ability to insulate when wet, and don't rub against your feet as much as cotton might. 

Hope that helps!

"Not getting to the summit is not failure, it is an opportunity to go there again."
-Kilian Jornet-

In my experience there are 2 schools of thought:

  1. Embrace the wet
  2. Fight the wet

For each, there are multiple strategies. Advice is a bt of an echo-chamber in the way that people tend to like what they already do (and thus swear by it). I consider myself to hate wet hiking, though I do it pretty often... the only perfect solution is dry alpine hiking 🙂 With that said, my favorite strategy for each school of thought is:

  1. Embrace the wet. Use neoprene (or waterproof) socks and trail-runners. The idea with the trail-runners is that they will dry quickly when boots that get wet may never be off your feet long enough to completely dry... this is especially true in the PNW. I've used neoprene socks in Buckskin/Paria (Utah+Arizona) where you continuously cross a stream... the neoprene keeps your feet warm even though they never dry while you're hiking. Sealskinz are pretty good water-proof socks, and their newer models have silicone bead at the top of the sock to help keep water from entering the top (however once water enters your socks, it stays there)
  2. FIght the wet. Use water-proof boots, light wool socks and gaitors. The idea here is that you get all of the pros of boots (stable, supportive footwear) while still staying dry. Light socks are important because sweat will stay in your boots and your feet will get wet <-- money well spent on braethable waterproof boots is probaby the key here. Gaitors are important if the water can get over thetop of your boot... like rain or unpredictable stream/tide depths.

I personally prefer to keep dry feet, so I'm into waterproof boots and gaitors. I find that you have to re-waterproof your boots annually to keep it up though.

Happy hiking!

Exactly what @nealos nealos said.

But please don't do what the other person said.  If you put your dry socks into your wet shoes, what do you think will happen?  You will have 2 pairs of wet socks.

Once your socks/shoes are wet, the issue is to walk it dry, a lot more than a few hours with trailrunners unless you're in the desert and/or to stay comfortable.  Neoprene booties are terrific for this.

Now, back to those wet socks in camp, if you're suffering and need to put on the dry socks, use a plastic bag to put over the socks before putting on the wet boots/shoes.  zip locks work ok, better - bread bags, best - doggie poop bags.

An old school method for waterproofing boots is using mink oil and just smearing it on with your hands.  I used this method for last months trip to iceland, covering my merrils, worked great.

hope this helps

REI member since 1979

REI Member Since 1979