When hiking, your feet are bound to get wet at some point. There are rivers to cross and puddles that can’t be avoided. And even if it hasn’t rained in some time, there’s always perspiration. Here are a few tips to help you and your feet deal with moisture.
Blisters are caused by a combination of friction and moisture. Choosing socks that dry quickly will help you avoid that problem. Polyester-based fabrics like Coolmax are perfect. So is merino wool. Avoid cotton, though, because it absorbs moisture and will stay wet all day.
If you have a backpack, take an extra pair of socks that you can switch out midday. If you are on a multiday trip, take several pairs. If you’re thru-hiking over an extended distance, make sure there are new socks in each of your support packages.
Rinse your socks off whenever possible, so the grime doesn’t harden into the fabric.
Gore-Tex is the most commonly used moisture barrier. They’re perfect for rainy days or walking through wet grass in the morning. However, remember that Gore-Tex boots or any other waterproof footwear will keep the moisture out as long as the water doesn’t spill over the top edge. Step into a puddle or stream that’s higher than your shoe, and you’re going to get wet, regardless of how waterproof it is.
If you have leather footwear that’s been treated to repel moisture, apply an additional coating before leaving on a long hike.
If your shoes do get wet, concentrate on drying them out as quickly as possible. Take them off and air them out routinely when wet. Change your socks more frequently, and hang dry them in camp.
If you’re not using waterproof boots, gaiters may just be the next best things. They’re ideal for days when it’s pouring rain, but they won’t do you much good when wading through puddles and streams.
Gaiters have the added bonus of keeping the bottom part of your pants dry, and some models are breathable enough to provide a high level of comfort. Luckily, gaiters also work when used with trail running shoes. The combination of the two is often quite advantageous.
Use Trekking Poles
Another way to keep your feet dry is to use trekking poles. They are particularly useful when crossing streams, as poles enable you to balance on smaller rocks above water without having to simply walk across the bottom. Additionally, they provide extra protection between you and falling flat onto your face into a puddle, which you’re sure to appreciate on the trail.
Air Out Your Shoes and Feet
One of the best ways to keep your feet from getting wet and clammy is to air them out every so often. Whenever you stop for a snack or water, take the time to remove your shoes and socks and place them onto a dry spot. Try and keep your feet out of the mud as they dry.
Seem obvious? Maybe, but if you have waterproof boots, you may be feeling brave on the trail. The best way to keep your feet dry, though, is to avoid walking straight through puddles and streams. That means paying extra attention to where you’re stepping and keeping your eyes on the ground. This can pay off in the long run.
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