Dry Feet During Hikes

Did you know that wet feet can actually become more problematic than you might think? Hiking with wet feet can cause lots of problems, but fortunately, there are ways to keep one’s feet dry. In this article, we’ll share some of our secrets with you, and some knowledge about the problems that come with wet feet.

But what causes wet feet? Well, there are multiple right answers to this question. Some of them are simpler than others, and to avoid diving too deep into the matter, we wrote a list for you:

  • Footwear doesn’t breathe.
  • Too warm footwear.
  • Wrong socks.
  • Sweat due to activity.
  • Rain and wet areas.
  • Crossing rivers & creeks.

You’ve likely heard about at least one of these issues. Maybe you’ve heard a friend suddenly complain during a hike, or maybe you have accidentally started your hike by placing your boot in a pool of water deeper than the height of your boots. No matter the problem, the knowledge we’re about to share with you will help you keep your feet dry in most scenarios.

Why Wet Feet Is Bad: Trench Foot

The big problem with wet feet isn’t just the annoying feeling. Nor is it the smell of wet socks and shoes. It’s actually blisters/shoe-bites. And it left untreated, trench foot, also known as immersion foot syndrome. This is something you want to avoid at any cost!

All you need to know for now is that trench foot occurs due to wet feet, usually during wet and cold conditions and activities when the feet never get the chance to dry. This can lead to things as blisters, dying skin tissue, and a wide variety of horrible feelings in the feet.

Drying your socks in the tent while you sleep can help you keep your feet dry during hikes
Notice the clothing line in the tent ceiling.
Fridh, William. 2020.

Dry During The Day

As soon as you take a break to rest or eat food, make sure to remove your footwear, place the inner sole standing up straight inside its shaft. This will help dry the boot faster. You should also remove your socks and let them dry. Do this even though your feet or shoes aren’t wet. This prevents the moisture from building up during the day and your feet will thank you for the break.

Additional tip: Always dry something. Especially during the night. Adding a clothing line inside the tent is a real gamechanger here.

Change And Dry Socks

Seriously, this cannot be stressed enough. Change your socks regularly! As I wear shell boots, I always wear two pairs of socks. A thinner, and a thicker pair. The thinner pair is the one that tends to collect most moisture, but even the thicker pair needs to be changed now and then if I want to keep my feet dry.

To balance this, I always keep a pair of each layer easily accessible. Usually hanging on my backpack if the weather allows it. As soon as I change during a break, I hang the wet pair on the backpack so that I can change back to them later on when they have dried and I need a change.

Dry feet is easier to accomplish if you use the correct footwear
A high boot protects you better in wet areas.
Fridh, William. 2021.

Wear The Right Shoes/Boots And Socks

Wearing the wrong footwear can be devastating. A too warm pair of boots during warm days can easily lead to sweat, and too low ones will surely end in wet feet if you’re hiking wet areas. So try to find a balance that works for you and your needs.

And even socks. Seriously? Yes! The choice of socks can be just as important as the choice of shoes. Depending on the boot, you might need two layers of socks, with the inner one being thinner (usually called a liner). This has to be combined with the right height of the sock since you don’t want them to end before the boot does. Too low socks can lead to abrasions and poor moisture transportation. And lastly, buy socks that are made for activity. Avoid cotton at any price. Instead, go for something made out of synthetics or wool.

Going on a long hike? Make sure to bring some leather grease or vax (preferable water-based) if you wear leather boots. You might need to add extra every now and then on the seams.

For Crossing Rivers And Creeks

Crossing waters is a big part of hiking in some areas. It’s one of the more adventurous things you do during hikes. Sometimes even dangerous, but that’s a subject for another time. There are many methods you can use to cross creeks and end up dry in the end, but we only recommend two:

  1. Wear some form of the bag above your footwear and legs. Something like Helsport’s footbags. This will keep your footwear and pants 100% dry and you’ll still have the stability provided by your boots (if you wear that type of footwear), which can be really good due to the uneven bottoms of creeks.
  2. Use shell boots. These boots are often thinner and lack wadding. This means that they don’t absorb as much water dry quicker. Just pull up your pants and walk through the river. And when you’re on the other side, empty the boot of water and change socks. Or why not even remove the inner sole and socks?

What we don’t recommend is crossing water without any footwear (unless it’s sand or a really easy crossing) or with lightweight shoes brought especially for this purpose. You want real boots to protect your joints and get a good grip on stones in the water.

Keep in mind, cold joints tend to be more fragile! Don’t use shoes that have poor grip.

Cossing rivers during hikes can make it challenging if you prefer dry feet
Try to avoid having to cross water when possible.
Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

Don't Wear Rain Pants Longer Than Needed

I get it, wearing rain pants just in case can sometimes seem like a good idea. But if the risk of rain is small, try to avoid it. Sealing in your legs and footwear with rain pants (especially cheap ones) can actually prevent moisture from leaving your footwear and pants. On tops, if this, it can cause heat to build up, which ends up in more sweat.

Love Your Feet

This last tip is somewhat odd and doesn’t really help you prevent wet feet. But try showing your feet some love for a better hiking experience. This involves keeping them clean inside their socks, applying some foot cream and trimming the nails before the hike, and of course, bringing a soft pair of socks for the time in camp.

Last Words

Make sure to memorize these tricks. They can come to be very useful for you, or your hiking pals! Dry feet mean happy feet. And happy feet mean a happy hiker.

Stay safe and hike on!


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