You’re out on a walk. Maybe you’re hiking. It starts to rain, pretty heavily. You step in a puddle that’s deeper than you thought. Your shoes are soaked - and you don’t know what to do next.
Whether you’ve got caught in a downpour or you’ve been forced to walk through an unavoidable puddle, wet shoes lead to one thing: wet feet.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we’ve seen (and experienced) this scenario far too often. So we wanted to help equip fellow walkers and hikers with the best ways on how to keep your feet dry in wet shoes, including:
- How waterproof socks can be your saviour
- Wear non-waterproof shoes that dry quicker
- Just how effective foot balm is
- Carry an extra pair of insoles
- The ‘if all else fails’ plastic bag trick
Wear waterproof socks (that are actually waterproof)
Invest in a pair of waterproof socks that live up to their name. Brands like DexShell, SealSkinz and Bridgedale are some of our favourites when it comes to providing 100% waterproof, windproof and breathable socks.
Read more: The 5 Best Waterproof Socks For 2021 →
You want to look for anything that’s made from Merino wool (known for being moisture-resistant) or has a GORE-TEX or Porelle® membrane (a built-in layer that stops water from coming in, but lets sweat and excess moisture out).
Merino wool alone won’t save you completely as it’s not waterproof. But it’s water-resistant and fast-drying, so it’ll slow the process down and help keep you warm - meaning you can go longer without feeling the moisture start to soak in.
Top tip: choose thinner Merino wool socks, as they absorb less water than thicker socks.
However, socks with a GORE-TEX or Porelle® membrane (like these from Aquaproofs) are designed to be 100% waterproof yet breathable, giving you complete protection whether you’re wading through rivers or walking through wet grass.
And it’s always a good idea to carry a spare pair of wool or waterproof socks to change into. Or even wear lightweight sock liners under your normal socks to prevent blisters and help wick moisture away. Plus if it’s not raining, you can hang your wet pair off your rucksack to let them dry out naturally.
Wear non-waterproof shoesWhile this seems contradictory, it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes the problem with waterproof shoes is:
- Their waterproofing qualities break down over time
- You have to frequently re-waterproof them
- They don’t allow your feet to breathe, so you’re left with sweaty feet
So try wearing non-waterproof shoes that drain and dry out quickly. They’ll help reduce the amount of puddling in your shoes that bathes your feet in moisture (which can lead to things like blisters, athlete’s foot or trench foot). Instead of being bogged down by heavy boots that hold all the water for longer, you’re free to continue your hike with lighter, more comfortable shoes.
Nowadays most hiking shoes have a super breathable mesh fabric which is great for draining water, as well as ventilation. Your sweat has actually got somewhere to escape to, rather than just sitting in your boots.
Prepare your feet with foot balmFoot balm (or hiking salve) is a cream that’s applied to the hotspots of your feet that are prone to chafing and cracking. It’s basically a protective layer that prevents moisture from being absorbed into your foot, which makes it particularly useful for long distance hiking.
In short, foot balm helps to:
- Reduce the risk of soggy feet
- Prevent chafing
- Heal cracked heels and feet
Simply apply it to clean, dry feet before you hit the trail, or before bed with socks to let it soak in overnight. It can also be used as a top up when you’re on the go, but make sure you dry your feet properly before applying it, otherwise it won’t be as effective.
Some foot balms worth trying:
- O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet (£6.18)
- Badger Balm (£7.88)
- Bodyglide’s Foot Glide (£14.95)
- Squirrel’s Nut Butter (£18.95)
Carry an extra pair of insoles (and socks)
A lightweight pair of insoles can be a helpful barrier between your wet footwear and your dry socks. We recommend wearing a pair while you’re walking, and having another pair ready for when you’re done for the day.
If you’ve got a midday rest stop that’s longer than 20 minutes (and it’s not raining), take off your socks and shoes to let your feet air dry. Wring out any excess moisture from your socks and reapply a good amount of foot balm again to help combat any discomfort.
Then after your walk, stuff paper towels or newspaper in your shoes to soak up as much moisture as possible. Then before you leave for the evening, put on a dry pair of Merino wool socks and insert a fresh pair of insoles in your shoes. Within a few hours, your shoes should be mostly dry.
Use the ‘if all else fails’ plastic bag trick
This only works if you’ve got a spare pair of socks (which, let’s face it, you should). First you need to remove your wet socks and shoes, air dry your feet, and pop on a dry pair of socks. Next, take a plastic bag and wrap it around your foot, then slide it into your boot.
Job done. The plastic bag separates your foot from the wet boot until you can dry it out.
It’s not breathable - or particularly ideal - but when you’ve got nothing else, it’ll help keep your feet dry in wet shoes. And plastic bags are small and lightweight enough to easily carry around with you.