Saturday, 11 January 2014

Hiking with wet feet

As any regular backpacker knows, it's not possible to avoid rain in the UK and so the perennial issue of wet feet crops up time and again. I've come across some interesting discussions about this, mainly on US blogs such as Andrew Skurka's at http://andrewskurka.com/2012/minimizing-the-effects-and-aftermath-of-wet-feet/ and Philip Werner's at http://sectionhiker.com/why-you-should-hike-in-the-rain/ and the conclusion I've come to is that you should take care of your feet and simply embrace walking in the rain. Certainly, in prolonged rain wet feet are inevitable, even when wearing footwear that is supposed to be waterproof. My experience is that boots or shoes with a waterproof membrane take far longer to dry out, once wetted, than those without a membrane.

If you think you've walked in wet conditions, read this account http://nimblewillnomad.com/odyssey_1998_ft.htm It sounds (and is) as horrendous as it gets, in my view.

I much prefer to hike in shoes, rather than boots. Particularly as I have one foot slightly smaller than the other, I invariably develop blisters. I also walk very differently in shoes. With boots, it's more of a plodding walk. I think I tend to lift my feet higher and I believe that this involves more effort. My shoes of choice at the moment are Inov-8s, usually the Terroc. They are so light and comfortable and wear reasonably well. I've tried waterproof socks over the years. I've had four pairs of Sealskinz. This might imply that I like them. However, I've only bought one pair. They proved to be unserviceable, letting in water very quickly after very little use. I returned them and they were replaced each time by the company. I can't fault their customer service but I wouldn't pay good money for them again. I also tried Trekmates Amphibians. I bought three pairs shortly before the final stock went. They told me that they were being discontinued not because they weren't good but that they sold very slowly. I quite liked these but they didn't last. I think, maybe, the problem with them (and maybe also with the Sealskinz) is grit getting inside shoes and rubbing through the waterproof membrane.

Having said that, I now accept that my feet will get wet. I recently came across an interesting idea on an outdoor blog, that wearing oven roasting bags can work. I bought some (regular size - 8 for £1.40) and gave them a try on a wet day over New Year. I wore them between two pairs of liner socks. They were very comfortable, although made a crinkly noise at first. However, I'm afraid to say that they didn't last long. I spent the day with wet feet. When I got home, I found that they had broken open at the toe and the heel.

So, back to the drawing board. If I'm walking through constant wet, I'll put up with squelchy shoes. If I go through a wet patch or have to cross a stream, I'll take the socks off, wring them out and then carry on walking; the shoes and socks will then dry out reasonably quickly. Does anyone else have any ideas, cranky or otherwise?

Particularly on a multi day walk, I believe that blisters (when wearing boots) will probably only get worse. Wet feet will dry out. I have yet to suffer blisters when wearing shoes with wet feet. At the end of a day's walk with wet shoes, the footbeds should be removed and these, the shoes and the socks should be washed out to remove any mud and grit. The shoes and socks will still be wet the next morning but they will soon warm up with use and become comfortable. Obviously, there's no point in putting dry socks into wet shoes.

There's an interesting discussion at http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/xdpy/forum_thread/22184/index.html on this topic. I've bought a couple of tubes of cream to use before the feet get wet as I'm aware that feet really do need TLC when out on the trail. One is Siopel which was very inexpensive and the other is Gehwol Extra foot cream. I shall try these on a wet outing soon and post a review. 


2 comments:

  1. For me Geoff it's wet feet, washing socks out daily and good care of the feet and air drying at breaks. Trail shoes will dry fast. TGOC 2013 was wet and tore up socks with all the wet run-off having silt and this got into the shoes and socks. Lots folk got beat up feet in trail shoes unlike some in boots. Good links Geoff and interesting discussion. Look us up next time your in Norwich and we can talk more.

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  2. I've been using Bob Cartwright's Gewhol cream for years and swear by it, whether wearing boots or trail shoes.

    I don't really have a problem with wet feet. The most important consideration for me is the sock and boot fit. I can walk all day in soggy socks (using wicking liners) with no problems.
    As Martin says - at every opportunity, I air my tootsies to get them all fresh and lovely again and then plunger them back into my soggy socks!

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