Hiking With Wet Feet (Safety Guide)
When you’re out hiking, there can be a few things that happen that might leave you with wet feet. Maybe you just stepped in a puddle by accident, or you didn’t check the weather forecast before you left home, and now there’s a downpour that has left your feet cold and soggy. Or, maybe you are one of those weird people who actually enjoy hiking in the rain.
No matter the reason, there are a few key things to keep in mind if you find yourself with wet feet on your next hiking adventure. And so, If this ever happens to you, you might wonder if you can carry on with your hike. Generally, it is not recommended to hike with wet feet, as it’s not only uncomfortable but can lead to a potential health crisis. Let’s explore this a bit further.
What Happens if you Hike with Wet Feet
When moisture gets into your shoes and socks, it tends to stay there. If left unattended, it can potentially lead to several serious ailments that may require medical attention.
There are several fungal infections that you can get if you hike with wet feet. Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection you can acquire if you hike with damp feet. An athlete’s foot can bring cracked, scaly skin that can become inflamed and irritated. Onychomycosis is another type of fungal infection you can get from hiking with wet feet. It is an infection that can cause your toenails to distort, crumble, and flake. This type of infection is less common but can have lasting effects on your nail bed if not treated properly.
Trench foot is a term that was created to describe a specific foot condition soldiers would get during WWI when soldiers would suffer from wet and cold feet for long stretches of time. Today it applies to anybody who spends a good deal of time outdoors without the proper footwear precautions. If not taken seriously, trench food can lead to severe itching, numbing, flakiness, blisters, and in the most severe cases, permanent nerve damage.
When your feet are wet in your shoes, you run the risk of developing painful blisters due to the consistent friction you get from trekking about. If left untreated, blisters can potentially lead to a more serious infection. It is important to know how to clean and address blisters if you develop them.
In the event that you are hiking in particularly frigid temperatures, you really want to make sure that your feet are kept as dry as possible to prevent frostbite. In the worst of cases, frostbite can lead to the blackening of the foot, which can lead to a potential amputation of the damaged limb. This is the worst-case scenario and is highly unlikely for most terrains, but you still must be aware of the potential risks if you choose to hike with wet feet.
How To Prevent Wet Feet While Hiking
Wear Quality, Waterproof Hiking Boots
Investing in a good hiking boot is the foundation of any good hike. Quality, waterproof hiking boots are going to be your best shot at preventing any moisture from getting to your feet. Look for boots that are designed to keep moisture out, as well as keep your feet warm and comfortable.
Bring Extra Pair of Socks
In addition to getting a quality, waterproof hiking boot, investing in quality, moisture-wicking socks are going to double down on protecting your feet from getting wet. To be safe, and to prevent potential fungal infection, v with you in the event that your feet do get wet.
Bring a Pair of Gaiters
Gaiters provide an extra layer of protection and can be especially useful if you are going to be wading through shallow water or deep snow. Gaiters are designed to fit snugly around your ankle and calf area and prevent water, snow, or mud from entering your footwear.
What To If Your Feet Get Wet
Change your socks ASAP
Don’t wait too long to get into another pair of socks. Bacteria love damp, cold, closed-off environments. Don’t give them the perfect breeding ground for potential infection. Take it from me – I reused dirty gym socks (I know, it was gross. But in my defense, I forgot to bring an extra pair.) Anyway, I ended up with a very bad case of athlete’s foot that lasted over a year and a half.
Add Some Foot Powder
Adding foot powder to your newly-dried feet will help absorb any remaining moisture and also help prevent any potential fungal infection. There are specific anti-fungal powders on the market that are designed to fight against fungal infections. My personal favorite is Zeasorb Powder.
Check Your Shoes for Moisture
If you’re not able to get a pair of dry socks on right away, then at least check your shoes and see if they still feel damp or wet. If unsure, let them air out and make sure that your boots are completely dry before you put your feet back in them.
Dry Your Shoes Best You Can
Pause your hike if you can to let your shoes dry off in the sun to the best of your ability. While you do this, try not to walk around barefoot, as this can still contribute to fungal infections or a stray stick logging its way into your foot.
Cut Your Hike Short
If conditions aren’t good enough to allow your shoes to dry off, don’t be afraid to call it and head back home. The trails will still be there another on a better day.
Waterproof Footwear Recommendations
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to take care of your feet and prevent moisture from getting in them, here are a few recommendations for some waterproof hiking boots, and then we’ll touch on some good moisture-wicking socks.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
The Lowa Renegade GTX hiking boot is one of the best hiking boots around. Despite this boot being waterproof, the Lowa Renegade GTX still allows for excellent breathability, which is why this waterproof hiking boot is held in such high regard. View them here.
Columbia Crestwood Waterproof
For those who are looking for more of a shoe design rather than a boot, the Columbia Crestwood Waterproof hiking shoe is one of the best hiking shoes out there. With an affordable price tag, you won’t compromise quality if you get this shoe. View them here.
Moisture Wicking Sock Recommendations
ECOEY Hiker Merino Wool Moisture-Wicking Socks
Merino wool is an excellent fabric for wicking moisture, which is why so many hiking enthusiasts opt for this material when looking for a quality hiking sock. With a snug fit that provides plenty of warmth, you can use these socks on and off the trails. View them here.
REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Quarter Socks
For those who opt to wear hiking shoes rather than boots, these budget-friendly moisture-wicking socks are the perfect pair to take with you on the trails. What’s special about these socks is that the fabric of this sock is made from recycled plastic bottles. Despite this unique feat, the socks provide excellent comfort and warmth, which makes them a favorite among environmentally-conscious hikers. View them here.
Hiking with wet feet is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous to your health. If you find yourself with wet feet on your hike, change your socks immediately, and allow your boots to dry as best as possible. Do not hike with wet feet longer than you need too – this can lead to fungal infections and more. Lastly, be sure to invest in a quality pair of waterproof boots or shoes as well as moisture-wicking socks, which will help keep your feet dry when you’re out on the trails.