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Rain covers for shoes

Gman

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
French way in May
Walking French Way in May. Thoughts on rain covers for hiking shoes. Good idea or not worth the weight? Thx
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
TdMB/KLW(2014)
Portugues(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Walking French Way in May. Thoughts on rain covers for hiking shoes. Good idea or not worth the weight? Thx
I'm a fan of boot/shoe cuff-type protectors & always carry them. Mine weigh 40gms, are made of HD cotton & water resistant. I then spray with water repellent for extra protection. In Australia for example...they can be bought at workwear shops or army disposal stores for about $5pr. They don't cover the whole shoe but stop socks getting wet from water running down your legs (I walk with bare legs), are a barrier to rain entering your shoe & protect the all-important lace area...& not just from water but also mud, stones, dust, etc. You also don't have to take your shoe/boot off to put them on or remove them. While not a 100% effective, in wet weather I find I can go a lot longer before I have to stop & 'deal with it'. As with everything, it will come down to personal preference but they get a 👍 ✔ from me. 👣 🌏
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
No real need, but I usually carry gaiters, a godsend on the Vézelay Camino where the guidebook describes several sections as being "très humide" not nasty weather but actually meaning shin deep mud! No real need on the CF but a comfort just knowing they are there, packed away.
 

happymarkos

HappyMark
Camino(s) past & future
2013 CF
2014 Le Puy-St Jean. 2014&16 Volunteer St JP
2016 Portuguese
2017 Porto-Santiago
2018
Walking French Way in May. Thoughts on rain covers for hiking shoes. Good idea or not worth the weight? Thx
Hi
Haven’t seen actual rain covers only gaiters. If the footwear is waterproof most rain will not be a problem. However in heavy prolonged rain even these will fail.
Boots help to keep out mud whereas low cut footwear doesn’t. To me gaiters are a must if rain, snow and mud are expected. I like the RAB ones just over the calf. Weight becomes an issue as many are heavy duty more for prolonged rock climbing and scrub bashing. Particularly if you have rain pants on which can be ripped by thorns etc.
Have seen walkers put plastic bags over their socks as a way to keep feet dry. I think this would be ok short term but lead to other problems.
In summary it all depends on what conditions you anticipate and the clothing and footwear you plan to take. You can look at weather forecasts for the times when you expect to be walking. Bear in mind the weather can change quickly with snow even on the Cruz de Ferro in May.
Happymark
 

c0484

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013
No real need, but I usually carry gaiters, a godsend on the Vézelay Camino where the guidebook describes several sections as being "très humide" not nasty weather but actually meaning shin deep mud! No real need on the CF but a comfort just knowing they are there, packed away.
I agree and always carry gaiters. When it rains, you will encounter thick - clayish mud that can suck shoe covers right off your feet and they will need to be cleaned after each wearing. They will also collect the mud making your feet heavier.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
IMHO, this is a useless complication and another thing to worry about losing. Plan on your feet getting wet. They dry out. This is the Camino. Being wet and sometimes miserable is part of the charm...:rolleyes:

Once you get where you are going for the day, remove the innersoles, loosen or remove laces and hang your boots by the laces to air dry with the tongue well opened so air can circulate.

If the shoes were soaked, as in they went underwater or were rained on all day, shake out as much water as you can. obtain newspaper to crumple up and stuff LIGHTLY in each shoe / boot. The newspaper is a time-honored method for drying out wet shoes and boots.

Then hang the boots / shoes to air dry. Dry the inner soles separately.

I use Keen boots that are claimed waterproof and are, as long as I stay out of rivers, streams and deep puddles. Exposure to rain dries quickly overnight.

If you put the shoes / boots on the next day slightly wet, but the innersoles, socks and your feet are dry, the shoes / boots will dry out fast as you walk.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

backpack45scb

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001 CF, 04-6 LP, 07 Port, 08-10 Arles, 11 Mozá,12-13 Gen-LP. 00-10 PCT, 15 Norte, 16 Primi
I wear rain pants under such conditions, and they keep most of the rain from running down my legs into the trail runners. If you hike in shorts without rain pants it is more of a problem. My wife carries dirtygirlgaiters.com and will use them more to keep mud out than rain. They weigh next to nothing. The Asics trail runners come with a strip of velcro on the back for attaching gaiters.
 

Gman

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
French way in May
The good folks on this forum are the best. Your kindness, concern and thoughtfulness come through loud and clear on each post. I am comforted to know that y'all are but a mouse click away. I think I will let the weather be my guide knowing that I can add to my rain preparedness a few places along the way. Thanks again for taking time to reply. GvG
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2001
Via de la plata 2008
Arles -Piemonte-Frances-Cee 2014
(Bastan-Francés) 2019
I live in the wet corner of the United States and I am sort of in the camp of t2andreo. In serious rain your feet will inevitably get wet. In warmer weather attempting to waterproof your feet will not let the sweat evaporate. You end up with wet feet even in light rain.
For me damp socks especially wool socks are more comfortable than the things that I’ve worn to try to keep my feet dry.
If the rain stops it’s really nice to have a supply of dry socks to change into and If the weather is seriously cold ignore all of this advice and really try to keep your feet dry.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
TdMB/KLW(2014)
Portugues(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Hi
Haven’t seen actual rain covers only gaiters. If the footwear is waterproof most rain will not be a problem. However in heavy prolonged rain even these will fail.
Boots help to keep out mud whereas low cut footwear doesn’t. To me gaiters are a must if rain, snow and mud are expected. I like the RAB ones just over the calf. Weight becomes an issue as many are heavy duty more for prolonged rock climbing and scrub bashing. Particularly if you have rain pants on which can be ripped by thorns etc.
Have seen walkers put plastic bags over their socks as a way to keep feet dry. I think this would be ok short term but lead to other problems.
In summary it all depends on what conditions you anticipate and the clothing and footwear you plan to take. You can look at weather forecasts for the times when you expect to be walking. Bear in mind the weather can change quickly with snow even on the Cruz de Ferro in May.
Happymark
I tried the 'plastic-bag-on-the-feet' thing once...I lasted about 3mins! It was awful...even in well fitting shoes, your feet sort of slide around. Hard to describe but the grip between foot & shoe is lost...don't know how people walk using that method. 👣 🌏
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
TdMB/KLW(2014)
Portugues(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
The good folks on this forum are the best. Your kindness, concern and thoughtfulness come through loud and clear on each post. I am comforted to know that y'all are but a mouse click away. I think I will let the weather be my guide knowing that I can add to my rain preparedness a few places along the way. Thanks again for taking time to reply. GvG
Gear, like walking itself, is a personal choice. We all do what works best for us as individuals & opinions will always be divided. The only way to find your Happy Place is through trial & error..hopefully not too much of the latter! 👣 🌏
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
I wear trail shoes. In Feb and March wewalked to SdC and only three days were dry. My shoes did get wet in the course of the other days. Each night I stuffed my non gortex shoes with paper. In the morning the insides were dry.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
Hi kazrobbo....

Below is a post I have made on this issue before. Maybe it will be of help :)
------------------------------------------------------------
Water will enter trail runner shoes, hiking shoes, or backpacking boots through any opening during a rainstorm, when walking through wet grass and brush, or drench into them if you walk through puddles or other standing water along the Camino.

There are two potential remedies to this problem, neither of which is always effective.
  • First, you can try keeping rain pants over the tops of shoes, so the water runs down the pants past the opening. But this system can be uncomfortably hot in warm weather during rain-soaked conditions. It offers no protection for puddles or having to cross water runoffs on the pathway.
  • You can try using a footwear with a waterproof gaiter or some other waterproof cobbles -- like thick plastic bags. I have not often seen a gaiter or other waterproof trapping that would both keep the water out and keep the feet dry.
“Waterproof” shoes are a misnomer for several reasons.
  • They can fail because the materials simply don’t work over the near and long term because it is difficult to apply and cover all areas of the footwear sufficiently.
  • The waterproof coating or laminate in the shoes does not last. Some manufacturers of the lightweight trail shoes, which are usually constructed as a hybrid of fabric and leather, have treated them with a coating which can quickly wear off. It also keeps sweat in the shoe and your feet get soaked in sweat. Fairly quickly, coatings break down and will no longer be waterproof.
  • Footwear which relies on a “Gore-Tex” style of waterproof/breathable laminate will break down through both wear and tear and dirt buildup on the material which renders it ineffective.
When I’ve tested so-called waterproof / breathable fabrics in shoes for various manufacturers, their actual performance never matched what was claimed. My reports to their QA departments have always reflected these weaknesses as found during testing. Sometimes a shoe will start the test period working fairly well under a narrow range of wet conditions, but as the testing progresses the failures increase.

Waterproof/breathable membranes, like Gore-Tex, are only marginally breathable — water vapor from perspiration does not pass through the fabric as efficiently as is claimed. It can't. Unlike outerwear, the shoe material radically inhibits the ability of the membrane to allow water vapor to escape, thereby trapping it in the shoe.

So, on warm days the experience of having sweat being trapped in the shoe is common. Combined with the fact that the fabric waterproofing is quickly damaged by dirt, sweat, grime, and abrasion and it’s only a matter of time before exterior moisture begins penetrating the fabric and allowing feet to get wet from outside moisture as well.

This is why most experienced trekkers and backpackers no longer go to great lengths to keep feet dry. They accept that when the weather is wet, feet will also get wet. Even the US military uses footwear for wet conditions which is not waterproof. The strategy is how to minimize any problems when feet are wet.

In working with folks new to backpacking who ask about waterproof footwear recommendations, I have asked why they wanted waterproof shoes. Sometimes, they will look at me as if I had spaghetti sticking out of my nose. Most will answer that they think their feet will stay dry, and that having wet feet is akin to getting into horrible trouble.

This post is meant to help inform, reassure, and give a different line of thought and reasoning to this issue.

I like to have dry feet. I always try to avoid wet feet. I have tried many ways to keep my feet dry:

  • “Waterproof” shoes, which, as I’ve said, don’t work well.
  • “Waterproof” socks, which don’t work for similar reasons: shoes still get wet, and feet soak with sweat. However – In cold weather these soaks can be the basis for using vapor barrier warmth conservation of the feet.
  • Wearing multiple pairs of socks, frequently changing from wet to dry, which eventually all get wet.
  • Carrying multiple pairs of shoes, which eventually all get wet, too.
I have never had total success at keeping my feet dry in very wet conditions, which led me to research what has been done to develop effective strategies. If I can’t keep my feet dry, then I need to try and eliminate or minimize the risk of any of the bad things that could occur to my wet feet when walking.

Some of these lessons I learned while in Vietnam…. Like the fact that our boots had fabric tops and numerous holes in the thin leather bottom portions so that water drained out quickly and never sat in the boots.

What are the most frequent and problematic 'bad' things?
  • Maceration is the medical term for pruning, where the skin’s outer layer absorbs a lot of moisture and gets “soggy” from that moisture. The skin gets sore and extremely soft which makes it more prone to blistering and developing other problems.
  • Cracking of the skin when the macerated feet dry. The natural moisture and oiliness of the skin is gone. The severity depends on how much stress the skin is exposed to after it is dried out.
So, what does work for me, and others, if I am going to be walking or backpacking in wet weather?
  • Apply a good, thick coating of a Goop (ointment or salve) to my feet and between toes before putting on socks and shoes in the morning. If rain occurs later in the day, then remove shoes and socks and do the same. This helps protect from external moisture.
Goop which has a high content of wax – either bee or paraffin – is most ideal, especially if it also has a high lanolin content.
  • Wear non-waterproof shoes which can drain and then dry out quickly. This minimizes the amount of puddling in the shoe that bathes the feet in moisture. Modern trail running shoes, and trail shoes often have nice open mesh fabric which is terrific for draining water.
Non-waterproof shoes will also eliminate moisture from sweaty feet. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the source of the moisture is that feet are exposed to: be it rain or sweat, each can cause the same problems.
  • Wear thin, light-cushioned merino wool socks, which don’t absorb as much water as thicker socks. Merino wool will also keep wet feet warm and comfortable in most seasons and temperature ranges, unless the weather is frigid winter-cold.
  • Take off shoes and socks to let feet air dry during rest stop that will be longer than 20 minutes.During this time, I will wring out any excess moisture from the socks, but I will not put on either of my dry pairs (I take three). I will also wipe off moisture on my feet and then reapply a goodly amount of Goop to my feet to help keep them from becoming macerated.
  • When stopping for the day, apply Goop to the bottoms of feet, both before and after showering.
  • Carry an extra pair of insoles. These insoles do not have to be your preferred “walking” insoles that you may have purchased separately. These can be the lightweight pair which came with your shoes. These will be the barrier between your wet footwear and your dry socks when you are done for the day and if your shoes are a bit damp come morning.
I find that at days end, I can remove the wet insoles and use absorbent paper or toweling to sop up as much moisture as is possible while I am showering and dealing with end of the day chores.

When I get ready to go to dinner or wander around town, I put on a pair of dry Merino wool socks, insert the extra pair of dry insoles into my shoes, and put the shoes back on to walk around in. This accelerates drying out the shoes. Depending on the shoe’s material, within a couple of hours the shoes are mostly dry.
  • At bedtime, I remove the insoles and stuff absorbent material into the shoes to continue the drying out process, if need be, during the night.
  • Apply more salve or ointment and wear dry and warm socks at while sleeping; this gives feet 8-9 hours of recovery.
--------------------------------------------------------------
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
TdMB/KLW(2014)
Portugues(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Hi kazrobbo....

Below is a post I have made on this issue before. Maybe it will be of help :)
------------------------------------------------------------
Water will enter trail runner shoes, hiking shoes, or backpacking boots through any opening during a rainstorm, when walking through wet grass and brush, or drench into them if you walk through puddles or other standing water along the Camino.

There are two potential remedies to this problem, neither of which is always effective.
  • First, you can try keeping rain pants over the tops of shoes, so the water runs down the pants past the opening. But this system can be uncomfortably hot in warm weather during rain-soaked conditions. It offers no protection for puddles or having to cross water runoffs on the pathway.
  • You can try using a footwear with a waterproof gaiter or some other waterproof cobbles -- like thick plastic bags. I have not often seen a gaiter or other waterproof trapping that would both keep the water out and keep the feet dry.
“Waterproof” shoes are a misnomer for several reasons.
  • They can fail because the materials simply don’t work over the near and long term because it is difficult to apply and cover all areas of the footwear sufficiently.
  • The waterproof coating or laminate in the shoes does not last. Some manufacturers of the lightweight trail shoes, which are usually constructed as a hybrid of fabric and leather, have treated them with a coating which can quickly wear off. It also keeps sweat in the shoe and your feet get soaked in sweat. Fairly quickly, coatings break down and will no longer be waterproof.
  • Footwear which relies on a “Gore-Tex” style of waterproof/breathable laminate will break down through both wear and tear and dirt buildup on the material which renders it ineffective.
When I’ve tested so-called waterproof / breathable fabrics in shoes for various manufacturers, their actual performance never matched what was claimed. My reports to their QA departments have always reflected these weaknesses as found during testing. Sometimes a shoe will start the test period working fairly well under a narrow range of wet conditions, but as the testing progresses the failures increase.

Waterproof/breathable membranes, like Gore-Tex, are only marginally breathable — water vapor from perspiration does not pass through the fabric as efficiently as is claimed. It can't. Unlike outerwear, the shoe material radically inhibits the ability of the membrane to allow water vapor to escape, thereby trapping it in the shoe.

So, on warm days the experience of having sweat being trapped in the shoe is common. Combined with the fact that the fabric waterproofing is quickly damaged by dirt, sweat, grime, and abrasion and it’s only a matter of time before exterior moisture begins penetrating the fabric and allowing feet to get wet from outside moisture as well.

This is why most experienced trekkers and backpackers no longer go to great lengths to keep feet dry. They accept that when the weather is wet, feet will also get wet. Even the US military uses footwear for wet conditions which is not waterproof. The strategy is how to minimize any problems when feet are wet.

In working with folks new to backpacking who ask about waterproof footwear recommendations, I have asked why they wanted waterproof shoes. Sometimes, they will look at me as if I had spaghetti sticking out of my nose. Most will answer that they think their feet will stay dry, and that having wet feet is akin to getting into horrible trouble.

This post is meant to help inform, reassure, and give a different line of thought and reasoning to this issue.

I like to have dry feet. I always try to avoid wet feet. I have tried many ways to keep my feet dry:

  • “Waterproof” shoes, which, as I’ve said, don’t work well.
  • “Waterproof” socks, which don’t work for similar reasons: shoes still get wet, and feet soak with sweat. However – In cold weather these soaks can be the basis for using vapor barrier warmth conservation of the feet.
  • Wearing multiple pairs of socks, frequently changing from wet to dry, which eventually all get wet.
  • Carrying multiple pairs of shoes, which eventually all get wet, too.
I have never had total success at keeping my feet dry in very wet conditions, which led me to research what has been done to develop effective strategies. If I can’t keep my feet dry, then I need to try and eliminate or minimize the risk of any of the bad things that could occur to my wet feet when walking.

Some of these lessons I learned while in Vietnam…. Like the fact that our boots had fabric tops and numerous holes in the thin leather bottom portions so that water drained out quickly and never sat in the boots.

What are the most frequent and problematic 'bad' things?
  • Maceration is the medical term for pruning, where the skin’s outer layer absorbs a lot of moisture and gets “soggy” from that moisture. The skin gets sore and extremely soft which makes it more prone to blistering and developing other problems.
  • Cracking of the skin when the macerated feet dry. The natural moisture and oiliness of the skin is gone. The severity depends on how much stress the skin is exposed to after it is dried out.
So, what does work for me, and others, if I am going to be walking or backpacking in wet weather?
  • Apply a good, thick coating of a Goop (ointment or salve) to my feet and between toes before putting on socks and shoes in the morning. If rain occurs later in the day, then remove shoes and socks and do the same. This helps protect from external moisture.
Goop which has a high content of wax – either bee or paraffin – is most ideal, especially if it also has a high lanolin content.
  • Wear non-waterproof shoes which can drain and then dry out quickly. This minimizes the amount of puddling in the shoe that bathes the feet in moisture. Modern trail running shoes, and trail shoes often have nice open mesh fabric which is terrific for draining water.
Non-waterproof shoes will also eliminate moisture from sweaty feet. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the source of the moisture is that feet are exposed to: be it rain or sweat, each can cause the same problems.
  • Wear thin, light-cushioned merino wool socks, which don’t absorb as much water as thicker socks. Merino wool will also keep wet feet warm and comfortable in most seasons and temperature ranges, unless the weather is frigid winter-cold.
  • Take off shoes and socks to let feet air dry during rest stop that will be longer than 20 minutes.During this time, I will wring out any excess moisture from the socks, but I will not put on either of my dry pairs (I take three). I will also wipe off moisture on my feet and then reapply a goodly amount of Goop to my feet to help keep them from becoming macerated.
  • When stopping for the day, apply Goop to the bottoms of feet, both before and after showering.
  • Carry an extra pair of insoles. These insoles do not have to be your preferred “walking” insoles that you may have purchased separately. These can be the lightweight pair which came with your shoes. These will be the barrier between your wet footwear and your dry socks when you are done for the day and if your shoes are a bit damp come morning.
I find that at days end, I can remove the wet insoles and use absorbent paper or toweling to sop up as much moisture as is possible while I am showering and dealing with end of the day chores.

When I get ready to go to dinner or wander around town, I put on a pair of dry Merino wool socks, insert the extra pair of dry insoles into my shoes, and put the shoes back on to walk around in. This accelerates drying out the shoes. Depending on the shoe’s material, within a couple of hours the shoes are mostly dry.
  • At bedtime, I remove the insoles and stuff absorbent material into the shoes to continue the drying out process, if need be, during the night.
  • Apply more salve or ointment and wear dry and warm socks at while sleeping; this gives feet 8-9 hours of recovery.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Wow...very indepth report Dave! I'll read it thoroughly to see if there's anything I haven't sussed yet. I'm sure newer members of the forum (like myself), although not necessarily new to long distance walking, will appreciate the re-cap without having to trawl through thousands of posts to find the info they're looking for. I personally made peace with the whole wet feet thing in my earlier walking days. Now, if all else fails just remember... "this too shall pass" !! 👣 🌏
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2001
Via de la plata 2008
Arles -Piemonte-Frances-Cee 2014
(Bastan-Francés) 2019
Great post Dave. You covered everything. I’ve never used the goop though.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
I
Hiker Goo is one of those which work well. There are others as well. :)

Good advice, Dave. I have used either the hiking goo or vasoline. Both work well for me. My sister, however, gets a rash from use of the goo over a period of time so she opts for the vasoline. Also the vasoline is cheaper and seems to come in smaller tubes.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
I
Good advice, Dave. I have used either the hiking goo or vasoline. Both work well for me. My sister, however, gets a rash from use of the goo over a period of time so she opts for the vasoline. Also the vasoline is cheaper and seems to come in smaller tubes.
:) I always take a portion out of the large tube and put it into a small plastic container.
 

caminka

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
see signature
Have seen walkers put plastic bags over their socks as a way to keep feet dry. I think this would be ok short term but lead to other problems.
I haven't seen that but I used garbage bags and tape to secure them over my lover legs and as much of the boot as possible, to keep the rain from flowing into my boots. it has worked suprisingly well for those hours climbing up the steep roman road from roncesvalles to col de lepoeder.
 

Cathy K.

Member
Camino(s) past & future
March-mid April 2017 first time
Hi kazrobbo....

Below is a post I have made on this issue before. Maybe it will be of help :)
------------------------------------------------------------
Water will enter trail runner shoes, hiking shoes, or backpacking boots through any opening during a rainstorm, when walking through wet grass and brush, or drench into them if you walk through puddles or other standing water along the Camino.

There are two potential remedies to this problem, neither of which is always effective.
  • First, you can try keeping rain pants over the tops of shoes, so the water runs down the pants past the opening. But this system can be uncomfortably hot in warm weather during rain-soaked conditions. It offers no protection for puddles or having to cross water runoffs on the pathway.
  • You can try using a footwear with a waterproof gaiter or some other waterproof cobbles -- like thick plastic bags. I have not often seen a gaiter or other waterproof trapping that would both keep the water out and keep the feet dry.
“Waterproof” shoes are a misnomer for several reasons.
  • They can fail because the materials simply don’t work over the near and long term because it is difficult to apply and cover all areas of the footwear sufficiently.
  • The waterproof coating or laminate in the shoes does not last. Some manufacturers of the lightweight trail shoes, which are usually constructed as a hybrid of fabric and leather, have treated them with a coating which can quickly wear off. It also keeps sweat in the shoe and your feet get soaked in sweat. Fairly quickly, coatings break down and will no longer be waterproof.
  • Footwear which relies on a “Gore-Tex” style of waterproof/breathable laminate will break down through both wear and tear and dirt buildup on the material which renders it ineffective.
When I’ve tested so-called waterproof / breathable fabrics in shoes for various manufacturers, their actual performance never matched what was claimed. My reports to their QA departments have always reflected these weaknesses as found during testing. Sometimes a shoe will start the test period working fairly well under a narrow range of wet conditions, but as the testing progresses the failures increase.

Waterproof/breathable membranes, like Gore-Tex, are only marginally breathable — water vapor from perspiration does not pass through the fabric as efficiently as is claimed. It can't. Unlike outerwear, the shoe material radically inhibits the ability of the membrane to allow water vapor to escape, thereby trapping it in the shoe.

So, on warm days the experience of having sweat being trapped in the shoe is common. Combined with the fact that the fabric waterproofing is quickly damaged by dirt, sweat, grime, and abrasion and it’s only a matter of time before exterior moisture begins penetrating the fabric and allowing feet to get wet from outside moisture as well.

This is why most experienced trekkers and backpackers no longer go to great lengths to keep feet dry. They accept that when the weather is wet, feet will also get wet. Even the US military uses footwear for wet conditions which is not waterproof. The strategy is how to minimize any problems when feet are wet.

In working with folks new to backpacking who ask about waterproof footwear recommendations, I have asked why they wanted waterproof shoes. Sometimes, they will look at me as if I had spaghetti sticking out of my nose. Most will answer that they think their feet will stay dry, and that having wet feet is akin to getting into horrible trouble.

This post is meant to help inform, reassure, and give a different line of thought and reasoning to this issue.

I like to have dry feet. I always try to avoid wet feet. I have tried many ways to keep my feet dry:

  • “Waterproof” shoes, which, as I’ve said, don’t work well.
  • “Waterproof” socks, which don’t work for similar reasons: shoes still get wet, and feet soak with sweat. However – In cold weather these soaks can be the basis for using vapor barrier warmth conservation of the feet.
  • Wearing multiple pairs of socks, frequently changing from wet to dry, which eventually all get wet.
  • Carrying multiple pairs of shoes, which eventually all get wet, too.
I have never had total success at keeping my feet dry in very wet conditions, which led me to research what has been done to develop effective strategies. If I can’t keep my feet dry, then I need to try and eliminate or minimize the risk of any of the bad things that could occur to my wet feet when walking.

Some of these lessons I learned while in Vietnam…. Like the fact that our boots had fabric tops and numerous holes in the thin leather bottom portions so that water drained out quickly and never sat in the boots.

What are the most frequent and problematic 'bad' things?
  • Maceration is the medical term for pruning, where the skin’s outer layer absorbs a lot of moisture and gets “soggy” from that moisture. The skin gets sore and extremely soft which makes it more prone to blistering and developing other problems.
  • Cracking of the skin when the macerated feet dry. The natural moisture and oiliness of the skin is gone. The severity depends on how much stress the skin is exposed to after it is dried out.
So, what does work for me, and others, if I am going to be walking or backpacking in wet weather?
  • Apply a good, thick coating of a Goop (ointment or salve) to my feet and between toes before putting on socks and shoes in the morning. If rain occurs later in the day, then remove shoes and socks and do the same. This helps protect from external moisture.
Goop which has a high content of wax – either bee or paraffin – is most ideal, especially if it also has a high lanolin content.
  • Wear non-waterproof shoes which can drain and then dry out quickly. This minimizes the amount of puddling in the shoe that bathes the feet in moisture. Modern trail running shoes, and trail shoes often have nice open mesh fabric which is terrific for draining water.
Non-waterproof shoes will also eliminate moisture from sweaty feet. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the source of the moisture is that feet are exposed to: be it rain or sweat, each can cause the same problems.
  • Wear thin, light-cushioned merino wool socks, which don’t absorb as much water as thicker socks. Merino wool will also keep wet feet warm and comfortable in most seasons and temperature ranges, unless the weather is frigid winter-cold.
  • Take off shoes and socks to let feet air dry during rest stop that will be longer than 20 minutes.During this time, I will wring out any excess moisture from the socks, but I will not put on either of my dry pairs (I take three). I will also wipe off moisture on my feet and then reapply a goodly amount of Goop to my feet to help keep them from becoming macerated.
  • When stopping for the
Great posts Dave,
It’s preventing me to purchase water proof socks, but bought plastic shoe cover.
That I could wear while in Vietnam this 2019 winter months. Check weather report
seems rain everyday there. Will follow your advice, will be on Camino September to
Month of October from Burgos to Santiago. Definitely will use Vaseline.
Thanks so much. Cathy.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
Hi, Cathy...

Vaseline would be a good ointment for the night time application, but I found that it tended to not last very long while walking, so more frequent applications would be made. I found that ointments made with a lanolin base or with a high paraffin/beeswax content lasted the longest.

So just keep an eye on your feet and adjust as needed. :)
 

Mugatu

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Finisterre, Muxia (2018)
Camino Frances or Norte (2019 , June 27-Aug 8)
Walking French Way in May. Thoughts on rain covers for hiking shoes. Good idea or not worth the weight? Thx
IMO it’s not needed, nor gaiters for that matter. The trail is groomed, on the Dragonte there were prickly’s but it’s such a short hike that even if you decide to do it, it doesn’t warrant the extra unneeded weight.

Your not going to be hiking, I should say walking, in a damp wet environment, even if your shoes get wet from rain, they’ll have time to dry before your next outing.
 

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