Keeping Your Feet Dry on the Road

Wet Shoes

By Thortek Outdoors

If you’ve either done cycle touring or long-distance hiking in the rain, then you’ve probably encountered the common issue of keeping your feet dry. No matter how waterproof your shoes are, water is still likely to enter somehow after enduring hours of slogging them through the rain. For the trekkers out there, keeping your shoes in good condition by repairing cracks in the soles and respraying protection periodically does help quite a bit. For cyclist wearing clip shoes, the solution is a little more complicated because clip shoes have small opening on the bottom. No matter what kind of cycling shoe cover you put  on, some water could backsplash and leak through. On one of the longest cycling days of my life (305km), I continued along through the rain from the morning, then through the night, and well into the next day, becoming soaked after hours of rain. It wasn’t pretty – in fact, my feet were so gnarly from a combination of the rain and the wrong choice of socks (I’ll get to that in a moment), that I thought I was starting to get early stages of trench foot. While gross, this story does show the need to find a good rainy day solution, especially for the feet. What follows here are some good suggestions for the road and one solution that will only cost you $7.00 for a lightweight pair.

Suggestions for a Rainy Day. 

First of all, regardless of whether you are walking or cycling, feet are very important and the choice of clothes you wear will make a huge difference. You will most likely get wet if you are in a sustained rainfall, but if you can prevent the rain from flowing into your shoes, it will be a big plus. If you have exposed socks, the water will creep in through the socks down into your feet, so the best solution is to have a pair of waterproof pants or a poncho that will drape in such a way that the water wont run directly into your socks. Rain pants with a wide enough bottom to go over the shoe can do well with this, but really it is still just a matter of time before the water creeps in through the sock.

The Socks

Synthetic socks are lightweight and cheap, but they get funky quick and can often hold more water than you would like. If you are on a hiking trip and are carrying with you three pairs of synthetic socks, it is great to wash one, keep another in case and wear the other. But those same three pairs of socks become a big challenge to get dry when the rain hits. On the Camino de Santiago, there’s a common suggestion to wear Merino wool socks instead, first  putting on a thin layer of Vaseline to prevent blisters. This solution works really well and allowed me to walk Over 800 km without a single blister. The key here were the Merino wool socks. Any time it rained, these socks helped by keeping the moisture from my feet in ways that most synthetic socks simply can’t do. As a bonus, they are very odor resistant and are much more suited for the rigors of long distance trekking. I would argue that this would apply with long distance cycling too. 

The Solution:

Other than keeping the water from your socks and wearing good socks that will keep the moisture away from your feet, the best solution is to wear a shoe cover, but there’s a problem — most shoe covers are cumbersome to put on and don’t even do that good of a job! I have memories of seeing clouds forming and deciding to put on my rain gear under a tree. One time, I put my jacket and pants on and then as I was fumbling around with my standard cycling cleat covers the rain hit. I would stop roll into the local coffee shop later that day feeling like a swamp monster and the sponge like material of the so called slip on shoe covers didn’t help me much at all. That was before I found silicone overshoes. Purchased for a reasonable price, I waited and tried them out over regular shoes first, and they worked perfectly for me. The covers have a thick grippy sole which doesn’t easily break or get damaged and with the right kind of shoe (trail runners recommended), the whole silicone shell just kind of wraps around the shoe and keeps it from getting wet. If you can prevent water from getting into the top, then there’s no way water can get in–period. 

As a cyclist, I decided to experiment with another pair and made them work perfectly with my SPD clip shoes. Most cycling over shoes have a hole on the bottom for you to engage the clip with, and at first I thought to make a larger opening myself until I remembered this important point: it’s rubber! The silicone cuts very easily and is very easy to stretch and form to your shoe. In the tutorial below, I cut a little bit of a bigger hole, but you could try experimenting with just a small big enough to stretch your cleat over it so it can connect with the pedals properly. Go ahead, give it a try! If you make a tight seal, and cover those ankles, you’ll be laughing as you cycle comfortably in the next torrential downpour you encounter — just remember to keep those socks covered.

If you like the idea, grab a pair and see if it works for you too!

Featured image source: Michael Fertig from Pixabay

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