Why “waterproof” shoes will not keep your feet dry

In wet conditions, such as those in the Wind River Range in July, wet feet are inevitable despite best efforts to avoid them. Even so-called “waterproof” footwear will be eventually overwhelmed.

Here’s a reality check: if you are backpacking in wet conditions—which could entail prolonged rain, dew-soaked grass, melting snow, un-bridged creek crossings, or even just high humidity—your feet are going to get wet. So-called “waterproof” footwear will not keep your feet dry. Advertisements and marketing that makes such claims are false and disingenuous, and they exemplify a larger theme of manufacturers failing to acknowledge—or are oblivious to—the limitations of their products.

There are two potential culprits for why your feet will get wet while wearing “waterproof” footwear:

  1. Design:  it is very difficult to physically seal off footwear from external sources of moisture;
  2. Materials: the “waterproof” materials used in such footwear are not reliably waterproof and they trap perspiration.

An imperfect seal

Quite simply, water can enter the shoe or boot through the large opening into which you insert your foot. It can drip into this opening, like during a rainstorm or while walking through dew-covered grass, or pour into it, as happens when fording a creek that is taller than the height of the opening.

There are two potential remedies to this problem, neither of which is effective. First, you can try “shingling” your waterproof pants over the tops of your shoes, so the water runs down your pants past the opening. But this system is uncomfortably hot in warmer temperatures, and it offers no protection against creek crossings.

Alternatively, you can try using a shoe with an integrated waterproof gaiter, such as the La Sportiva Crossover GTX. The failure of this system is usually in its execution—I have not seen a gaiter that would truly keep the water out. Rubber gaskets like those found on dry suits could be used, but these are hardly comfortable and they are difficult to put on and take off.

Imperfect materials

The other reason that “waterproof” shoes fail is because they rely on imperfect materials. Some footwear is made of leather that has been treated with a coating, such as polyurethane. When new, this coating is completely waterproof—i.e. moisture cannot pass through it—and it will keep your feet dry from outside sources of moisture. However, it also traps perspiration inside the shoe, so your foot will bathe in its own sweat. Also, over time and with use the coating will break down and will no longer be waterproof. Do-it-yourself restorations are never as good or long-lasting as the factory coating.

The other material used to make “waterproof” shoes is a waterproof-breathable fabric like Gore-Tex. My experience is that these fabrics are greatly overhyped, in terms of their actual performance versus the advertised claims.

There are two problems with this type of fabric. First, it is only marginally breathable—moisture does not pass through the fabric as easily as their diagrams suggest, so on warm or humid days you will definitely notice that perspiration becomes trapped inside the shoe. Second, the fabric’s waterproofing is rapidly degraded by dirt, sweat, body oils, and abrasion. It’s only a matter of time before moisture begins penetrating the fabric and wetting your foot.

The solution? Embrace wet feet.

Instead of trying to keep your feet try, I recommend learning how to minimize the effects of wet feet. I have shared my foot care tips in my book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, in which I dedicated two full pages to the subject (see below), plus other tips scattered elsewhere.

Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content

This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Posted in , on March 1, 2012


  1. JJ Ramos on March 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Andrew, I liked your article on Scouting Magazine. If it is not much to ask, I would welcome your recommendation on the following: our BSA troop in Puerto Rico is setting out this Summer to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, for a 12-day hiking trip.

    The boys are ages 14 through 16 with outdoor experience but not long multi-day hiking trips like this one.

    We are looking into equipment options: internal- or external- frame backpacks, etc. But perhaps the most controversial issue, footwear: lightweight tennis-shoes-like hiking footwear vs. backpacking boots (heavy and sturdy).

    We have been told that Philmont is rugged terrain. I like the light weight hiking shoes but info on the Internet seems to indicate that those are better suited for day-packing hiking and not more muti-day hiking trips.

    Any suggestions? Thank you much…

    • Andrew Skurka on March 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      JJ – I don’t mean to shamelessly plug my book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, but I would suggest you pick up a copy since it discusses footwear in-depth and since it includes a Philmont Gear List that, if you were to follow it closely, would outfit you and your Scouts with about 21 pounds of gear and supplies each (including food and water) to start the first 4-day stretch at Philmont. On the adjacent page is a article on how to reduce gear expenses, which I’m sure the parents will want to read.

      In short, I think you and your Scouts would be very comfortable wearing either trail shoes or trail running shoes, ASSUMING that you carry a pack of appropriate weight (ideally never heavier than 25 pounds). If your Scouts interpret the motto, “Be prepared,” as “Carry as much as you can and assume you’ll be all right,” then you will have to rethink your footwear.

      • Art Ritter on February 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

        I love your book, you give so much good information in there. I am glad to shamelessly plug it – every one interested in hiking, backpacking, and/or trail running should buy a copy. Thank you for writing it.

        I can see that I will enjoy your blog as well, Andrew.

    • James ZHU on June 1, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Why not try a pair of waterproof socks

      • Andrew Skurka on June 1, 2015 at 12:33 pm

        Same issue: the sock fabric will fail, or you’ll get wet from the inside due to trapped perspiration.

  2. JJ Ramos on March 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Hi Andrew, totally understandable… I bought the book and currently reading it. It addresses my two questions. Thanks…

    • Andrew W on March 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Even though Philmont IS rugged, all of your hiking will be done on well maintained trails that get A LOT of foot traffic. Unless you’re carrying a lot of weight, lightweight trail runners would be fine. Also, make sure you bring your own cooking pots and utensils and things like that. Otherwise you’ll get stuck with Philmont’s gear, which is oversized and overweight. And don’t let your Ranger stick you with anything you don’t need. Many of them will try. Its not their fault, Philmont just has a universal policy for everyone, regardless of their skill set.

  3. James Kennedy on March 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Hey Andrew,
    As an Assistant Scoutmaster and an Eagle Scout myself, I really appreciate what you say about how Scouts interpret the motto as “Carry as much as you can and assume you’ll be all right.” I feel that they can learn a lot more and have a much better time if they simply weighed their packs, took out the non-essentials (books to read, etcetera) till they are sure they can carry that extra weight comfortably a lengthy distance.

  4. Charlie on April 3, 2012 at 8:22 am

    As a long-term employee of an outfitter, there is perhaps one question that gets asked more than “Are these boots waterproof?” And that is “is this jacket waterproof?”

    I always inform people to take labels with a grain of salt: manufacturer’s information is written for brand new gear being used in ideal conditions – how often does that really happen?

    People often don’t want or need to be overloaded with the technical details, but listening to their requirements and intended usage is critical. At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be said for our tendency to be loyal to certain brands; however, I like to think I educate people that when it comes to higher-end footwear, they are ALL good: what makes it great is how they fit and how your feet feel at the end of a long day.

  5. Dale Nesbitt on April 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I’m planning an ambitious (for me) 7-day hike of the Superior Trail, and gathering as much info as I can. I bought your book and devoured it.

    What are your thoughts on waterproof socks? e.g. Sealskinz? I’ve used them in a few adventure races and they worked great. But I’m a bit concerned that they’ll just make my feet disgusting (and blistered) over the week. Naturally, I’d only bring them if the weather forecast looks miserable.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Waterproof socks will not keep your feet dry in prolonged wet conditions. And they aren’t nearly as comfortable as conventional wool/nylon or polyester/nylon socks. NOT recommended.

      • Yogi1kanobi on February 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

        I live in Southwest England ( cornwall uk ) and it is notoriously wet and muddy. I enjoy long distance walking and moorland and coastal trails are my usual haunts.
        My footwear, after years of experimentation, includes a sock liner (summer hiking sock) with a long ( calf length ) sealskin waterproof sock over the top.
        This is combined with a Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 trail running shoe, or Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX trail running shoe.

        It really works well even in snow and ice. my feet are toasty in the cold and breath in the summer months.

        So I would say HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…..but we are all different.

        • Justina on March 22, 2016 at 6:13 am

          Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jorgen Johansson on April 21, 2012 at 1:02 am

    I’m totally with Andrew here, coming from the damp and chilly tundra of northern Scandinavia. However I always bring waterproof socks, but seldom use them. They are there in case I cannot keep my wet feet warm in any other way. Usually I can by hiking vigorously and putting on dry socks at longer breaks. But in low temperatures an incessant rain or similar conditions waterproof socks have saved my feet from becoming dangerously cold. But I use them extremely sparingly since they usually do not stay waterproof for very long.

  7. Brent Saron on April 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Hi Andrew – Thank you for giving me a reality check on my gtx shoes. I know that it depends on the trip, trail, conditions, season, etc., but I’m curious to know what you’re wearing right now, or the footwear you’re excited about right now. Thanks either way; I really enjoy your site!

    • Andrew Skurka on April 23, 2012 at 6:59 am

      Since La Sportiva recently discontinued the Fireblade, which had my go-to shoe for a few years, I have swapped over to the Raptor. It’s a good shoe and would recommend it.

      • Greg on September 17, 2012 at 12:46 am

        Andrew — Thanks for the shoe recommendation. I know you meant it for Brent but I bought a pair of the Raptors and they’re great shoes. Great site.

      • Robert McLemore on July 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm

        I bought your book (actually three of them and gave two away) and totally enjoyed it. I finally cooked my last two boots within the last month and was eager to move over to trail running shoes. Unfortunately, the model in your book is discontinued and I can’t find my size (ginormous 14ers) amongst the discount sites. I saw your note from last year and La Sportiva discontinued those too. Before I try to start looking, any recommendations on what you are wearing now? Thanks.

        • Andrew Skurka on July 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm

          Try some of the burlier models from Salomon (XA Pro), La Sportiva (Ultra Raptor) and perhaps Inov8.

  8. Matti Sillanpää on May 8, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Hi Andrew.

    Waterproof hiking shoes are pretty much joke as you said. I’ve reverted to hiking rubber boots (rubber boots with stiff sole, like Nokia Trek Plus) when I do not need to climb. They are about the same weight as hiking boots, but they are truly waterproof and while you sweat in them, you can remove them every time you stop even for a moment -> your feet stay much more dry in the long run. Also you can dry them in a moment unlike any hiking shoe.

    During the not-so-cold-time also orienteering/trail running (like La Sportiva Crosslite) shoes are quite nice. It doesn’t really matter if they get wet as they also dry in a moment.

    If more angle support is needed, some leukotape is recommended.

    • Andrew Skurka on May 8, 2012 at 10:22 am

      Thanks for the tip; good to know. In the US you will not find non-breathable waterproof boots at outdoor specialty stores, but I’m optimistic that they can be found at the rod & gun stores like Bass Pro and Cabella’s.

  9. Bryan on June 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Ever since 2009, I’ve been hiking with trail-runners per your suggestion off the PCT. Haven’t had the problems that I used to have with my feet. Sure, they’ve gotten wet… But, like you said, as long as you stay on top of things at the end of the day, you can manage. Instead of Hydropel to moisturize, I’ve also used Burts Bee’s and Climb On Bar. Salves work great too.

    Check out our tips and video on blisters. These were basically gleaned from you, Andrew, over the last few years…


  10. Jim on August 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Question: I am looking for a solution to cold & wet feet for snow skiing. In your book, you recommend 2 pairs of Defeet socks for colder weather travel, wooleator hi-tops and eco-travelers. Do you use a different sock system inside your ski boots? Do you still use a two sock system in ski boots? I love the book; quite an education.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

      I’m assuming your “cold and wet” feet are due to the failure of your “waterproof” ski boots. In this situation, I think it’s important to recognize that discomfort will probably be an inevitable reality, and your efforts are simply meant to lessen your discomfort, not to make your comfortable. Without knowing important criteria — e.g. boot type, temperatures, snow composition, etc. — my recommendation would be the same for ski boots as it is for hiking shoes: one pair of DeFeet Woolie Boolie’s (similar to the EcoTrekker, which has been discontinued). I’d bring two pairs — one strictly for day-time use, the other strictly for sleeping.

  11. Max on September 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm


    Problem. 200 plus miles of river in near freezing conditions. Some snow, always rain for some prolonged period. Because of rapids etc, one is always getting in and out of canoes, scouting rapids etc. You will be stepping in water at some point. Or many points. Waterproof does not remain that way for long inevitably. My solution so far has been a pair of looser fitting canoe shoes (sandals with toe boxes) coupled with either heavy wool socks or neoprene booties.
    This works ok, however with the long hours sitting paddling, there is minimal circulation in ones feet and your feet get severely cold. When you do start moving the cold blood further cools your body as it gets pumped around.

    Solution? Any input at all? Thanks in advance.

    • Andrew Skurka on September 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Those are very challenging conditions. Personally, I’d try to schedule the trip during another time of year, if possible. If not, then I’d mentally prepare myself for discomfort, and I’d bring sleeping clothes and ample fire starting supplies so that I could at least sleep well and get temporarily warm during rest stops.

    • Joshua Simkins on September 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      I don’t know if it’s too late to help at this point, but for these kind of conditions I would suggest uninsulated chest waders. Combined with a rain jacket it is very unlikely that you will get very wet from outside forces. If you are in the water often it would better to minimize your interaction with the freezing cold water, and combined with a very light wicking layer I think you should be able to stay both warm and relatively dry.

      If on the other hand you manage to stay out of the freezing cold water for the majority of the time then I suggest Andrews method, or if you can tolerate it simply go barefoot. You’ll dry off faster and if you keep your shoes and socks dry until while your in the boat and until you get to land they will be a lot more comfortable and you won’t have the headache of trying to dry something in a high moisture environment.

  12. Jason on December 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    2 parts:

    While I have switched to non-WP shoes and love them, I’m stuck in Ohio’s wet cold winter with mud up to the ankle and cold water crossings. Is there a point at which you do switch to a WP shoe/system(vapor barrier) or do you just grin and bare it? Worried about the freezing muddy water staying in the shoe and causing frost bite even on long day hikes. In these conditions I currently have full leather boots and use gaiters but, am looking to loose weight and gain comfort.

    I have be using Burt’s Bees and found this great. This works even in my full leather work shoes (required at work) for a 10 hour day and around ten miles of walking in one building. My feet don’t get water logged with sweet and don’t dry ou and crack afterwards.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Waterproof shoes don’t work in prolonged “wet” conditions. Water comes in through the ankle or passes through the membrane, or you bath in your own sweat. If I’m in prolonged wet conditions, the best course of action — as uncomfortable as it sounds — is to “grin and bear it” and to learn how to cope with wet feet. If you wear waterproof shoes in such conditions, you will still end up with wet feet, and you’ll never have dry shoes again for the length of your trip.

      When it’s wet and cold, wearing a warm sock makes a big difference. I like the DeFeet Woolie Boolie, which might be categorized as a “backpacking” or maybe even a “mountaineering” sock. I have not found a pair I like, but neoprene socks are another option — they will be warm when wet, but they don’t breathe at all and they take forever to dry out.

      Some of the Burt’s Bees products would work great to reduce and minimize the effects of maceration. I like Bonnie’s Balm but it’s certainly not the only thing that will work.

  13. […] But all of that doesn’t totally explain why my feet get wet when I run in snow while wearing “waterproof” running shoes. Then I came across someone who shares my opinion of waterproof shoes: Andrew Skurka. […]

  14. Roger C. McMillion on April 5, 2013 at 12:24 am

    If keeping feet dry is of concern, it can be done with a little practice. Know the weather report of location you intend to hike. Determine if the hike is something you really want to do base upon the severity of expected rain activity. A good waterproof shoe with Gore-Tex or other similar protection is a start. You may also want to use a waterproof spray over the outer fabric and similarly around the hole opening, select an environmentally friendly substance. Once again based on your desire to hike and the weather report, use a pair of shorts with zip off bottoms, which can be used in foul weather in conjunction with the aforementioned and utilize gators on top of this, this should help keep your feet dry and cozy. You may also want to check out seal skinz a type of sock that keeps out the unwanted moisture, these in combination with the above equals dry feet.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      If you can be selective about the weather in which you hike, of course you can keep your feet dry — just hike in dry weather. But in extended wet conditions that you can’t avoid, wet feet are simply an inevitable reality. Regardless of what you try to use to stay dry, you will get from the outside of from the inside. No “practice” is going to solve the inherent limitations of “waterproof” shoes, “waterproof” socks, or “waterproof” gaiters, etc.

  15. Stuart on June 18, 2013 at 3:07 am

    What do you think about the OutDry waterproofing used by Columbia and Montrail? In terms of breathability and comfort.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      I have not used this fabric but it is the same faulted technology used by other fabrics, so I would expect the same results.

      • Stuart on June 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        I wasn’t necessarily asking about the fabric itself, but the way in which the laminate is sealed onto the backside of the outermost layer. Only Columbia owned brands use this kind of waterproofing. Let me know if you try it out.

        • Andrew Skurka on July 1, 2013 at 12:50 am

          Does their lamination process avoid the conventional pitfalls of waterproof/breathable fabrics? Specifically:
          1. Degradation of the DWR due to sweat, abrasion, body oils, etc. that causes the face fabric to absorb water.
          2. Moisture moving inside the fabric if the humidity level inside is less than outside, which will be the case once the face fabric becomes saturated with moisture.

  16. My backpacking epiphany | A Rucksack with Legs on October 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    […] And embracing wet feet. This term has become a bit of a mantra for me. The […]

  17. Matthew Brindle on October 25, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I loved your book. Have you tried La Sportiva’s Boulder X approach shoe? I don’t know if it dries as fast as the Raptor, but its fairly supportive.

  18. WhitbyAlex on December 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Loved the book! Wondering if there is a magic solution to keeping me warm in hiking followed by long periods of sitting in cold weather situations. I have found a great remote lake to ice fish in, only accessible by snow shoe. My only solution to cold feet is bring bigger heavier warmer boots.

    I have similar problems when hunting. I like light boots for hiking, but get cold when I sit for hours. I use wool / poly socks. I’ve tried changing to dry socks as soon as I get to my sitting destination but still get cold.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      A thick puffy coat and pants that will keep you warm even when generating minimal body heat.

      • whitbyalex on February 4, 2014 at 9:32 am

        Sorry i meant to say my feet get cold when sitting. Ive got the puffy coat and proper layers (thanks to your book for explaining it all). Im using 800gram underarmour boots and ive tried all kinds of socks (as well as two pairs). Should i try the shoes you recommend in the book, oversized, and two pairs of socks?

  19. Winter Backpacking Checklist « Hike It. Like It. on February 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    […] the futile attempt to keep one’s feet dry in the winter. This wouldn’t be a bad time to check out his article. He’s a hell of a source for information, so who would I be to disagree? That said, there is […]

  20. Gregory on May 8, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Andrew, I do my hiking in very tropical, very wet conditions. My mayan guides wear knee-length rubber boots, the terrain is, well, uncharted in the sense that we make our own trail. We start in heavy jungle, and.eventually reach up to 3000′ after 10-15 miles of up (mostly) and down trekking over several days. I wore 5″ muckboots on my last trip, but there was simply too much movement of my foot. Paid a pretty sum for some 8″ hand made mocs with 3 layers sewn on to a very good vibram sole. Have been treating the leather to reduce their water absorption.
    Do you have any other suggestions ? The hiking area is in Central America

  21. Philip on May 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Andrew, there is no perfect world. But as a long time hiker, I think you are full of horse hockey! Sure, all things fail, but I have hiked in non waterproof boots and waterproof boots. With Gore-tex and with just oiled leather. I have yet to wade water and taken a boot off to wet socks with my gore-tex boots. I have hiked in soaked socks and had blisters from non-waterproof boots many times. I learned to pack dry socks. I also, have yet to remove my boots to wet socks because of sweat. Sure, they will get damp, thats why I take dry socks. I have a pair of Keen sandles that have open holes all through the side that my feet sweat in worse that in my gore-tex hiking boots!

  22. […] drain out and they don't breathe well. Here are some articles on the subject that might help: https://andrewskurka.com/2012/why-wat…your-feet-dry/ https://andrewskurka.com/2012/minimiz…h-of-wet-feet/ Cheers. flow is online now   […]

  23. […] (Here’s a short article by adventurer Andrew Skurka on why waterproof shoes suck!) […]

  24. Jeffrey on June 15, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Andrew I read your book and was convinced that I need to find quick drying trail runners. Unfortunately I have wide feet and La Sportiva and Soloman are too narrow. I picked up a pair of Brooks Cascadia 9 but they don’t seem to dry all that fast. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Andrew Skurka on June 19, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      How would you describe “fast”? If humidity is approaching the dew point, nothing is going to dry fast.

      I have no experience with the Cascadia, but my wife has a pair and likes them, and I’ve had many clients with them too, all positive things to say. I don’t think you will find “faster” drying shoes unless you move to a water shoe, but at the expense of other important footwear qualities.

      • John on August 19, 2015 at 9:01 am

        I have just walked 500 miles in the Brooks Cascadia 9 from the Atlantic to the Mediteranean along the Haute Route Pyrenees. This is a very rocky route in places and the shoes held up well. My wife had a second pair ready to send me, but they weren’t needed, and this pair has at least another hundred left in them.

        My feet were wet on many days due to storms or creek crossings but these are a mesh shoe, and dried out quickly. Only 12 ozs each too.

  25. […] of our generation, Andrew Surka, has an amazing piece on this problem if you are interested, click HERE to read […]

  26. Jay on July 12, 2015 at 9:32 am

    “wet feet are inevitable despite best efforts to avoid them.”

    Utter nonsense. In Scotland wearing anything which is only ankle cut is just stupid, since every mountain I’ve been up has required at least some bog negotiation. Secondly, I use a pair of Mammut Mountain Trail GTX boots and have dry feet. Yes feet do sweat, but that’s nothing in comparison to putting your foot straight into water.

  27. Ewan on July 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Hi Andrew. I’m sorry but I have to completely disagree. Here in Scotland it could be perfectly dry but still require you to put your feet above ankle depth into bog and water. I agree, gtx approach shoes are a waste, but walking boots are almost a necessity here. I can think of no walk I’ve done which has not required me to get quite deep into water – I was out in my approach shoes the other day but they got completely drenched despite the nice weather, take ages to dry (because they’re made of suede), and now stink. Obviously I also had soaking wet feet into the bargain. The weather here, even at it’s warmest (and rarest) does not allow footwear to dry quickly at all.

  28. Joce on August 5, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Hi! Hoping you reply to this comment asap; would so appreciate it! I work 5 days a week hiking groups of dogs 1-2 hours a day on usually public paved trails, never requiring me to step in bodies of water like creeks.

    However there is a rainy season in this part of California. And now I’m moving to Oregon which is said to have light rain most of the year! I’d like to be really prepared and spend as little money as possible. My ideal footwear would work just as well for hot, dry days and warm, rainy days and cold, rainy days and rare, light snow. So each day I could wear the same footwear. (Oregon weather can change throughout the day too.) And easy to wash often cause of poison oak (I wipe boots with alcohol, put them in plastic bag in freezer and leave in sun…and wash socks in normal laundry).

    So far I have footwear that has worked well for months but hasn’t been through rain yet: REI non-waterproof hiking boots (kinda heavy and hot but sturdy) with light hiking socks. And sometimes Vibrant Five Fingers Trek Ascent with light toe socks…fun and seem to improve my posture but sometimes leave toe hurting. I have calf height basic rubber rain boots I used one rainy season, clunky to walk in but seemed alright.

    Will those work okay or is there an improvement I can make to prepare for rain like you mentioned woolie boolies and moisturizing feet? I want to buy a new pair of shoes for everyday non-working walking and bicycling too…durable, quick-drying, comfy, good traction, preferably not too bulky and hot. Suggestions?

    Also really wanting more opinions on best coat (s) for Oregon…removable fleece midlayer plus hooded waterproof hardshell or softshell outerlayer?

    • Connie on January 22, 2023 at 9:04 am

      Oregon has passed rain I were my hoka one one bondi 7 I’ve had for yrs in this weather they dry fast and good for running and walking and everything

  29. Anthony on August 10, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Hi. Are the Raptors suitable for the rocky terrain of New Hampshireshire do you think? I’m new to trail runners for hiking. Sometimes I tend to roll my ankle when my legs are tired. So I’ve been going with higher shoes like the Salomon GTX quest 4d, which were not good for my feet. I got Achilles pain & blisters. Is it true that a lower center of gravity in shoes keeps ankles from rolling as often?

    • Andrew Skurka on August 10, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      I would definitely use the Raptors for NH. No hesitation.

      Yes, it’s more difficult to roll your ankle when wearing shoes with a low center of gravity. The other factor involved is the width of outsole — consider how difficult it would be to roll your ankle if you strapped wheel-less skateboards to your feet.

  30. Andres on October 25, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Hi, I just experience something that repeated on a pair of merrell (Moab Rover) as well as a pair of salomon (Comet Premium 3d) While hiking on extremely wet conditions my feet were dry, but on the next day, both of the brands were wet on the inside. Have to point out that when I took them off to go to sleep both were wet from the outside. Next day, both were wet on the inside and still wet on the outside. Do you have an explanation for these eventualities? I think it was condensation.

    • Andrew Skurka on October 26, 2015 at 8:25 am

      Moisture moves through the fabric based on the humidity differential: if it is more humid inside than outside, moisture moves out; if more humid outside than inside, it moves in.

      The manufacturers of the fabric and garments will not acknowledge this outright with few exceptions: look at Patagonia’s blog posts on its “DWR problems” and at Columbia’s marketing copy for its OutDry Extreme fabric.

      When your boots are very wet as you described, moisture wants to move inside the boot. It is probably being retained by the liner fabrics inside your boot.

      • andres on October 28, 2015 at 5:58 pm

        thanks for your answer. On the case of the Merrell´s, the seller accepted my return and I choose a different product. On the case of the Salomon Comet 3d (GTX) the seller is “analyzing” the situation and I haven´t had a call back yet but they took my boots to send them to a central service office. I want to point out that I was told both were totally waterproof (specially the Salomon´s due to its Gore Tex fabric). Nevertheless, definitely they are no “totally” waterproof as humidity actualy moves inside the both when the leather saturates. Thanks again.

  31. […] I will be adding gaiters to my cold weather clothing system for future hikes. They’ll help to shed some of that snow that found it’s way into my shoes. As for the puddles, there’s not much that I could do about that. But don’t take my word for it. If anyone knows what it’s like to deal with wet feet, it would be Andrew Skurka, and he has a lot to say on the subject in his article, “Why ‘waterproof’ shoes will not keep your feet dry.” […]

  32. DT on February 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Last year, on a cold/wet/snowy day I experimented with a pair of Neosocks (neoprene) without any other sock – inside my Altra Lone Peak 2.0s. Wore them for about 10 hours. Although my feet got wet as expected(imagine a diving wetsuit), my feet did not get hypothermic and thus achieved my goal. No adverse residual impacts I’ll carry them again this year for the cold sections.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 11, 2016 at 3:00 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Neoprene socks work well in cold and wet conditions in the exact way you described, either when it’s raining or when the snowpack is super wet (think slush), or even sometimes just mashed potato consistency if you’re in it for a long time. A few downsides (they never dry, they are thicker than a normal sock so you may need a bigger shoe) but overall a win.

  33. Jon Tocker (from New Zealand) on June 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    This article held no surprises for me and it’s great to see people out there publishing/promoting good advice rather than the plethora of misinformation out there.

    I’ve been hiking/camping since the early 1980s and have tried numerous footwear options from Army Surplus combat boots to purpose-made hiking boots including some allegedly “waterproof” boots and came to the same conclusions as you have: eventually, your feet are going to get wet and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it – and “waterproof” boots – or even solid leather boots – that are designed to keep water out do a dandy job of keeping water *in* once they get immersed or filled with sweat.

    These days I use light, breathable shoes like Mizuno running shoes or Merrell MOAB Ventilator hiking shoes with two layers of socks – a wicking layer of polypropylene and a thermal layer of Merino wool – to keep warm in cold weather. I find that even after full immersion in a stream, my feet are nearly dry after a few minutes’ walk on the trail and they’re certainly less wet when I take my shoes off at camp than they ever were in the leather or waterproof boots.

    A pair of dry socks for sleeping in (I even carry a pair of dry socks in my emergency gear in case I’m separated from my camp or backpack for the night).

    Wish I’d seen an article like this back around 1981 – it would’ve saved me a lengthy learning curve and not an insignificant amount of money over the years.

  34. JJ29R on June 13, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Hello, I’m new to hiking in wet weather. Mountain and trail walks in South Africa, normally dry weather with occasion drizzle (I have yet to experience a serious downpour) my trail running shoes are more than enough.

    I suffer from extreme sweaty feet plus chilblains and understand that any “waterproof” shoe will spell disaster!

    Problem is that I’m moving to England and intend on hiking there. Wet, sweaty chilblain feet? Yikes!

    Would it not be possible to wear rain shoe covers over my trail running with shoes(including a pair of brand moisture wicking socks)?

    What about carrying a pair of “Wellington type” boots with you to change into when crossing a creak?

    My aim is to avoid overheating to avoid sweating, and try stay as dry as possible. Wet feet + overheating= Chilblains (in my case at least) or should I just accept it and avoid hiking?

    • Andrew Skurka on June 13, 2016 at 7:36 am

      YMMV. But many individuals have managed to hike in UK-like conditions in just porous trail running shoes. Maintain foot warmth with a thicker wool sock or even a neoprene sock in near-freezing conditions. And at night, have dry sleeping socks available. Bonneie’s Balm will help, too.

      • JJ29R on June 13, 2016 at 8:01 am

        could i use rain shoe cover when it rains?

        • Andrew Skurka on June 13, 2016 at 8:03 am

          I don’t think that will be effective long-term, nor provide the footwear performance you need for hiking.

  35. Stromfahrer on June 23, 2016 at 1:58 am

    During my campus years I used to wear sandals all the year and cycled 6 miles to the campus and 6 miles back in all winter conditions (had spike wheels on my bike).

    In winter season I used to wear a thin inner sock and an outer wool sock. All the other students laughed at me about my strange habit, but you know the answer: I always had warm and dry feet.

    Back home I just took of the woolsock, often covered with frozen snow, and enjoyed my warm feet.

    GTX boots work well for day walks or a weekender. But if comes to back country hiking under wet conditions there is nothing in between wellies (yes, these are an option) or mesh shoew that drain as fast as they get flooded.

  36. Flyinglegor on October 27, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Oh please…

    I currently own a Gronell mountain boot since 2003. On it it is written: WATERPROOF.

    It is actually waterproof.


    No water in. Otherwise, it would not be waterproof.


    A mountain lover from Italy

  37. Paul on September 30, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Hi Andrew! What footwear would you recommend for day-hikes of 5-10 miles over exceptionally rocky, uneven terrain? I’m considering La Sportiva Ultra Raptor, La Sportiva Akasha, La Sportiva Bushido, Salomon XA Pro 3D, Hoka One One Speedgoat 2, and Saucony Xodus ISO 2. Do you have any thoughts about the suitability of any of these particular models for such a use? Are there other shoes I didn’t mention that you’d suggest considering as well? Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on October 5, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Most of those models will work. I’ve written reviews on several of them; use the search tool. Ultimately, the best shoe is the one that fits your foot best.

      • Paul on October 9, 2017 at 8:35 am

        Thanks for your reply Andrew! I was thinking of buying several pairs of a trail runner that I like in case the manufacturer discontinues or changes the model. If I did that, I’d be storing them long-term. Do you know if trail runners have a shelf-life, so that they disintegrate over time even if they’re not being used? If so, do you know about how long their shelf-life is? And are there ways to store them that prolong their life?

        • Andrew Skurka on October 9, 2017 at 8:44 am

          The self life is a function of how they are stored. In a hot and dry garage, you run the risk of glue delamination and possible shrinkage of the EVA midsole. If in a cool and wet basement, maybe some mold issues. But your idea is not novel — because manufacturers change the designs so often, with no apparent benefit, a lot of hikers and runners do this exact thing.

          • Paul on October 9, 2017 at 8:51 am

            Thanks Andrew!
            Do you have any idea how long trail runners might last if they’re stored in an environment that isn’t too humid or too hot, either from your own experience or from anecdotes? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?
            I can just imagine how frustrated hikers and runners must feel when they finally find a pair of shoes they really like, only to have the manufacturer change or discontinue them.

          • Andrew Skurka on October 9, 2017 at 8:53 am

            In my experience, the shoes are still okay after a few years. I’ve never kept any beyond that.

          • Gygago on October 9, 2017 at 9:53 am

            I do have an official reply from Lowa on EVA equipet shoes. They – in short – state that EVA will tear off after 10 to 12 years based on the fabrics chemical characteristics. I have seen that and it is a total EVA self destroy. If your are using the shoes, it may not last even that long.

            Thus, it does make sense to buy two or three pairs of a shoe that really fits. Depending on your milage per year I wouldn’t invest in more than a four years shoe storage.

  38. Anders Ek on November 15, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Any advice on what shoes, socks etc. to wear on 5 days of hiking the alternative Inca trail for 5 days in january? Hufe differences in weather conditions, with snow, rain, streams, cold nights but a lot of heat in the days. The terrain could of course often be rocky or muddy. We are not wearing heavy backpacks, but good ankle support could come in handy on other trips. What do you suggest? Trail running shoes or boots?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 15, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      Most importantly, wear shoes/boots that fit you.

      I have reviewed a bunch of shoes, https://andrewskurka.com/section/how-to/gear/footwear/

      I’m not familiar with the alternative Inca Trail (e.g. distance, vertical, footing types and quality), but by virtue of it being a “trail” I would current take the Salomon Odyssey Pro or La Sportiva Ultra Raptor.

  39. amelia on October 7, 2019 at 11:52 pm

    I really appreciate your well written article. excellent. however, fast packing/ backpacking in the PNW in the North Cascades for six nights recently, I got, well, confused as to my best solution for da feet. let me explain…

    i went to the same backcountry area twice in two weeks. for my first off-trail N cascades trip last month, i brought and wore my highly breathable, excellent-feeling Altras. my feet were happy but of course completely drenched. the entire time. we had lots of rain and lots of off trail wet bushwhacking. my method was clipped rainpants to shoes and drenched Altras. this was all in around 35 degree F temperatures. i have awesome techniques for warming and drying them out at night, it’s great, i’m OCd about keeping my stuff dry too. but i just felt there must be an in-between. some sort of light weight waterproofish shoe. literally i was concerned about my shoes freezing overnight since they were drenched. even keeping them in the tent (i use a quilt and i’m not going to sleep with my drenched shoes.)

    so, then i went back two days later for three nights. i decided to wear three season mountaineering boots. cuz i wanted dry feet as temperatures were supposed to be even lower. it sucked wearing the scarpa mountaineering boots. a shit show as they are of course brick stiff and narrow. sure. my feet were totally dry that time around, but miserable.

    anyways. now i’m looking into a more durable waterproofish shoe in combo with ultra light waterproof gaitors for these cold months coming up. i’ve even thought about an overboot so i can still wear my beloved altras for my wide feet.

    i guess my question to you is, what about in chillier temperatures where, even if your super active during the day and able to dry your feet at night, you don’t want them drenched the entire day but you don’t wanna wear bulky hiking footwear? and the concern of frozen wet shoes in the morning.

    any ideas? for winter running i wear ice bugs and have worn just altras and nano spikes and gaitors but this only works because they’re no more than 4-5 hour jaunts. not over night situations.

    thanks for everything!
    here are my product considerations –

    Gaitors – https://mountainlaureldesigns.com/product/lightsnow-gaiters/

    shoes – i need wide things. can’t find many options there.
    – found a used Crossover GTX that i bought to try
    – loved the altra lone peak rsm shoes but completed ripped the material in 4 months. the mesh ones i have now are truly not for winter.
    – any ideas?

    socks? i saw gore-tex socks at Fisheries supply. maybe this is a good idea for these cold temps.


  40. robert mcgrath on January 20, 2023 at 9:17 am

    you are the first human other than myself who called gore tex what it is. a not waterproof material. worked outside my whole life and rode motorcycles in all weather. staying dry to do my job was essential. the only sure way to keep your feet dry is rubber. might not be the most comfy, but i never got wet. upper body or feet. nice to see someone telling it like it is.

  41. Grassblade on April 23, 2023 at 5:26 am

    That’s great. Good advice too. A bit shamelessly “You’re not going to win, so don’t try”…but maybe that’s more honest….?


    What about The Stink!

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