Just Get Your Friggin' Shoes Wet (Safe Water Crossings)

On a hike, people often take their shoes off during water crossings. Not a good idea. It's often better to just get your shoes wet. I'll tell you the two things I do to keep my feet comfortable, even when my shoes get wet.

Video Highlights

0:00 Water crossings: you're doing it wrong!
0:35 Don't take your shoes off.
1:15 Use wool socks.
2:06 Take off socks and insoles.
2:53 Do you need special shoes?
3:49 Be safer and save a toenail.


Water crossings. I love hikes with a lot of water crossings. If a trail has a lot of water crossings, it definitely gets bonus points in my book. I think it's fun to get my feet wet, to wade in the water, and I don't mind getting my shoes wet. But there are lot of people who don't feel the same way.

I was reading this post the other day on the forums (at Backpacking Light) where this guy told two stories. One was this woman who lost her big toenail because she took her shoes off so they wouldn't get wet and ended up stubbing her toe.

The second one was about this guy who fell hard and hurt himself because he was trying to balance on a log, because he didn't want to get his shoes wet.

So this guy's advice to everybody was, "Hey! Just get your friggin' shoes wet!" And I 100% agree.

You've got to keep your shoes on when you're doing water crossings. It's so much safer, because they protect your feet.

Also if you're thinking about hopping from rock to rock or balancing on a log because you don't want to get your shoes wet, you should at least consider that maybe it's safer to just walk right through the water and stay a lot more stable, as long as you're OK with getting your shoes wet.

Now I can totally understand why people don't want to get their shoes wet, because they think it's going to be uncomfortable. And in a sense they're right. It is uncomfortable to get your shoes wet if you don't know how to do it, but I'm going to tell you how to do it.

There are only two things you need to do to get through a water crossing, getting your shoes wet, and still feel comfortable afterwards.

Number one: wool socks. Get yourself a good pair of wool socks. They don't even need to match. Mine don't.

But what wool socks are going to do: it's going to help your feet feel a lot drier. And the reason it does that is because it soaks up a lot more water than cotton does. So it's a little counter-intuitive. It soaks up more water than cotton does. But that means it doesn't actually feel wet until it's way more soaked.

And when it does get soaked, all you have to do is just wring it out, put it back on, and they feel pretty much dry again.

So wool socks will definitely help you feel a lot better.

The other reason why they help: they dry faster and also, when they get wet they still keep their insulating properties – meaning they'll still keep you warm when they're wet unlike cotton socks, which totally lose their insulation when they're wet.

The second thing. The second thing you need to do is take your socks off and take out the insoles. Take out the insoles of your shoes before you cross the water.

The reason is that this stuff soaks up a lot of water. And you take it out before you cross the water, then all you have to do after you cross – after you boots fill up with water – you just need to dump out the water, put your dry insoles in, put your dry socks on, and then you're good to go. Super-comfortable after that.

And any amount of wetness that's still in the boot – maybe you're 90% dry, 10% wet – any amount of wetness that's still in the boot after you walk for 30 minutes, it'll probably just evaporate and you'll dry off that fast.

But during that 30 minutes, it's should feel OK because it'll be 90% dry.

So is there anything else? That's really the only thing I do to feel comforable during water crossings.

Shoes. Do you need special shoes for water crossings? No, not really. And the reason I say that is, yeah, you could get these special shoes that have holes in the bottom that drain out, that dry fast, and that's great. If you can get that, great.

But even if you don't have that, using these first two things: taking your socks off, using wool socks, taking out the insoles. That stuff is going to give you 90% of the benefit and already make you really comfortable.

To give you an example, I just use these waterproof boots. And yeah, they're waterproof right about up to here. But once the water gets above my ankle, they just fill up with water and they hold water like a bathtub. That's what waterproofness does for this.

Even though they fill up with water, not a problem. I just dump out the water, put my dry insoles in, dry socks, and I'm fine.

So I hope those tips help you be more comfortable with having wet shoes, so that you can be safer, and hopefully save a toenail.

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