I’m writing this blog on a rainy – and I mean torrential – day from the comfort of my couch, however, any time it rains like this, with raindrops pounding the ground and a forecast that predicts 100% precipitation for days on end, I always think of the hikers and backpackers who are walking through it.
As a long-distance backpacker and the owner of a hiking company that refers to the inevitable rain as “liquid sunshine” I have put in my fair share of miles in nor’easters, tropical storms, regional rainy seasons and ritualistic afternoon thundershowers. At this point, the forecast rarely deters me from getting outside and, most of the time, I even enjoy hiking in precip. There is something cathartic about the water beading up and rolling down your skin and rain gear, the consistent droplets on the canopy of the forest offer a meditative soundscape, and with heavy rain comes a welcome solitude even on the most popular trails.
The key to hiking in the rain – and enjoying it – is to make sure that you take good care of your feet. If you have decent base layers and gear, you should be able to stay somewhat comfortable (if not a little prune-like) up top, but when your feet get wet, and stay wet, it can lead to a whole array of foot problems that remain long past the storm.
So, if you want to avoid extra friction, added blisters, tearing of skin, painful corns, ingrown toe nails, red streaks, utter putrescence, and trench foot (and who wouldn’t want to avoid all that) follow these Four Tips for Rainy Day Foot Care:
SOCKS MATTER. PACK A COUPLE PAIRS.
Your favorite workout socks will likely let you down on a multi-day hiking trip. The vast majority of fitness socks are some combination of synthetic and cotton, which once wet stays wet. Instead, opt for a “wicking” sock that wicks the moisture away from your skin and dries quickly. The best options are typically a wool or wool blend. If you take two pairs, you can keep the driest pair on your feet and attach the wet socks to your pack to dry/air out when the sun is shining.
GOLD BOND POWDER IS MAGIC
Gold Bond Medicated Powder is actually a form of magical fairy dust that can help keep your feet healthy in soggy conditions. I sprinkle Gold Bond inside my shoes and inside my socks when wet feet are inevitable and it helps absorb the moisture – and the smells. Look for the one-ounce travel size container available for sale online or at your local drug store. (It is a perfect size and weight to slip into your first aid kit.)
YOU NEED TO BREATHE. SO DO YOUR FEET.
Rainproof shoes and boots and are wonderful, until they get wet. Once they get wet they will stay that way long after the storms have past. Instead of hiking with an impermeable moisture barrier surrounding your sock. Consider instead, hiking in footwear such as the Astral TR1 Loop or Junction that has breathable, yet durable fabric, and drainage ports built into the front of the shoe. This combination surrounds your skin with ventilation to promote a quick-drying environment and healthy feet.
GIVE YOUR FEET A BREAK
Even if your legs feel strong and you could hike without pause, it’s smart to give your feet a couple of breaks every day. When I stop for a snack or lunch on the trail, I almost always take off my shoes and socks to surround my feet with fresh air. If I just walked through a storm or a river crossing then I wring out my wet socks (strap them on my pack to dry) and put on my pair of dry socks.
When I get to camp, I make sure to let my feet air out as much as possible by wearing a super light and breathable camp shoe like the Loyak AC during camp chores. When I get in my tent, I take off all my footwear and give my feet a gentle massage before bed.
If you want your feet to carry you down the trail, be sure to treat them well. These four tips will help you care for your feet in wet conditions. Before you know it, you might even enjoy hiking in the rain!