How to Walk in the Rain: Socks and Gaiters

Keep Your Feet Dry with the Right Socks and Gear

Walkers in Gaiters Cross Stream
Walkers in Gaiters Cross Stream. Douglas Sacha/Creative RF/Getty Images

Rain gets in your shoes from two directions. It comes in from the sides when you are splashing in puddles. And it comes in from the top from raindrops and from drips off your jacket and pants.

Socks of Wicking Fabrics

Cotton socks are of no help when trying to keep your feet dry. They hold the moisture next to the skin, softening it and leaving it prone to blisters. Walkers should wear socks made of wicking fabric that will transport either rain or sweat away from the skin.

A variety of high-performance wicking fabric sports and hiking socks are available at outdoors stores and running stores. CoolMax is a common sock fabric that wicks sweat and moisture away from the foot. SmartWool socks combine the insulation of wool with moisture control fabric. Your first step towards dry feet is wearing the right socks.
Top Picks for Walking Socks

Waterproof Socks

SealSkinz makes waterproof socks. These may be a great option for those who want to walk in sandals in all weather. Or, you may not want to give up the performance of their favorite walking shoe in favor of a waterproof shoe.

However, a drawback of waterproof socks is that they also keep in sweat. Your foot might end up just as wet from sweat as from rain, although the sock itself might not get wet. This puts them into the category of being of dubious advantage. Feet sweat, it's just a fact. Your feet are liable to marinating in your own sweat rather than in rain if you wear a waterproof sock.

Gaiters

Gaiters are oversocks that attach from your lower leg to the tops of your boots or shoes. They keep snow, rain, mud, gravel, leaves, and twigs from getting into your shoes or boots. Look for varieties of hiking gaiters at outdoors stores. These are often shorter than the skiing varieties, which usually go from right below the knee to the shoe, while the hiking kind are often from mid-calf to the shoe.

Either could be useful when walking in the rain.

Water will hit the gaiter and be channeled off around the shoe rather than soaking into your socks or into the top of your shoe. Many hiking gaiters are not waterproof as they are mostly meant to keep out trail debris. Snow gaiters may be waterproof but are also much taller, starting just below the knee.

Single-Use Plastic Items as Gaiters

Those free plastic shower caps you get when staying in a hotel room are great to use as gaiters for a single use. Simply slip them over your shoe with the elastic at your ankle. You can also make single-use gaiters with plastic bags and duct tape. They don't look pretty but they can help keep the rain out. You can simply slip your whole foot and shoe into a bag and duct tape the top to your socks at the ankle. Or, you can cut a hole in the bag just big enough to slip your foot through. Then duct tape the open end of the bag to the sole of your shoe and reinforce the hole you cut to remain around your ankle.​ More: How to Use a Shower Cap to Make a Shoe Gaiter

The drawback is that they won't last for very many miles. Having used this hack for several rainy ​half marathons, it worked well to keep the feet fairly dry, but after a few miles the plastic was in tatters. Using more duct tape to keep the plastic in place was a good idea.

Duct Tape

You may not want to mess with plastic bags at all. Just cover the top of your shoe with duct tape so water runs off down the tape rather than entering the shoe. This works surprisingly well, although you will have some residue from the tape once you remove it.

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