How to Walk in the Rain: Socks and Gaiters

Shower Caps on Your Shoes
Shower Caps on Your Shoes. Photo © Rachel Spanks

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.
Top Picks for Walking Socks

Waterproof Socks

SealSkinz makes waterproof socks, a great option for those who want to walk in sandals in all weather, or who don't 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.
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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 hiking varieties at outdoors stores - these are often shorter than the skiing varieties, although 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.
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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 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 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

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