Water Proofing and dry feet myths

The glossy ads for some boots claim your feet will stay dry with their new special (Gore-Tex, Simpatex, Bull-Tex whatever) liners. Total Crap. The liner may 'breathe', but what about the leather outer - after several layers of Sno-Seal (below) have been r

Water Proofing and dry feet myths

The glossy ads for some boots claim your feet will stay dry with their new special (Gore-Tex, Simpatex, Bull-Tex whatever) liners. Total Crap. The liner may 'breathe', but what about the leather outer - after several layers of Sno-Seal (below) have been rubbed in, or the outer has got wet? What about the cold leather and the hot sweat from your feet? Don't believe them: it's pure marketing crap, and it makes the boots dearer and the mark-up higher. (Funny about that.) On the other hand, with these superbly waterproof boots, if you go through a river you will have water buckets on your feet: they can't drain! The same applies when it rains, and the water runs down your legs into your boots. Anyhow, your feet will sweat a LOT, and they are going to get wet under any circumstances. Experienced bushwalkers forget about trying to keeping their feet dry: they know better. Note: your feet are wet on the inside anyhow. It is only a very thin layer of dead cells on the surface which has any resemblance to 'dryness'. Think about this.

I am going to recant slightly for one special case. If you want to wear light footwear in the snow, which is possible but requires some experience then Approach shoes with some sort of waterproof lining may be a neat solution. It is not essential: thick socks and cold snow go together just fine, but when the snow is wet (because the day is warm) it can be nice to know your footwear is going to shed most of the water. But this is the only case, and is not essential.

When it comes to actual river crossings, many people take their boots off to keep them dry. This is a good idea for boots of course. Experienced walkers wearing lighter footwear usually don't bother, unless there is only one crossing and a long steep climb afterwards. They just plow through and let the socks squeeze dry as they go - until the next crossing. Anyhow, on a hot day some walkers have even been known to walk in the water to cool their feet down. It can be quite pleasant. However it does depend a bit on the temperature of the water: snow melt can be a little cold...

My attention has been drawn to the problem of 'trench foot'. This seems to be a problem for people (especially soldiers) who have to spend several days in a pair of wet boots without any chance of drying off. Under these conditions it would not be unreasonable to expect some bacterial growth, and that might not be too good for your feet. I have never suffered from this problem, but I always take all my wet footwear off every night and let them air and dry overnight. The concensus seems to be that this usually is enough to prevent the problem from staring.

Creek Crossings - hazards

A few words of caution should be given here about such river crossings. Warm shallow creeks don't really matter, as long as the bottom is clear. But cold water can make your feet a bit more sensitive, and a stony creek bed can be rather painful. If the water is very cold and there are stones, it may be very wise to leave your footwear on, even if you take your socks off. We have known the water to get so cold and the stones so hard that it became very difficult to even think. When you add fast water and big rocks, the situation can actually get very dangerous. In fact, one of the most common causes of death while bushwalking (tramping) in New Zealand is crossing rivers.