I always enjoy being able to get outside whenever I can. Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes, and there are tons of fabulous trails in this area I call home. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t always warm and sunny, and many of the trails have muddy patches on them after a hard rain. I don’t let the possibility of needing to do a little puddle jumping while out hiking deter me from getting out on the trail. As long as I make sure to be prepared and have the proper equipment, my feet will still be happy at the end of the day.
Waterproofing: Protect Feet and Boots
Many brands of hiking boots come with a waterproof coating already on them. However, this doesn’t last forever, no matter how well you care for your boots. There are a couple of waterproofing products I like to have on hand, to supplement a flagging waterproof seal. One is Nikwax for fabric and leather and the other is called SNO-SEAL. I find Nikwax to be less messy and easy to apply, but SNO-SEAL enables you to put on an amazingly thick coat of waterproof goo that will soak in and last a very long time.
Nikwax comes in a bottle with a sponge-like applicator attached to it. All you have to do is make sure your boots are clean, apply Nikwax until each boot is practically soaked in it, allow it to dry for 2 minutes, and then brush off any excess.
SNO-SEAL involves heating each clean boot with a hairdryer, globbing on the SNO-SEAL, allowing it to soak in, and then rubbing off any of the gummy excess with an old towel. When a boot coated in Snow Seal dries, it’s still rather gooey, which makes lacing it up interesting the first few times.
Socks: Cotton is Not your Friend
Clothing manufacturers are always promoting cotton clothing and how fantastic it is. Well, when it comes to hiking socks, cotton is not what you want. Cotton actually holds moisture next to your skin, and doesn’t allow it to “breathe.” This means you’ll have soggy feet if your cotton socks get wet and probably cold feet as well if you’re hiking during the winter time. Not good if you’re trying to bug out in an emergency, so pull cotton socks out of your bugout bag if you’ve got them in there!
Instead of cotton, choose a pair of socks that have a wool blend. There are many companies who combine wool with synthetic material to help wick away moisture and still keep your feet warm too. My favorite pair of hiking socks are thin ones made by SmartWool. Try to avoid socks made with even a small amount of cotton in them. Your feet will feel much better!
Blisters: Prevention is the Key
It isn’t always your hiking boots that cause blisters – a pair of wet or even slightly damp socks can cause blisters to form as well. Make sure your socks are thick enough to ward off any friction between your hiking boots and feet. It’s always a good idea to take a pair of thick hiking socks with you when purchasing new hiking boots too – each brand fits differently and you need to make sure you have enough room for your feet to feel comfortable with the type of socks you prefer to hike in.
I have found that leather hiking boots not only hold up better than ones made of a leather/nylon combo, but they also get better with age. A good pair of leather hiking boots will conform to your foot after awhile, which also helps lessen the possibility of blisters.