Best shoes for water crossings?

A quick note about some of these articles I’m writing recently: 

I’ve been online in one form or another since  1986 or 1987. As I mentioned, I’m a middle-aged computer geek, at least by profession. At 12 years old, I enjoyed discussing Star Wars, the latest version of Ultima,  and the Bard’s Tale series on USENET or local BBS forums.   In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I started discussing outdoor topics. In many ways, it is how I started this website back in 2004.  Be it listservs or forums on websites or Facebook; the topics inspired various things I wrote. 

In 2021, the Reddit /ul forum provides much of my online discussion. A very experienced group with lots of different opinions and techniques.

In my later 40s, I’m the old man of the group in many ways. But they haven’t stuck me on an ice flow. Yet. 😉  I’ve met many of the people I’ve corresponded with over the years. I hope to meet some of the people behind the screen names in the future with this group.

Here’s another topic out of that online discussion.  As in the past, I’ll expand my original answer a bit.


What are the best shoes for water crossings?

Many people newer to backpacking will take off their shoes before a stream crossing, place on sandals, Crocs, or similar, drape the boots on their pack, walk across the stream, take the shoes off their pack, take off the sandals, put on their socks and shoes, repack the sandals, and then go hiking.  And if you are in a group, repeat for each person.  And repeat for another stream crossing.

My first Rio Grande crossing on the Northern New Mexico Loop.

A lengthy process not noted for efficiency.

What’s a better way to perform water crossings? 

I’m not sarcastic; use your trail runners.

With multiple creek crossings in a day, it takes up much time to swap in and out shoes. And if you are doing a handful of crossings, the shoes dry out quickly anyway.

Back when more people wore heavy leather boots and corresponding thicker socks, wet shoes and socks often meant blisters, raw skin, or similar issues and slowly drying shoes. With well-fitting and light shoes and thinner socks? Not-so-much.  If you hike in light shoes that aren’t lined with Goretex and paired with lightweight socks, you’ll find crossing streams with trail runners or light hiking shoes an efficient, quick, and effective practice.  And the shoes dry out quicker versus traditional footwear such as boots.

Be sure to air your feet out at breaks and night.  I like having a pair of dry socks used *just* for camp as my luxury item for notably colder nights as well.

If you are hiking in cold conditions, an ardent boot wearer, wear Goretex-lined footwear, or even heavier shoes such as Keens, then “water crossing” shoes may make more sense as these types of shoes do not dry as quickly.

But for the standard equipment for many backpackers use (three-season conditions, light footwear), dedicated shoes for water crossings end up as non-utilitarian.

Cross streams with your trail runners and spend more time hiking and less time crossing streams and swapping out footwear.

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