Ask the Gear Guy

Breathable camping shoes


Q. I have some old camping shoes, but they’re winter hunting shoes. I need a pair of warmer-weather shoes that can get wet and still be dry on the inside; and so my feet won’t stink. Can you help me?
—Shoeless Kenny, Cumming, Ga.

A. I’m happy to help. I think you’re looking for what’s called a waterproof/breathable shoe. Basically it’s made with a fabric that has a waterproof membrane that’ll keep water out while still allowing your body heat and sweat to escape. Your feet will stay dry and cool (though not as cool as they would in a straight pair of mesh shoes).

Most hiking and trail running shoe brands have waterproof/breathable models made with membranes from Gore-Tex or eVent or their own private label. So there are lots to choose from. The bad news: To get a truly waterproof/breathable shoe you’re going to have to spend about $100. Bad News Part II: If you step in a stream that’s more than ankle-deep your feet are gonna get wet. That said, here are two affordable waterproof breathable shoes to consider:

  • Columbia Switchback ($90) A trail-running inspired shoe, the Switchback gives you a rugged sole for hiking in a waterproof/breathable version to keep your feet dry. (columbia.com)
  • The North Face Assailant ($100) This hiking shoe has a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex upper with a lightweight but durable Vibram sole. (thenorthface.com)

Finally, regarding stinky feet. No shoe or boot will be automatically stink-free. You are personally responsible for that. However, here are a few things to help minimize the stink:

  • Dry your shoes thoroughly whenever they get wet. Stuff newspaper inside the shoes to dry them more quickly.
  • Always wear socks. And make sure they’re clean socks. Bare feet in shoes feel nice, but it’s a one-way ticket to smelly shoes.
  • Wash your feet regularly to keep them clean and healthy.
  • If your shoes already stink, consider washing them and try a shoe deodorant powder, a spray-in deodorizer like Febreze, or cedar shoe blocks. You can find all of this stuff at the local drugstore.

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