My feet get wet when I go walking but my boots aren't leaking, what's going on and how can I stop it happening?

"Gaiters - are they still going?" seems to be a fairly common comment when people visit Up and Under for the first time, along with, "this place is like a Tardis." This all seems a bit strange to our staff and regular customers who are used to the local hills and valleys and their regular accompaniment: wet weather. And how does that wetness invariably get into your boots or shoes? The answer to this question and to why gaiters are still going, is they stop water going over the top of your footwear in a number of ways, some of which you may not have thought of. Read on to learn more and to hit on some proper bargains.

I've been using gaiters since I first went walking nearly 40 years ago in the Lake District. Most people that you saw on the fells used gaiters in those days. The paths were less paved and everyone knew that pretty quickly most paths could turn into a quagmire as soon as the rain arrived. Back then you needed all the help you could get to keep dry. Things have moved on over the last few years. Boots can use thinner leathers as they are backed up by membranes like Gore-Tex, clothing is less absorbent and quicker drying, waterproof fabrics more breathable and comfortable, and many paths are prepared and paved. But if you leave the comfort of the manufactured popular routes, and it's been raining recently, then long wet grass and paths overrun with bracken and the like will soon have your trouser legs sopping (especially if you're not wearing a quick-drying man-made walking trouser) and pretty soon that moisture is going to wick into your socks and down into your boots. I suppose you could stop and put your waterproof trousers on but why hold everyone else up? It's only up to knee height that you need protection and this sort of wet foliage will get up underneath the waterproof trousers to soak your hems and socks anyway.

What you want to keep your feet, socks and trousers dry are gaiters. Even if you never leave the comfort of a manicured path, if the rain really gets going you are liable to find a mountain stream that's turned into a raging torrent that you need to cross. With a gaiter on you won't need to worry about slipping in during a boulder hop, or having to walk an extra mile to find a bridge or boulders, just get in and get on with it and if you're fast enough you shouldn't get wet. If you are the sort of person that always has muddy trousers that no-one wants to invite in for a brew on the way back from a walk, then get yourself some gaiters and be invited into the cleanest of living rooms, once you've taken them and your boots off of course. With the onset of snow the gaiter really comes into its own, keeping snow and slush off your trousers and out of your boots where it can do one of two things: make your socks and feet cold and wet or the crystals can rub your ankles, either or both of which is pretty unpleasant, believe me.

Modern gaiters are great. Make sure you buy ones with good levels of breathability in the upper fabrics and durability in the lower fabrics, don't bother with rear-opening ones as they are hard work to put on. Good elastication, lace hooks and understraps will provide a snugger, more water-resistant fit that will last. A quality zip backed up by velcro, or a wide velcro closure, means they won't fail when you need them most, and a synch at the top will stop them creeping down your calf.

Our gaiters: we stock a wide range of gaiter options from Rab and Outdoor Research but the most popular choice currently, and rightly so, is our special offer Extremities Packagaiter which uses Gore-Tex Paclite in its upper for lightweight, low bulk breathability, has excellent fixtures and fittings, and is now only £24.95 down from £40!
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Our waterproof trousers: obviously just covering your lower legs isn't much use if its pouring down. The rain will still soak down your trousers inside your gaiters and into your boots so we always recommend carrying waterproof trousers in your rucksack. The level of breathability and the cut generally improve the more you spend here, but weight, bulk and ruggedness are also factors to take into account. Our range includes Mac in a Sac, Sprayway, Marmot Precip Pants, Rab and Arcteryx Zeta LT Pants amongst others to suit your needs.

Treating your footwear: all boots need looking after, even ones with a waterproof membrane. Boot membranes tend to be positioned on the inside of the boot and there is no way that they will be able to breath if the outer boot is waterlogged, so you do need to apply appropriate treatments to your footwear. Leather needs nourishing once it has got wet as well as proofing and we carry brand specific options from Zamberlan, Scarpa and Meindl, whilst Grangers provide excellent generic wax and liquid options for leather or fabric boots and shoes.

Socks are important to keep your feet dry and comfortable: when you're walking hard it's possible to produce over an egg cup's full of sweat per foot over the period of a few hours, and if your boot won't allow it to escape your feet will feel wet and cold and your socks uncomfortable, which can all lead to blisters. The use of socks that wick sweat away from your foot is key to keeping comfortable and a high wicking liner sock like the Bridgedale Coolmax Liner will achieve this. Layering over the top of this something that continues the wicking process is equally important, with a shock absorbing synthetic sock like a Wigwam or our popular Bridgedale Trekker, which combines coolmax with Merino wool in a very clever way.

So remember if you are out walking and think that your feet are wet, question whether it is your boots that are leaky or is it that moisture is getting in from above or not being allowed to get out? If your boots are in good condition and looked after and you have followed the above advice your feet should stay dry and comfortable all day long. If your boots really are leaking but they are still safe, supportive and you love them you could always try a Sealskinz waterproof sock.

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