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waterproof or not?

I have always been a huge advocate for waterproof travel shoes, and worn both Keen and Merrill waterproof shoes on past trips. However, since my last big travel adventure, I developed foot problems, including but not limited to plantar fasciitis. I also managed to break the little toe on my right foot, and it healed in such a way that many shoes which used to fit are now too tight. After trying on a million pairs of new waterproof travel shoes with the assistance of a shoe clerk in a very customer service focused footwear store, I settled on a pair of Merrills a size larger than I usually wear. Having worn them for a while, I'd say they were ok....but not fantastic. I am trying to decide whether to use these as my primary shoes on my upcoming trip (which will involve a lot of walking) or whether to break with tradition and wear the New Balance sneakers I purchased a year ago that feel quite comfortable on my feet. I'm concerned that if our visit corresponds with an extended period of wet weather, I'll be miserable walking around in soggy shoes. But I'm also concerned about whether or not my feet will be comfortable in the waterproof shoes for an extended period.
I plan to bring a pair of waterproof sports sandals for warmer weather, and I am packing light, so the option of taking both the sneakers and the Merrills isn't really something I want to try to do.

Posted by jessica
173 posts

I guess it depends when you are there. I have worn sandals (ala Teva, Keen, Chaco..) in rainy weather and my feet just get wet. The nice thing is that the shoes dry fast and don't get waterlogged and I can dry my feet easily when the rain stops and still have them be warm despite the sandals being still wet. I was in Paris and Amsterdam in 2016 when the Louvre flooded bc of all the rain. Worked well for me, but I am more rugged/low maintenance than average, from what I hear ;)


Posted by Pilgrim
Boston, MA USA
619 posts

I would take both pair of shoes. I appreciate you trying to pack light, but if I had issues with my feet, I would take every precaution to make sure my feet were comfortable. I find my feet are happiest when I alternate shoes every other day. For some reason, I think there are different pressure points on the shoes, and it helps to change them up a bit.

If my feet aren't happy - I'm not happy.

Posted by wbfey1
145 posts

If only your right foot is a little larger and the left is still your 'normal' size, why not buy 2 pair of the shoes you like, one in a size larger so you can be comfortable walking?

Posted by Pilgrim
Boston, MA USA
619 posts

If only your right foot is a little larger and the left is still your
'normal' size, why not buy 2 pair of the shoes you like, one in a size
larger so you can be comfortable walking?

I agree with this as well. I know it's an expensive option, but the feet need to be happy. :)

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
2177 posts

After gobs of miles hiking, trekking, walking....I've never used nor felt the need for waterproof shoes save for walking in a rain forest, then I use Xtratufs. But hey, go buy waterproof shoes if that's what works for your feet. Whatever you decide upon, make sure you've broken in your footwear and merge them with quality socks. Happy feet always when traveling.

Posted by Alan
872 posts

I’m with Bruce on this one. First off, comfort rules so take the shoes that feel good. That OK feeling pair? Won’t be so OK after repeated long walks. As for waterproof shoes, never saw the need. We spray Scotchguard or the like, knowing that in a deluge the shoes will get wet. Overnight most of the moisture is gone, and if not, we wear sandals the next day.

Posted by Carol
1087 posts

Have you tried Ahnu waterproof hiking shoes? I love mine. People who don't walk in wet conditions won't understand how nice a waterproof shoe is.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
4773 posts

it is very obvious that plantar fasciitis is very painful. My wife had mid foot arthritis hit her in a 2 month period last year, and she was referred to a orthopedic surgeon specializing in feet and ankles. She went through the standard protocol of being fitted with orthodontic shoe inserts. She has severe pain of anything touches the tops of her feet even.
The only brand of show she can wear is Alegria which has very stiff rocker soles. Everywhere we look, we find doctors, nurses and other professions doing mega walking wearing only Alegria shoes.
My wife's feet continue to get worse and she is going to have a fusion May 15th on one foot that stabilizes her foot with plates and screws. It will take her off that foot for 7 weeks.
We are catching a repositioning cruise to England in April and are touring Ireland by car. We are hoping it is not our last hoorah, but foot problems can easily slow down the perpetual travel we have been experiencing in recent years.
I say this because many travelers may be experiencing mobility problems from sore feet. Sometimes finding a special pair of shoes helps. Sometimes a great doctor helps. But maintaining mobility is so important to maintain quality life and vitality throughout one's retirement years.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4139 posts

I have awful feet as well and I would go for the New Balance. I did a UK walking tour a couple of years ago and had broken in but less than comfortable waterproof boots. I knew they were not really comfortable because I'd had them a couple of years but took them anyway. I finally wound up wearing my non-waterproof Altra athletic shoes. My feet got soaked but they were more comfortable than the boots in the long run. I brought the boots back home..not sure why...I should have left them at a charity shop!

For what it's worth my feet got a lot wetter walking thru the long damp grass rather than from actual downpours in cities.

For low cut shoes, like you I've never found waterproof ones that really fit. I've tried multiple sizes of Ahnus (bless Zappos!) and they are just not wide enough for my foot.

If your shoes get wet, at night take out the insoles, open them as wide as possible and if you need to, use the fan you will probably have in your room to blow on them for a couple of hours.

Where are you going?

Posted by Jill
Boulder, USA
1136 posts

Ruth, it really does depend on when and where you are going. I always take waterproof hiking shoes, but we tend to do a lot of hiking. I have had them get very wet in Germany in late spring and hiking in Switzerland. Other than that I don't believe I've needed my shoes to be waterproof.

Posted by Janet
Boise, ID, USA
913 posts

Take the most comfortable ones for sure. We have used Cadillac (brand) Shield water repellent spray for years and it does a good job unless you're actually slogging through puddles day after day.

Posted by Judy
58 posts

I like the idea that one poster had with taking both pair, I did my last trip while packing light and so thankful I did. The pair I thought would be perfect wasn’t and my spare worked out better. The thought of shoe shopping in Europe out of necessity did not sound like fun.

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
623 posts

Hi Ruth, sorry to hear your feet are giving you problems. Do consider getting good socks, for instance
They have socks for Plantar fasciitis. I bought a pair of compression socks for the long travel day. They come highly recommended.

Take the shoes that are more comfortable. Do pack a second pair to switch off, even if it is a few hours in the evening (for instance returning to the hotel in the late afternoon, change shoes to go out for supper and a walk in the evening). I love my Ecco Biom shoes for comfort.

Have a great trip

Posted by TC
2515 posts

One thing we've found is that regardless of the "waterproofness" of shoes they will (under the right conditions) get wet and soggy. When that happens having an extra pair of dry socks in the day bag is like heaven. In really wet conditions we will have two extra pair. So it may be that regular comfortable shoes with extra dry socks is the way to go. Just something to consider.