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barefoot stream fording?
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chris markley
(motorapido) - F
barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 14:15:18 MDT Print View

I've spent a fortune reducing my pack weight and will leave many nice-to-have items at home for my 4-day Black Forest Trail (pennsylvania) solo backpacking trip. This 40-mile trail will include numerous very shallow stream crossings with most on rocks, but some where my boots would flood. Should I go barefoot and risk slipping or hurting my feet on sharp rocks? I'd hate to have to bring my kayaking water shoes. What to do?

Adam Kramer
(rbeard) - F

Locale: ATL, Southern Appalachia
Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 14:22:20 MDT Print View

never used em, but they look cool enough...let me know if you get em.

also, i have heard of people using knotted diaper genie bags because they are tough and about the width of a wide leg. this would scare me more in winter, but i'm sure you can test them out first.

Edited by rbeard on 10/18/2010 14:24:51 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 14:23:37 MDT Print View

Crossing barefoot is not worth the risk.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 14:25:42 MDT Print View

Do NOT go barefoot! Sure way to break something or slip and rip off a toenail.

If I know I'll get soaked only once or twice a day I'll stop and take the insoles out of my trailrunners, take off my socks, put shoes back on and go.

They dry decently quick and no extra weight to carry.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 14:42:57 MDT Print View

We have no hesitation crossing barefoot when we can see that the bottom is sandy. You go to the beach sometimes, don't you?

However, feet are extremely important, and if it is rocky and just one crossing we may remove our socks first, so as to have 'dry' socks for the rest of the day.

If there are several crossings to be done, we just keep walking without taking anything off, especially in summer. We do NOT use GTX shoes when walking (outside snow conditions), so our light joggers drain very easily.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 15:08:25 MDT Print View

I'm a barefoot runner and have very tough feet, but I'm not too into crossing streams barefoot unless I can see a sandy bottom. I've had too many bad cuts and blackened toenails.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
flip flops on 10/18/2010 15:10:49 MDT Print View

either bring a pair of flip flops that youll also use for camp ... or use the trail runners and dry them out as you move

i recommend the former

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: flip flops on 10/18/2010 15:37:38 MDT Print View

I don't use flip flops since they can come off too easily, especially when underwater.

I had to do some stream crossings when in Alaska this summer, so I constructed some knee-high wader/boots out of plastic with soles.

In Denali, the NPS warning to hikers was to never cross streams barefooted there. The glacial stream gravel is sharp and the water is cold. NPS suggested to use boots or else spare wool socks.


Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 16:25:34 MDT Print View

I go barefoot if the stream bottom is soft or smooth rock. No socks with trail runners if it's warm enough for my shoes to dry (I put my socks back on right after the crossing).

I will occasionally take my Sprint Aquatics mesh shoes (1.8 oz for the pair) if I think my shoes will stay wet (in the shoulder season).

Edited by skopeo on 10/18/2010 16:26:14 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 16:28:56 MDT Print View

"If there are several crossings to be done, we just keep walking without taking anything off,..."


Taking 10 to 15 minutes to dry your feet and put on shoes chews up a lot of time if you've got a lot of crossing to do.

Wear trail runners and thin socks and just keep going.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Keep walking on 10/18/2010 16:36:21 MDT Print View

Since switching to trail runners I still haven't tried the "just keep walking" method. Greg, you're here in Colorado, how long does it take for them to dry out? I normally hike with thicker socks. What's a good thin sock for this? Thanks.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Keep walking on 10/18/2010 17:02:59 MDT Print View

How long depends on temperatures and sunshine. By thin I mean your basic 1/4 crew running sock, versus a thick boot sock that will move around a fair bit when wet.

So... maybe an hour? Maybe 30 minutes. But if you're doing a succession of crossing expect to have damp feet all day. They will do fine.

On long days I can't afford 2 hours for barefooting. If it's one crossing for the day, or less than an hour before camp, I may barefoot it. It is a balance between time and safety.

Barefooting takes a lot of time, and can put you at serious risk.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
not barefoot for me on 10/18/2010 22:37:08 MDT Print View

i've seen way too many fishing hooks and broken beer bottles in creeks for me to even begin to think about taking my shoes off...

Brian Senez
(bsenez) - MLife

Locale: New England
re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/18/2010 22:55:29 MDT Print View

I cross barefoot most of the time. I do some barefoot running and have fairly tough feet. I will work my way through the stream slowly using my trekking poles as additional points of contact. I wear breathable shoes and thin socks. Ice cold water feels great on hot feet. If there are many crossing or if my feet are already wet I will keep the shoes and socks on.

BER ---
(BER) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Keen Newport H2 on 10/19/2010 01:24:50 MDT Print View

I'm a big fan of hiking in Keen Newport H2s unless the a trail is very uneven and I need the ankle stability from a boot. I like the protection over the toes and they retain very little water after a soak. Pretty good traction except on steep smooth rock.

chris markley
(motorapido) - F
Re: barefoot stream fording? on 10/19/2010 11:12:06 MDT Print View

I thought of a lightweight solution. Pull the inserts out of my boots (some sort of closed cell foam that won't absorb water) and put them inside a pair of sub-ankle-length synthetic running socks and wear those socks with the liners inside as a minimal water shoe, both for a wee bit more traction than barefoot and also for some foot protection. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote on this, my brothers and sisters?

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
barefoot stream fording? on 10/19/2010 15:34:40 MDT Print View

"No socks with trail runners if it's warm enough for my shoes to dry (I put my socks back on right after the crossing)."


Got away with barefoot many times when young but stopped because of sharp stone discomfort. Since then I've seen broken glass in water so do as Mike W does.

Will Webster
Black Forest Trail on 10/19/2010 16:00:46 MDT Print View

I did the BFT loop over the 4th of July weekend and I only remember one wet-foot crossing. I started at Mile 0 and it was less than a mile from the trailhead (hiking counterclockwise). I just walked right through, then wrung out my socks and hiked on.

Maybe things are different at other times of year.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
multiple crossings on 10/20/2010 13:10:02 MDT Print View

we did a trip in the Gila (NM) this spring where there were close to 100 stream crossings in a 20 miles stretch- clearly the "just keep walking" method was the most efficient. we were using relatively meshy trail runners and never suffered any ill effects, in fact after a few hot/dry stretches it was actually welcome :)

since then we've done several other trips which had significantly fewer crossings, but we still employed the "just keep walking" method- if we can't hop/jump across the stream, we don't even hesitate anymore

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
re: barefoot stream fording on 10/20/2010 14:11:46 MDT Print View

On the PCT I just walked through the creeks in my trail runners. If it was a really super cold glacial stream, sometimes I would take a minute after crossing to take my shoes and socks off and warm my feet in the sun.

Here in So Cal in the San Rafael wilderness I often do a hike down the Sisquoc River. The water is not cold but there are so many creek crossings that it makes no sense to take off shoes. I walk right through.

I did test using Keen sandals on this hike and found them to be extremely unsatisfactory. They were the worst possible shoes I could ever use to cross streams in. I don't know how people can recommend them.

First of all, they have no traction at all for general hiking. I fell twice, once landing on a yucca bush receiving numerous puncture wounds. Secondly, when crossing streams that have sand or sandy gravel on the bottom, the shoes fill up with sand and gravel that never comes out. Then the shoes rub that sand into your feet leaving them bloody stumps. Worst shoes ever, in my opinion.

I recommend wearing trail runners and just walking them dry as the lightest and most versatile option.