Gaiters - how to keep your feet dry in the wet

How to keep your feet dry when hiking

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Sept 2013; updated May 2023.

Have you ever wondered what funny-looking things some hikers wear around their ankles? In this post, we look at what they are and how they keep your feet dry.

Why you may want to get some Gaiters

Gaiters are a simple bit of kit that you can shove in a bag or pocket but can be useful when it is wet.

Now gaiters may not be the height of fashion, and perhaps you'll feel a bit of a wally when you first put them on. But when it is raining, and you're feet are nice and dry, you'll not feel a wally then.

Their job is to protect the upper half of your walking boot or walking shoe and the lower part of your trouser.

Now if it is raining hard and you've got your waterproof coat on and waterproof trousers, too, all that rain will head right down to your boots.

'Ah, but I've got waterproof boots!' - yes, but a lot of that waterproofing is for water underfoot. Water could still find its way into the top of the boot or even by the tongue if there's a lot of water coming down.

That's where gaiters come in.

They seal the top of your boot, covering the laces and tongue all the way up to your calf.

Gaiters aren't only useful in a downpour. If you've taken your waterproof trousers off but need to walk through wet long grass, they will provide waterproofing to your lower leg.

How to put Gaiters on

A gaiter that's unfolded

A gaiter that's unfolded

I use a pair of these Gelert Ascent Gaiters. These are very affordable and come in a man's and woman's size, and squash down nice and small to fit in a rucksack or pocket.

Fastening the gaiter around your foot

Fastening the gaiter around your foot

You don't need to take your boot off to put them on.

As with most gaiters, they simply wrap around your calf and then fasten together with a zip, velcro, and push stud.

When trying gaiters on, they should be fitted snugly to your calf, and you'll often find the tops elasticated or with a cord to draw them tight to your leg.

Gaiter underfoot strap

The gaiter's underfoot strap

When buying your own pair, look for an underfoot strap that helps keep them in place over the top of your boot. This strap should be adjustable.

The strap is one part of the gaiter that gets muddy and worn. On the Gelert Ascent Gaiters, they have a basic cheap strap. More expensive gaiters should wear less. However, the cheap Gelert strap is replaceable if it gets worn.

Gaiters with a lace clip

Gaiters with a lace clip

Your gaiters should come with a clip to fasten them over your laces.

With this clip and the heel strap, the gaiters should be snug over your walking boots, keeping your feet nice and dry. 🙂

Gaiters for Snow

There's a wide range of gaiters available, including insulated gaiters for when it's cold, and also gaiters for snow.

If you're hiking through snow, you'll soon find your boot filling with snow and getting wet.

Normal gaiters (above) will protect you, but you ideally need snow gaiters.

Snow Gaiters are insulated. After all, it's that part of your body in contact with the cold snow. They will have a tighter fit around your boot since your leg will be ploughing through snow, so the gaiter needs to prevent snow from coming up underneath if you walk in a deep snow drift and your leg disappears down a few feet!

Other types of gaiters

You can even get trail running gaiters designed to prevent stones from getting into your running shoes.

Gaiters for Children

Proper outdoor clothing for kids can sometimes be hard to come by.  There's no point in kitting yourself out and being prepared for all conditions, and then you go for a family hike, and your kids end up cold and miserable.

Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Fortunately, you can find some gaiters for smaller children.

If your kids have a decent set of over trousers or a rain suit with a heel strap, you may not need to buy gaiters for them. Some rain gear for babies and toddlers fall into this category. But as your child gets older, this may not be the case.