Commuting 101: Keeping footwear dry

In the wake of the tropical storms, we’ve had a lot of rain in the past week. My cycling shoes have gotten so wet that they don’t get a chance to dry out before it’s time to leave for work in the morning. Here are some tips for keeping your footwear dry in monsoon season.

It makes sense that the easiest way to keep your footwear dry is to not let it get sopping wet in the first place. On wet roads,

Fenders work wonders at reducing the amount of water that gets splashed onto your feet from the road. If it’s raining, however, you’re going to get your feet wet. Fenders will potentially lessen it a bit.

Once your shoes are wet, though, the most obvious choice is to use the clothes dryer. Cycling shoes with cleats can damage the inside of a dryer, though, and shoes bouncing around in the dryer not only make a lot of noise, but it can harm the shoes as well as making them “Kick” the door of the dryer open, stopping the cycle before they’re dry. One way to take care of this is to use a rack inside your dryer (some new dryers come with a shoe-drying rack that fits inside) or simply untie the laces, tie a knot in the very end of the laces, and allow them to hang with the knot keeping them suspended against the dryer door. This is how I do it at home. Alternatively, twine or a re-purposed metal clothes hanger can be used to hang your shoes on the inside of the dryer door. This way, your shoes don’t make a lot of noise. Be careful with racing shoes that are made of stiff plastic or carbon fiber. Excess heat can damage them.

Newsprint, wadded up and stuffed into the shoes is another suggestion I’ve seen “kicked around” lately. If you get the newspaper and never seem to come up with a good creative use for the newsprint after you’ve read it, now’s your chance to re-purpose it. If your shoes are quite damp, you may need to remove the old newspaper and repeat the process a few times. I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, so I haven’t been able to try this theory myself.

The last suggestion I got from several friends of mine was to use a good pair of cycling sandals. These clipless cleat-ready sandals, when worn with wool socks often remain comfy year round, even in the cold season. There isn’t a lot of material to get soaked. Sandals dry quickly. Wool socks do as well, but also retain much of their insulating value even when wet.

One trick I use occasionally at the office is to place my wet socks and/or shoes on top of my computer monitor after I’m sure they won’t drip water into the sensitive electronics within. The heat from my computer monitor isn’t too extreme, but over the course of my entire work day, it’s often warm enough to dry out a few articles of soggy clothing.

Got more cool ways to keep your toes dry? Drop us a line in the comments!

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0 thoughts on “Commuting 101: Keeping footwear dry”

  1. Ben says:

    Newspaper in the shoes works really well. I play soccer and my cleats can dry completly in a couple of hours. Just change the newspaper frequently.

  2. vcspinner says:

    Cycling sandals rule! I use Shimano cycling sandals with cleats. In cold weather, I add socks. In cold, wet weather, I add a neoprene bootie. Presto – no wet shoes!

  3. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    In warm weather I wear spd sandles, in cold weather I wear cycling shoe covers. The biggest problem with wetness is my helmet band… : / Yesterday I saw a road bike with a pastic bag over the handle bars, live and learn!

  4. MNMichael says:

    I have “Dry Guy Circulators” at work — glove/shoe warmer/drier. Works great when you have less than 12 hours to dry things out. They go in the shoe and are plugged in. Probably the best $20 I’ve spent.

    At home, I have forced air heating, so just putting the shoes next to the vent over night does the trick. If I have a doubt, I’ll stick some newspaper in (as noted above) to pull all the moisture out.

  5. Matt Cunningham says:

    If you can find a window that gets some direct sunlight, putting them next to the window will often get them warm enough to dry out between uses.

  6. Gavin says:

    Overshoes as others say.

  7. cyclepete says:

    Another fan of cycling sandals. Nice and cool in the summer. Feels great to get rained on. In the winter, I wear gortex socks over wool socks.

    However, I do worry about wearing open toe footwear while bicycling. In case of a crash. Does anyone make something similar to a sandal but with better toe and foot protection – something like river wading shoes.

  8. ethan says:

    I got some nice “water sneakers” from LLBean that dry out really quickly. (My commute is pretty short, so I’m not too worried about having superior footwear.)

  9. Fritz says:

    The dryer door trick is very nifty — I hadn’t seen that one before. I’ve used shoe dryers like MNMichael uses.

  10. MarkD says:

    If you’re commuting by bike to save money and reduce your environmental impact it seems a bit daft to use a (energy greedy) dryer to dry your wet shoes every day. Newspaper does well and overshoes help but the best tip I have is just accept wet feet. Putting damp shoes (and socks! that’s the worst bit) on to ride home feels pretty nasty to start with but after a minute you’ll have forgotten all about it.

    If your shoes are just a bit damp in the morning just wearing them to ride in probably enough to finish drying them off.

  11. Noah says:

    Well, it doesn’t rain EVERY day. And I, for example, am saving a ton of money on parking and fuel. Running the shoes in the dryer on occasion (especially with other stuff such as towels in the load) really doesn’t cost too much or put too much strain on “mother earth”

    I personally think subscribing to newspapers is a huge waste. There’s no amount of kitty litter boxes or damp shoes in anyone’s home to possibly put a year’s worth of newsprint to good use. Count that the news printed on that paper is already as much as 18 hours out-of-date by the time it would hit my front porch, and you’ll see why I can justify using a dryer once in a while. I think I’ve dried my cycling shoes in the dryer about 6 times. The fenders really do help. It’s only when they get thoroughly soaked late in the evening that I have to do it.

  12. drspell says:

    Put ’em behind the refrigerator. The low heat works perfectly for shoes so they don’t shrink.

  13. All good tips . . . and I nearly did cycle in sandals today, In fact, after the total and utter soaking I got, I wish I had. But then, at least it’s the weekend, and those shoes will have time to dry naturally. Top tip for this – kinda obvious, but take out the insoles, remove the laces and pull the tongue right out.

  14. Julie D says:

    @cyclepete: check out the Keen Commuter sandal. I’ve been wearing these all summer. Haven’t worn them in a heavy rain yet, but (like other Keen sandals) they look like they’ll dry quite quickly.

  15. Riding with wet feet is miserable. On rain days, I wear waterproof hiking boots. They can’t clip in, are heavy, but this is commuting, not Le Tour. Adds a bit of weight to your workout, but it’s the only way to have dry feet.

  16. jamesmallon says:

    Winter riding in sandals?! This is definitely not a Canadian website. I ride winter in cycling shoes with wool socks, neoprene overboots and neoprene toe covers. You ‘mericans are cute with your winter riding tips that involve dealing with what we call, “rain”.

  17. Randy says:

    Another vote for cycling sandals (I use Lakes). They can work in any weather. When it’s cold a couple pair of socks works fine. If it’s cold and wet or windy, a waterproof/windproof sock such as SealSkins does the trick.

  18. Fritz says:

    Some veteran Canadian icebikers I know of are big fans of sandals. They wear wool socks, then a waterproof liner of some sort (usually plastic bags), and then the sandals. You don’t have to worry about wet or frozen shoes, and the toes are warm and dry.

  19. jamesmallon says:

    ‘Fritz’, are you kidding me? Sandals for Canadian icebikeing? Are they really in Canada, or Vancouver/Victoria (climatically not Canada, and culturally…)?

  20. Noah says:

    This isn’t winter yet. At least here in Kansas, we get below zero temps (That would me “Minus Twenty” to you Canadians) and while that’s not anywhere near what you’ll find in the dead of winter north of the 49th, you’d be hard-pressed to call that “rain”. Keep your eyes peeled, as I do quite enjoy what passes as “Really Cold” down here.

  21. Todd Waddell says:

    First priority for me is keeping the shoes dry in the first place. A good pair of shoe covers (I like the Gore Bike wear ones, I forget which model).

    Most of the rain here is in the winter. So, when my shoes do get wet, putting them on top of the heating vent always does the trick.

    Todd Waddell
    Portland, OR

  22. Fritz says:

    James, come join us at ICEBIKE. I don’t recall who specifically the sandal wearers are (it’s been a long summer), but some regular participants in the mailing list hail from Saskatoon and the Maritime Provinces. One of our more interesting characters is Pete Hickey at the University of Ottawa.

    My coldest bike commute experience was -40° in central Illinois sometime in the early 90s. I didn’t wear sandals that day 🙂 And as you know, wet shoes aren’t a problem in cold weather.

  23. Fritz says:

    And who said anything about winter, anyway? Noah’s first sentences is about tropical storms. It’s in the high 30s (C) during the day where I’m at.

  24. scarecrow says:

    Last winter I gave up trying to keep my clipless shoes dry and switched to regular boots and BMX pedals for commuting. Should have done years ago!

  25. tadster says:

    Ewww Noah! =) You put your socks on your monitor? I have to admit that when I read that sentence, I totally imagined you placing those socks as if they were slices of bacon on a sizzling hot pan. Hah! Do your coworkers complain about the smell?

  26. Matth says:

    I’ll vouch for newspaper ten times over. I always keep a stack of free weeklies around just for that. I’ll dry *fully* wet shoes over night and in most situations your shoes will be dry in ~2h. So much that I carry newspaper not to start fires when I leave touring but to dry my shoes. But I have to admit for touring, a pair of sandals would be nicer. The winter’s another story and I try just to go with the “don’t get your shoes wet” philosophy and use waterproof overboots. And good wool socks with my regular cycling shoes. I haven’t gotten cold feet (no pun intended) yet. (Then again last winter was so cold but had lots of snow and slush/road gunk to get your shoes wet)

  27. Noah says:

    Tadster, my socks don’t smell after a 14-mile ride to work, even if it’s been raining. I just wring them out really well first (in the sink of the locking bathroom I change in)

    If your socks stink after an hour or so, you might wanna have that checked out by a professional. 😉

  28. Timmy V. says:

    ‘Nother tip for those of us who work with computers. One trick that I use is to place my socks or other wet articles of clothing in front of the computer’s exhaust fan (usually located in the back of the tower near the top). This works *much better than the monitor (unless you’re talking about an old school CRT, perhaps, but even then it would probably work better).

  29. I work in a computer lab, so when I get to work in the rain, I tie my laces together like you do for your drier trick, and hang them using hooks (made from paper clips) on the back doors of the server racks in the data center.

    If I go back to my desk and run a few computationally intensive jobs on the servers, the shoes dry in record time 🙂

  30. mark says:

    Thanks for the dryer door tip. I used it last night and it worked great.

  31. Quinn says:

    The issue I have with sandals is the hole open toe factor, I don’t know about any one else, Murphey controls my luck!,

    How about This- Wool socks, I have been an outdoor enthusiest all my life, and I swear by them, along with seam sealer and Camp-dry spray-on water proofer,

    and the 1 trick I learned from cycling, owning a 2nd or 3rd pair of shoes.

  32. JiMCi says:

    I’ve been using newspapers for years and it works just fine, but you have to remove it after a couple of hours to let the shoes air dry completely. So when I come from a late ride, I just put the shoes down in front of my basement portable de-humidifier. The shoes are perfectly dry the next morning.

  33. cyclepete says:

    JulieD – thanks for the Keen sandal reference. Those look ideal, although pricey.

    CanadaBoy – I have ridden with sandals plus wool socks and gortex oversocks down to about 25F (-14C) . Perfectly comfortable. I imagine they’d be fine down much colder. But in the low 20s or colder I wear boots as there is no chance of wet feet at those temps.

  34. gear says:

    If you have an interest in keeping your bike shoes dry (rather than methods of drying them once they are wet).

    Try toe warmers (easier to install than full shoe covers) with some rubber glued to the top to cover the top of your shoes. I made mine using toe warmers and cutting the top off Totes. My shoes stay dry even in a downpour. Of course I have fenders with a decent sized mud flap.

  35. Sean says:

    Has anyone tried using gaiters for inclement weather commutes? I’m considering gaiters to keep the water from entering the top of the shoe around the ankles and to keep the bottomw of the pant, sock, ankle and opening of shoe area not just warm and dry but free of mud, too. What do you think? Might a gaiter work for this?

  36. Fritz says:

    I’ve used gaiters in combination with Goretex hiking boots; they work well for cycling in the rain.

  37. LoneRider says:

    love the computer screen trick.

    I was working at a bar-b-que joint when I was in school, and I distinctly remember the cheff asking me if I wanted to dry my socks in the oven after I rode in thru the rain. Hope he was joking…

  38. rayman says:

    I am a big fan of plastic grocery bags. I put each foot in them with the shoe and tie the bags handles to the outside of the leg. I then put on the rainpants and they strap over the bags. Sure the bags rip, but who cares, most of them are just sitting around anyway……..if your shoes do get wet – put the bag over your dry socks before putting on you shoes.

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