footwear for hiking connemara
August 25, 2009 12:25 AM   Subscribe

visiting ireland's west coast -- connemara, doolin, cliffs of moher -- for five days. planning to explore the area and do light hiking. will i be miserable if i have just regular athletic/running shoes that aren't waterproof?

I don't know the probability of my having to get through giant puddles etc. if we stick to established trails. I am not as worried about rain, we can just carry a large umbrella.

I didn't want to spray waterproofing onto my track shoes because I'm afraid it might make them less usable for actual running in future, or else change them in some way that impairs their original function. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Asking because I don't have that much money to spend on a new pair of waterproof hiking boots. I already own a pair but I left them somewhere I absolutely can't retrieve them from before the trip starts, which is why I'm reluctant to get a new pair that would lie around redundantly after this short trip.

Preferably I wouldn't have to spend any extra money but I've been looking for shoes below $20 like this (link to Amazon,Teva slip-ons), if Metafilter does say that I would really regret having non-waterproof shoes.
posted by swimmingly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you mind having wet feet? Giant puddles aren't so much a problem as constant water on the ground, so if you're wearing ordinary shoes, they will get wet, even if you're walking around towns. You could bring two pairs of shoes (actually, definitely do), so that one pair can dry while the other is being worn. There is almost no chance your shoes are going to stay dry, unless your trip is coincidentally one of the few totally dry weeks of the year, because the west gets a lot of rain and the ground itself rarely dries out. I wouldn't wear your running shoes unless you mind them being destroyed because the soaking will impair their function for certain.

That said, I think you've got a bigger problem:

I am not as worried about rain, we can just carry a large umbrella

This is not going to work at all, sorry. The west coast gets strong winds, and you've just named three coastal destinations which are REALLY exposed. If your umbrella doesn't immediately go inside-out, there's still the issue of much of the rain coming at you laterally, even in towns - bypassing the umbrella. If you're hiking at all, you're going to need waterproofs, unless you don't mind being completely soaked, and if you're walking around much even in towns or at tourist attractions, an umbrella will not keep you dry at all.

Sorry for the downer! The rain's kind of part of the deal, most of the time. Have a good trip.
posted by carbide at 1:16 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

The west coast is noticeably wetter than the east. If it does rain, expect a misty drizzle that lasts for hours and gets into everything. You're less likely to see the kind of brief, heavy downpours you see in other places. But weather being what it is, who can really say? You might get a heatwave.

If you can find nice wide well-trodden paths and trails, and if the weather isn't too damp, you may be lucky. In my experience it's not the big puddles that get you, it's the damp grass along the sides. Personally I'd take the not-too-expensive waterproof shoes, and break them out on the wet days. It's not wasted money - you're bound to need them again sometime.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:28 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: I went there last year (and actually am leaving for Ireland again this afternoon!) - I think I would not have been happy with track shoes. If you don't mind wet feet (and have another pair with you for the evenings), it's probably doable, but seems quite uncomfortable... All the hikes I remember had lots of slippery mud and puddles. Except if you just stay on the roads, but that would be a pity - walking along the rocky coast near Doolin was so wonderful!

Another thing:
I am not as worried about rain, we can just carry a large umbrella.
This won't do, in my experience, because Irish rain doesn't "fall", it's basically everywhere. Get a light raincoat/rainproof jacket, and a baseball cap or some kind of hat. Walking along the Cliffs of Moher with a large umbrella: not a good idea, it is very windy there and you have to watch your step! Again, you can just stay on the asphalt road there, but that would not be as nice...
posted by The Toad at 1:31 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: I can't say for sure about Ireland but I was just doing some walking around Scotland in normal runners and its not really 'puddles' there that are the probelm but finding yourself in a boggy peat marshy bit where 'the grass' seems to constaintly yeild about an inch or so leaving your foot entirely in a shallow puddle. - My shoes were soaked through for 3 days it was rather annoying.

The west coast of Ireland also has a lot of peat I think. so the terrain my be similar. I actually wished I'd worn my £4.00 Gum Boots and some thick socks.

And I second that a light Rain Coat will be more useful than an umbrella. (well in Scotland last weekend an umbrella would have been more trouble than it was worth).
posted by mary8nne at 4:28 AM on August 25, 2009

You might want to go to Goodwill and get a couple of old cashmere or other thin sweaters. Holes don't matter. They are good to layer with, should be cheap and would go well under the raincoat (and maybe rain pants) you probably should by.

My guess is that yes, your wet feet will be annoying. Even if it doesn't rain, if you walk through a field of grass your feet are going to get wet.

However, this is just a beautiful area, so it's worth it. You'll have a good pair of shoes for the future.
posted by sully75 at 4:55 AM on August 25, 2009

You could try waterproof socks. I've never used them but considered getting them once as I seemed to have constantly wet feet when I cycled to college (in Dublin). Another trick you can use for short intervals is a plastic bag over your sock. It works ok for an hour or two until the plastic bag wears through.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:19 AM on August 25, 2009

You never know, you might be lucky, we've had some really nice weather around this time in the last few years. That said, it's a given that you'll see rain if you are in the West.

Also, don't forget to bring some warm clothes. It's starting to get chilly now, it was 10C (50F) this morning. Brrrrrr!
posted by Elmore at 6:15 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: I've been to the cliffs of moher twice, and both times it was beautiful weather until we were a couple of miles from the cliffs, at which point it suddenly started raining. Stood on the cliffs you could see rain clouds forming about a mile away to the west and then vanishing again a few to the east.

If I was planning on walking there (which would be beautiful) I think I'd go for properly waterproof footwear. The rain seemed to come from all angles simultaniously - including from below.

Do not underestimate the power of the gulf stream to make that part of the world soggy. :)

God I want to go back to Ireland now...
posted by twine42 at 7:25 AM on August 25, 2009

If you get wet, waterproof shoes won't keep you absolutely dry anyway. But sliding, falling, hurting yourself would threaten your holidays... Maybe a pair of not totally waterproof cheap - but reliable - hiking shoes would make the trick. Just to make sure that you do not sprain your ankle.
posted by nicolin at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: I spent most of my spring break one year on the west coast of Ireland lining my shoes with plastic bags in a doomed (and unstylish) attempt to keep out the perpetual wetness. There's also a quite excellent photo of me on the Cliffs of Moher with a pink splotch in the air -- the pink splotch being my fancy umbrella that had been turned inside-out, whipped out of my hand, and sucked into the sky by a particularly nasty gust of wind.

Great place, but it's wet and windy and you'll want to plan much better than I did.
posted by scody at 11:07 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: We live in Co. Kerry 2-3 months a year (southwest) and I take two pair of shoes--running and good walking sandals (Chaco's). I would strongly advise against counting on your running shoes, they get soaked and take much to long to dry. I wear sandals--if my feet get wet, they get wet--wear them without socks or get appropriate socks. Good sandals dry quickly, can be worn in a variety of venues and are comfortable. You will need appropriate light weight rain gear. Umbrellas are useless except for going shop to shop in the villages or towns--even then they serve little purpose and may well be blown apart.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2009

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