By Greg May
Like it or lump it, if you live in the UK and intend to ride this winter, at some point, you are going to get wet feet. For many, this can be an event that will cause a ride to either end up in the pub earlier than planned, or bring about a case of the screaming barfies as your feet finally get blood back in them and warm up again. I fall firmly in to the latter, suffering from horrendous hot aches in my feet and hands.
No waterproof sock is going to be 100% waterproof – owing to the massive hole in the top. Although a winter boot may be a better way to go, they are more expensive and if you ride flats, not always a great choice. On the assumption that your feet – and the socks – are going to get wet eventually, there’s a couple of other key features I like to look for in a ‘waterproof’ sock: how warm are they when wet; and how long do they take to dry. I’ve suffered some pretty horrendous weather to see what the best of the bunch is from the socks we have available to us across a variety of winter sports. You’re welcome.
Dex Shell Waterproof Wading Socks
At first look the Dex Shell socks struck me as being bulky. Once they went on my feet all worries were shed as they were so, so comfortable. With an acrylic lining facing a Porelle waterproof breathable membrane and outer nylon lining they are built to last, and hopefully shouldn’t smell up too bad and have a good chance of breathing while you squidge along.
Coverage is excellent with the sock terminating just below the knee with a sticky seal around the leg that did a great job of keeping water out when stood submerged to the thigh. Now, don’t expect that to be the case for long – we’re talking intermittent submersion, not continual.
Fit was great with no bunching around my moderately sized 43 feet (9.5UK) inside some Shimano shoes and they gave a nice semi-compressive fit to the calf muscle. I did wear these out hiking one day where it didn’t rain, and was pleasantly surprised that my feet had not got trenchfoot, so the breathability does at least work somewhat.
Overall: great fit, very high cut and no real downsides.
- Price, £34.95
- From, dexshell.co.uk
Reed Chillcheater Wader Socks
Over the years I’ve been intimately familiar with the special sort of looks you get while sporting Reed Chillcheater clothing. Reed have been making clothing for kayakers for years. I still have a pair of the short Aquatherm socks from when I was a slalom paddler, ten years ago, and they still work. The longer cut Aquatherm wading socks are the bigger brother and have a very high cut that keeps most of the water out. The main thing is, when the water gets in, Aquatherm starts to shine as it stays warm.
Although Aquatherm looks like a fabric that’s more akin to something you’d wear to special interest club on a Friday evening, it’s something I’ve come back to year after year. It just works, exceptionally well. It’s inherently designed to work when it gets wet. The main advantage, and the reason I always pack them for winter trips, is the bulk – or lack thereof. They are thin, super thin and if you’ve already got tight riding shoes they are not a bother to fit in over a thin sock, or just on their own.
With a choice of two lengths in the Aquatherm sock, it’s now hard for me to look much further. The longer cut for those properly horrendous days when the trails are closer to rivers. The short cut ones for the days that it is just moist underfoot. Maybe overkill, but at the low prices they come in at (£23 and £18 respectively) it really is an option. Just check for fit as they can be a bit love or hate.
- Price, £23.00
- From, chillcheater.com
Gore Universal Gore-Tex Socks
When it comes to all things waterproof you generally can’t thrown a stick without a product from Gore coming up in the list, usually near the top, and for good reason. These socks are Gores general purpose multi use Gore-Tex socks that are designed to cover a range of activities. The fit is a little on the baggy side and I found they were maybe a little bulky inside a narrow clipless shoe probably being a better fit for the inside of a hiking boot. The face fabric looks like it’ll take a good beating, and they dried out OK, faster than the Sealskinz and Dex, and a bit slower than the Reed socks.
The cut was lower than either of the previous socks while not being too short for keeping most of the water out duties. Ideally they could have been a bit tighter around the calf, but this was more down to the tested size rather than anything. Warmth was not something these socks deliver in any way and you’re going to have to wear another pair of socks underneath. So when, not if, they get wet it may be an idea to have another spare pair in the bag. This for me somewhat defeats the purpose of the Gore waterproof offering. If my foot gets wet, that’s ok, but I’d like it to stay warm and wet – something these didn’t do for some reason. Perhaps better under-sock choice needed on my part.
- Price, £39.99
- From, goreapparel.co.uk
Sealskinz Knee Length Socks
Hands down the most comfortable sock on test. The cut is great. The volume is spot on. The heel is snug, the instep stretches enough, the toe box issues that Seaslskinz of yore always had are gone. And the Merino lining, well frankly it is divine. Now, if I’m being picky, they are maybe a little bit too thick, so for someone who likes his shoes to fit snugly, they were a bit of an issue to cram in with my foot. Over time I’d expect the Merino to flatten out and this to be less of an issue, but out of the box it led to one or two colder than expected rides as blood circulation was restricted.
As expected the Sealskinz are highly waterproof. Unexpected was the lack of the Sealskin Crunch as we used to call it. That crinkly uncomfortable feeling like you’re wearing a packet of crisps on your foot. Breathability was ok on the one dry ride I had them on for, but drying time…well that wasn’t so quick, not a sock I’d be wearing on back to back multi day rides. Still, these are the go to sock for many people for a reason, I can’t see that changing.
- Price, £37.00
- From, sealskinz.com
My main bugbear with waterproof socks is this; you have to dry them twice, once on each side. The only sock where this doesn’t happen are the Reed Chillcheaters. Turn them inside out, wipe the face fabric with a cloth, then put them near a heat source – job done. Each of the other socks took extended periods of time to dry, so if you’re riding multiple days, or back to back, they are not really suitable. But, if the weather is that bad…do you really want to be riding?
Now, the other part is the smell and washing out said smell. The main reason I stopped using waterproof socks was the smell that built up in them over time, and the inevitable death of the sock if you washed it too much. And here is the bright light – several washes for each sock and they’ve been fine. No membrane bunching, no real changes in fit, and no discernible change in water resistance. For that, all these socks performed admirably.
For me, the dependable and merino lined Sealskinz win.
BEST DEALS ON SEALSKINZ SOCKS
|Brand:||Dexshell, Reed Chillcheater, Gore, Sealskinz|
|Product:||Waterproof Wading Socks, Wader Socks, Universal Gore-Tex Socks, Knee Length Socks,|
|From:||Dexshell, Reed, Gore, Sealskinz|
|Price:||£23 - £39.99|
|Tested:||by Greg for|