Keeping your feet dry during a hike is tantamount to being comfortable! Wet shoes or boots are an inevitable part of hiking in areas with rain or flooding. A good pair of waterproof socks can improve your comfort level while hiking in wet footwear, guard your feet against dangerous conditions brought about by moisture, and drastically improve your body warmth!
BUT CAN PROPER SOCKS ACTUALLY WARM MY BODY?
YES! When you run the risk your body temperature dropping due to exposure to the elements, understanding your physiology can make an vital difference in how you adapt to the environment. As you start to feel cold, follow these three easy steps! With this personal assessment, you can take a proactive approach to warming yourself up!
QUICK STEP ONE: THE HEAD
If you are feeling cold, you have most likely already donned a jacket, or zipped up your jacket to try and conserve warmth in your core. But did you know that a human body loses an incredible amount of heat through the head and ears? This is the first place to look if you don’t feel as if you are warming up quickly. Putting on a beanie or even the hood to your jacket can make a massive difference when trying to keep warm.
QUICK STEP TWO: THE EXTREMITIES
OK, our core is insulated and our head is covered, what next? Your body needs to pump blood to your arms and legs in order to keep moving and stay warm. When hiking, you are already putting strain on your internal systems. As your body begins to conserve energy, imagine it is making a list of priorities; first and foremost, the heart and brain need to be conserved. After this your internal and reproductive organs, and finally your arms and legs. Hands and feet are lowest in this internal prioritizing – a human can function quite efficiently without them!
SO having your feet well insulated and dry can make a massive difference as your body begins to conserve energy. This means you will stay comfortable long after your body begins to divert energy to other areas.
QUICK STEP THREE: WATER
Water conducts heat far better than air does! This means if there is water in contact with any part of your skin, it will cool you by removing your surface heat faster. It is imperative to stay dry. If you have addressed the first two steps but still feel cold, it is time to get out of the elements and dry off.
A good pair of waterproof socks can not only insulate your feet, but your lower calves as well, making this an extremely useful piece of gear to carry in wetter, cooler climates.
I was hiking along the Continental Divide Trail in Montana and my hiking partners decided to go with waterproof socks. I chose to use a pair of waterproof boots and gaiters in hopes that I would keep dry, even though we knew we were headed to a place where our footwear would constantly be wet and muddy from trail conditions and stream crossings. While my companions stayed dry, I spent several weeks with wet socks and wetter boots; sometimes there is no substitute for good waterproof socks!
REMEMBER, WET FEET = BLISTERS! Not only do moist conditions in your shoes become breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria, but the wet fabric can rub and create painful blisters. Keeping your feet dry and comfortable is crucial to being happy during your hike! When every step brings a wince of pain, you stop focusing on the beautiful natural world around you and begin to worry about your feet.
Another popular option is to carry waterproof socks for a hike in sandals, to insulate in the cold. I have logged many a mile in tough hiking sandals and I can agree, after a certain drop in temperature the waterproof sock is perfect to insulate your feet while you hike!
Let’s talk about what makes a great waterproof sock!
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
• CONSTRUCTION: A standard construction of a good waterproof sock is three layers, a abrasion resistant outer shell, a sweat-wicking inner layer, and a waterproof, breathable membrane in between! I will highlight the specific materials used in each of my top picks.
• LENGTH: Most waterproof socks will be mid-length or higher. Depending on the thickness of your calves, you may opt for a shorter length for maximum comfort.
• ANTI-MICROBIAL: A pair of waterproof socks needs to be anti-microbial, to prevent odors and also dangerous bacteria from flourishing!
• HIGH MVTR: This refers to the moisture to vapor transmission rate, and the higher, the better in terms of breath-ability!
A NOTE ON NEOPRENE
At one time, neoprene socks were your only option when considering a waterproof thermal sock. Neoprene is not super breathable, nor does it insulated in the best manner for high-activity hiking. Neoprene can insulate best while a thin layer of water is surrounding your skin, like in a wetsuit for scuba diving.
Neoprene socks are great for surfers, rafters, kayakers, or people participating in water sports during which time their feet will remain submerged or partially submerged in water. They can also be great for hikers, hunters, and outdoors enthusiasts who are headed into boggy areas where wet feet are absolutely guaranteed! If you are looking for the absolute most waterproof sock on the market, go with neoprene – but be warned, breath-ability will suffer!
The Best Waterproof Socks for Hiking
TOP PICK #1 FOR BEST WATERPROOF SOCK – THE SEALSKINZ WATERPROOF MID-LENGTH AND WATERPROOF MID KNEE SOCKS
I am including an option for both mid-length hikers and full mid-knee waterproof socks in my first Top Pick because this comes down to a question of preference and need. However, whichever length you decide will best suit your body and your adventures, you can not go wrong with Sealskiz Waterproof Socks! This company is not only the industry standard in waterproof socks, but continues to refine their technology to stay competitive as other companies enter the marketplace.
THE SEALSKINZ MID-KNEE ALSO WINS MY TOP CHOICE FOR BEST WATERPROOF BOOT SOCK!
The length is perfect for hiking boots – the top of the sock ends just below the full-length gaiters I use and keeps everything dry and toasty!
- Outer (mid-length) - 62% Polypropylene/29% Nylon/9% Elastane, Outer (mid-knee) - 90% Nylon/10% Elastane
- Merino wool and synthetic inner layers keep your keep dry and comfortable
- Elastic bands to keep your socks in place
- Durable; will last for many miles!
- Mid-weight socks great for a variety of climates
- Can be snug on larger calves – test at home first! Depending on your calf shape, the mid-knee can be prone to slide down while hiking.
TOP PICK #2 FOR BEST WATERPROOF SOCK – THE DEXSHELL ULTRALIGHT WATERPROOF BAMBOO SOCKS
Dexshell is another great brand that will pop up when you are reading about waterproof socks and waterproof soc reviews. I love these Bamboo lined waterproof socks – as an ultralight hiker, these strike a nice balance between waterproof and compatibility with my trail runner and mid-length gaiters.
- Nylon outer
- Porelle® waterproof breathable membrane used in the inner lining
- Inner sock is constructed from 70% bamboo rayon (viscose) and nylon
- Durable, lightweight, and super dry!
- Seamless for the perfect fit
- Available in large and XL sizes (for everyone like me who struggles with finding footwear and socks in extended sizes!)
- Not as waterproof as my #1 picks
- Dry time is long – best left overnight to fully dry
TOP PICK #3 FOR BEST WATERPROOF SOCK – THE NRS HYDROSKIN 0.5 SOCK
Since this article is about waterproof hiking socks, I am going with the NRS 0.5 for my Top Pick #3; NRS makes a thicker neoprene sock which is better suited for other activities, but while hiking 0.5mm neoprene is about the thickest I feel comfortable using. This sock is waterproof. The NRS Hydroskin wins my award for most waterproof sock, and also best neoprene waterproof sock on the market today!
- Ready for your wettest adventures in the back country with a 0.5mm Hydroskin outer and DWR coating!
- Anatomically constructed for best fit
- ThermalPlush® Lining
- Not as breathable as my first Top Picks
TOP PICK #4 FOR BEST WATERPROOF SOCK – THE HANZ WATERPROOF CALF-LENGTH SOCK
I am going to end my top picks with the Hanz Lightweight Waterproof socks – these socks can keep you dry and comfortable in any condition!
- Wool liner
- Seamless construction
- MADE IN THE USA!
- Not as waterproof as my other top picks!
- Can wear quickly without proper care
I wish you happy trails and dry feet on your next adventure!
Questions or comments? Shoot me an email here to discuss further!