Socks are one of those accessories that often get overlooked by adventurers. No matter how good your water shoes are or how well your hiking boots can grip the slippery rocks in a stream bed, soaking socks can stop you in your tracks. Blisters, mildew, fungus, and general squishy discomfort can all haunt you if your feet get wet. To make sure you don’t have to cut a trip short or suffer throughout an entire day, you need to select a good pair of waterproof socks.
With socks that are waterproof you need to strike a balance between protection and comfort. If you just wanted a membrane to keep liquid out, you could always wrap a trash bag around your feet and bungee it closed, but don’t expect it to be enjoyable. You’ll need socks that can breathe, at least a little bit, and won’t hold in sweat, since that can dampen your excursion even on a dry day. Whether you’re a hiker heading for the hills, a surfer off to catch a wave, or a yacht racer going out to win America’s Cup, one of the 5 best waterproof socks will keep you afloat.
Pro: Exceptional durability
Con: Mostly ugly colors
Most for the Money: Dexshell is a relatively new company, especially in the United States, but they are likely to be The Next Big Name in waterproof outdoor gear because they do more than just offer gloves, socks, and gear to keep you dry. Their products are treated with anti-bacterial liners to help keep your foot healthy and kill off the nasty bugs that cause foul, unsexy odors. The outer shell from these socks is nylon that is abrasion resistant so they will last longer even if you wear them on grueling treks over mountains or through rainforests. They have a Porelle breathable membrane as their inner layer which is also capable of keeping water out. We chose the mid-calf sock since it was the best all-purpose, but you can find a Dexshell to fit whatever needs you have. They’re a steal, so snap them up before everyone finds out what a marvel they are. [Purchase: $31]
SealSkinz Waterproof Socks
Pro: Stretchable fabric
Con: Limited heat retention
Traditional Design: SealSkinz is the first name in waterproof socks for good reason. They broke the mold when they designed footwear that was not only capable of keeping water out, but also didn’t need to be worn with standard socks in order to be comfortable. They are composed of three layers that keep you dry and warm while also wicking away sweat. On the outside is a Lycra/Nylon Spandex layer that stretches to fit any foot and stay tight. The innermost layer is made of Coolmax yarn while an MVT membrane keeps water out.
There is no need to add a traditional sock with your SealSkinz, and doing so can actually reduce their efficacy. They provide sufficient thermal protection for most, but if you intend on kayaking some winter rapids, you might still need some supplementary layers, wool oversocks, or breakable heating pads so that you keep all your toes. You could also try SealSkinz Chillblocker line, though we don’t recommend them. [Purchase: $34+]
Hanz All Season Waterproof Socks
Pro: Very comfortable breathability
Con: Doesn’t work well when submerged for extended periods
All Weather: Hanz owns SealSkinz and one would think that they would be identical, but they certainly aren’t. Most of the Hanz direct line are intended specifically to be worn with an interior sock for added warmth and protection while most SealSkinz are geared to work as lone wolves. The advantage to Hanz is they are more specialized, though often insufficient when used alone. The all-season model is meant more for cyclists – both bike and motor – or hikers who will encounter a stream or need to ford a river.
Hard-core water sport enthusiasts won’t get all the waterproofing they need from these, since they also use multiple fabrics with a waterproof membrane. They breathe better than anything else so those with sweaty feet will find sweet relief. You can find thicker versions of Hanz for winter wear or more strictly waterproof versions if that is what you need, but for an accessory that works in summer and winter – when paired with the right shoes, boots, and accessories – there is no better wardrobe addition. [Purchase: $30]
Pro: Tight fit
Con: Do not breathe well
Compression Plus: These are only 1mm thick and meant to fit like a second skin. You can expect to get excellent waterproofing, but very little in the way of breathability. These are the socks you buy when you plan to do some diving or take on some whitewater rapids. They’ll keep you from getting soaked to the skin and can be shaken out quickly for fast drying under any conditions. They fit like a wetsuit and will hug every contour to prevent any pooling or puddling to occur. They can be used as a first line of defense when coupled with other socks, but you’ll need to buy them a few sizes bigger. While they are not true compression socks, if you get the right size they will give you some increased circulation, which is ideal for kayakers, canoers, or rafters who expect to have their legs stationary for long periods of time. [Purchase: $23]
Pro: High quality thermal protection
Con: Can be too warm for some activities
Winter Wear: These costly buggers are your first line of defense during the cold months. They have been worn to the highest and coldest parts of the world and been strapped on by those looking to plumb the lowest – and also coldest – depths of the sea. Waterproofing is their first priority, followed immediately by keeping your feet warm. The Gore-Tex inner shell does both admirably while the Lycra outer layer helps keep a perfect fit so that water can’t sneak in. All of the seams are Gore-Seam lined so that there is no gap for water to find its way in. They are generally light enough that you can wear them boating, though you may find your feet getting a little too toasty by the end of the trip. When coupled with a good thermal sock, expect these to really shine for sub-zero nights in the Yukon. [Purchase: $45+]
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