Llandegla Forest in Inov-8s and neoprene socks (Gear review)

A 9 mile walk around a very wet Llandegla Forest was the best I could manage for a “Christmas Walk” this year, but the weather was far from Christmassy.  Expecting heavy rain, which arrived by early afternoon, I set off in full waterproofs and with a change of clothes waiting for me in the car.

A typical view from today’s walk.

After the sogginess of the first week of this year’s TGO Challenge, I’ve been giving some thought to the problem of wet feet.  I’ve tried two pairs of Sealskinz socks and found that they don’t work.  Maybe I’ve had two dud pairs or maybe there is something I do that makes them fail, but my experience is not good.

I’ve tried Gortex-lined boots but there are two problems with those: 1 – I don’t like wearing boots and 2 – I always end up overtopping the boots and am left with more water on the inside than the outside.

So, another approach was called for: Neoprene socks worn with my Inov-8 Terrocs (308).

Neoprene SocksI bought these socks from the watersports section of my local sports shop and they cost a few pounds more than my usual Smartwool socks.  The brand is Jobe although, to be honest, I just bought whatever they had and, having never had neoprene socks before, I can’t compare this brand with any other.

The socks are shaped for each foot and there’s a helpful L or R printed inside each one.  Mine are a snug fit but not tight, although they only come in S, M and L rather than a full range of normal shoe/sock sizes.

I wore my Raidlight trail shoe gaiters, to try to keep mud and grit out of my shoes, and my waterproof trousers – so my ankles and the rear part of my feet were warm.  My toes, however, were quite cold to begin with and I was wondering whether I should have worn a pair of normal socks on top of the neoprene.  However, my hands were also cold, in spite of my gloves,  and all of my extremities warmed up once I’d been walking for 10 minutes.

Usually, when wearing woollen socks with my Inov-8 shoes, it does not take long before I step in a bog and water rushes into the shoe.  This does not have to be a deep bog; just an inch or two is deep enough for the water to flow in through the side of the shoe and soak my sock, which is a very unpleasant feeling.  This did not happen with the neoprenes or, rather, the water must’ve come into the shoe but it didn’t make my feet cold.  I deliberately left the path and picked my way across a heathery, mossy, bog for a couple of hundred metres.  When the water was only half way up my shoe I did not feel the cold at all.  When the water was above my ankle, yes it felt cold but my feet didn’t stay cold.

After about 2 hours of walking, I took a short lunchbreak and sat down for a rest.  I could tell that my feet were wet but they didn’t get cold while I was stationary – although I was only stopped for 15-20 minutes, so maybe this wasn’t a conclusive test.

Back at the car, after about 5 hours of walking, I removed the neoprene socks  and was not surprised to see two white blancmanges at the end of my legs.  My feet were absolutely soaking and soft, so this may be a problem for longer walks – although they feel fine now 4 hours later and seem to have dried out nicely.

Overall I was pleased with these neoprene socks on their first outing.  Today’s conditions were typical of at least a few days of every TGO Challenge I have done so I’m confident that they’ll be worth taking along next May.  My feet were as wet as if I’d been wearing my Sealskinz or Smartwool socks, but they stayed warm and that’s what I wanted.

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4 Responses to Llandegla Forest in Inov-8s and neoprene socks (Gear review)

  1. Alan R says:

    Hi Judith, Interesting post which i’m sure Gayle and Mick will find interesting. I experimented with a pair of neoprene gloves all last winter. I tried them both on there own and with a liner glove. The liner glove worked best. The problem is they sweat quite a bit and like you say the skin softens. I also found them quite cold when high up and in exposed situations. I also found that i had to turn them inside out to dry every day. Cutting a long story short i found them ok for warm wet day walks but not for long multi day walks.. They were a good idea but have now been relegated to the cupboard.

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  2. Judith says:

    Hi Alan. I do have a pair of wetsuit (neoprene) gloves which I bought for water-sports but have never considered wearing for walking, for some reason. I usually just wear cheapy meraklon “liner” gloves unless the rain is lashing down, when I put waterproof mitts over the top. I don’t think I’d want to wear the neoprene socks day-in-day-out, but they should be great for the odd day of bog and murk.

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  3. Tony Bennett says:

    Hi Judith. Just read this post. I always wore neoprene socks (wetsocks) when I went caving but often wore a thin pair of socks underneath, if I knew my feet were likley to be in cold water for long periods. I’ve probably walked miles around the Yorkshire Dales in wet socks and wellies, to and from cave entrances. I did find my feet slid around inside them a bit, so not so good contouring steep slopes for instance. Also, it’s worth getting them a bit on the big side. I ripped off both big toe nails on an expedition in the Canadian Rockies once wearing over tight wetsocks (ok, that’s probably too much information). On last year’s challenge (the bit I did of if it!), I was wearing Inov-8 Roclites and some ‘technical’ walking socks (can’t remember the make now), which have no wool content at all. They were extremely comfortable and overall my feet stayed warmer than in wool socks.

    Interesting that you don’t rate Sealskinz. I’ve considered buying pair but heard mixed reports, which overall have generally agreed with your findings.

    I’ve had a pair of neoprene cycling gloves for a few years. They’re ok in the summer but in cold weather they don’t keep my fingers warm, so I’ve given up wearing them.

    BTW does it always rain at Llandegla? I was there in August with the bike and got absolutely soaked!

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    • Judith says:

      Hi Tony. I’ve tried synthetic walking socks, years ago, and didn’t like them – but sock technology moves on so maybe I should try them again now that I usually wear shoes not boots. I, too, have a pair of Neoprene gloves which I bought for watersports. They do their job OK in a canoe, but I’m not sure they’d be comfy for walking as they’re not really a perfect fit (as I went for the cheap ones!)
      Does it always rain in Llandegla? Yes, I think so. I might be up that way again at the weekend so I’ll let you know!

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