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.
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).
I 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.