The primary components of footwear include shoes and socks, but it isn’t always that simple. Depending on the activity, footwear can be as simple as a pair of sandals or as complicated as waterproof boots, shoe covers, gaiters, crampons, and multiple pairs of socks.
So, in this wide spectrum, where do waterproof socks fit in?
As a self-proclaimed adventurer — my resume includes thousands of miles hiked, multiple bike tours, and overnight camping in most kinds of weather — I’d say waterproof socks might be useful in very specific situations. In all of my explots, though, I’ve never owned a pair of waterproof socks and likely never will. I haven’t used them because there is either more functional gear available or because waterproof socks not only keep moisture out, they keep the sweat in.
For a general overview about different sock types and uses, REI has a great article called “Socks: How to Choose.” A big takeaway from that guide includes the following fun fact about feet: “Each of your feet are densely covered with about 250,000 eccrine sweat glands, making feet one of the sweatiest places on your body.”
Waterproof socks find their use when consistent water and/or cold weather are involved. If a trip involves multiple cold river crossings or any situations where loss of warmth could be dangerous, consider using a waterproof sock or over sock to stay dry and warm. In most other scenarios, waterproof socks are made obsolete by proper gear. When hiking, waterproof boots or shoes and a good pair of wool socks will be more functional (and less sweaty) than waterproof socks. When biking, a proper shoe cover will cover and keep shoes, socks, and feet dry. When paddling or surfing in cold water, booties will serve their purpose better than waterproof socks.
Although not a necessary article in everyone’s adventure kit, waterproof socks are useful in very specific situations or can be an easy and affordable item to keep your feet dry without investing in other, pricier gear. We’ve pulled together a few products that are worth checking out:
DexShell Hiking Trekking Socks – $40
These socks are built with three layers to keep your feet dry. The outer layer is abrasion and water resistant nylon, the mid-layer is waterproof and breathable, and the inner sock provides comfort and moisture-wicking properties. This sock stands out over purely synthetic socks because the inner layer is 40 percent Merino wool, which is naturally warm and moisture-wicking. Due to these abilities, wool doesn’t develop bad odors since it quickly eliminates the opportunity for bacteria to develop.
Rocky 11″ Gore-Tex Waterproof Socks – $60
If you’re familiar with high-quality rain jackets, then you likely know that GORE-TEX is the industry standard for a breathable and waterproof layer. If you want to stop water from coming in while letting your own moisture escape, this sock is your best bet. With quality comes a price tag, which is about $60. If you are looking for warmth as well, you might consider sizing up on this sock to fit a Merino wool sock underneath.
Randy Sun Waterproof Socks – $18
Similar to the Dexshell socks, these are built with three layers to keep your feet dry. Instead of a wool inner layer, though, these socks use a synthetic coolmax. For anyone that is allergic to wool, these are a great option. The socks come in a variety of colors and patterns at an affordable price.
Article originally published May 1, 2017. Last updated March 27, 2018.