Keeping your feet warm during a hiking trip is one of the most important things to consider when you are selecting what to bring with you. Warm and dry feet can make or break a trip you have been planning for months, so come prepared.
Although Neoprene is most famously used in wetsuits for divers and kayakers, there are plenty of options for hikers looking for a waterproof, durable, and insulating sock design. Neoprene socks are a must-have for anyone looking to hike around in a wetter area, such as around a lake, across a river, or simply walking in the rain.
What Is Neoprene?
Neoprene is a sort of synthetic rubber that stays fairly flexible over a large range of temperatures. This is a popular material that is usually found in different aquatic activities such as fly fishing, kayaking, swimming, diving, etc. This is because it proves wonderful insulation against the cold, and it is quite buoyant, so divers that use these for wetsuits have to wear weights to dive. This has grown to be very reliable and a sought after material for its many uses.
This material can be found in a variety of things, such as:
- Laptop Sleeves
- Fan Belts
- Electrical Insulation
- Mouse Pads
- Piano Hammer Tips (Rhodes)
- Hydroponic Gardening Systems
- Halloween Masks
Benefits of Neoprene
Neoprene is a relatively cheap material; especially if you consider the many uses and benefits that it carries. Environmentally it is not the best material to produce, given that it is created using carbon-based products such as oil, and the chemicals in Neoprene have been able to cause slight allergic reactions in some individuals (there are a few brands that are hypoallergenic for people with sensitive skin, as listed below).
But even with these cons, there are many pros to using this material:
- Flame and Chemical Resistance
- Heat Resistant
- Vibration Dampening
- Resistance to Tearing and Weathering
- UV Ray Resistant
Types of Footwear for Hiking
Heres a common myth busted for you: when your socks and shoes get wet, you will get blisters. This is not true.
Wearing tight-fitting shoes that trap perspiration inside your socks that cannot get dry because your shoes can’t breathe is the problem. Blisters are created by friction between your socks and your skin, moisture is prone to soften your skin giving more opportunity for blisters to break out.
For hiking, you will need a thin pair of quick-drying socks that will hold as little as possible and to keep your feet warm.
If you are planning to be in an area that is prone to be very wet, Neoprene socks are going to be your best bet. They are waterproof and at the same time warm, so getting yourself a thin pair of these socks will keep your foot warmer when you plan on crossing streams.
This, of course, is all for naught if you have the wrong shoes for this adventure. I once hiked (on accident) 5 miles in knee-deep snow in the Banff Wilderness with highly breathable sneakers, but the most waterproof socks I could get my hands on…
If you don’t have the right shoes then the best socks in the world will not save you; trust me.
Neoprene is a great option because they are warm and waterproof, although they are not very comfortable and they don’t breathe very well. Remember, 100% waterproof means 100% unbreathable. This may not be a very comfortable option, but you will be drier.
Examples of Neoprene Socks
Neoprene socks come in thickness between 1-5mm. A thinner sock will give you more protection in warmer climates when you need to be cooler, but a thicker sock is used when you need more warmth and vise versa. Here is a list of some of the most popular socks on the market:
These socks come out to be about $10 with 3mm neoprene which is good intermediate material for cooler water. They come with 4-way stretch material, meaning that it stretches in each direction so that it fits the form of your foot. This eliminates the possibility of water or sand getting into your socks, and the snugness of the socks helps protect against blisters; although this will wear off in time so be warned (Site).
These socks also just go up to your ankles, so be wary of that. The area above this section will be unprotected from the elements.
These socks are just a tad more expensive but they come with a high-top design to cover your lower shins better than the above model. They are a bit thinner at 2mm so they are better for warmer climates. This model emphasizes its ability, even though it is a thinner sock, to keep you warmer than other models so be aware of that.
Many reviewers note that you should consider sizing them down a bit, which could be true for most models that have a 4-way stretch design, as these ones do. They also seem to be quite durable over a few years of usage, so making the investment in these could be a very good idea.
Mares Equator 2mm Dive Boots (Amazon)
An interesting alternative style for particularly wet areas. At least I didn’t include these in the list because they are obviously diving boots, but I have seen a few reviews that say that for wadding through a river for an extended period of time these boots are very helpful. A bit unconventional to say the least, but if you double as a diver as well as a hiker, these could make for a good investment coming in at about $25 for select models.
These are more durable, obviously being that they are “boots”, so the rocky creeks of Glacier would make for a fun wadding adventure for you and your friends. Lastly, these have decent gripping so they would be helpful when you and your friends choose to take “the road less traveled upon”.
AKONA Low Cut Socks (Amazon)
These are a great moderate model for the low price of $15. They come with a good balance of comfort and protection with Vulcan soles, Achilles pull-tabs in a low-cut design so it’s easier to get your foot in, and 4-way stretching. These are another pair of socks used primarily for diving but there are many reviewers that have used these socks on different trips such as to Zion for a hiking trip, and there are little to no complaints of their ability to keep feet dry and warm.
These also come in 2mm nylon reinforced Neoprene, so they are best suited for warmer waters. Although, they do not have much traction on the bottom side of the socks, so be careful especially where there are good amounts of algae collecting at the bottom of rivers and lakes. You should be wearing the right shoes for such a venture anyways, ones that have good traction and grip.
This is a good multi-use sock that is good for scuba diving, swimming, watersports, and hiking for around $20. These socks are unique in that they are hypoallergenic and completely petroleum-free, so people with sensitive skin should feel safe buying these socks. They have great grip and a 4-way stretch system like most other Neoprene socks.
What also makes these special is the way they are described in the review section of their Amazon page; there are virtually no complaints about them not fitting well. All reviewers say something along the lines of them being very comfortable and versatile.
Heimarmene Neoprene Socks 3mm (Amazon)
At the time of writing this article, these socks come out to an impressive $10 per pair. These have been used in all sorts of events and activities, such as one user using it for a triathlon and they rave about how these socks were such a huge help to them to achieve what they wanted to achieve. There are truly no complaints with these socks, so these are a safe and viable option for those looking for a cheap pair of socks for their next adventure.
Any of these socks will do for your next hiking trip in a particularly wet area, it all depends upon your personal preference and needs. Making a hike with wet and cold feet is just an experience that you don’t want to have to deal with during your wild getaway, so do yourself a favor and plan ahead. With proper planning and caution on the trail, this should not be a problem for the well-informed hiker.
Consider Neoprene socks to bring in your pack, and you will feel all the more ready for whatever awaits you on your next trip.