“Do I really need waterproof socks?” some skeptics ask. Think about it like this: no one talks about scurvy anymore, but we all still need to eat fruit. Wet socks are the bane of comfort’s existence. What’s more, moisture can even cause more serious conditions due to the easy, rapid growth of bacteria that damp conditions promote. As objects, shoes lack enough airflow to really sufficiently dry out with your feet in them, leaving you to face another obscure ailment of a former era—trench foot. While waterproof hiking boots and other footwear are a crucial start to any outdoorsman’s kit, even they can only go so far.
Life brings unexpected challenges, especially out in the wild. Significant sums of water can overwhelm even the most powerful waterproof hiking boots. There’s as many adventures as there are people under the sun, lending all kinds of nuance to the process of finding the best waterproof socks to suit your particular circumstances. Save yourself the suffering by investing in a great pair of waterproof socks for those times when protection proves especially crucial. We’ve got the most important factors to look out for and a few tailored options that promise to keep your feet totally dry in the face of every unexpected challenge, and adventure.
Waterproof socks function with assistance from three separate layers—two knit layers on the interior and exterior, and then a waterproof membrane layered in between.
Do I Really Need Them?
Yes, but we’ll be honest, not all the time. There’s a few reasons we recommend waterproof sock wearers exercise discretion in the situations that require this gear. By virtue of their purpose, these socks are not breathable. That means they can cause smells, and even worse. They’re also bulky, and might only be able to fit in more utilitarian shoes. Fortunately, today’s modern innovations have helped to mitigate some of these problems, as higher tech fabrics can maintain their waterproof rating while opening up avenues for new airflow. Donning your waterproof socks with committed intention not only manages these varied factors, but also ensures your new waterproof socks last you through the maximum mileage.
How Do They Work?
Waterproof socks function with assistance from three separate layers—two knit layers on the interior and exterior, and then a waterproof membrane layered in between. The outer layer protects the sock from abrasion against your boots, while the inner layer provides additional comfort for your (impressively dry) feet. The materials these layers are crafted from often differ to suit their distinct functions—outer layers favor the toughness that materials like nylon provide, while inner layers lean more towards organic materials like bamboo. Oftentimes that middle membrane also works to wick perspiration away from your feet without allowing external water to seep in. While watching a fully submerged waterproof sock keep its wearer’s feet completely dry can feel like a magical process, the mechanics are actually a rather straightforward arrangement of just a few materials.
What to Consider When Searching for Waterproof Socks
First and foremost, consider what activities you plan to use your new waterproof socks for. Then consider what footwear that activity typically requires, whether it’s hiking boots or bike shoes. Consider the thickness of your waterproof socks in relation to this shoe. They should fit comfortably in order to provide maximum utility.
Not even all waterproof socks are alike! Each one comes with its own waterproof rating, a metric to measure the maximum volume of water your socks can withstand. This sometimes correlates with a bulkier or tougher sock. Keep your eyes out for information listed in the product description that can help you leverage these two most necessary factors against each other. The waterproof-ness really is the point, after all!
Depending on both personal preference and the inherent function of whatever you’re using your waterproof socks for, breathability can fluctuate in importance. However, your socks should always maintain a baseline measure of breathability, simply for sheer comfort’s sake.
Those inner and outer knit layers of your waterproof socks can significantly alter the user experience with one minute tweak. Warmer fabrics like Merino Wool on the inside offer the benefit of also keeping your feet dry AND toasty for those warmer, snowy months. On the other hand, lighter weight knits present the inverse effect.
In the spirit of actively combating the waterproof sock’s innate ability to give cozy housing to bacteria, opting for antibacterial waterproof socks (more common than you might think!) will prove safer, keeping blisters or any other accidental injuries from risk of infection.
If you hope to wear your waterproof socks often, or hope to protect their longevity, take a studied note of necessary aftercare procedures. It will make all the difference. Sure, maybe a very niche pair of waterproof socks will present unimaginable benefits, but it might also cost an arm and a leg (and a foot!) in dollar bills and time to clean between wears.
While socks generally don’t get too crazy on the monetary front until you creep into haute couture, waterproof socks still cost a little bit more than your typical Hanes six pack. Consider the invaluable bit of gear just like any other tool in your arsenal—an object worth investing in, according to your own budget.
The Best Waterproof Socks to Keep Your Feet Totally Dry
For biking: Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Bike Socks
I don’t know about you, but hiking is definitely the first activity that comes to my mind when I imagine a need for waterproof socks. Allow me to check my preconceived notions at the door and consider the complete utility of wearing waterproof socks along for a bike ride. These waterproof socks from Showers Pass are designed to fit bike shoes, equipped with light cushions to keep you riding on air. At the same time, they offer CoolMax™ fibers that promote breathability and moisture wicking, along with antibacterial properties. These waterproof socks are reliable and ready for any surprise twist, on and off your bike.
Most durable: Rocky 11″ GORE-TEX® Waterproof Socks
These incredibly protective 11” goretex waterproof socks possess an exterior crafted from one of the most durable materials on the market. GORE-TEX’s proprietary material is windproof, waterproof, and breathable, all to an unprecedented degree. While these socks do rank a little more expensive than others on the market, the reviews rave time and again that they’re hyper-durable and worth every penny in providing return on your investment. Take it from recent reviewer Mclovin: “Used these socks biking from Banff to Mexico through all types of conditions. These saved my feet so many times. 10/10 worth the price. I hate wet & cold feet and these are my savior.”
Most Lightweight: Lightweight Waterproof Socks – Crosspoint Classic by Showers Pass
If you’re looking to keep it compact throughout your potentially aquatic travels, Showers Pass also offers a very lightweight waterproof sock that minimizes extra bulk. Ideal for cycling, running, and generally keeping light in the feet, these waterproof socks also contour to your feet naturally, providing an even better fit with every wear. Emphasizing airflow and movement, this bit of gear still promises to protect your feet against damp conditions with ease. Showers Pass keeps it lightweight even past showtime—the straightforward aftercare for these waterproof socks says you can simply stick them in the washing machine and then the dryer, taking care to flip them inside out halfway through to fully dry out this hardworking bit of outdoor gear.
Max coverage: Waterproof Cold Weather Knee Length Sock
Sealskinz took the whole sock game by storm, saving feet from all kinds of squalls with their seal sock that’s high tech, comfortable, reliable, and impenetrable to all damp. As such, their cult classic waterproof socks cost a little bit more than companions on the market, but with good reason. This knee-length offering comes equipped for cold weather with a cozy Merino Wool interior to trap warmth while releasing moisture. In terms of protection against the elements and sheer surface area, this knee-length sock extends that warmth all the way up your calves, working triple duty to insulate you against the most rough-and-tough excursions available off the beaten trail.
Low Rise: Ankle Socks by Randy Sun
Randy Sun offers a handy silhouette to suit an even wider array of waterproof necessities. Their lightweight, breathable ankle socks make a perfect fit for running sneakers and other casual wear more at home on the streets than a hike. RS-Tech Three-Layer Construction features a predominantly nylon exterior and an interior crafted mostly from Coolmax, the company’s favored fabric for keeping feet moisture, heat, and bacteria free. Moderate cushioning and seamless construction keep you on your feet in these ankle socks for miles and miles.
Most loved: Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Length Sock
Last but not most least, the most-loved sock on this list comes at you again from Sealskinz. Their waterproof, cold weather crew sock hits the optimal, most versatile length—long enough to protect your ankle above the shoe line, but not so long that this waterproof sock grows cumbersome. This seal skin sock ranks the most reviewed on the company’s website, and has earned a stunning 5-star average across all that real customer input. Making use of their proprietary, super waterproof membrane, only those actual user experiences fully capture just how much praise this most loved waterproof sock deserves. John H. weighs in on wearing this gear with non-specialized shoes: “I was really impressed with my SealSkinz waterproof socks. I wore them over a pair of liner socks. Kept my feet dry and warm through long wet grass on a 100 kilometre challenge walk wearing trainers. Would highly recommend them.”