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Versus: Waterproof Socks

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Riding in the wet is just plain fun. If your trails allow it, splashing through puddles, dancing over root tangles and generally giving your inner 5-year-old permission to run rabid makes for a hoot of a time. But let’s be honest, for some of us, if we don’t ride in the wet we aren’t riding for half the year. And there’s only so many rain dances our inner child can perform before they want to go inside for some hot cocoa. Cold digits, wet chamois and mud-filled grins are all on the list of unpleasant side effects of wet weather riding. What about wet, cold toes? Well, you can cross that one off the list forevermore. 

Waterproof socks have been a thing for a long time, let’s just put that out there first. I remember picking up a pair of ol’ SealSkinz over 15 years ago—I also remember them being marginally better than the ol’ plastic bag over the sock routine. But that was 15 years ago. Technology has improved quite a bit since then. 

The following are three pairs of waterproof socks that stood up to a season of testing abuse. This included many, many wet and muddy rides, as well as few months of regular use on mid-winter construction job sites. While each pair has its own unique traits, there are some commonalities to be drawn. This roundup will look a bit different in that respect, as I’ll cover the main points first before diving into each individual sock.

First, all three pairs are waterproof. As in, wear saturated shoes all day (seriously, I tried this) and your feet will stay dry. There are never any ifs, ands or buts on this point—feet dry, period. Unless, of course, water entered through the top of the sock. This is the only weak point of the socks, and has imperative implications. Basically, the socks don’t work if you don’t wear pants. Water-resistant pants are best, but any pants work to keep water from dripping down your leg and wicking into the sock. 

Don't do this. Waterproof socks aren't like a dry suit—water will get in from the top.

Moving on, all three pairs use a three-layer system: an inner fabric to wick sweat and provide cushion, a waterproof-breathable membrane and an outer protective layer. Those three layers add a bit of bulk, about half a shoe size, which may cause some fit issues. Especially when it comes to warmth, shoving your foot in a tight shoe and sock combo will reduce blood flow and can make things cold, even if you stay dry. 

Regardless of the bulk factor, waterproof socks have quickly become a staple of my winter kit, and I throw them on more often than I do even a rain jacket. Often trails are just wet and puddles deep, and I’ll get soaked feet even if it’s not raining, which is especially awful when it’s near freezing. Wet feet are uncomfortable, but wet and cold feet are something else entirely. It’s sometimes said that keeping your hands and feet warm makes the biggest difference in cold-weather comfort, and after feeling the difference waterproof socks make, I’d agree with that sentiment. 

On that note, let’s get into what differentiates each sock, as they each cater to some uses over others. Sizing, however, is true across the board, and refer to the manufacturers’ sizing charts for your shoe size.

Showers Pass Crosspoint | $45

Showers Pass offers a whole smattering of sock options, but for the most part they are tailored toward riding and hiking. The cut is average, extending about a third the way up the calf, a length that provides an adequate overlap between pant and sock.  I’ve found myself wearing the Crosspoint the most often out of these three test socks—they’re just too darn comfortable to pass up. The Crosspoints I have are the wool option, a cold-weather version featuring a merino wool blend as the inner layer, which feels just like any other high-quality wool sock I’ve worn. The moisture-wicking qualities are great, and odors tend to be milder than the other options. Additionally, the tech membrane is designed in such as way that it minimizes bunching, making the sock feel like, well, just a sock—the other two pairs have a seam along the top of the foot, whereas the Crosspoint does not. If I know I’ll be in waterproof socks all day, I’m more apt to throw on the Crosspoints just for the comfort factor.

The Crosspoint has the most comfortable interior and has become my go-to for all-day affairs.

The downside the Crosspoint is that the shorter mid-calf cut means you need to watch your step if there are any stream crossings. And if you don’t wear pants, you’ll definitely be getting wet feet from water dripping down inside the sock. The upside of the mid-calf cut is that they are cooler on warmish-but-still-wet fall and spring days, and they’re easier to take on and off (none of the socks are very stretchy). They’re also the thinnest sock in test, by a smidge, so if your shoes are already a bit of a tight fit, the Crosspoint is your best bet.

Showers Pass offers numerous versions of the Crosspoint, including a lightweight “thin” version. Check them all out at showerspass.com.

Randy Sun Knee High Cold Weather | $37

If you want maximum warmth and coverage, look no further than Randy Sun’s sock. With a true knee-high cut, these puppies will keep your puppies warm and toasty all day long. Seriously, the extra insulation and wind/water-blocking all the way up the shins make a massive difference in the coldest and wettest conditions. As a bonus, you can wade with confidence through fairly deep water with these. If you’re a die-hard shorts wearer, you might also get away with these as they extend far enough to be tucked under some kneepads or knickers to protect from water ingress. 

From the real-world bar graph, the Randy Sun socks clearly take the cake on coverage.

Sounds great! What the catch? Well, they’re hot in anything other than the worst conditions—I usually don’t wear them when it’s above freezing. The inner lining isn’t as plush as the Showers Pass Crosspoint either, so all-day comfort isn’t quite on par. Finally, they’re difficult to put on if you have big feet, because like any waterproof socks, these aren’t overly stretchy. On the flip side of that, once the Randy Suns are on, they are form-fitting and secure so they won’t slide down on a rough track.

Randy Sun offers a few other models of waterproof socks in addition to the Knee High Cold Weather, check them all out at randysun.com.

WORN Highwater | $46

To round out the bunch, WORN’s Highwater steps in. It’s a “boot-height” sock, and while I’m not sure if that’s a technical term, the Highwater is roughly mid-calf, slightly lower than the Crosspoint. The Highwater is marginally bulkier than the Crosspoint, which provides a bit more insulation in cold temps if you have the space in your shoe for it. There’s encircling arch support, so while your piggies have room to wiggle, the sock doesn’t ever feel loose, and the cuff is taught enough to stay up even when soaking wet. The Highwater excels on cold but mostly dry rides where you’ll want to keep your feet dry and warm, but where you won’t be forging any rivers—think snowy climates or spring thaw. It has enough coverage to keep everything dry and provide a layer between a wet pant leg and shin, but not to the extremes that the Randy Sun socks go. For me, they’re comfortably useable all fall, winter and spring, not just the coldest months, which make them a bit more versatile than the Randy Sun socks.

The Highwater is the only sock here with arch support. It's also the sock with the most room in the toes to fit a hand-warmer packet on cold days.

The lining of the Highwater is also a merino wool-blend, which stays comfortable all day and wicks moisture nicely. It’s a tad thicker than both the Crosspoint and Highwater, and with the added room inside the sock, it’s possible to wear an additional liner sock (or hand warmer packet!) inside if temps really plummet.

Check out the WORN Highwater at wornbrand.com.