Wet Feet

Wet Feet

As the cool kids say, it’s a thing. As in, wet feet are a thing, a thing you don’t want, as if its thingness was as easy to apprehend as a loaf of bread, like you could drop it in the trash or put it on a shelf. To be a cyclist who rides in places that are unpaved or simply to ride in the rain, means you have encountered wet feet. And the only thing worse than wet feet is a wet chamois, right?

Over the years I have tried all manner of booties. I’ve tried GoreTex socks. I’ve tried the latex VeloToze. They work to varying degrees and varying circumstances. None of those have been great in off-road situations. Of late, I’ve been wearing Sealskinz Waterproof Socks. Speaking of things, yeah, that’s a thing.

The problem I’ve experienced with so many solutions is that sooner or later water gets inside the bootie or your shoe and once that happens, the best you can hope for is that the water will at least be warmed by your body heat. Compounding these problems is the fact that I can’t fit booties over most of my shoes with lugged soles, and even if I could, I usually need those lugs at some point, so hiking around in booties, to use another term from the cool kids, is no bueno.

The Sealskinz MTB Thin Mid with Hydrostop is an unsual response to a common problem, but with an unfortunate name. It’s a mouthful that doesn’t mean much until you’ve really read through their site. Call it the Billy or the Runoff or something. Just give it a name and let the product description do the rest.

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The MTB Thin Mid is, relative to Sealskinz, a thinner sock intended to keep your feet dry when mountain biking. Hydrostop is a gripper (not silicone) that lines the inside of the sock just below the top of the cuff. That eliminates the opportunity of water running down your leg from entering the socks. What keeps water from soaking into the sock itself is Sealskinz proprietary Stretchdry fabric which is breathable and still waterproof. Windproof, too. The sock comes to mid-calf (hence the “mid” in the name) and I can say stays put in a rowdy four-hour ride.

It features a Merino lining inside. Warmth is not an issue with this sock, though that might change if you’re wearing it down into single digits or are prone to cold feet any time it gets down to freezing. Construction on the socks is excellent; Sealskinz went to the trouble to give the toe a seamless finish to prevent chafing.

I’ve ridden through standing water, shallow streams and I’ve even stood around on wet concrete post-ride just to see if water might soak through. It didn’t. After one recent ride I contemplated leaving the socks on for the drive home because my feet were still so comfortable and wasn’t in the mood to change socks in the driver’s seat of my car.

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Pulling a wet shoe off my foot and then removing the sock to encounter an essentially dry foot was surreal, like holding a chocolate bar for a half hour and it not melting.

It comes in a couple of colors, so if you’re not a fan of the olive, brown and orange, there is a black version as well.

My one caveat on these socks isn’t the $48 price tag. They do something that in some cases nothing else can accomplish and the combination of effectiveness and quality of materials and workmanship seems justified. What potential buyers need to understand is that Sealskinz’ idea of a “thin” sock is not exactly an objective measure. I suspect this sock is thinner than their other offerings, but they are the thickest socks in my drawer and I struggled to get my E-width Shimano shoes to open up enough to allow circulation in my feet. For anyone with a wide or high-volume foot, this will be a concern, but anyone who cinches their straps down to their limit, these might actually improve fit.

Final thought: Why try to waterproof a shoe when all you need is to waterproof the foot?

 


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6 comments

  1. Nik

    I like Specialized’s Defroster shoes for winter riding. The waterproofing is quite good and I can wear whatever socks I want.
    The only problem is that on a ride over an hour with more than light rain, eventually water runs down my shins into the shoes, and it can’t get out.
    I’ve heard that some people make gaiters by cutting off the part of rubber gloves that covers the hands, then use the resulting rubber sleeve to seal off the tops of the shoes. I’ll have to give that a try.

  2. Alan

    Got some Showers Pass Breathable Waterproof socks for Christmas. Thicker than normal socks but they fit in my Specialized mountain bike shoes well. Rode on a 65 mile ride and they kept my feet warm but not too sweaty. Will need to try them in the serious wet next.

  3. Aaron

    I will vouch for seal skinz. I was a bike messenger throughout college and these things kept my feet not only dry, but also warm enough to ride through Chicago and Minnesota winters in regular road shoes (with a little help from good outer covers too.) They’re good down to about zero (F) if you can manage to shove a pair of extra thin woolies in there too (these will also stop the clammy feeling). The poor mans 45nrth’s if you will.

  4. Geoffrey Knobl

    These sound great! And something I can afford for once. I’ll suggest this to the wife as a birthday present. I only ride road – too scared of all those sticks poking through my body on a fall – but we get enough yuck weather here these will work well in spring.

  5. Grego

    Very nice review and info, thank you. This is a product I could really use, especially this season (in Norcal). These socks are going on my wishlist.

  6. VeloKitty

    These actually look very sock-like.

    The Gore and DexShell waterproof socks are not stretchy, so the ankles are very baggy, since the ankle region must be big enough to fit over the biggest part of your foot when you pull them on.

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