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Neoprene Socks & Condensation
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Timothy Reynolds

Locale: New England
Neoprene Socks & Condensation on 03/24/2012 12:42:47 MDT Print View

Hi, Everyone,

I just completed an awesome trek on the Escalante Route in the Grand Canyon. Essentially, me and my buddies walked beneath a snowstorm, so the last two nights and days out were wet and cold, to say the least. I use UL trail-sneakers and, for the first time, brought NRS neoprene socks in case the temperature dropped considerably and it was wet.

I found initially that while hiking the neoprene socks were awesome, but there was some build-up of moisture on the inside that would begin to freeze once I stopped walking. Even if resuming after a break, my toes would not warm up, which I felt kinda defeated the purpose. In camp, the situation was worse. I really should have changed out of the socks into a dry pair, but as my sneakers were saturated, I didn't want to sacrifice my only pair of dry socks—they were needed for sleeping.

What do you do in a situation like this? I thought afterwards that I should have just turned my neoprene socks inside out? Is there any special technique to use with these? Did I put them on at an inappropriate time (not cold/wet enough)?

Can you share with me your experience with these, if you have any?

Thank you.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Neoprene Socks & Condensation on 03/24/2012 14:21:51 MDT Print View

Did you have wool socks underneath? Those should have kept you a little warmer even when wet.
You could always try some breathable socks like the rocky mountain goretex socks.

Edited by justin_baker on 03/24/2012 14:22:26 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Neoprene Socks & Condensation on 03/24/2012 15:19:54 MDT Print View

Neoprene socks are OK if you are in the water continuously, but I think wearing them while walking in above-freezing conditions is really unneccessary - and often cold. In snow conditions you should look at WP/B socks instead.


Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Neoprene Socks & Condensation on 03/24/2012 15:36:59 MDT Print View

Sounds familiar problem to me as a cyclist the cold wet feet problem.

The most reliable way to keep feet warm in rain is a classic waterproof boot who's volume is so large and the waterproof layer is somewhat away from the skin, if your overall body is warm your feet will stay warm+dry, you can walk all day in rain and repeat for days like that. The nearer you place the waterproof layer to the skin, via conductance the colder it gets and your feet can struggle to keep warm enough to evaporate any moisture coming off the skin such as from sweat. However, if water manages to get inside the boot from above such as run-off from the leg or stepping into a deep enough puddle, then the boot is permanently wet til you can give it a day in the sun to dry. So for many in boggy ground, they move to the trailshoe idea so feet can dry in any dry periods. A cyclist you never are stepping into a puddle but run-off from the legs is a similar problem.

I have some Sealskinz socks and I have some Neoprene over-shoes. The Sealskinz sock really end up not keeping you dry but raising the temperature of your feet when you are wet, so its less-worse than say a wet wool sock which does a better job of conducting your heat away. Not perfect, but less-worse. The Neoprene over-shoes even when its not raining, just as insulation over a limited number of hours will become wet from sweat, but if rain combined with Sealskinz are the least-worst solution.

So there isn't really a full solution to the example problem, none I found, just manage your drying times, keep a dry pair of socks for sleeping in which you dry-bag before putting back on your wet feet items. Consider not even bothering aiming for dryness but allowing clean rain to be replensishing the dirty rain from before and so your feet are constantly wet but cleaner wet. If that is too cold then you've seen the alternative. Feet then kept as warm as possible by the rest of your body pumping the hot stuff down into your feet.


PS you got out alive, so clearly nature furnished your body with the ability to survive cold feet :)

Timothy Reynolds

Locale: New England
Neoprene Socks on 03/24/2012 15:51:28 MDT Print View

I was wearing Injini ankle socks underneath — coolmax. Then, I switched up to Darn Tough.

Forgive my ignorance, but what are WP/B socks?

Thanks for the tip about sealskinz.


Timothy Reynolds

Locale: New England
WP/B on 03/24/2012 15:52:10 MDT Print View

Waterproof/Breathable. Got it.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: WP/B on 03/24/2012 16:10:53 MDT Print View

No sock waterproof is breathable enough, the area of the sock is simply too small and a sock has the its external wet layer so close to the skin via conduction your feet are cold anyway. You can reduce that problem, like you can with other parts of the body like jacket or trousers, by holding the wet layer further from the skin via socks underneath, however your shoes then need to be a larger size and your feet then still move inside the shoe and can lead to blisters.

There are also plenty of owner complaints due to the harsh abrasion in the feet area, the waterproof seal degrades then instead of keeping water out, it lets it come in and keeps it in, a common place to fail is the heel, the sock pumps water in and keeps it around the toes. Sock failure is more common for hiking than say biking due to more weight on the feet and wider range of movement rubbing the sock til it fails.

Some choose specific times during a hike to fit their waterproof sock, preserving their limited life for just the worst times, but waterproof socks are quite bulky to carry.

In olden times people used to try waterproof non-breathable socks as cheaper and lighter practically disposable, some would use supermarket food shopping bags and as they break just use another, they weigh practically nothing and free. Now such bags are biodegradeable so they don't last forever in landfill.

For water which doesn't go over the top of a classic waterproof hiking boot, then there are gaiters such as Integral Designs eVent gaiter to keep run-off outside the boot, and of course waterproof trousers finish above the boot line and below the top of the gaiters. Many in UK in continual rain for days are perfectly dry but must never go through puddles if they can't avoid deep water they'd remove boots and be carrying something for fording like Crocs.

There is a modern notion of just feet getting wet which is probably the best solution in deep boggy situations where a waterproof boot has no chance to dry in drier conditions.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Neoprene Socks & Condensation on 03/24/2012 16:19:06 MDT Print View

You didn't have enough insulation for the conditions. A larger shoe with a wool sock and
plastic bag over the neoprene sock and you would have been more comfortable. Neo socks
are for vapor barriers and cushioning, they don't add much insulation.

Muck boots and wool socks might have worked better too.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
neoprene sox as VBLs on 03/24/2012 22:00:35 MDT Print View

In winter I wear neoprene sox as VBLs with a pair of light polyproplene liner socks to avoid the wet feel and to keep some of my ever flaking epidermis off the inner neoprene for reasons of cleanliness.

I change polypro sox every day. They are very light and stow very small.

So far with this method I've had no problems.

Edited by Danepacker on 03/24/2012 22:01:35 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
GTX socks on 03/24/2012 22:09:51 MDT Print View

So far, I've had good luck with GTX socks in sub-freezing temps with snow on the ground. My feet do get wet from sweat, but in trail runners, GTX socks, and some Injinji Coolmax toe socks, my feet are warm while hiking. The key is to be able to adequately insulate your feet when you are stopped. Wet footwear will NOT do this in the cold.

Edited by T.L. on 03/24/2012 22:10:40 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: neo socks on 03/24/2012 22:29:32 MDT Print View

Tim, you've found that neoprene is a funny material. It insulates well when wet and heated, but seems to cool off faster than just about anything else once stopped. Given that there aren't many (any?) places on the Esca route where you'll be wading and soaking your feet regularly, neos where probably not the best tool.

It's neo sock time around here, at least in the lower valleys. About a dozen thigh deep wades on my outing today, so the hydroskins are the only option. In camp I often make a fire, but absent that either deal with it and get to bed fast or bring a pair of plastic bags for camp shoes. Sleep socks go on, then plastic bags, then wet shoes. Sleep with the neo socks under your foam met to keep them warmish for the morning.

Timothy Reynolds

Locale: New England
Neo Socks on 03/25/2012 15:04:22 MDT Print View

This is all great advice, thank you. In fact, I did, instinctually, put my neo socks under my bag and they were dry and warm by morning. I guess what I did wrong, in the end, was keep wearing them once I'd stopped. I was on Horseshoe Mesa in freezing temperatures, and the sweat inside the sock began to freeze—I was too focused on getting some food, and getting myself into my bag that I didn't take the time to change into my sleep socks. Then again, I really didn't want to get them wet. I just kept thinking, as ice started caking everything, that any minute now I'll be tucked up in my bag—conditions were wet and very muddy too.

So, the lesson learned is definitely that if neo socks are to be used it has to be in sub-freezing temps. Then, once stopped, they need to be swiftly swapped out (the plastic bag/sleep sock solution suddenly seems like a no-brainer).

For persistently wet conditions, in the future I'll have a pair of sealskinz at the ready for above freezing hiking.

Thank you all for your 2 cents on this matter.


Derek Larson
(derek.larson) - M

Locale: Georgia
2014 on 11/17/2014 11:38:38 MST Print View


Have you upgraded from the Hydroskins since this 2012 post, or are they still your go-to neoprene sock for cold/wet conditions?

What do you usually wear underneath as a liner?


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: 2014 on 11/17/2014 20:06:31 MST Print View

Still using the same pair, in fact. Functional and extremely durable (if you don't melt holes in them by the fire). For spring and early summer around here I can't imagine a better system.

Liner is a rotating cast of thin to very thin liner socks. Whatever can be had on sale, usually. The Smartwool knee-high PhD ski ultralight socks but pricey at retail and don't last especially long. Super comfy and don't slip down, so I do keep buying them occasionally.

Edited by DaveC on 11/17/2014 20:10:15 MST.

Mo Rodopsky
(rhodopean) - MLife
Hydroskins on 11/17/2014 23:33:23 MST Print View


Do you seam seal the Hydroskins and do you think it is a good idea to do so?

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Hydroskins on 11/18/2014 00:22:02 MST Print View

I'll ask the opposite question - is there any advantage to perforated neoprene socks like some of the Sealskinz? It takes a few hundred yards of walking to squish out the trapped water out of a Hydroskin after immersing your foot.

Edited by andrew.f on 11/18/2014 00:22:33 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Neo Socks on 11/18/2014 00:26:59 MST Print View

I know this is an old thread, but I find that neoprene socks are unreliable for keeping my feet warm outside of water. If I am doing something that will involve both walking through water and walking through snow, I am going to carry both neoprene socks and goretex socks.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Hydroskins on 11/18/2014 05:27:36 MST Print View

I've never altered the Hydroskins. I'm not the fabric is waterproof enough to merit seam sealing anyway. It's always seemed to me that they're an ideal place (for hiking) along the permeable/impermeable spectrum.