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GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted
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Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/06/2012 01:27:26 MST Print View

Long winded, so bear with me...

The last two winters I've been using wool socks inside Rocky GTX socks inside lightweight trail runners with gaiters. Temps in the low teens-30's. This system is part of the ultralighter's playbook, but I'm not convinced. I've got two issues to address.

My biggest issue is my right foot. The metatarsal of my big toe of my right foot causes me discomfort whenever there is ANY pressure/restriction in any direction. Barefoot? Perfectly fine. Vibram FiveFingers? Fine there as well. Most shoes, even with ample toe room, can cause me discomfort even when simply sitting with my shoes on. I think it has to do with lateral pressure against the side of my big toe, no matter how minimal. Its weird, I know, and I should get it looked at. I recently bought a pair of Merrell Orbit Glove shoes for everyday use, and those are the most comfortable shoes I've found. Its part of their barefoot series and has a 0 degree heel drop. (Highly recommended, in fact.) So, AMPLE toe box room is needed.

The second issue is the need for simplicity and temperature comfort. In my combo listed above, my feet have been kept safe, even when stepping into a partially frozen puddle. I thank the GTX socks for that. But ya know, at the end of the day, my socks are damp from sweat, GTX socks are damp on the inside from sweat and outside from tromping in cold nature, and my shoes are usually wet as well. I warm my feet up with down booties for night, but in the morning, my feet go into socks that have at least mostly dried during the night, dampish GTX socks, and frozen shoes. Yes, I could stuff them in a plastic bag and take them in my sleeping bag, but I'd rather not have to. In the morning, my toes get COLD for at least the first 45 minutes of hiking. They do warm up and sometimes feel hot, but there are times throughout the day when my toes are just frozen--like I can't feel the tips of my toes.

I'm looking to simplify, and here's my thought. It may not be as light, but possibly more comfortable:

Start with toe sock liners to keep blisters at bay. Over those, wear a VBL sock (or produce bag from the grocery store). Then, depending on conditions, a comfortable wool sock. Finally, a pair of waterproof shoes with gaiters to shed snow. Waterproof shoes would negate the need for GTX socks, which are narrow in the forefoot, and wouldn't be frozen on the inside because of my VBL liner.

I know that waterproof shoes have their own problems, like when they get wet, they stay wet. In winter, that is mitigated by gaiters, snow usually being frozen, and from the inside, the VBL layer. If I can keep the inside of my shoe dry and find a pair that doesn't irritate my funky big toe, I may wanna give that a shot.

Thoughts and comments greatly appreciated.

Edited by T.L. on 12/06/2012 01:31:49 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Re: Sock systems on 12/06/2012 05:14:56 MST Print View

Hi Travis,
I had a similar foot problem develop two years ago- severe pain along the edge of my first metatarsal almost regardless of which shoes I was wearing. Ultimately, this lead to bursitis (a sizeable lump) in that area. Switching to minimalist shoes ( I wear the trail gloves) fixed the pain, though I still have the bump as a reminder. When looking for a minimalist type shoe that could accommodate snowshoes in winter, I didn't find any perfect solutions. Ultimately, I went with the new balance MT101s, sized up a full two sizes. The sock combination I use is similar to what you were planning:

Smartwool sock liner
VBL sock (ID or baggie)
Mid weight wool sock
Sealskinz goretex

I took this whole mess of socks into my local running store and tried on all the minimalist-ish shoes with rock plates in various sizes until I found the one that was most comfortable for me.

The VBL prevents your insulation socks from dampness and really changes the game in winter hiking. If out for days, I take the VBL off at nights to air and dry my feet.

If I know I'll be wearing snowshoes the entire trip, I switch to:
Liner sock
Goretex sock
Wool sock
MT 101
LE overboot

In this case, the goretex (which is not that breathable) acts as a partial VBL and the overboot keeps everything dry from the outside. This is really nice because the shoes sty dry too, so even if you leave your shoes out, nothing freezes overnight.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Why Gtx on 12/06/2012 08:53:54 MST Print View

Ike, why not This instead of using Sealskin GTX
Vbl(waterproof not used as VBL)

I will be testing this combo as soon as it decides to get cold and snowy in PA. The GTX seems like an unneeded overkill since in theory there should be no way for the insulation layer to get wet from either the inside or outside.

Edited by gg-man on 12/06/2012 08:56:41 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Why GTX? on 12/06/2012 10:53:53 MST Print View

It just gives me a little more versatility in the setup. When weather is above 15-20F, I usually drop the inner VBL but can still use the goretex sock as an outer waterproof layer. It's breathable enough that my feet don't get too damp.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Got it on 12/06/2012 11:02:20 MST Print View

Makes sense, I was planning on the same versatility. I may end up evolving toward your setup after further trials.

Edited by gg-man on 12/06/2012 11:02:51 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Got it on 12/06/2012 14:11:32 MST Print View

Thanks guys. I may just have to take my "whole mess of socks" to a store and just try, try, try.

But if I were to switch out the GTX socks with a beefier, waterproof shoe and utilize a VBL to keep the inside dry, what do you think?

Ike---- do you know what caused your toe issue? I've also been re-reading your awesome Pictured Rocks in Winter trip report. We want to do a multi-day winter trek soon and we're limited to either the Porkies or Pictured Rocks. We did two nights in the Porkies last year and for the most part, things were ok, but we could have been more comfortable in camp. We were still in the process of developing our winter system and didn't have adequate head or foot insulation for in camp. This year, down hoods and booties!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/06/2012 16:45:37 MST Print View


The first question regarding the foot pain is are your shoes large enough?

I hate cold, and don't do very well in the cold. But this set up has worked well for me. I sized up my Salomon's by 1.5 sizes and my normal hiking shoe is plenty roomy. This is what I use

1. Liner sock
2. Rocky GoreTex sock
3. Wool sock
4. Salomon Comp 3D NON-GoreTex shoes
4. OR Verglas gaiters

But given my physiology, I may sweat less than most folks anyway.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/06/2012 16:47:50 MST Print View

Hi Travis

You probably know what I will say.

* Skip the GTX and VBL thing until it's sub-zero at least.
* Make sure the shoes are WIDE enough: many shoes are too narrow for some people.
* Stop worrying about feet by themselves. Instead focus on keeping your legs warm, so the blood going into your feet is still warm (or hot). Btw - tight shoes measn restricted blood flow through your feet.
* Wear gaiters - they keep snow and ice out of your socks and shoes.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Roger? on 12/06/2012 17:43:07 MST Print View

Skip the GTX and VBL thing until it's sub-zero at least

Is that Aussie or American sub zero?


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/06/2012 20:11:22 MST Print View


I was on a trip in Canada last weekend where the temps ranged from 15-35f I was toasty warm all weekend wearing trail runners (montrail mountain masochist with outset liner) Rocky Goretex socks and Darn thought winter socks and shortie event gaiters.

I did have to use my micro spikes on one of the days for better grip.

I found placing my gaiter over the trail runners at night time helped stop them freezing.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Nick & Roger on 12/06/2012 21:57:49 MST Print View


Up until last year, I wore a 10.5 - 11. Within the last 12 months, I've noticed that my right shoes all seem small, and so I've bumped up to an 11.5. I even have a pair of new balance MT 110 in a size 12! I can't go any bigger, else my left foot (which is about a 1/4-1/2 size smaller) will simply slop around inside the shoe. I may have to specifically search out wide shoes, which leads me to my next point...

I figured you would show up! :) Continuing on from where I left off, I have had my feet measured on a Brannock device quite recently, and I am squarely a size 11 with a regular width....except that size *feels* too small on my right foot, and my first metatarsal becomes irritated. Just so we're clear and to make sure I'm not using medical terminology incorrectly, the irritation feels very internal, in the center of the ball of my foot. The odd thing is that the new Merrells I bought that I mentioned in my first post are only a size 11 and they feel really good. I wonder if there's something about the shape of most footbeds rather than the shoe size itself is what causes discomfort. And when you say sub-zero, are we *F or *C? [on a side note, any updates on your tent?]

The problem with skipping GTX socks is that with traditional trail runners, feet and insulating socks will become soaked from snow, slush, etc. I once stepped on a snow covered puddle with a thin ice crust on it. My foot sank into icy water up to my ankle and was only saved by my GTX socks. My shoe eventually froze that night. I know you're adamantly opposed to waterproof shoes/boots, but I'm wondering if it'd be worth trying something more traditional, like a lightweight waterproof mid.

Edit: I've been frustrated with all of my footwear for nearly a year. I just spent the last hour poking, prodding, and examining my feet. I can't find any motion, pressure, or movement that irritates my big toe area, yet often by simply wearing shoes, it is irritated. Once my big toe was starting to go numb, even as i was in the car! I should bite the bullet and get it looked at...

Edited by T.L. on 12/06/2012 23:21:59 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Nick & Roger on 12/07/2012 00:22:37 MST Print View

"I should bite the bullet and get it looked at..."

Good idea. Sounds like something is wrong. Maybe an x-ray might help.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Roger? on 12/07/2012 03:29:20 MST Print View

sub-zero C


Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Sock systems on 12/07/2012 09:44:06 MST Print View

I think it is pretty well accepted that bursitis in that area is caused by poorly fitting shoes. The funny thing was that up until the point that I was in constant pain, it never occurred to me that it was my shoes. I too had my feet sized with a brannock device yearly, my shoes felt fine, and I couldn't narrow it down to any one pair of shoes. I guess I thought I was just getting arthritis in my big toes. At first it was intermittent, but finally became constant. The bursitis developed a little later during training for an ultra marathon.

Happily, since switching to minimalist shoes (and after a long period of adaptation), my feet are pain free and stronger than ever. I now run 30-40 miles per week, something I could never do previously without injury.

Our early and late season snow (like yours) tends to be pretty wet when temps are in the 20-30 degree F range, and because the shoes I now use are pretty insubstantial, I do rely on goretex socks when there is snow on the ground to avoid soaking wet socks. This happened to me about a month ago during a freak snowstorm in October in the UP and it was a pretty uncomfortable couple of days.

Pictured Rocks is awesome in winter. I try not to duplicate trips, but I know I'll be going back there at least once. The ice in that place is magical. Hope you have fun.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Observations at REI on 12/07/2012 22:05:12 MST Print View

I went to REI today and brought my sock layering system: the thinnest toe sock liner Injinji makes, a light-mid weight wool sock, and my GTX socks. I re-measured my foot on a Brannock device and I'm actually just under a size 11 and a regular width.

I tried on every pair of trail runners they had and all of them, even when I sized up to a 12, just weren't comfortable. My toes felt restricted and I realized that the GTX socks, in all their narrow glory, were part of the problem.

I then tried on more traditional footwear with the same socks minus the GTX ones. Literally the only pair of shoes that I felt at ease with were the Keen Targhee II Mids. They're waterproof. *GASP* O, the horror!!! :) But they also have a very wide toe box that provides the room.

I've read the replies here and in articles and other threads, of which I appreciate all of it. I think this may be a situation where I can't reason out the best option, but rather I need to broaden the scope of my trial and error, even if it means trying non-trail runners.

I still will very much welcome discussion in this thread.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Fit on 12/08/2012 05:00:37 MST Print View

Go with what fits the best. All others considerations are of secondary importance.

Check out Will R's excellent 3 part series on footwear for winter travel if you haven't already. There's definitely a place for waterproof shoes.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Foot problems. on 12/10/2012 11:40:33 MST Print View

Travis, it might make sense to see a podiatrist about this problem. Check with local running clubs for recommendations.

Altra has a nice very light hiking shoe with a wide toe box, which sadly doesn't fit me well. Vivobarefoot has a nice wide toe box; this is what I've had to use since I developed a bunion.

My Vivobarefoot shoes are not very good for winter here (cold temps down to -30F, -35C in NH mountains). The things I'm considering for very cold hiking are:
mukluks (e.g. Steger mukluks), good for very cold not good at all for wet.
NEOS overshoes over my vivobarefoot shoes.
NEOS overshoes worn with just a felt liner like Sorel boots use; this is really warm, but since the NEOS are waterproof I probably need to add a VBL to the mix.
The NEOS are reasonably lightweight and have a good lugged sole (good for snow). They work well with snowshoes, microspikes or Camp Magix 10 point crampons or Hillsound Pro Trail Crampons. I think the insulated overboots are designed to be used only with crampons or snowshoes and have a smoother sole than NEOS, so are not as good on snow without crampons.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/12/2012 12:31:36 MST Print View

Throw out the standard no waterproof footwear guideline for winter. If feet need insulation to stay warm, then that insulation needs to be dry.

I use GTX socks which are way over sized. They work, but I don't like how my feet still feel a bit compressed in them. I'm sure they're a little less warm because of it. I'm thinking of switching to lightweight GTX boots for winter--boots over trail runners because I think the extra height is needed to keep out the occasional snow under the gaiter.

For cold below 0-10F, I'm planning to get waterproof Steger mukluks, which are called Camuks. (They're intended for hunters and are camo.) Currently, I use mukluk liners inside Tingley rubber overboots (and with VBL) for this range of cold. My feet stay warm even standing around, but the overboots are a bit too floppy. I have to stuff an extra sock into the top of each one to be able to hike in them.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: GTX socks/trail runner user...not incredibly happy....advice wanted on 12/12/2012 13:14:01 MST Print View

Though I was reluctant to do so, and after much thinking and observing, I've come to the realization that if I want to actually begin to fix my foot issue, I'm going to have to see a podiatrist. (Yeah, Duh!) While I can increase my comfort with certain shoes, no shoe is actually going to correct the problem. You can only keep a finger in the hole in the bottom of your boat for so long...

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Neoprene sox on 12/15/2012 15:57:12 MST Print View

LINERS> thin polypro sock liners

ISULATION SOX> thin neoprene dive socks (that you seam seal)

This combo will:
1. keep yer feet warm
2. keep yer boot insulation dry

At the end of the day remove neoprene sox, turn them inside out to dry.
Remove polypro liner sox and put on clean liner sox.

Been using this for literally decades. Works very well, esp for winter camping.

BTW, I DO disagree with Roger on using a VBL only in sub zero (F.) temps. I feel that you MUST keep your boots dry and a VBL is the way to do it.

Personally I use seam sealed thin neoprene Diver's sox over a pair of thin Polypro liner sox. Turn the neoprene sox inside-out to dry at night and have a clean pair of liner sox for each day. Put GTX boots or felt pack liners or ski boot liners in a stuff sack and into the foot of your sleeping bag overnight. This avoids painfully cold toes in the morning.

Edited by Danepacker on 12/25/2012 19:45:22 MST.