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My neoprene socks didn't work.
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/03/2013 20:07:50 MST Print View

I just got back from a trip in Big Sur, we went up to the window. My hydroskin neoprene socks kept me plenty warm in the rivers. But we encountered a surprising amount of snow heading up to the window. I went directly from wading in a river to hiking up snow that was a foot or more deep. My feet became extremely cold. I was actually forced to stop, make a small fire, and warm up my feet so I could feel them again. I changed into wet wool socks and those were much warmer and actually allowed me to continue on. The air temperature was probably about 35 degrees.

What's up with this? I thought neoprene socks were used for winter snow hiking. Neoprene seems to work in mysterious ways.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/03/2013 20:22:17 MST Print View

Are they thick neoprene socks? If they're the thin ones then wear your wool socks over them. You feet won't get wet and the wool will keep your feet warm.

A VBL liner sock worn under your wool sock would probably work better.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/03/2013 20:25:46 MST Print View

They are very thin neoprene. They aren't waterproof at all, they are just supposed to keep your feet warm when wet. I assumed they would work, but i'm thinking gore-tex socks or even just bread bags over my socks would have worked much better when transitioning to snow.

Edited by justin_baker on 01/03/2013 20:26:24 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/03/2013 20:56:02 MST Print View

I always thought that was a suspect recommendation. In wet cold environments, they don't work.

In those conditions, I have always used Rocky Gortex socks.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/03/2013 22:12:33 MST Print View

I always thought that was a suspect recommendation. In wet cold environments, they don't work.

Mike Clelland uses thin neoprene socks to keep his feet warm in wet conditions up in Alaska. His recommendations are usually pretty good. They've worked for me. But I've never used them in snow, then, either.

One thing I've always wondered about that no one ever seems to talk about is the R-value of materials for insulated gear other than sleeping mats and fill. For instance, if you have two down jackets that have the same down fill, but two different shell materials, one which has poor R-value (conducts heat and feels cold to the touch), the other with a shell that has great R-value (feels warm to the touch), the second jacket will feel warmer. This is part of how R-value in houses is determined... a stone floored room will feel much colder than a wooden floored room, though the temperature of the air is the same, unless the stone itself is heated.

I'm wondering if neoprene, because it quickly feels cold to the touch, will, at certain lower temperatures and contact with snow, will feel much colder than gore-tex socks, even though the gore-tex is thinner...

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Proper neoprene on 01/03/2013 23:17:22 MST Print View

I have used 3/16" thick neoprene sox for years to keep my feet warm in winter with many kinds of boots for almost two decades.

I seam sealed these sox to keep sweat out of my boots and keep their insulation dry.

I use no other insulating sox except a pair of thin polypropelene liner sox under them.

Edited by Danepacker on 04/03/2014 14:59:01 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Seam Sealed on 01/04/2013 05:41:25 MST Print View

I used to use neoprene booties, likely the same thickness as Erik and after seam sealing they were quite warm and waterproof. Have you tried filling yours with water to see where they leak.

Edited by gg-man on 01/04/2013 05:42:09 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
neo socks on 01/04/2013 06:40:19 MST Print View

Snow is (obviously) colder than water. You'll need to change your approach.

-Loosen your laces if possible, especially toes, for better circulation.
-Use gaiters to keep snow off and out of the tops of your shoes. Snow that stays put will steal heat as it melts. A coat of seam grip on the tops of your toeboxes will help this, too.
-Make sure the Hydroskins aren't too tight.
-You may have cold feet and/or bad circulation, and need more insulation; either thicker neoprene or some kind of waterproof sock.

The point many folks (Ure) miss about the neo sock system is that it is best for truly wet conditions, i.e consistent knee high creek and puddle crossings. If you have mild wet conditions, waterproof socks will work in the short term (though they will wear out fairly quickly and cease to be waterproof). I gave up on the waterproof sock system because I didn't like killing a pair of 40 dollar socks every 8 months, but some folks will find that system more amenable.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: neo socks on 01/04/2013 07:31:21 MST Print View

I haven't missed anything, Chenault. The socks worked well for the OP in crossing rivers. Shock. I use Neoprene when I wake board and it works well. In truly cold and snowy conditions, I have encountered the same issue as the OP. My Gortex socks have always kept my feet warm and having not worn them out in 5 years, I either don't get out as often or I am easier on gear.

It is -33C here right now. Where did I put those Rockys?

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
vbl on 01/04/2013 07:58:32 MST Print View

In snow, I like using the thin neoprene socks inside wool ones as a durable vbl.
A bread sack over the whole batch, including the insole then keeps the wool pretty dry.
Even with holes in the heal of the neo socks.
You do have to use roomy shoes.
I do sleep with all the socks at night to dry out any moisture.

I quit using liner socks inside my neoprene. Didn't seam (pun) to make them any warmer or blister resistant.

Edited by oware on 01/04/2013 07:59:15 MST.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
R-value on 01/04/2013 08:07:40 MST Print View

I think that the R-value thing is key. The OP describes the neoprene socks he used as "thin." Neoprene works in wetsuits (e.g. Dave's wakeboarding) because it traps a thin layer of water next to your skin which then is warmed by your body heat. That water doesn't exchange very much with colder water outside the suit.

But for hiking I don't think that a thin neoprene sock has any utility other than as a waterproof and possibly VBL layer. (Perhaps a nice thick one would provide decent insulation in itself, but who could stuff them in their shoes?) If he wasn't wearing gaiters or somesuch then his shoe was probably pretty much filled with snow and slush, and as that melts... well, the heat of transformation has to come from somewhere, and the thin neoprene wasn't enough to keep it from coming from his feet. The stream water, while cold, was probably both more transitory and didn't require heat of transformation. Plus, in the water the neoprene may have worked like a wetsuit.

... at a guess.

So, it seems that I agree with Dave- a simple waterproof/VBL layer and wool socks might have served him better. And, logically, it makes more sense to wear the wool inside the VBL, but I could be wrong.

But what the other Dave said is also a VERY important point that is often overlooked: Don't constrict your foot. (The military is VERY big on cold weather training.) If your shoe/sock combination is too tight it actually reduces bloodflow to your foot. Bloodflow from your core is what keeps your foot warm, and constricting it makes you more vulnerable to frostbite. If my feet get numb from cold my first step is always to loosen my laces.

I would propose that it is difficult to find footgear that fits correcly both with and without a neoprene sock. If you are going to wear neoprene socks you probably need a dedicated cold-weather shoe so that it isn't too tight. I did this- I bought a shoe much larger than normal so that it fit with a neoprene sock over a wool sock.

Edited by acrosome on 01/04/2013 08:24:11 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: R-value on 01/04/2013 08:26:44 MST Print View

A friend of mine here in Japan wears an oversized neoprene bicycle shoe bootie over his hiking shoes (wool socks inside) and a FortyBelow overboot over that (with oversized Kahtoola Microspike on the outside for traction). Seems to keep his feet warm and dry down to well below sub-freezing. I'll be trying out that system this winter to see how well it works.

One of the things that the Inuit and Saami emphasize about their winter boots is that they be flexible. Keeping them flexible helps keep up the circulation in the feet. So, wide, relatively loose, and flexible.

Edited by butuki on 01/04/2013 08:30:14 MST.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/04/2013 09:03:09 MST Print View

>> I thought neoprene socks were used for winter snow hiking. Neoprene seems to work in mysterious ways.

I've always thought that the use of neoprene started with diving wetsuits. A wetsuit isn't meant to keep you dry, just warm. In fact, it don't work until you're fully submerged in the water; it traps a thin layer of water around your body that's warmed by your body heat and then works as insulation.

When I dive on a cool day, as soon as I get out of the water, I get out of my wetsuit if I need to get warm.

For hiking, I use neoprene socks when actively hiking IN water and it works just like my wetsuit does when I'm diving. I've hiked 4-5 hours in 33* water in neoprene booties/boots and an eVent drysuit. My feet were wet but the neoprene booties kept them warm. But as soon as I got out of the river, I changed into dry wool socks.

Richard Fischel
neoprene, insulative quality and thickness on 01/04/2013 11:39:56 MST Print View

while it is true that wetsuits trap (if not too baggy) a thin layer of water and that helps to keep you warm, its true ability to keep you warm comes from and is directly related to its thickness. neoprene isn't a perfect insulator; therefore, it's subject to the same rules of physics for a given insulator, the thicker the better so the colder the water you're in, the thicker the wetsuit needs to be. If that wasn’t the case, there’d be no need for different thicknesses of wetsuits. if a wetsuit excluded all water entry and there was just a thin layer of air between your body and the wetsuit, it would be warmer because air is a better insulator than water. if you were to wear different thicknesses of wetsuits on land you would notice the thicker one being warmer than the thinner wetsuit. Anybody who has worn a wetsuit out of the water for any length of time (prior to entering the water) can tell you how warm and clammy they can be. One of the reasons you’d feel chilled when exiting the water in a wetsuit is the result of evaporative cooling that takes place, which is exaggerated if your wetsuit is double lined neoprene and/or if there is any breeze blowing.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
My neoprene socks didn't work on 01/04/2013 21:11:18 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 09/08/2015 16:53:00 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: My NRS Hydroskins Work on 01/04/2013 21:29:24 MST Print View

Gaiters, trail runners, hydroskins, and medium weight boot socks is what I use.
For me, good to 10°F (this morning) as long as I'm moving fast. Below that I add another liner sock.

And I have Real crappy circulation in my feet and hands.


Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: My neoprene socks didn't work on 01/04/2013 21:49:02 MST Print View

Hi Justin,

Could you tell us a little more about the footwear system you were using? I use neoprene socks in conditions much like what you've described and it works well for me, but without more specific details of your system, it's hard to guess. In my opinion, neoprene is great in wet conditions down to a certain point. In really serious cold, all the water is frozen, I'm probably in ski boots, and so a different strategy is called for.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: RE: My neoprene socks didn't work on 01/05/2013 01:48:47 MST Print View

I was wearing vivobarefoot aquas. They have a 3mm sole. The neoprene socks were 0.5 mm thick.

Edited by justin_baker on 01/05/2013 01:49:44 MST.

Mole J
(MoleJ) - F

Locale: UK
mmm on 01/05/2013 02:00:05 MST Print View

mmm wonder why you got cold feet?!

would you sleep on a thin summer mat in snow?

Good discussion initiated though.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: My neoprene socks didn't work. on 01/05/2013 04:14:23 MST Print View

> they are just supposed to keep your feet warm when wet.
Neoprene hasn't worked for us either.
Thick wool socks, on the other hand, always work.