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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SealSkinz Walking Mid Sock > Test Report by Duane Lawrence
Walking Mid Sock with Hydrostop
The SEALSKINZ mid weight mid length sock with Hydrostop are listed as a totally waterproof-breathable and windproof sock. The socks have an elasticated cuff on the top in order to provide a water barrier, that is, from water running down your leg or with full submersion, from entering the top of the sock. The cuff also reportedly helps the sock stay put regardless of how strenuous the activity. They also have a merino wool lining for moisture control and elasticated ankle and instep for support and added comfort.
The Sealskinz waterproof breathable sock utilizes a Polycolon technology which utilizes a two-layer system comprised of a layer of Polycolon with a layer of natural fiber which purports to allow body perspiration to pass through the material. The StretchDry technology is a stretchy hydrophilic membrane that allows water vapor to pass through while preventing liquid to penetrate that material. This combination of materials reportedly creates the waterproof and breathable sock. The sock itself is comprised of a three-layer system; a polypropylene and elastane outer fabric, with the hydrophilic inner membrane and merino wool and polyester inner liner. The mid-weight sock has a listed thermal rating of three which is described as ‘the perfect balance of warmth and breathability’. Sealskinz do note on the web site that everything is subjective and comfort will be very individualistic. Hydrostop is a Sealskinz technology that is reported to give a much more secure fit between the leg and the top of the sock which is supposed to reduce the chance of water ingress through the top of the sock.
The Sealskinz socks have basic care instructions listed on the packaging which recommend washing them in a standard washing machine in 40 C (104 F) water or less and to let them drip dry. The web site has more detail for care of their products including hand washing instructions, that they should be washed inside out and that no special requirements for washing powder is needed. For drying, letting them drip dry inside and not to dry them on a radiator or other direct heat source is noted. Lastly the web site notes that the wearer should ensure that their ‘talons’ should be kept trimmed as toe nails could damage the waterproof membrane.
The web site has a nice list of question and answers for the curious. Sealskinz have an anti-mulesing policy and report to attempt to the best of their ability to ensure their merino wool is only sourced from sheep which are not subjected to mulesing. They also note, playfully, that no seals are harmed in making their products, apparently they actually get asked this. Sealskinz products are listed as 100% seal free!
The web site is helpful in clarifying a lot of information on product performance. Feet should not sweat due to the breathable inner lining which wicks moisture away from the feet. The three layer system is reported to be inherently warm, as noted in the thermal rating and is due to the use of merino wool in the sock construction. The socks are guaranteed to be 100% waterproof and breathable. They are listed as having a Water Vapor Permeability index rating of 65%. They do not require to be re-waterproofed and no treatment is required. They also note that their socks reduce the occurrence of blisters by keeping the wearer's feet dry.
My first impression was mixed. The product looks very well constructed and has a nice look to it. They are quite stretchy but very stiff to the touch. When I put them on I was reminded of putting on a neoprene sock although much thinner. The fit was, Ok. My feet measure in around a US 9 or 9.5 so right at the top spectrum of the medium sock according to their sizing chart. They fit, but feel odd on the feet. I am not really sure how to describe them, it’s mainly that they are stiff and heavy. I am going to need to try a pair out and see how they feel in a boot to determine if I should go up a size. I am also curious as to whether or not they will stretch out after being worn and washed a couple of times, which would likely make them a perfect fit for me. I did notice that they bunch on the top of the foot which appears to be due to the stiffness of the sock and that there is a little ‘puckering’ just above the toes. Again this seems like it is due to the stiffness of the sock. It will be interesting testing these socks to see if they live up to their reported abilities while still being comfortable.
I took the opportunity to use these socks over the course of the summer and had lots of rain so was able to put them through a pretty good test. The Sealskinz socks are definitely waterproof socks. I took them on both day and over night hikes in the Southern Canadian Rockies and in Northern Montana's Glacier National Park. The hikes ranged from shorter day trips up some local mountains, 12 - 15 km (7.4 - 9.3 mi) in length with upwards of 1500 m (4900 ft) of elevation gain, and longer overnights with a 40 plus pound (18 kg) pack, ranging from 30 - 50 km (18.6 - 31 mi) over three to four nights in a variety of areas in the mountains. Overall I had the opportunity to wear these socks for about 30 days over the course of the test period.After a summer of hiking here is what I found out about the Sealskinz socks. For construction they seem to be indestructible. After a summer of hiking in them and wearing them multiple days in a row they still look new. What I was not as happy with when looking at their construction is the toe box. They are sewn in such a way so that I constantly felt pressure on my big toes. The toe box is not formed in the shape of a normal foot, well at least my foot. It is kind of like a half circle which has resulted in the longest part of the sock being around my second and third toes then curving back which resulted in constant pressure on my big toes. Have a look at the included photo to see what I mean. This might not have been a major problem if there was more give in these socks but they are very stiff which resulted in their being uncomfortable, by the end of the day I couldn't wait to take them off. The rest of the sock fit fairly well, although they seemed to bunch at the top of the foot. This did not seem to create a comfort or performance issue but I did notice it. The elastic cuff definitely kept the socks up and in place as designed. For breathability all I can say is that while I was wearing them my feet always felt damp and sticky. They were not wet so the socks were definitely wicking moisture away from my feet, I have sweaty feet so can say for certain that they did perform well in this respect, but they always felt damp and unpleasant. I would like to note that I found no evidence of heel rub which would result in blisters. The socks performed very well in this regard.
Although it was hard to tell, as the my toe discomfort was very distracting, I believe the rest of the sock construction and design is good. The elastic instep and heal was comfortable enough and I think they resulted in less foot fatigue. It is hard for me to say 100% but I believe this is the case. It is noted on the web site that comfort is very individualistic with these socks and I guess they are just not made for me. I would hazard a guess that if the toe box was redesigned I would appreciate these socks more. I would also like to see them a little more flexible, the inherent stiffness of the sock has a distinct and odd feel to it when first put on and lasts until they are in the boot. Once they are in the boot I did not notice the stiffness at all.
I tested out how waterproof these socks really were and was fairly impressed. I stood in a lake for a good 10 minutes with the socks fully submerged and although they did eventually fill up with water they resisted being submerged very well. Also, having waterproof boots that did not really allow for testing of their water repellency, I took an opportunity to wear the socks in a pair of light hikers in the rain to see how they would preform. I must admit this is where I can say they performed admirably. Once my shoes were wet the socks really showed there stripes. After a day of hiking, my feet, although sticky, were relatively dry. The socks did not let the water in and at the same time let water vapor out. The down side was that the outer shell of the sock is fabric so they absorbed lots of water and did not dry out quickly. This results in either putting on heavy wet socks in the morning or the need to carry several pairs of these on a trip. The positive side is that I was happier about putting my foot back in a wet shoe than ever before. I would still recommend a good pair of waterproof boots over wet shoes and waterproof socks but if this is all I had I would definitely use the socks.
Overall I have mixed feelings about this product. They are durable and definitely waterproof. I can also confirm that they breathe fairly well. The down side is that they left my foot sticky and feeling generally unpleasant all the time, the toe box created a huge pressure points which made me not want to wear them. Putting them on was never a feel good moment whereas I could not wait to take them off. If I knew I was going on a long multi-day hike and the forecast was for 100% rain the entire time I would likely bring them or if I only had light weight water resistant boots, then I would definitely use these. But, with a good pair of waterproof boots, not a chance. I might change my mind if the toe box fit my feet better but even with that rectified I am not really certain I would use these. Great idea just not very pleasant to wear.
Leaves my feet unpleasantly sticky
Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Sealskinz for the opportunity to test the mid-weight, mid-length sock with Hydrostop.
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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SealSkinz Walking Mid Sock > Test Report by Duane Lawrence
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