Friday, February 29, 2008

Gear Review - SealSkinz Waterblocker Socks

Product Features and Impressions:
SealSkinz makes waterproof/breathable socks that, unlike Gore-Tex, are stretchy. The Waterblocker socks are advertised by SealSkinz as being the saviour to adventure racers in that they are totally submersible which allows you to walk through streams and wade across rivers without getting wet feet. I had been looking for a product like this for awhile and when I found out about these socks, I was completely stoked! I ordered some off the internet, along with a pair of gloves, just in time to race in the 2007 Baja Travesia expedition adventure race. In Baja, there was a canyon section that would take over 12 hours to get down and consisted of numerous unavoidable swims. This would be a good test for these socks but would be nowhere close to what the manufacturer claims they can do or of the countless testimonials on their website (ie: submerged periods of over 10 minutes with no leakage. I felt so smart. In fact, another competitor had done the exact same thing as me. He bought the socks specifically with the canyon in mind and dry feet would be had by both of us and we would all live happily ever after. The end.

But wait, after a couple hours of exercise, the socks felt pretty clammy and after the first dunking, they felt downright wet. It must just be the feeling, I thought, as sometimes your feet can feel wet when the outside is wet (a feeling that I get when using my Rocky Gore-tex socks). After the second dunking though, I needed to check for myself. Not only did I have water in my socks but lots of it. In fact, I had a good 1/2 litre from both socks which means that I was running around with a pound of water on my feet. Not only were my feet wet, but they were also macerated due to the prolonged submersion inside my socks. I'd agree that these socks were totally waterproof as none of the water that came in was leaving anytime soon. Cudos for not completely making false claims. I took out a regular pair of socks, put the SealSkinz in my backpack, and their next move was to the Hartland landfill. Funny thing is, the competitor who also used these socks had the exact same issue as me (lots of water in the sock and macerated feet from submersion).

These socks are completely useless. They did not keep water out and were very warm which makes them completely useless for any type of exercies (especially running). If you submerge them, you're left with bags of water on your feet. The only use that I can possibly see these having is if you are standing in ankle deep water and not moving so that you don't generate any heat and thus, don't sweat. However, if you're going to do this, you might as well have gum boots on.

Overall Impression:
Please do not buy these socks. Please do not waste your money. This is such a terrible product for what they are advertised for. If you want something to help your feet when it's wet, use a product like Vasoline or HydroPel to prevent foot masceration; if you use these socks, you're going to have to use a product like this anyway as your feet will still get soaked from sweat build-up and water getting in. I tried to contact someone at Seal Skinz but they never got back to me. Who knows, maybe the birds at the landfill will be able to make a good nest out of these socks.


Anonymous said...

Timely review. I was actually considering trying these out as I had read some of the same positive reviews/testimonials. Not now.

So how were the gloves?

Bender said...

I actually bought a pair back in 2000 for racing and came to the identical conclusions! However, I still find them incredibly helpful when doing field work in the winter and snowshoe hiking. ...basically, when standing around in wet-cold-snow conditions they are great at keeping your feet toastie.

Todd Nowack said...

The gloves weren't very good either as I found my hands just got soaked from perspiration (they're quite hot). They might be good in the winter but not out here on the wet coast. I see that they now carry some really thin versions of the socks and gloves and maybe these work 'ok'. I just find them cumbersome as the glove is several layers so you get the inner finger material pulled out and then they're really annoying to put back on.

David said...

I think its pretty impossible for any sock to keep out water when immersed over the top of the sock. Maybe if they were taped to your legs at the top? Do the Rocky's perfom any better in that regard? You mentioned the breathability was poor, how is the breathability compared with the Rocky's? Would they be worthwhile for wet conditions that didn't include swimming? (not submerged above the top)

James Douglas said...

Hi Todd, This is an interesting article, I have bought these SealSkinz Socks recently, for Skiing in and find them to be completely fine, though I suppose that could match the elements (cold weather). I have never really used them for wading through rivers etc. I will give them a try out in the next couple of weeks and get back to you.