Beating blisters on the trail: Sealskinz Waterproof Socks.

Many elements go into properly screwing up your feet on a long run – poor conditioning, bad hydration, poor nutrition, weather (extreme heat or rain), environment (puddles, creeks, etc.), inappropriate gear choices such as bad sock/shoe combinations, even slightly wrongsized insoles (paid for that one in full), or proactive mistakes – such as the wrong blister powder (which DNFed a mate running top 30 in the Sydney Marathon with only about 8km to go) or other supposedly helpful product.

Heading towards this year’s Great North Walk 110-miler, I’ve tried out a few different products since last year’s utter debacle on the 100km course. The Great North Walk’s first stage goes through a gorgeous chunk of darkly humid remnant subtropical rainforest, complete with crystal streams which are an icy pleasure for the feet, in what eventually becomes a bloody hot day mostly spent scrambling up steep slopes and melting on a dry haul through hot unshaded valleys. Last year, this meant that my feet were utterly soaked during the first two hours while I dehydrated slowly during the following six. For a combination of reasons, my shoes and socks, and of course feet, didn’t dry in any hurry at all and it set me up for a world of skin-chewing barefoot-on-a-hot-plate suckitupness. You can definitely run like that, but you don’t really want to.

Enter, Sealskinz. The brand boldly claims that their socks are waterproof and breathable, and they charge accordingly. Seeing their potential for trailrunning in wet conditions and seeing a number of positive reviews from other runners in the UK, I paid close to $30 for a pair of the Hi Vis Waterproof Socks and also grabbed a pair of their Ultralight Breathable Waterproof Bike Socks for about the same.

How did the Ultralight Breathable Waterproof Bike Socks go during a 2-hour, 20km hit out in conditions that varied from calm to stormy? Check out this awesome video review:

That’s right, trailrunners. Sealskinz suck and will do you no favours come race day. As well as soaking and wrinkling your feet as fast as any cheaper sock, the other thing I noticed is that they then bunch up with wetness, pulling back toward the heel where they bunch. Because they’re infused with a plastic fibre, they don’t stretch like a normal sock. This means they then exert a strong pull back on the more vulnerable parts of your feet, namely your longest toes. Awesome – wet feet, crowded heels, snapping toes. Funnily enough the ads and reposted reviews don’t mention this, but you can apparently stand in creeks in Sealskinz and enjoy panty-fresh dryness all day long.

But I have to call ‘bulls&#t!’. Where it says “Waterproof  Breathable  Close Fitting”, you need to read “Waterfilled  Overpriced  Non-Responsive”. When I got in touch with Sealskinz to ask just what the f&%k all the numpty UK fellrunners had been smoking when they were deluded into thinking their crappy plastic socks had worked, I got no reply.

To be fair, I actually had some hope for this second pair of Sealskinz because the Hi Vis pair that I tried and reviewed here were utter shit as well. They failed on a 5-hour run where the harshest water features encountered were 3-inch-deep puddles. I thought they deserved a second chance after failing on an evening run in drizzle around the bay. But no, Sealskinz don’t deserve a second chance.

For trailrunners looking for an emergency option in case of wet conditions in your racing during the coming Aussie summer, look anywhere else.

It would be interesting to hear what solutions runners have come up with for managing wet feet in heavy conditions on long runs. You’ll notice that I’m not asking whether Sealskinz have worked for you because if they did you’re either talking bollocks or didn’t try hard enough.

Sample Sealskinz review:

“Having spent $30 and received my Sealskinz cock-rocking rainstopping waterproof wonders of modern science I promptly popped them on my feet and went straight to bed.  I awoke in the morning with no blisters and only a mild case of herpes. Thanks Sealskinz.”

Quickly recapping:

1. Sealskinz are shit, don’t ever waste your money or hope for dryfooted running on them.

2. How do you manage aforementioned conditions when you’re running the long stuff?

7 thoughts on “Beating blisters on the trail: Sealskinz Waterproof Socks.

  1. Your experience of Sealskinz more or less matches mine when I’ve used their knee- and calf-length socks for walking and cycling. Completely useless, expensive crap made by a company that refuses to answer queries or complaints. I think positive reviews of Sealskinz have been written by Sealskinz staff members or are the self-justifying ravings of people who feel foolish for wasting so much money on such useless shite. I guess the other possibility is that Sealskinz just can’t maintain the standard of their socks. In which case they should respond to their disgruntled customers. I’ve tried multiple pairs—three pairs bought by me online when I was desperate for relief from frozen, wet feet—and another couple of pairs given to me as presents. My experience with *all* of these was that water immediately—I don’t mean “after a while”, or “a few minutes down the track”; I mean *immediately* as in “straight away”—let even mere splashes of water onto my skin. And in case you’re about to say, “Oh, the water just came over the top of the sock”, let me say “No; no water came over the top, it didn’t even run down from my knees, the water came in around the ankles, shins, and over my instep”. I repeat: they did this *immediately* leaving me with cold, wet, and ultimately smelly feet. Much colder and wetter than if I’d just worn ordinary wool socks, colder and wetter even than if I’d worn cotton socks. Did I mention that the water pooled in my feet and, trapped by the constriction of the shoes, didn’t drain away? I tested a couple of pairs by standing in some ankle deep water. Guess what? Water *immediately* soaked through the fabric. Soaked is a misnomer, poured is more accurate. I tested them by taking a dry pair and pouring water into them. Guess what? Water *immediately* drained out, sorry, *poured* through the foot of the sock like it was coming from a colander. Oh, and they shrink when you wear or wash them, never mind how carefully. I’ve tried writing to the suppliers / retailers: they told me I wasn’t wearing them “properly”, that water was coming over the top. At least they replied. Sealkinz *never* replied to any of about ten emails I sent them. If you think I’m over the top about this, a) look around the web and you’ll find many similarly pissed off reviews; b) have a look at what Sealskinz claims about their socks and how much they charge for them; c) spend up to £70 yourself on the damn things and see how you feel when you find yourself standing in a freezing puddle of water in your own shoes/boots. To summarise: Sealskinz are expensive and completely useless crap. But if you really want to use them, here’s what I suggest you do. Buy Sealskinz. Unwrap packaging. Throw away socks. Soak cardboard packaging in near-freezing water. Tie cardboard to feet. Poke small holes in plastic packaging, fill with water, then wrap over cardboard. Run. This will be more effective than anything you could do with Sealskinz socks. And if you really want your feet to stay dry: give up. Concentrate on keeping them warm and get some wool socks..

  2. I get nasty cramps from running in cold wet socks, any recommendations on what kind of socks to wear during long wet trail runs? Thank you

    1. I really like the Stride by Wright Socks if I want something thicker to mold around my foot inside the shoe. Or I use mid-weight Injinji for some of my trail running because they’re using more CoolMax in the blend now which means better moisture management. And I’ve also been really impressed by the new SwiftWick which has a 4-inch cuff that keeps your ankles from getting fluidy on long long runs, and importantly they also shed water brilliantly and feel really comfortable – if you run long but don’t like toe socks, they’re an excellent option, and I usually go for mid-weight.

      1. Thank u for the suggestions, I’ll most likely give all of them a try. Hopefully some of these work on long obstacle races in which I’m sub merged in waist high water and then have to dry of quick.

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