For me winter means mountain biking and since our trails have plenty of creek crossings that also means cold wet feet. Many of the experienced riders sport Gore Tex socks, which through some magic I can’t understand repel water and yet allow sweat to breath out. These socks aren’t easy to find and don’t come cheap so I decided to try some Neoprene Gator brand socks when I saw them for 22 dollars on www.treefortbikes.com After a few weeks and about 6 rides I’m ready to give my opinion on these alternative foot warmers.
First off let’s make this clear, Neoprene is not waterproof, I thought it was, but it didn’t take long to realize my feet were wet as soon as I stepped in water. Neoprene is the same stuff that wetsuits are made out of, its like a stretchy fabric rubber. It insulates well even when wet, but so does wool which is my usual go to sock when it gets cold. The Gator socks have to perform better than my old stand by insulated wool socks to get much use, lets see how they stack up.
First off the Gators have a great fit, the large size snugly grips my foot and once on does not move. Even when completely wet these guys won’t slide. When the wool socks get wet they tend to slide down and bunch up in the shoe. 1 point gator
Secondly the Gators are pretty thin compared to the insulated wool, I can easily get a second thin sock over the gators and fit in my road or mountain shoes. 2 point gator
Thirdly the Gators won’t soak up nearly as much water as the wools, so even if your foot gets wet it still doesn’t feel that wet. 3 points gator
Fourthly the Gators hold warmth better when wet, even compared to wool which do a pretty good job of staying warm in the wet. 4 points gator
It can’t all be good though, fifthly I don’t think that the Gator’s insulate quite was well as a really thick wool sock in the dry. 1 point wool.
Sixthly I don’t think the Gators will hold up as well as a comparable wool sock. After 6 trips I have a few loose threads and a small tear that doesn’t go all the way through the body of the sock. 2 points wool
Lastly the Gators are a bit more expensive then a pair of heavy wool socks. 3 points wool.
In the end the Gators do an outstanding job of keeping your feet warm and comfortable when wet. I can’t compare them to a pair of Gore-tex socks which would cost about twice as much, but I doubt they could do much better. For their thickness and small bulk they offer excellent insulation. On a 34 degree morning I went road biking with these, a pair of thin wool, road shoes, and a neoprene shoe covers. My feet stayed warm. That being said their strengths really only shine when its wet. If you’re primarily worried about cold feet in the dry Neoprene shoe covers would be a much better investment.