Neoprene socks ?

Seeking some advice on Neoprene socks

Wife & I have Chotas but thinking socks may be better choice under sandals for a Nov Grand Canyon raft trip ?

If you have 'em, do you like 'em ? Do they keep your feet warm and/or dry in cold water ? Any recommendations for brands & sources ?

Thanx for your advice

Neoprene and cold
Wet neoprene is no good in cold unless you have a wind blocking layer on top of it. I picked up some dry boots from a Scuba shop - mukluk style - that are really warm unless you wade in and get water over the top gasket (the topp may work better for divign suits than paddle wear). Even then, they are 5 mills thick and stay pretty comfy with water sloshing around in them.

The same is true for neoprene anywhere - once it gets colder, it is a hypothermia risk without a layer on top to block wind.

Insulating layer?
I thought the principle of neoprene was that although it’s not waterproof, when it gets wet the body warms the water next to the skin and you stay warm. No?

Do you mean that wind would draw warmth away from the neoprene and then from the water next to the body as well?

I love my Chota mukluks (except for the sort of thin sole, but that’s not too bad).

evaporative cooling
The fabric which usually covers neoprene seems to hold water, and as it is removed it takes heat with it.

I have a long sleeve neo top that is ‘raw’ on the exterior, it holds no water and is very warm when wet, as the water just seems to bounce off.

The same effect can be noticed when a Goretex item has lost it’s DWP coating and the exterior fabric gets soaked, it becomes colder than it used to be when the water just beaded up on the surface.

To admit, some garments that are mostly neoprene also have a wind blocking layer built in. I think the surfing and windsurfing suits often have this characteristic. This stuff is pricier than the basic tops and wetsuits that paddlers start out using and less expensive that full dry suits in materials like GoreTex.

The basic wetsuit from NRS is not one of these fancy ones.

I can’t speak to the scientific mechanism by which this happened. The last time I started getting hypothermic I was wearing a wet Farmer Jane, with a neoprene vest on top under a Stohlquist dry top, also hood and long finger gloves. We had just pulled out of a pond where I’d been practicing rolling (aka swimming then) when a small bit of wind and rain came thru. I was standing with my legs and butt exposed, the drytop was loose around my waist. Windy and air temp about 68 degrees, it’d been in the mid 70’s earlier.

I started shivering in less time than it took to start moving my gear from the boat to the car - maybe three minutes. By the time I got into the car, a hundred feet away, and started stripping off wet layers my hands were cold enough to make me threaten the latex gaskets with a trip to Hades. I didn’t get into alternate clothing any too soon in terms of seeing degradation of finer movements.

I have since spoken with others who found that trusting basic neoprene clothing in wind and even teensy coolness can be a bad idea. You are safer jumping into the water.

neoprene socks
I use a pair for cooler weather with a pair of sandals. They do a decent enough job of keeping my feet warm, if not completely dry. In winter I use a pair of chota muckluks.

The only real complaint I have about the neoprene socks is whooooooo boy they can get pretty stinky!!! Clean them regularly!

To have realistic expectations about
neoprene as an insulator, one should mainly consider the thickness. I once had a 3/16" wetsuit with 1/8" arms. It was sufficient by itself in above-freezing weather unless it was wet and conditions were windy. (It was also too restrictive for good paddling, which could lead to swims.)

3 mm, 3/16", whatever, it just isn’t much loft. You may need more loft over it including a water-shedding wind barrier in cold conditions.

Waterbird---- the old suburban myth about the warmed layer of water comes up now and then. A warmed layer of air under the wetsuit would be much more effective. That warmed layer of water took water out of YOU to get warm, and it conducts body heat out to the neoprene, where it is conducted on out to the universe.

Finally, about the original question, neoprene socks in sandals could be OK for November Grand Canyon conditions if the neoprene is thick enough. But then you might have to buy bigger sandals.

I like NRS HydroSkin sock

I wear neoprene booties all the time, and they are my cold weather paddling footwear. However, I never liked neoprene socks because they are too thick to wear under some other footwear.

I do like the HydroSkin sock because it is as thin as a regular sock and can easily be worn under sandals or water shoes. You can also wear a thin or medium weight liner sock underneath it for increased warmth (and odor reduction). And it is very easy to turn inside-out to dry overnight.

Neo socks should do you fine
I call my winter ww paddling footwear the Van Oss system after the guy who told me this is what to wear in the winter. Neoprene socks and $12 kmart sneakers (that I couldn’t find last time I needed replacements). That’s what I used to always wear for paddling in the winter. I still use them for whitewater where my feet almost always get wet. This does not keep my feet warm, but cool and clammy. My feet are not toasty warm, but not frost bitten either. Dry wool socks at the end of the day are always a treat.

In the last two years I have taken to wearing chota-style boots for trips with a low probability of swimming. They are nice as long as you don’t over-top them in the water.

I’d shy away from the Tevas or anything that can get caught or snared. Look for some cheap sneakers with the velcor closures if you can find them. I enhance the Van Oss system by drilling or burning (soldering iron) some holes around the toes and balls of the feet to enhance the outflow of water. I see New Balance now sells a water shoe with ports already built in, for $90. They will probably outperform cheap sneakers if you want to spend the money.

Isn’t it still hot in November in the Canyon? Highs will be what? 70s? 80s? Doubt you really need to worry about cold feet.


All that happened at 68 degrees??!!
Wow, that’s 10 degrees warmer than my house in the winter.

Must have a lot to do with individual ability to conserve heat.

“That warmed layer of water . . .
took water out of YOU to get warm, and it conducts body heat out to the neoprene, where it is conducted on out to the universe.”

Hmm . . . Don’t all insulating layers initially use heat from the body? But then they hold that heat close to the body. Example: blanket in bed; sleeping bag.

I think all inuslators eventually release body heat to the outside air. I guess the definition of an EFFICIENT insulator would be a substance that releases heat to the outside more slowly than heat is given off from the body, like a down sleeping bag.

So maybe you’re making the case that neoprene is an inefficient insulator.

My observation of neoprene gloves is that they do keep my wet hands warmer than they would otherwise be in the spring and fall. I have many times asked whether neoprene gloves are actually waterproof and always receive the reply, “No, but they will keep your hands warm by heating the water in them.” Ice fisherman do wear them.

Booties, socks
I tried the socks in my sandles but I found it made it too slippery. My foot would move around in the sandle. Also after a long day your feet looked like prunes. I usually just wear a bootie now. Much more stable and a bit warmer.


No, I’m only saying that the old saw
about a warm layer of water under the wetsuit providing insulation is patently false. Either nothing between your skin and the neoprene, or a layer of air, is better than a pocket of tepid water. Water will merely conduct heat from your body to the neoprene. Air is much less heat-conductive.

Neoprene’s insulating effectiveness depends on its thickness. It can’t be very thick, or you couldn’t paddle in it. So you have to either wear insulation under it (polypropelene knit is best) or over it.

This is why most of us have switched to drysuits. You can wear as much insulation under a drysuit as will fit, and the combination does not interfere with paddling effort nearly as much as a wetsuit. When I bought my custom wetsuit in the early 70s, there was no reasonable alternative for winter paddling. Now there is.

thanx for replies
appreciate the advice.

Our 21 day trip extends from Nov when avg inner gorge lo temp is 45, into Dec when avg drops to 37. When you factor in the very limited direct sunlight which actually reaches the river & being splashed “a bit” by always cold Colorado R water, thought warm feet might be nice

Considering different methods of trying to do so. Although it’s a private trip, amount of gear we can pack along remains limited. Sandals & hiking boots will go for sure but our Chotas have a rigid heel & ankle support & won’t pack well so considering alternatives

thanx again for replies

$12 Walmart shoe mod
I’ve seen where folks cut the tongue out of these shoes to make them faster drying and quicker to get on and off. The velcro straps still can be tightened enough so they don’t come off in the first step in the mud.

Your house doesn’t have a breeze

– Last Updated: Sep-23-09 9:38 AM EST –

At least, less of one if it's older. The wind over the wet garment made all the diff. If it hadn't started blowing I doubt I'd have gotten cold.

I also have respect for individual variation, so tend to argue pretty conservatively on layers someone will need. While I get chilled in water more easily than some I paddle with, I have a average normal weight and fat percentage.

Good point about the wind

Thanks for the clarification
Makes sense. Water both conducts and stores heat. But I think your point is that neoprene is insufficient to store heat on a cold day.

A friend went to Superior in August. Air and water temperatures were down around 50. They wore farmer John wetsuits. Only one person ended up in the water, close to shore. I believe the trip leader recommended wet rather than drysuits for that trip.

What kind of sandals?
I have Teva Omniums. They take 48 hours to dry indoors and I avoid them for kayaking. Personally I would take nothing short of full Mukluks in the conditions you describe. Can you switch to a more pliable mukluk? Seems like a pretty important decision, essential piece of gear that could make or break your trip. I wouldn’t take chances myself, in those conditions.