DexShell's Wading Socks take the idea of 'waterproof' knee high – and the result is a perfect way to enjoy more wet, wintry riding, on or off road, in or out of quite deep rivers and bogs. Pity there's no merino included, though.
I've been a fan of DexShell's merino-lined Thermlite socks for a few years, relying on them in Scottish winters to keep me warm and mostly dry. I say 'mostly', because no matter how good the waterproofing, every sock has a hole in it – the one your foot goes in.
Back in October the UK recorded its single wettest day since records began, which as luck would have it coincided with my riding the second day of an overnight Highlands bikepacking trip. The first five hours of continuous rain was fine, with the calf-length Thermlite socks doing their job well. But for the last few hours I could feel the rising level of water inside the sock as water seeped in off my shins. The problem wasn't the rain falling from the sky but the near-continuous wave of water coming off the front wheel, drenching my shins as effectively as a garden hose. Nothing short of shaving my legs and duct-taping the socks in place could have prevented seepage (believe me, I was thinking along these lines by the end). Sat outside Escape Route Cafe in Pitlochry, I tipped a full half-litre out of each sock. Yes, I measured it for my quasi-masochistic Type III Fun records (Type III Fun is where, even in distant, rosy retrospect, an experience was Not Fun).
Let’s talk about socks
So the challenge is how to get the top of the sock above the splash-line of your front tyre. Enter the DexShell Wading Socks. With the top of the Wading sock coming to below the knee, DexShell markets it as good for 'canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting and those activities where there is a need to wade in deep water'. I've been on many canoeing trips where I've ended up drier than after many bike rides, so these were definitely worth a go.
The socks are built around a full-length Porelle liner, which is both completely waterproof and also breathable. What value breathability has when it comes to riding through deep water is a moot point, the aim here is to prevent new, cold water infiltrating the sock.
Unlike the Thermlite sock, the Wading model doesn't feature a merino lining but a thick terry acrylic loop. Merino would be warmer and less smelly, but the Wading sock is still pretty darn warm – even for someone with circulation as poor as mine. Over the years I've learned that the secret to warm feet is keeping your shins and calves warm – blood that's been cooled on the way down won't do anything once at the toes. Hence the full windproof, thermally-lined calf-and-shin cover the Wading Socks provide is half the battle won.
> How to keep your feet warm while cycling in winter
At the inside of the top of the sock, just below your knee, there's an inch-wide 'in-cuff seal' – a smooth, supple vinyl-like material supposed to act as a barrier of sorts against ingress. Whether it works is unclear, and it does wear out pretty quickly, flaking and cracking, but I didn't find it made a perceivable difference to the sock's performance.
It's perhaps an oft-overused term, but the Wading Socks are a gamechanger. My first ride with them required innumerable river, stream and bog crossings, some up to calf deep. My approach to river crossings is to carry a pair of lightweight Crocs, slipping them on before getting wet and leaving them on for a while to let the socks dry out before donning the hard-to-dry-out mountain bike shoes again.
Stepping into freezing-point water in the Wading Socks is a near-religious experience – feet remain warm, dry and happy as you carefully pick your way between slippery stones and channels.
After about 30 seconds the inevitable cooling might make you think there's a leak – but fear not.
> Your complete guide to bikepacking – what kit you need, how to plan and prepare plus inspiration for an adventure
Out the other side but knowing more crossings were to come, I left the Crocs on (when matched with a large platform pedal they make for surprisingly-capable cycling footwear).
Spinning along for a quarter-hour or so saw the outer layer of the Wading Socks pretty much dry to the touch; there was certainly no squelchiness evident when donning the mountain bike shoes again, which is the whole point of the exercise – warm, dry feet, dry shoes, all day – happy days.
In terms of raw thermal protection, the Wading Socks' biggest asset is their aforementioned calf coverage. On a zero-degree ride of a few hours my feet were quite happy inside a winter boot – no liner sock needed. Being effectively two or three socks in one, they are bulkier than normal, so if your shoes are already snug in a normal sock you'll likely need a size up for the Wading Sock – this is the same as Jim found for the Thermlites. For really cold, wet weather I have a pair of mountain bike shoes a whole two sizes larger than my norm, allowing the layering of socks underneath.
The only valid comparison is with Sealskinz' Waterproof Cold Weather Knee Length Sock – at the same £45 price point, with merino lining and a 'lifetime' guarantee (to quote Sealskinz: 'lifetime in our Lifetime Waterproof Guarantee means a reasonable lifetime of the product'), and made in the UK; on the face of it, a strong alternative and one I look forward to trying.
DexShell's warranty in comparison is 'In the unlikely case, if your product fails due to a manufacturing defect, DexShell will be responsible for replacement, or refund, at our discretion. This warranty does not cover damage caused by improper care, negligence, normal wear and tear'.
So it would appear both waterproof-sock-leaders caveat themselves somewhat – don't look on these socks as something to pass on to your grandchildren.
> 6 top tips to help keep you cycling through the winter
Reviews of anything waterproof – jacket, hat, socks or gloves – will inevitably attract anecdata-based comments about how their one 'leaked like a sieve, threw in the bin, never again etc etc'. My personal, multi-year experience of several pairs of DexShell socks, including the shorter version of the Wading Socks, gives me confidence in the technology, and its ability to do the job.
Yes, the only real difference here is the length of the Wading Socks, but that is indeed the magic, the secret sauce. That additional six inches makes a world of difference in the worst of conditions, and obviously in deep water. Your feet will thank you.
Simply the best way to keep your feet warm and dry in atrocious weather or deep water
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Make and model: DexShell Wading Socks
Tell us what the product is for
They're for keeping the lower legs warm and dry when going into knee-deep water, or riding through deep puddles.
DexShell says: 'These knee length socks are constructed with an in-cuff seal, making them ideal for fishing and other activities where dry feet are crucial.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
DexShell provides these details:
Constructed with our patented 4 way stretch lamination technology
100% waterproof, windproof and breathable
Outer: 97% polyamide, 3% elastane
Interlining: Porelle® membrane (Polyurethane)
Inner: 90% acrylic, 10% polyamide
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Can only fault the quality of the top leg seal material.
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
The sock is fine, the lining cuff perishes fast.
Rate the product for fit:
For such a large, triple-layer sock, the fit is good – no baggy or tight bits.
Rate the product for sizing:
Rate the product for weight:
Rate the product for comfort:
So long as you allow for the extra bulk in your shoe size you'll be fine.
Rate the product for value:
At the same RRP as the Sealskinz merino version.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues – came up clean every time in a wool wash.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Awesomesauce. Just wish they could be merino.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The length, baby. Go Long.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £45 – the same price as Sealskinz' merino-lined version – the Dexshell offering does seem less attractive, value-wise.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good, but would be better if the inner seal cuff was more robust, and if they had a merino lining.
Age: 47 Height: 183cm Weight: 77kg
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
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