A week or so before I set off on the TGO Challenge, Webtogs got in touch to see what I would like to test next. My Challenge gear was already sorted, well-tried and tested, essential for a long trip. There was however one essential bit of kit that I needed before setting off, one that is easily overlooked in the drive to buy the more expensive stuff. This being the humble sock. My old Smartwool ones were looking a bit tatty with holes appearing in the heels. Webtogs sent me a pair of Xsocks Trekking Silver and I purchased a pair of Trekking Expedition short the day after. With a 180 mile walk they were going to get a thorough testing!
Before I go on to review them I need to mention the footwear I used on the TGO Challenge. I took a risk and wore a pair of unlined Inov-8’s, the first time I had worn unlined trail shoes on a long trek. The weather on this years challenge could be described as a bit on the ‘damp’ side and I was usually submerged up to my ankles in the wet stuff. This needs to be taken into account when deciding if these socks are for you.
There are a huge range of Xsocks available and I found that making an informed choice just by looking in the internet was difficult. Although the two pairs both had the word ‘Trekking’ in the title they are different beasts altogether. By the end of the Challenge I ended up loving one and slightly disliking the other!
Both pairs are shaped for the left and right foot, with a L and R embroidered onto each sock. Why don’t more manufacturers do this instead of producing a sock which is designed to fit both feet?
First the good………..
Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short
I was worried when ordering that these would turn out to be ankle socks due to the name. No worries as they are the usual mid calf length. Pulling them on the first thing I noticed was their fit. It felt like they were designed for my feet, a good snug fit without being too tight. There are no noticeable seams at the toe and they feel nice and soft. The main body of the sock is thin with a slightly open weave to it, the heel and forefoot is made up of a denser material and there is extra padding for the bony bit on top of the foot. Putting on my Inov8’s they somehow just felt ‘right’.
Within minutes on the Challenge my shoes were soaked as I walked through streams and plodded through saturated ground and bog. After the initial shock of the cold water my feet soon warmed up and I forgot that they were wet. After a couple of hours of walking on a dry track my socks were only slightly damp. I have to admit to wearing this one pair for most of the Challenge, on a couple of occasions for three days straight without being washed. At the end of the day when I was in my tent I would shorten my trekking poles, put them upright in the porch and pull a sock over the handle of each one. They were usually dry in the morning. After the third day they would become too stiff to wear for a fourth!
Because they do not soak up too much moisture I never got ‘prune’ feet which can be an upleasant side effect from them being wet all day. All in all the best sock that I have found for wearing with unlined trail shoes. They can even be worn for a few days without stinking out the tent too much. Sadly they are now showing signs of wear and tear with the fabric getting a bit thin in a couple of places. Also the thicker fabric on the heels have become a little rough on the outside, rubbing away at the insides of my shoes. The heel of the socks now being speckled with the bright green lining.
All in all the best pair of socks I have found for wearing with lightweight trail shoes. When this pair dies I will definitely be ordering another pair.
And now the not so good…………..
Xsocks Trekking Silver
These are altogether a more substantial sock than the other pair. The sole is more padded with a softer thicker weave and there is SilverNODOR woven within it. This is meant to keep your feet dry and prevent the growth of bacteria which should in turn stop those nasty smells. The heel has more padding and there is soft layer of padding for the top of the foot. When I first pulled them on they felt much more comfy than the others with a less snug fit, in general they also felt much softer, more akin to a brand new pair of Smartwool socks.
However once I had pulled on my snug fitting trail shoes they were no longer as comfy. My shoes grip my feet like limpets, in this case they gripped my socks like limpets. Because the socks were slightly looser than the Trekking Expedition short my feet moved around inside them. I thought that this would be a recipe for a blister but on the trail this in reality did not cause much of an issue. What was an issue was their ability to soak water up like a sponge. The soles are thick so moisture just sat there next to my skin, soon causing the dreaded ‘prune’ feet. They did not last a full day without being changed, even so they had taken on much more of an odor in that time than the others did in three days.
However they did make nice comfy bed socks and that was the purpose they served for the rest of the Challenge. I am not dismissing them as they will probably be ideal in more conventional footwear. I am sure I will get plenty of use out of them in the winter. They just are not the ideal partner for unlined trail shoes in persistently wet conditions.
If you are looking for a sock that is a perfect partner to unlined trail shoes I can highly recommend the Trekking Expedition Short.
The Trekking Expedition Short cost £15.49 and can be purchased here.
The Trekking Silver cost £18.49 and can be purchased here.
All the technical info can be found there.