I’m pretty close to nailing down my footware system for crossing Scotland next May during the TGO Challenge. Hiking conditions in Scotland are notorious for being wet and boggy and leather boots are not going to fly for a 14 day cross-country hike. While I dearly love my leather Asolo TPS 520s, they take take 4-5 days to dry when they get soaked through. The only viable alternative is to wear a pair of trail shoes that are fast drying, and not lined with a breathable membrane like Gore-tex.
Instead, I’m almost certainly going to hike in a pair of Inov-8 roclite 320 Trail Shoes. If the ground is wet, I’ll wear a pair of Rocky Gore-tex socks over a thin Smartwool merino liner. I’ve been wearing this combination during the past few weekends and I think I have enough space in my 9.5 size shoes, even if my feet swell from a lot of walking (which is normal). I may still experiment with a slightly wider shoe, but it’s close.
Temperatures however can go down to the 30’s (near 0 celsius) in May, so I need a sock system that can keep me dry and warm even if my shoes get wet. The key is to have a two layer system consisting of a waterproof layer and a warm liner underneath to absorb sweat and prevent blisters.
While Gore-tex socks are not technically a vapor barrier liner because they are breathable, they do maintain a warm enough micro-climate to keep wet feet from getting cold. I know this for a fact, because I used to wear Rocky Gore-tex socks, year-round,over a pair of wool hiking socks while whitewater kayaking. They kept my feel warm in frigid cold water and recent testing validates that they’re just as good today as they were then.
There are only two problems with Rocky Gore-tex socks: they’re dam expensive at $60/pair and fitting them can be challenging. They run small so may need to try on a pair one or two sizes larger than your shoe size to get a good fit. Once you nail it down, they fit snug enough that there’s no extra fabric that might rub you the wrong way and lead to blisters. Each foot is shaped, for a left or right foot, and well marked so can’t mix them up.
I’ve owned several pairs of Rocky Gore-tex socks over the years and never had some leak at the seams, which are taped for integrity. They do tend to fray at the top cuff, but only after a long period of abuse.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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