Robin Smith’s Bridgedale StormSock ReviewPosted on 1/11/2018
When I finished the Spine Challenger in January 2018 (1st place, Mountain Rescue Challenge) my feet were a mess. The constant soaking from bogs and stream crossings and more bogs meant that the 108 miles took a serious toll, producing more blisters than I thought you could fit on a foot. Since then I’ve been trying out different options but I hadn’t tried waterproof socks. For good reason. The reviews seem fairly split, but runners I know and respect have reported very negative experiences with them and, in particular, a brand that rhymes with Eel Bins. To be fair, I accepted these reports as gospel as they matched my own preconceptions. Running with a rubber bag on each foot didn’t seem very appealing. After suffering similar problems on the GB Ultras Snowdon 100 in September I decided that something had to be done. The Original Mountain Marathon, for those that don’t know, is a two day self-sufficient navigational event where the organisers delight in sending the paired teams of runners over a course that avoids the well-trodden paths of the area. That means bogs, stream crossings, and more bogs. This seemed the perfect opportunity to try out the new Bridgedale waterproof socks. I’ve been a big fan of Bridgedale for a long time and have worn for warmth inside a dry suit when diving, for hiking and multi-day runs, and for ultras. The main difference with the Bridgedale waterproof ‘Storm Sock’ is that they are essential a Bridgedale sock inner bonded to a waterproof layer and a tough outer. I opted for the midweight, boot length sock. Still, I remained sceptical. They appear stiff before you put them on, and from outside just don’t feel like socks. I’d also read reports of a ‘boil in the bag’ effect, with a build-up of foot sweat causing the same old issues. I also figured that even if they were good for hiking, surely they wouldn’t be sufficiently comfortable to run between 30 and 35 miles of off piste terrain in fell running shoes?
The scepticism soon disappeared to be replaced with, well, nothing. I’m always a little suspicious of kit reviews that go on about how great something felt. The best thing you can say about a piece of kit is that you didn’t think about it. And, with the Storm Socks I rarely thought about them. They were just comfortable. They didn’t bunch up or slip around the foot as the steep contours we tackled can usually cause a sock to do. In fact, the first time I did think about them was the first stream crossing. I fully submerged both feet and became aware that although my feet felt a chill they remained perfectly dry. This continued through the day and began taking more and more direct lines through streams and bogs and puddles as I became more confident that my feet would remain dry. My partner even told me to stop showing off in my fancy socks at one point. It was like being a kid in wellies!
The proof of the pudding would come at the overnight camp and, of course, at the end of the race. I wore a thin pair of liner socks under the Bridgedales and amazingly on inspection they were completely dry. No sign of a build-up of sweat, so presumably the socks were breathing well too – although I would add that if your feet are sweating that much then you probably don’t need waterproof socks. Anyway, here’s a picture of them compared to my partners socks taken as we huddled in our one-man tent:
Another thing I noted on arrival at the overnight camp was that my feet seemed colder than usual. I speculated with my partner that this may be to do with something akin to the difference between a wet suit and dry suit. With a wet sock, the water will be warmed by your foot. The Bridgedales are effectively a dry suit with a liner for your feet and so I wonder if you lose a little insulation from the outer being cold and wet? It was, also, a very cold couple of days, with snow on the Saturday, so putting this down to the socks may be a little unreasonable.
They say you can’t really get to know a pair of socks, until you’ve ran 30 miles in them (well, I do). After wearing the Bridgedale Storm Socks for the OMM and the nine hours of bog trotting and fell running that entailed, I’m pleased to say that I didn’t pick up a single blister or sore spot. So it looks like I’ve solved my sock problem and will look forward to wearing them to splash through the bogs of the Pennine Way as I take on the Challenger again in January.