Best Waterproof Socks

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best waterproof socks

If you’ve ever suffered through a downpour on a camping trip or sloshed through a swollen stream on a hike, you know that wet feet only compound the misery. Anyone who loves – or works in – the outdoors can benefit from a warm, dry pair of waterproof socks.

Wet feet can ruin an outing. You want to focus on the fun, the view, the work, your footing – anything but whether your feet are staying dry. There are a lot of different waterproof socks on the market, so how do you choose?

BestReviews has you covered. We want to take the drudgery out of your buying experiences, so we compiled this shopping guide to help you. If you’re ready to buy some waterproof socks, check out our top picks in the product list above.

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“Trench foot” was first described by a French army surgeon in the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s. During World War I, an estimated 75,000 British and 2,000 American soldiers died from the debilitating syndrome.

Who needs waterproof socks?

At some time or other, just about everybody could use a pair of waterproof socks. Maybe you’ve dealt with a flooded basement. Maybe you’ve shoveled knee-deep snow in the winter. When your boots or shoes let you down, it’s nice to have that extra protective layer.

Here are just some of the use cases for waterproof socks.

When playing sports

Outdoor sports enthusiasts appreciate the waterproof, windproof, insulating warmth of these garments. Whatever your passion – hiking, climbing, biking, golfing, surfing – you can find a pair to keep you dry.

When pursuing recreation

Even if you gravitate toward more leisurely pursuits, you could still benefit from wearing waterproof socks. They’re useful when gardening, fishing, hunting, rafting, or just plain walking.

When working

Waterproof socks aren’t just for sports and recreation. Many people have jobs that require they be outside in harsh environments and inclement weather. Construction workers, farmers, emergency service providers, mail carriers, and railroad and transit workers are just a few of the professionals who would appreciate a pair of waterproof socks.

"You can find waterproof socks in basic black and gray, but there are plenty of options in bright colors and patterns, too."

The dangers of wet feet

Wet feet are no joke. Wearing wet socks can lead to serious problems like chafing and blisters, cracks in the skin, athlete’s foot, infection, and even frostbite if the temperature is cold enough. And these problems are magnified for anyone with diabetes or a weakened immune system.

Trench foot, or NFCI

You may have heard of “trench foot,” a common ailment experienced by soldiers fighting in the trenches in World War I. Today, it’s called nonfreezing cold injury (NFCI), and it’s caused by exposure of the feet to damp, cold (not freezing), and usually unsanitary conditions for a long period of time.

You don’t have to be in the military to get NFCI. Mountain climbers, people who work in the fishing industry, and others are vulnerable to it, too. There have even been cases reported at music festivals where attendees stood for hours in muddy fields. Brad Pitt suffered from the malady after standing in mud for hours while filming the World War II movie Fury.

Symptoms of NFCI

During the first stage of NFCI, the feet swell and grow numb. They may turn red, then pale, then mottled blue. During the second stage, which may last for days or months, the feet are painful and sensitive to touch. The skin becomes rough and dry and may blister. During the final stage of NFCI (which may be permanent), the feet are very sensitive to cold. The sufferer may endure pain, excessive sweating, and loose toenails.

People with NFCI are at high risk for hypothermia and need to be monitored for dehydration and frostbite. NFCI can result in permanent nerve damage, tissue damage, gangrene, ulcers, infection, and even amputation.

Tips for preventing NFCI

  • Keep the feet warm and dry.

  • Wear waterproof socks.

  • Wear waterproof shoes or boots.

  • Keep moving.

  • Avoid walking in water if possible.

  • Carry extra pairs of dry socks and shoes to change into.

Waterproof sock material

While you’re shopping, you’ll encounter a number of different fibers and materials that give waterproof socks their special qualities.


This cellulose (plant) fiber is soft, comfortable, durable, breathable, and hypoallergenic. If pure cotton socks get wet, you’ll have a soggy mess, but new technologies have produced cotton fibers that repel water, wick away moisture, and are even more durable.

Bamboo fiber/bamboo rayon

This is a cellulose fiber made from bamboo, a perennial, fast-growing grass. The fibers are soft, anti-static, moisture wicking, antibacterial, insulating, and breathable.

Merino wool

This wool is finer, less itchy, and more elastic than other wool. It’s soft, resilient, breathable, anti-static, and very strong. The crimp in wool traps air, and air is a great insulator. That’s why wool keeps you warm when it’s cold and cool and dry when it’s warm.

Wool can absorb and retain up to 30% of its weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch (most synthetics can only absorb up to 7% before they feel wet). By not giving bacteria the moist environment they need to thrive on your skin, wool is naturally odor resistant. And wet wool dries quickly.


This is a durable, waterproof, breathable laminate that combines a lining, GORE-TEX inner membrane, and an outer layer. Socks that include this material can be more expensive.


This fiber is a polymer made from petroleum. It is strong when wet or dry, insulating, tear resistant, shrink and stretch resistant, chemical resistant, mildew resistant, and water resistant. Wet polyester dries quickly. Polyester fabric can be too warm in hot weather, but it has come a long way since the leisure suits of the 1970s. Today’s polyester fabrics are softer and engineered to wick moisture away from the skin.

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Did you know?
The same high-tech fibers and films you’ll find in waterproof socks are also used to make gloves, jackets, and other clothing worn in extreme conditions.


This synthetic polymer is lightweight, elastic, and durable. It lends silkiness to fabric and has long been used for women’s hosiery.


This soft, warm synthetic polymer resembles wool. It’s washable, colorfast, and UV resistant.


This breathable polyester fabric is used in sportswear and jeans. It helps to wick perspiration away from the skin to keep you dry when it’s hot. It also has insulating qualities to keep you warm when it’s cold. Some of the yarns have antibacterial properties, and some are made of 97% recycled resources, such as plastic bottles.


This is the generic name for Spandex. It’s a polyurethane used to add stretch and recovery properties to undergarments and other snug-fitting clothing.


This synthetic elastane fiber is used to enhance the comfort and fit of clothing.


This waterproof synthetic rubber (polychloroprene) is chemically stable and flexible in a wide range of temperatures. It resists the degradation that plagues other types of rubber. Neoprene is an excellent insulator. It’s thick, warm, and comfortable. You’ll find waterproof socks made of neoprene that are meant to be worn with swim fins or wetsuits, not shoes. Some waterproof socks have neoprene soles to give the feet added protection.


These lightweight, flexible, durable microporous membranes repel water while also being breathable by letting water vapor through. You will find them in high-performance fabrics for the military and first responders as well as for sports.

Choosing a sock size

Because many waterproof socks have several layers, most are thicker than normal dress or athletic socks (although there are some thinner models). You’ll need to take this into account when matching socks to boot or shoe size.

Some brands of waterproof socks are sized for men and women according to shoe size. Others are unisex, usually with four size choices (small, medium, large, extra-large).

Sock length is important, too. For your feet to stay dry, you have to make sure the level of the water you’re in is lower than the top of your socks. You don’t want to wear waterproof ankle socks to cross a knee-deep stream! Waterproof socks come in four lengths: ankle, crew, mid-calf, and knee.


It may sound counterintuitive that a garment intended to keep water out could also be “breathable,” but most waterproof socks tout this quality. The fiber and film technologies that go into these socks keep water out while allowing water vapor to move away from your skin. As your skin warms up through exertion, the fibers of the sock absorb the moisture vapor and release it outside the sock. Your feet stay dry.

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Expert Tip
Waterproof beach socks can be worn with sturdy sport sandals for crossing shallow streams on hikes or beachcombing or clamming at the shore.

Comfort factors

Several factors impact how comfortable a pair of waterproof socks will be. Fit, cushion, and seam are three of the most important factors.

  • Fit: Waterproof socks need to be snug to do their job but not so tight that they impede your circulation. Some have a cuff band to keep the socks from slipping down. Some neoprene models have an adjustable Velcro closure.

  • Cushion: Some waterproof socks have a cushioned footbed. You’ll frequently see this feature on waterproof socks made for beach wear.

  • Seam: Most waterproof socks are seamless. You don’t want ridges or bumps chafing your skin and causing blisters.


  • Dry your shoes. If your shoes get wet, don’t put them in the dryer. Stuff the shoes with newspaper, then wrap them in more newspaper and secure the paper with rubber bands. As the paper absorbs the water, exchange the soggy paper for fresh paper and repeat as necessary until the shoes are dry.
  • Wear layers. If your feet are unusually small or you fall somewhere between standard shoe sizes, you might have a harder time finding a pair of waterproof socks that fits snugly enough. Some customers solve the problem by wearing a pair of regular socks underneath the waterproof socks.

  • Check the size of the socks. Carefully check the size of any waterproof socks you’re considering – or try on some if you can. Depending on the brand and style, some waterproof socks run large or small.

  • Choose the right sock weight for your intended activity. Some “thin,” “super-thin,” or “ultralight” waterproof socks are designed to be worn for cycling or other activities in which your feet need to stay dry but not necessarily warm. More substantial waterproof socks, often made with wool, are intended to keep your feet warm as well as dry. This type of sock would be best for skiing, shoveling snow, and other cold-weather activities.

  • Look for quality. Some waterproof socks are better made than others. Look for seamless construction for the most comfort, and read consumer reviews.

Waterproof sock prices

While waterproof socks are decidedly pricier than regular dress or athletic socks, there isn’t a huge range from the cheapest to the most expensive. Most cost $25 to $35 per pair, regardless of length, though some pricier socks may cost as much as $60. Read customer reviews and try on different types. You may find you prefer Merino wool for camping and bamboo rayon for biking.

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Many waterproof socks are layered: a waterproof outside later, a breathable middle layer, and a stretchy, comfortable, and absorbent inner layer.


Q. How long will the socks stay waterproof?
The socks should stay waterproof for as long as you wear them – provided the water doesn’t come over the cuff of the socks. In terms of the lifetime of the socks, in some cases the effectiveness of the waterproofing can decrease after repeated washings. Check manufacturer specs and consumer reviews for information about a specific brand you’re considering.

Q. How do I clean my waterproof socks?
Most manufacturers don’t recommend that you put your socks in the washing machine. Those that indicate machine-washing is okay recommend using the delicate cycle and temperatures under 104°F. To keep your waterproof socks in good condition for as long as possible, hand-wash them with mild detergent. Turn the socks inside out and let them air-dry. Do not tumble dry, iron, dry clean, or bleach your waterproof socks.

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