Applied Orange Combat Socks - First Impressions

About a month ago Applied Orange sent me a pair of High Performance Combat Socks to test and review. They knew I was training for GoRuck, and very kindly sent a pair my way to review.

The first thing that I noticed about these socks is that there is one sock labelled "L" and one labeled "R". I've never had a pair of sock that specialized before. I pulled them on, and laughed to myself remembering that they were marketed as knee-high design. They weren't kidding! These socks were designed to extend over an 8 inch combat boot.

I've never really had a problem with the durability of socks around the toe, but the heel is definitely the first place my socks start pilling and falling apart. Knowing that the toe and heel are reinforced with Cordura yarn gives me confidence that these socks are built to last. Another material that is used in the sock's construction is COOLMAX. This fabric helps move perspiration away from your foot, through the sock, where it can evaporate quickly. I've purchased a few other socks from Wigwam that utilize COOLMAX and have been very happy, so already I knew I was in for a treat with these socks.

I've tested these socks in three very different applications so far. A day long hike which at one point took me through a swamp, a day long tactical firearms seminar, and a day in the office wearing the most unbreathable, muggy slippers ever.

During the hike, I paired them with my Merrell Sawtooths. It was a cool day, and during the hike we spent a lot of time walking along logs, jumping from moss tuft to tuft to avoid dunking our feet in the swamp. The socks did well to not roll within my boots, or slide down my calfs which is definitely a bonus. Nothing is more annoying than feeling your socks slide into your boots under your heel after you've tied them up. Even though these socks are designed for the summer, my feet stayed warm, and I didn't develop any hotspots or blisters.

I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on knee-high snowboarding socks over my years, and one of the things that bothers me the most is that at the end of the day, the elastic at the top of the sock leaves an imprint on your calf and around your shin. Sometimes it's just unsightly to look at, and sometimes it's uncomfortable. Especially if you've been wearing the socks for over 12 hours. With these socks, I had no such problem.

At one point during the walk I had to take a few steps through some 3-5 inch muck. I felt the cold water seep into my boots and winced and parts of the socks became saturated. After some time my feet warmed up the water, and I forgot about it. Three hours later when I took my boots off, my feet were moist in the areas that got saturated, but I'd say that they only held an amount slightly more than you would get after hiking in thick boots on a hot summer day. The fact that I forgot about my wet feet while they walked themselves dry says a lot about the effectiveness of the COOLMAX.

During the firearms seminar, I spent 8 hours running, jumping, standing and sweating in my socks. Again they did a great job of staying where I wanted them to be without developing hotspots or blisters. With some of my less technical socks, I've found that after a lot of starting and stopping in high energy exercise, they rub and become uncomfortable. Throughout the day, I was happy not to spend any attention on my feet.

When we geared down I smiled knowing that I had done well, and was pleasantly surprised that my feet were dry. It was hot on the range, and my FROG combat shirt was soaked underneath my plate carrier. So it was nice to know I could have probably spent a lot longer in my socks before feeling any discomfort. The performance in terms of moisture movement is on par with the majority of Burton snowboarding socks I've spent $35-50 on in the past.

The last test was at my desk, wearing a pair of skate slippers. Stylish? Yeah. Breathable? Not at all. Every pair of socks I've worn in these things get soaked if they are not made with some sort of moisture moving fabric. I wore the socks through my 14km bike ride to work, 9 hours at my desk, and another 14km to get home. I slipped my foot out of my shoes from time to time at my desk, to check on my socks. Each time I checked, my feet were dry. Impressed so far? I think so.

If I had to say one negative thing about these socks it would be that they are like debris velcro. Leaves, dust, and fibres will stick to these socks like nothing I've ever seen before. So if you're changing into these before a hike, do it in your car, where you can change footwear without having to step on the ground. The socks haven't given me blisters yet, but having a foreign object in my boot would definitely make them a possibility. So definitely be aware of that.

I've saved this for the end because I can't really chalk this up as a negative, but during a 6-day long camp this December, I took the socks along to see how they would perform. I stepped in a number of puddles along the way and they got pretty wet. After walking around and hanging them over night, they were still wet the next day. The reason I don't think I can really call it a negative is because these are Hot-climate summer socks, not sub-zero central Ontario late Fall socks.

Going forward, I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen when I totally submerge my foot wearing these socks, and then going for a run. GoRuck is still a number of months off. Even though I only have one pair of these socks, I'm glad I have them to train with. Once I start doing some training and putting these socks through some situations similar to what I'm expecting during the challenge will determine whether or not I use them for the event. As it stands now though, Applied Orange's Combat Socks are at the top of my list!


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