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Introduction

Moisture is one of the enemies of feet and a common factor in blister formation and a required one in maceration. Its also easy to come by and so was the basis for a sock stress test. The general idea was to keep my feet wet, and cover lots of distance (specifically while ‘shadowing’ a GORUCK Heavy event over 24+hrs)

In a previous post I did a quick comparison between the brand new sock company PROSOK that is US and veteran owned and the much more established DryMax (a product I’ve used for sometime now).

I’ve been testing PROSOK for day to day wear (super comfortable) and for GORUCK events, and have many friends that have used them for road running as well as OCR and trail races. Most people I know have claimed them to be the best sock they have ever used for both blister prevention and comfort.

I must say my initial tests for day to day wear and some short runs have proved very positive.

So on to the test itself. Before reading this, bear in mind that my specific findings and conclusions are based very specifically on rucking type events (such as a GORUCK Challenge, or Death Race) but will add my (untested) thoughts on application in other scenarios based on this specific test.

Specific Products Tested

PROSOK

socks_benefits PROSOK is a relative newcomer to the world of technical socks. They are made using a bamboo micro-weave making them both environmentally friendly and breathable.

The main intended advantages over other products include

  • Stretch to fit. The stretchiness of these socks really does make them fit much better than any other athletic sock I have worn, and a perfect fit always helps prevent certain foot problems.
  • Anti-microbial. Helps prevent a bunch of issues too, least of which is smelly feet.
  • Extremely wicking. They hold onto moisture which also pulls it away from the skin very quickly.

As a newcomer they only have one style of sock on the market at this time in a couple of different sizes. I tested the 16cm black/green sock on my left foot. Its just long enough to work with 8” military boots.

DryMax

packaging_lite_trail_runningDryMax are a more mature company and as such have many styles of socks that are custom designed with features for specific applications, such as road or trail running, hiking, and even tennis or golf. They are manufactured in the USA.

The sock I used was the Lite Trail Hiking sock, in crew length – slightly longer than the PROSOK but still a good fit for military 8” boots.

Their main designed advantages are

  • Designed specifically for trail running to prevent debris entering the sock.
  • Dual layer weave (knitted together) contains an inner layer that repels water and an outer layer that attracts it. This quickly pulls moisture away from the skin which will then evaporate under heat or friction.
  • Knitted to fit. Certain features are designed to provide a better fit for overall and long term comfort.

I have been using these socks for sometime now and have sworn by them for most events I do.

Test Parameters

The original intent was to perform the following test for the duration of a GORUCK Heavy event this last weekend but sadly an injury caused me to withdraw. Instead I decided to shadow the event to cover the same mileage with walking and running only, while carrying around 20-25lbs (camera equipment etc).

The specific parameters were

  • Distance
    • 40+ miles on a mix of surfaces, mostly road and concrete and some trail with a mixture of running, walking and fast walking.
  • Socks
    • One PROSOK product was to be placed on my left foot and one DryMax product on my right foot. No sock changes or swapping were to be allowed.
    • Both socks were new but pre-washed (recommended for the PROSOK product)
  • Footwear
  • Conditions
    • No additional products were used, meaning no tape, foot powder or lubrication products are to be allowed
    • Feet were to start out very damp, and new water applied at regular intervals
    • Socks to remain unchanged until significant maceration or blistering occurs and even then I’d only allow the sock on that foot to be changed after lancing the blister if necessary. Again no foot powder or other products will be allowed.
    • Socks would not be taken off to dry out or wring out – only to view and photograph progress
    • Outdoor Temperature varied from 30F to 55F

Early Impressions (first 4 hours)

Between pulling the socks and boots onto the feet and lacing the boots, I added about 1oz of water to each foot. The intent here is to accelerate the stress test. Once of the enemies of foot care is moisture.

At any opportunity to walk through a stream, brook or puddle I took it. The C4T boot though needs to be submersed by a few inches to really let in water, and they also vent water quickly while walking.

The following observations were noted

  1. SIZING : PROSOK run small but stretch to fit, which with the sock shape ensured a perfect fit on the base of the foot. DryMax have zero stretch, and despite their “True Fit” sizing its not as easy to get an exact fit. The important thing here with the DryMax then was to ensure that the heel cup was placed correctly before inserting into the boot.
    Note that PROSOK’s current large size is 16cm, which only just pulls over the top of the 8” boot.
  2. COMFORT : Right off the bat I noticed some obvious differences. The softness and fit of the PROSOK made them feel more cushioned. The softer material also made the sock less noticable under movement.
    The DryMax felt dry within minutes of moving, though, where the PROSOK felt damp for a considerable time. This was expected though.
    A direct comparison did make me away of the fact that the material and weave of the DryMax is a little harsher and on that foot I did notice some mild sensations in a couple of places.
  3. FOOT ISSUES : None on either feet
  4. RATING @ 4hrs
    1. PROSOK : 10/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

First 12 hours

Between 4 and 12 hours I continued to put on miles, which became noticeable. The temperature was beginning to warm up as daylight hit and the day progressed. Again I took every opportunity to stand in puddles or streams, or walk through them to rewet the feet from time to time. Once moving after soaking the feet, the venting action of the C4T boots was excellent which certainly helped prolong the onset of problems.

No issues occurred either in this time but again I noticed that the PROSOK foot consistently felt ‘softer’ and slightly more cushioned than the DryMax foot, but also often felt significantly damper.

  1. FOOT ISSUES : Nothing major. Some slight heat was starting to be felt on the heals of both my feet (note that I have protruding heel bones which often cause this issue) with the DryMax feeling slightly worse. A very minor hot spot was also felt in a small section on the small of my foot. PROSOK seemed slightly more comfortable. With all these issues, though, the differences were minor
  2. RATING @ 12 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 10/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

At the 12 hour mark I did a foot check, photos below. As you can see for having 20-25 miles on mostly hard surfaces, with regularly soaked feet, both feet are relatively unscathed.

PROSOK (left foot) @ 12 hrs  DryMax (right foot) @ 12 hrs

On replacing the boots I opened the tongue of the boots and poured in about 2oz of water into each before lacing up and getting ready to move on.

First 18 hours

The 12-18 hour period is when I usually expect issues to start creeping in for me under less than ideal circumstances. Keeping my feet moist was definitely less than ideal. At around the 15 hour mark I was starting to notice hot spots and pain in two spots on the foot wearing PROSOK – the pinky toe and the outside edge on the bottom of my heal. It wasn’t painful but definitely hot spots that I knew were starting to turn.

The distance was also starting to take its toll on my legs too. Around 30+ miles in was causing some stiffness to start appearing in my calves and achilles tendon which was undoubtedly changing my gait in a subtle manner.

At the 18 hour mark (roughly) the class I was following took shelter in a gym for a quick foot check giving me the opportunity to check and photograph mine

  1. FOOT ISSUES : By hour 18, the foot wearing the PROSOK had two fairly painful, but small, blisters. The skin on the base of the foot was also starting to soften, but was still in good shape. At this point I decided to replace the wet PROSOK with a clean dry one.
    The foot wearing DryMax was still in decent shape. Some softness on my heel and base of my foot was present, but again nothing critical.
  2. RATING @ 18 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 6/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

PROSOK @ 18hrs PROSOK @ 18hrs

DryMax @ 18hrs   DryMax @ 18hrs

At the foot check I decided to drain the two small blisters using a sterile lancing needle, and apply a new PROSOK. I kept the original DryMax on the other foot.

Full 24+ hours

The last 6 hours involved a slower pace, which puts less stress in the feet in terms of friction and shearing from movement. The draining of my blisters and application of a new PROSOK helped tremendously. The PROSOK in fact very quickly dried out the base of that foot almost reversing any tendency towards maceration.

  1. FOOT ISSUES : At hour 26 the issues were minor. There was still some minor tenderness from the blister sights on the PROSOK foot, but also a minor pain on the heel of the DryMax foot as well.
    Overall though both feet were in much better shape than expected.
  2. RATING @ 26 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 8/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

Conclusions

Both socks performed better than expected given the conditions and are both worth trying – I consider these products both as head and shoulders above their competition. That said, in this one test the DryMax definitely had the edge, going for 24 hrs and 40+ miles without needing to be changed or wrung out. This was also a single test, and different conditions might provide different results.

The application of a new PROSOK was key to reversing the effects of the blisters and the softening of my feet while wet. The PROSOK also generally felt a little bit more comfortable most of the time, with slightly less noticeable hot spots and a little more cushion. The fit was also a bit better. I would, though, recommend spare pairs for wet and or long distance usage. Given that this is their first product, I am very impressed and can only expect future generations of product from them to get better as they fine tune their design.

The DryMax socks remain my favorite sock, despite the fact that the fit isn’t as easy to get right and the fact that they aren’t quite as comfortable. The fact that seconds after soaking my foot in a pond and then walking in a vented boot has them feeling bone dry is a huge deal and gives me one less thing to feel worried about during a GORUCK event, Death Race, or similar style event. I also like that I can choose a product tailored to the specific application although sometimes the choice can be confusing or overwhelming too.

I also have no doubt that BOTH socks would have been rated Excellent had I also used Trail Toes cream on my feet beforehand and reapplied every 6-8 hours. A side note – I did use Trail Toes in my butt crack and inner thigh as its a WAY better anti-chafe product than Body Glide and also smells a lot better too.

The first two pictures below show the blistering from PROSOK use. The second show some heel abrasion from DryMax use but no blistering.

PROSOK w/ pinky toe blister after 26 hrs PROSOK w/ heel blister after 26 hrs

DryMax after event  DryMax after event

A quick note regarding the Super Feet Green inserts. This are usually my first choice, but they were a little too firm for long distances and in the future I might switch to their software version the Super Feet Orange.

Recommendation

PROSOK and DryMax are both worth a look. Check them out and add a comment with your thoughts.  Both of these have a place in my activity “toolkit”.

If I weren’t expecting to go for more than 10 hrs or have constantly wet feet (so a multi-day hike) then PROSOK would be my product of choice. Similarly for a short mud-run (I consider short anything up to 6-8 hrs) the comfort and fit of this product gives them the edge.

For longer applications where I might not get opportunities to change out socks (GORUCK Heavy or Selection, for example) I would combine Trail Toes foot cream with the DryMax Hiking socks.

Once again the specific products tested were

Related Posts

Note above I have used affiliate links to some of the products mentioned so that I can offset the costs associated with running the blog, but assure you that my recommendations would not be any different otherwise.

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8 thoughts on “Stress Test Comparison : PROSOK vs DryMax, part 2

  1. Pingback: Going The Distance : Foot Prep and In-race Triage, part 1 | Over Long Distances

  2. Pingback: Feet, keeping your wheels turning | Over Long Distances

  3. Let me start by extending my sincere gratitude to Mark Webb, and everyone else who believes in PROSOK. We began as a small group of partners dedicated to producing one of the best performance socks on the market. It’s amazing to have achieved that so soon and on the first launch!

    A combination of diverse backgrounds became strength as we designed and tested prototypes. As most of you know, I’m an Active Duty Army Special Forces Soldier. I know first hand that without healthy feet, you are dead in the water. Sure you can hobble along with a sore knee, or back, or even a class 3 sprained ankle (I’ve done it). But when your feet go to hell, everything else goes along with them and self-doubt begins to creep in. I’ve spent days in wet US Army issue socks with soaked leather boots that take hours and hours on a warm day to completely dry. I’ve had extreme maceration and trench foot. In fact, it was that very condition that made my life a bit easier during SERE, 2006 (Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape) as I posted my bleach white marbled foot up on the desk during an intense line of questioning and face beating! I remember getting to go and sit by the fire as Terry, the Senior Medic in my class, dabbed my feet with a cloth as I gave my jaw a rest. (Terry was killed in Iraq the following year RIP).

    Our goal at PROSOK is to continue to provide the best products possible to our customers. I don’t really consider GORUCK folks to be “customers”; you guys are more like extended family. There is something about a group of people, many of them total strangers, transcending superficial differences, and coming together to voluntarily be put through hell that inspires me to tears and that’s why I keep coming back as a GORUCK Cadre. Do I get paid? Sure! Is it much? No! Especially when the extra income bumps you in to the “25%” tax bracket. Then the pay really becomes irrelevant. Point is I’d do anything within my means to help any one of you. You guys fall into my “people I can rely on during a zombie apocalypse” category. In fact, maybe that’s it. GORUCK has been training you guys for the Z apocalypse and you didn’t even know it…

    PROSOK as it stands provides the most versatile sock on the market. Nothing we have tested beats PROSOK in power transfer, fit, and comfort. Being anti-microbial, it’s also nice to be able to kick my shoes off on the plane post GORUCK. We happen to be pretty good with blister control and moisture transfer as well. We didn’t expect to nail everything down on the first try. We have some work to do if we want to provide the absolute “best” sock for rucking and hiking. But, as we expand our line from “multipurpose” to event specific, we’ll get there. Truth is, no one sock can do it all. Even if it did, it couldn’t do it all for every person. As Mark Webb said in his blog; “everyone’s physiology is different”. We have several athletes that use PROSOK in cycling, OCR, Triathlons, Death Races, and Ultra Marathons. They love our product.

    Realize there is no magic sock that can make your feet feel amazing after a 40+ mile walk under extreme loads. But at a minimum, follow these three rules.

    1. Ensure your footwear is broken in and fits properly. Sounds like a no brainer right? I put at least 200 miles of varied terrain under 65lbs in my boots prior to selection for Army SF. On that note, stop wearing tennis shoes to GORUCK Heavy’s. I know some people differ on this topic but cask any Spec Ops guy and you’ll get opinions similar to mine. The rigidity and overall support of an actual “boot” will make s huge difference in the amount of trauma the tissues in your feet and ankles experience during an event. ESPECIALLY under extreme loads. Get a couple pairs of good boots and break them in.

    2. Change your socks every 6-8 hours. I learned this in training. In fact, we even packed an extra pair of dry boots.

    3. Break in your feet. Don’t go easy on them. If you were at GOREVOLUTION, you may have noticed I wore a pair of minimalist zero drop Innov8s. Why? Because I like to beat my feet up once in awhile. Keeps them tough. I also like to wear T-shirts when it’s cold. But I keep a baseball cap on me for when the temp really drops…Train hard. Then use every advantage you can when it really matters 🙂

    4. Remember to prewash PROSOK and dry for a shrink fit.

    As for everyone, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me any time for any reason. Not just concerning PROSOK but for anything GORUCK or OCR related as well. If I can’t answer your questions, I have a pool of professional talent that can! Sincerely, I thank all of you for your support. It means the world to me. We will continue to do our best to bring you guys the best products possible. Calf length socks, and compression sleeves may be coming in the near future. As always, they will be athlete tested first 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great write up. Here’s what I’ll add. I’ve been rucking with a combination of socks, but have switched to Prosok almost exclusively this year. Two challenges (one about 9 hours, the other about 12), in wet and nasty conditions, one pair held up great – no need to switch. I’ve been training in them weekly as well.

    Now for gorev, I swapped socks twice, 3 different, clean pair and really I was good until the last 4-6 hours. Starting getting hotspots at the gym ‘stop’, and I ended up with a few painful blisters, on both heels, and by the toes. Not sure what to make of it, except maybe my feet just weren’t ready for 24.

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  5. Mark –

    First, this is NOT a ProSok bash – just a report of my experiences this weekend with the same sock.

    I was also using the same ProSok as you this weekend (maybe a different color, but same model). I don’t do events (frequency) like you do, but I do have miles on my feet (AT, SAR, 2 x GRCs, etc) – I tried the ProSok partially based on your and other positive comments here and in the GR FB pages. I spent about 2 to 3 weeks utilizing it for training rucks leading up to the GoRev event (which I did not finish due to apparently not having my mind right), but I did spend just over 12 hours in the same pair of ProSoks including walking to the meet point, the event for 8-ish hours and then 2.5 hrs getting back to my car.(this last part was a continuous push and where my foot problems manifested)

    Generally, I’ve had the same positive thoughts about the sock as you. Very comfortable, soft. I hadn’t really put it to too much of a moisture/heat test up to this point, however.

    To get to the end first, my feet were quite sore by the time I reached my car. In fact, I walked the last 1/4 mile or so in just socks (and slowly) because keeping my shoes on was too painful. Maceration was beginning to really raise it’s ugly head on both my big toes and the ball of the foot behind the big toes (both common areas for me to have foot pain on long events/hikes, etc) Also, my left pinkie toe was particularly painful as the pad of the toes (on both feet) get “stepped” on/pinched by the toe next to them. This creates a pinching blister-like effect.

    Changes I made during this event from previous: I still wore the same model shoe (Saucony Guide running shoe – I’m a moderate pronator and this is same shoe I use to run training miles on road), however, I chose to add the Superfeet Green insole in place of the standard insole because of the anticipated distance under load. In both of the GRCs that I’ve done, I noticed what I describe as foot structural ache by the end. I’ve been wearing Superfeet Green since 1997 and feel they are one of the keys to me completing the AT – your posts got me thinking about using them in my running shoes for this event because of the long time/under load aspect of the event. I did about 2 weeks of training rucks with this combo, but my feet are pretty used to the insole as they (SF Orange) are in my daily work shoes and all my hiking boots (SF Green)

    Generally my feet didn’t bother me too much for the time I was participating in the event. Though they were beginning to get sore from a moisture/maceration perspective when we reached Lexington. I don’t know how long my feet were wet, not really being sure when I was first sent into the water. That water and later immersions all contained some considerable amount of mud and there was considerable grit from the surface material of the trail as well. This fine grit seemed to become well established in the fabric of the sock.

    I did take off my shoes at Lexington, but not my socks and so I doubt there was much drying of moisture from either the sock or my foot.

    Once I made the decision to leave the event my goal was just to get back to my car and move on with the day. Therefore, my retracing of our day was done as a single push with no rest except for 1 bathroom stop and a couple pauses of less than a couple minutes. I did not sit or take off shoes during these breaks. I guess I would make this push analogous to a ruck-march fit test that someone might undertake in a GRH, etc. (though a bit short on mileage/time). Done with wet feet in gritty socks/shoes, it led to quite a bit of foot break down. By the time I reached my car, if I had still been in the event, I would have been done.

    My feet remained sore for the rest of Saturday. Sunday my feet felt good except for my left pinkie toe which took until Monday to recover.

    I did not have any blisters that needed care.

    I’ve bought a few pairs of the ProSok and like them. I don’t know that they failed on Saturday – I probably should have changed to a fresh sock (however, in an event, I wouldn’t want to have to keep too many pairs on hand). I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the time in Lexington to rinse the grit from my socks, wring out and then put back on?

    I plan to continue to utilize mine for running and cycling and, if I commit to another GR event, will consider for that as well. I think that long term, a lot about feet really requires active intervention to help change the equations of heat, moisture and pressure/shearing.

    I wore Injinji socks for my 2 previous GRCs and think the individual toes help to keep me from stomping on my pinkie toes, so I may have to go back to that. I wonder if a sock/shoe that doesn’t allow my toes to spread tends to worsen that effect – something to look at later. The difficult thing was grit in the shoe/sock which I feel exacerbated my problems. I tried to make a switch to a boot for this event but got to it too late and couldn’t get a good fit from the one I tried.

    You keep up the good work – you’re doing some good stuff on here.

    Joe LaRue

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    • Thanks for the added detail. Everyone’s physiology is a little different, plus you got in more mud than I did. Boots definitely help avoid grit inside the sock, plus DryMax hiking socks actually are designed to reduce that problem too.

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