These boots aren't, apparently, made for walking
January 16, 2011 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Why can't my Sorel boots play nice with my socks? Why must my shins bleed?

A little over 3 years ago I finally broke down, accepted the fact that winter boots are useful and purchased a pair of Sorel boots (the 1964PAC, I believe). Generally speaking, I love them, and given their price and their indestructibility, I won't be getting a new pair of boots for a looooong time.

Still. The first two winters I used them I dutifully laced them up snugly, but after even relatively minimal amounts of walking, I would develop sores on the backs of my legs (roughly Achilles tendon area). Unpleasant! I determined these were due to the very stiff "back" of the boots jabbing into my leg, so I experimented and loosened up the laces considerably so my ankles could move more freely (a terrible description, I know, but it's besides the point). This stopped the sores on the back of my legs, but caused me to develop sores on my shins from friction with the slit in the front of the boot liner. Moreover, in each case my socks ALWAYS slid down my feet, exacerbating the sores.

Late last winter I realized that by only lacing the boots halfway up I could avoid all sores on my legs. I'm not exactly "graceful," but at least I'm not bleeding. Plus, I realize most girls who have started sporting these boots (to my irrational aggravation, no less) tend to keep them loose like this.

Still, though, my socks will not stay up under any circumstances. And I don't just mean they slide down my leg, but it's as if the boots are actively pulling my socks down to my toes (I mean that my heels are actually exposed unless I tug my socks up every 30 seconds). I have tried every kind of sock: tight socks, loose socks, work socks, athletic socks, tall socks, short socks, cotton socks, wool socks, you have it. I just can't get them to stay up.

Until this point, I attributed all of these problems to the "breaking in" phase of these boots. But, seriously, three years of breaking in? I can no longer suspend my disbelief. Am I really this incapable of dressing myself? Is this a common problem? What can I do?
posted by oohisay to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total)
Honestly, it sounds like you don't have the right size. Sorels, as I understand, are sized similar to the classic LL Bean boots, which means you need to go down one size, sometimes 1.5 sizes. I wear a 12 in dress shoes, and both my Sorel 1964 PAC boots and my LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoes are size 11. If I didn't wear them with two pairs of socks (one of which is very thick), I could probably get away with a 10.5 in both.
posted by brozek at 12:25 PM on January 16, 2011

I put a pair of SuperFeet insoles in mine and that's made them a ton more comfy. I also don't tie them tight unless I'm planning on going into deep snow.
posted by advicepig at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2011

Response by poster: which means you need to go down one size, sometimes 1.5 sizes

Ah, interesting! I did go down one size (from 9 to 8), but perhaps I needed to go further? There's really no room in my boots, which makes me wonder how that would work, though I will try layering socks to see if filling any gaps would help.
posted by oohisay at 1:05 PM on January 16, 2011

I have a pair of Sorel Caribous, and I actually found that they were way too small if I went down a size. I tried, because that's what everyone said to do, and it didn't work. I run true to size in Caribous. Is there any chance that they're actually too small?

(I can't figure out why I had such a different experience with this than everyone else does. Part of it may be that I wear my boots with two pairs of thick socks. But I think that part of it is that my feet are kind of wide, and the bigness seems to have to do with length, not width.)
posted by craichead at 1:22 PM on January 16, 2011

I have some Sorel boots that make the socks slide down too, and I'm pretty sure they're sized right. Even long socks would slide down my foot to past my heel, and I couldn't imagine the bootliner insulation being any snugger than it already is! My solution was to get some thick socks that come far enough up that I can flip the top of the socks over the outside of the boots at the top. It's not pretty, but no one can see the tops of the boots when they're under my pants anyway.
posted by stopgap at 1:23 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a similar pair of Sorels that have given me the same kinds of problems you describe. After one winter of ankles rubbed raw, I too gave up on lacing my boots up tightly. They're pretty much slip-on boots now. I've also had the exact same sock-pulling-down problem. I finally discovered this phenomenon can be countered by extra-tall socks--preferably if they're a thin, smooth material. If the socks can get a good grip high up on your calf, then the boots can't wrestle them down.

This is interesting to learn that I'm not the only one with these weird boot problems! And I thought Sorels were supposed to be the greatest thing ever! I can't say I'd buy them again.
posted by gueneverey at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have Sorels, love them. I always wear men's socks, so they're a little bigger than ladies'. Put on the boots, then pull the socks up above the rim of the boot and flip them over the top edges of the boot. It kind of turns the sock into a boot liner while your foot's in it (does that make sense?). This keeps the socks up and prevents the boots from chafing.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you tried socks that have arch bands? Perhaps snowboarding socks? I can't find mine online, but mine do not slide down, and they grip my calves and feet. Also, warm. These are not my socks (I can't find them online) but they might help you?
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered sock garters?
posted by Logic Sheep at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2011

Not necessarily the 'correct' answer here, but unless I'm going out hiking or skiing I usually wear tights with my winter boots (I wear skirts and dresses much more often than pants). They don't fall down as easily as socks and you could probably wear them under pants, which would also help with the cold weather (which is why I'm assuming you're wearing winter boots in the first place)!
posted by girlalex at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2011

So I lose short athletic socks in my boots ALL THE TIME and it drives me nuts. But I have not had the problem you are describing with tall socks. How tall are they? I got some Hunter boot liners this winter which are basically tall fleece socks with a wool or whatever-you-want band at the top and I wear them in my Sorels for a) extra warmth and b) cuteness.

They come up past the top of the boot, I feel this is a key factor in their remaining up. And yeah, size may be an issue. I am a 41/size 10 and my Sorels are that size so with them I wear my normal socks and then my boot liner socks. Warm and cozy and no sock slippage!
posted by hepta at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2011

I have the same problem with my Sorel PACs. Apart from the obvious solution (wearing tights), I found that for some reason tying them tight and wearing them with socks that are really soft (part cashmere, merino or bamboo) helps a lot.
posted by snownoid at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2011

Response by poster: Great ideas all around (also, I am deeply relieved that I'm not the only one). My tallest socks reach 3/4 of the way up my calf. I do, admittedly, have industrial-sized calves, so perhaps something even taller could be a good experiment. Although, I regularly wear tights under my socks but that doesn't change the sock-eating problem. I'm not sure, then, whether simply longer socks would work, unless they were so tight as to positively grip my calves....

I am intrigued by the arch band socks. I wonder if that would help. I feel, though, as if I'd need a "heel band," not an arch band.....
posted by oohisay at 4:12 PM on January 16, 2011

I've got the 1964s. It took a couple years for them to really break in. I think the non-vintage-reissue ones are better for this than the 1964 reissues, but in either case we're talking shoes that are only vaguely designed for feet. A lot of orthopedics has gone mainstream in the last 60 years, and shoes just fit better now.

For me, the sock-eating was because the felt around the heel would grab my sock on the "upstroke" but let it slide on the "downstroke", so I'd get a little sock ratchet going and next thing I know it's past my heel. Here, lacing loosely helped for me, but I wonder if putting some smooth tape around the heel would help you, where "smooth" is "less grabby than felt"?

As for the shins: are you tucking pants into the boots?
posted by mendel at 10:01 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had a pair of Sorels probably bought around 1995 that had these same issues - painful injury at achilles' tendon, and socks pulling down. (It's heartening to see your question, because yeah - I thought they were supposed to be so great, but i think the way the foot part connects to the leather upper part is just faulty somehow.) I used them for years with various stopgap measures to counteract the problems but finally gave in and just got a pair of Columbias that are warm and don't injure my feet, and have never looked back.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:51 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As for the shins: are you tucking pants into the boots?

Generally no. I realized early on that only exacerbated the problem. Sigh.
posted by oohisay at 1:50 PM on January 17, 2011

So I've been experimenting a bit.

Not tucking or tucking tightly is owie for me with jeans at least, bits rub. But just sort of gathering my (skinnyish) jeans in the top of the boot seems to work best..

As for the heel thing, I realized that I tie mine pretty tight at the top but I don't pull all the laces more than "a little tight", so they're sort of held on at the leg rather than at the foot. That seems to give my feet a bit more room to not ratchet.

But fundamentally I think they're just not good boots for a lot of walking.
posted by mendel at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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