Sunday, September 16, 2012

Praxis: "Socks. Cushioned sole, O.D. green."

LT Dan Taylor: "There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks. Cushioned sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry. When we're out humpin', I want you boys remember to change your socks whenever we stop. The Mekong will eat a grunt's feet right off his legs. . . Two standing orders in this platoon: One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like getting yourself killed."
PVT Forrest Gump: "I sure hope I don't let him down."
A deep genuflection and tip of the boonie hat to MG who sent me this link "What Color Are Your Socks?: It’s time To Leash Your Dogma" by LTC Michael D. Grice, USMC, Retired, from the Marine Corps Gazette as well as some informed practical discussion of the article and its subject at Tom Kratman's "Kratskeller" forum at the Baen publishing web site.
A couple of years ago I dealt with this subject here. (Be sure to check out the comments to that post as well and put your own comments on the best socks in your experience below.)
Now, much of LTC Grice's article deals with command inflexibility and myopia in the USMC higher echelons in Afghanistan, with the color of Marine's socks being just one apparent bone of contention. But the comments at the Kratskeller forum are more to the point of which socks are best. Here's a selection:
MICPL wrote: I used to make a "stirrup" by making a knot in the nylon band in the bottom seam of woodland BDU trousers and pulling it taut in my instep, keeping anyone from ever seeing the LL Bean ragg wool socks that allowed me to wear green side jungle boots through most of Germany's winter.
JohnnyMormon wrote: Oddly, the only times I've been issued socks were boot camp and as part of the gear issue we received for deployment. Somebody somewhere decided we should get thick winter weather socks. For a summer deployment to Afghanistan. Yeah. I know. We needed them about as much as we needed the winter weather camouflage smocks and bag covers. I wish I were making this up.
Aside from those two instances, I buy my own boot socks and the overwhelming majority are very thin socks which do next to nothing. If you don't want to wear through them in a week, either throw a pair of white PT socks on underneath the boot socks or buy the calf length white socks at Walmart. They fit, they cushion and they last.
Jack Withrow wrote: I am not against white socks in theory. Nor am I worked up about uniform wear and appearance. I am saying in my experience I have seen very few pairs of white socks that held up as good as any issue socks.
Best socks I have ever worn were issue items: Smartwool. Worst socks I have ever worn were the white Walmart/PX Hanes or Fruit of the Loom specials. The old OD Green wool socks were terrible, but the new issue black or the Smartwool are probably the best socks ever supplied to the military. Yes, there are better socks on the market if you pay $40 or more a pair. But those white Walmart or PX specials will give you blisters faster than any other socks I know of. I have seen and had more than I care to remember bloody feet because of them.
I am still wearing Smartwool socks I was issued in 2003 prior to deploying to Afghanistan, you can not wear them out. I have never had a blister wearing them.
Brer Tiger wrote: How _do_ you deal with crappy socks?
Greenhair wrote: Nylon dress socks under the issued socks, duct tape or mole skin on hot sports, lightly powdered feet wear two pairs of socks, salt water soaks (iffy that last one it works for some people.), get good socks.
What worked for each person was what worked for them...few people could wear the issued socks without problems. So you just stamped them folded them taped them together in an inspection bundle and never used them as soon as you got good socks.
DocKrin wrote: one of the biggest problems that needs to be corrected is that folks with big feet need big socks. Standard 'one size' socks generally go mens 8-12....I'm wearing 14s now...they should NOT fit too tight against the calves of the legs...I also have large calves and many socks are too tight.
Also, the use of silk or NASA Thermal socks http://www.easylifegroup.com/nasa-thermal-gloves-and-socks-3509 is probably better than the nylon dress socks especially in cold weather. Oddly enough the NASA Thermals really do stretch enough to fit size 14s!
Sportsman's Guide used to carry them on a regular basis, but apparently don't any longer. The Cheaper Than Dirt website is not currently responding.
Brands that I have had good luck with include Fox River and Carhart...
PavePusher wrote: With all due respect, military issue socks are absolute rubbish. (I know, I've ordered/issued a lot of them.) Commercially available ones developed by outdoor-sports specialists (especially the hiking/mountaineering communities) are far better for the feet. They are usually available in military colors these days, but not always. And the military has certainly not spent "large sums of money" on socks, in perspective. They buy the cheapest, lowest bid crap they can get away with. And color has nothing to do with performance. "Approved" has very little to do with comfort and performance. The fact is, I spend a significant amount of my own pay on socks and underwear and boots, and council other Airmen to do the same, because the military doesn't give a flying fornication about my personal longevity. (And before you start a hue and cry about my 'Airman' status, you try spending 24 straight hours on a concrete and/or dirt flightline, quite possibly in rain or snow or mud, in crap socks and boots.)
PavePusher wrote: J.M., I recommend the following set-up: any color synthetic, moisture-wicking sock as a base layer (I currently prefer Under Armor white or black crew socks, but Burlington PrimaSports running crew are good too.) under any good wool/synthetic blend boot sock from a known outdoor-activity sock company. (Fox River makes an excellent series of military boot-socks ((I prefer them)) as do ThorLo, Wigwam, Smartwool and several others. Check your BX/PX or here: http://www.sockcompany.com/ I have no affiliation and, sadly, get no commission or reward for referrals.
The most important thing is to stay away from cotton or cotton blends. Cotton absorbs water, compresses and increases chaffing. Layered, wicking socks breathe better, keep feet dryer, and mitigate chaffing by shifting movement to the inter-sock layer. Another trick is to put some foot powder (anti-fungal) in the base layer, rotating brand/active ingredient every month or three. Reduces friction, absorbs moisture away from the skin, and fights foot rot in wet conditions.
Lastly, have at least two pairs of boots, rotate daily (in garrison, not always practical in the field) so they can dry for 24-36 hours. Remember to pull the foam liner out for more complete drying, you'd be shocked to know how much wet crud will collect under there.
And if you have to chose between extra socks or pogie bait... SOCKS!!!! Every time. (Ammo first, of course...)
TBR (a German officer) wrote: In my enlisted and OC days I was crazy enough to join the marching group , doing 80+ klicks of training marches a week (with pack) after duty hours for such things as the Nijmegen marches. I was using the hard normal GI boots and the two pairs of socks approach, with the inner pair often being white.
But years later, when I left seafaring to wear spotted clothes I bought commercial Lowa boots, those that pass for MILSPEC (and are issue to some "elite" units) were available in the uniform store. With those softer boots with a lot of "trekking" technology inside I could dispense with the two socks approach and use cheap and thin black "Dry/Fresh Feet" specials (with Aloe Vera and Silver ions) for socks, bought in 3-7 pair bundles and basically used up since after several washings they lost their effect.
http://www.lowa.de/produkte/spezialschuhe/task-force.html
But in my experience feet react different from person to person, some do not blister at all, even with GI boots and socks, others blister heavily even with the best "non-GI but Milspec" boots and awfully expensive special socks.
piobair wrote: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, a young lady asked if we could drive her to the next stage. She wanted to keep up with others, but needed a fallow day. During the ride, we talked about socks. Wool socks are recommended for all hikers of the Blue Ridge. I mentioned that I had been taught that wool will not cause blisters, even if your feet are soaking wet. This is not a "wicking" problem; this is walking thru a stream or soaking rain. The caveat is that wool socks that are taken off MUST be washed before putting them back on. What happens is that the wool form fits around the foot. If they are taken off, the form no longer fits. She confirmed that theory by personal experience. This works best if the wool is next to the skin.
The modern "wicking" socks mentioned in this thread presume that the only moisture is sweat. The sweat gets wicked away, keeping the feet dry. If your feet get soaked, the best available sock is 90% wool & 10% nylon. The nylon adds structural integrity to the wool. I have some hand-knit socks, the soles of which were made from "stocking wool" of this kind. the balance is 100% Marino. My late mother made them, so I don't wear them hiking. I do wear them when I plan on staying on my feet all day (conventions). I also have a pair of Argyle doubleknit hose (yes, that is what is under my kilt). An hour standing around before the Christmas parade started, then 1.5 miles of parade in 20 degree F weather. No sweat.
Can someone tell me why a second pair of socks is recommended? The only reason that I have ever worn two socks was to protect the socks that my Mother knitted.
Jack Withrow wrote: You wear the first pair normally and the second pair inside out. The two smooth sides in contact are supposed to cut down on friction and bunching that causes blisters. A lot of the old hands swore by this method when I first joined the military. It does work somewhat.
A second method, was to wear a pair of military dress socks underneath a pair of regular boot socks. Again the idea was to cut down on bunching and friction.
Neither of these methods work if your boots are not well broken in.
Jack Withrow wrote: You were doing your job as you were supposed to. I don't quite understand your comment about white socks keeping foot problems to a minimum. My experience with them they were blister makers. Are you referring to some type of medical sock?
Mike Harmon wrote: Jack; Found out that in Viet Nam, "best" for fungual infections was anti fungal ointment and white(light) socks that were thick jock type. Ordered as medical type supplies through main supply. Major problem with supply pucks, Medical Officer won. Marine zeroes tried to lean on Corpsemen, general chickensh*t. Word came done from Sar'Maj to knock it off. Other company HMs copied and celuitoius(sp) rates dropped to point of no sickbay Marines. Biggest problem was Staff Sargents and 1st and 2nd leweys.
DocKrin wrote: I'm not that surprised. I suspect that the skin problems I have on my lower shins/calves are the result of equal parts cheap (GI issue) wool socks and long hours in leather combat boots.
Considering that wool is an irritant to many folks, especially when there are open sores, the idea that plain white cotton socks helped resolve cellulitis/warm water immersion foot complicated by fungus is reasonable. I also have questions about how well the green dye stayed in the wool in some of those socks- I know that I occasionally had problems with green feet from the dye when I ended up wearing wet boots/GI wool socks for any length of time- as in when I was in a position where I could not get my feet/boots/socks dry during a day in the field. Never had the chance to go to Panama or any other exotic places, but did end up wet more than a few times.

11 comments:

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Slobyskysa Rotchikokov said...

aWal Mart sells 'Dr. Scholl DIABETIC style' socks, khaki, black or white; Turn inside out to avoid any toe seam rubbing. Hold up well, cushion well, no binding, affordable. CAVEAT: no matter what sock you wear, carry spares and wash them eat least every other day. The soles of socks will take up sweat, dead skin and any debris in your boots and will eventually become abrasive as well as breeding grounds for nasties. It is a fact that your feet are THE weakest link between you and your environment. One bad infection, one overgrowth of fungus / athlete's foot, and you will be in a bad way. There is a big and possible lethal difference in stealthy moving through an area with a smooth tread, and hopping / lurching / hobbling along with a bad set of feet. This I know.

Allen said...

USN were issued black heavy boot socks with white lightweight socks to wear underneath.

the black ones lasted a few wearings, the white ones, about one use before you got a toe-sized hole in them (yes, I kept my toenails trimmed so it wasn't that). finally I went to the green ones whenever my boots were high enough to mask them from the uniform nazis. green ones will last a long time.

Anonymous said...

Man I love GI wool sox, been useing them for 40 years ,I buy all I can get. I'v humped a gizzilion miles in em' never had a problem. If you been in your boots 2 days and nights ,clean sox and foot powder are better than sex.(that and a wash+clean skivies OMG good)

SWIFT said...

When I was in the Nam, my feet looked like hamburger. During the monsoon, the trouble started, but never cleared up all during the dry season. Fortunately, my outfit was not chicken-shit and no one cared if you wore non-military white sox sent from home in a care package. Salt water, (The south China Sea), helped, but like everything, was a temporary fix. No amount of foot powder, changing of sox or boots made any difference. After two tours, I came home and my feet cleared up, but I have friends whose feet never did. While they don't look as nasty as they did in Nam, their feet were never completely cured. My father once told me he saw the same thing in the south Pacific in WW2. Some got cured, some didn't. Believe it or not, soaking my feet in the south China Sea, was the most welcome pain I've ever known.

Charles N. Steele said...

REI hiking socks -- they are merino, come in various thicknesses, less expensive than most, and last forever. I wear them backpacking and on runs of up to 50 miles (the lightest ones) that include wading streams.

Also in very cold & very hot weather.

No blisters. They work.

Abram said...

In my experience,(recreational, ie hiking, hunting, etc) smartwool have been,the best socks I've ever worn. Even with mil surplus Altama desert boots, soaked feet hunting all day, no blisters.

indyjonesouthere said...

Guess I'll be the party pooper but in the 1/327 abn inf C co, I was the rto in the field that made all the resupply orders to the rear. Helicopters would drop the shit out overhead as it was always to damn thick to land. We were resupplied every week and we ordered no fucking socks at all. We would get a washed pair of pants, washed tshirt, and occasionaly a clean towel.(worn around the neck to wipe your face with and extra padding for the damned rucksack. Along with a case of C's and 4 lrrps plus the "red cross" packages that had cigs, candy, etc. I know of no officers or NCOs that wore socks. It would rain for weeks at a time in the highlands and nothing about you dried out. My feet looked a tad shitty(small holes all over on the bottoms like accoustical ceiling tile) but my feet still served me well.

Anonymous said...

Wore the standard issue wool green GI socks through two tours in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan. Afghanistan wasn't that bad, mostly because we didn't go wading through drainage canals like we did in Iraq. Since Iraq, first time, my feet have never cleared up. That was five years ago. I still love the OD green socks, and wear them still in the winter time when I'm NOT in uniform. They hold up well as long as you aren't submerging your feet in water. They are horrible though when they get wet. Might was well be green sandpaper at that point. Change them every chance you get. Foot powder is useless in my opinion. It never did anything for me except clump up in my socks.

Anonymous said...

When I was a grunt way back when I wore thin GI dress socks under my GI wool socks. That worked really well and kept my feet in great shape.
Now as a fat assed civilian pogue I like to wear Merlin's wool socks from REI. They feel great all of the time, especially after a day of hiking with my kids Boy Scout troop.

Sgt Willard