My love for trail-running has grown considerably in the last two years, to the point where I’d prefer to be out on the trails for a majority of my weekly miles. Unfortunately, my options are a bit limited in the center of Iowa, so I work with what I have and enjoy the few very nice trails that I can access without hopping in the car for too long. As I’ve spent more and more time running down all variety of single-track, rail-bed, and other outdoor terrains, the need for gaiters has increased considerably. Nothing will stop you in your tracks quicker than a few tiny rocks grinding into your heel or bouncing between your toes. The temptation is to always let them be and hope they’ll work themselves out, but I know from experience that giving them more time to grind up your feet is never smart! This need made the Inov-8 Debrisoc 38 an exciting option, as they combine CoolMax moisture-wicking socks with a built-in gaiter that will fit around any pair of shoes you throw at them. After taking them for a spin a few times, they certainly have their place in my arsenal, but probably won’t become my all-around go-to gaiter choice. Let me provide a few more details, and you can decide for yourself if the DebriSoc is right for you!
The socks offer a snug fit, without constricting my circulation in any way. The CoolMax means they aren’t going to be the thickest socks, so you probably wouldn’t be slipping them on for a winter run, unless you were planning to wear an additional pair of socks underneath. The padded heal offers some additional comfort, although I’ve noticed that most running socks seem to claim a “padded heel” and I rarely notice any significant differences. They have a flat seam toe join, so you aren’t going to pick up any blisters from the seams rubbing on your toes. This is especially important since your feet may move around a bit more in your shoes when you are out on the trails. They pull on pretty easily, but the added elastic cuff to account for the built-in gaiter means they are a bit harder to get on initially. The gaiter does add some additional snugness around the ankle, but nothing noticeable once you’ve been wearing them for a while.
The gaiter is sewn into the sock around the ankle, so it works best to flip it up while you are putting the sock itself on. Once you have the sock on, and have put on your shoe, you can adjust the gaiter to find the right fit. The integrated stretch apron can be easily pulled down over the laces, and a small metal hook is looped under one of your laces to hold the apron in place. There is enough stretch in the apron that it seems snug and will stay in place without much worry. On each side of the gaiter portion of the DebriSoc is a velcro loop that you can open and close. You use these loops to attach a custom band around the bottom of the heel, and back up to the other side. This band is basically a heavy rubber band that you can thread through the tread of your shoe so that it works into the heel and doesn’t disrupt the tread itself. The band is heavy enough and should last for a while, and the velcro on the velcro loops keeps the band in place very well. Just don’t misplace this band (although you can order replacements pretty easily). Additional stretch material then gets pulled down over the heel to keep the gaiter in place in the back. My go-to trail-running shoe is the Altra Lone Peak 1.5, which has a built-in velcro patch on the heel for gaiters, and the DebriSocs attack nicely to this velcro area. The elastic seems fairly strong, but I can imagine that you may encounter problems with the gaiter riding up off the heel as they stretch out if you don’t have anything keeping them in place. It would be easy enough to buy some cut-to-size velcro strips to add to the gaiters, however, which would prevent sliding. In terms of their intended purpose, they do an excellent job of keeping out all types of trail debris and I was never left wondering if a rogue rock found its way into my shoe.
Overall, the most appealing feature of the DebriSoc is the convenience of having your gaiters built into the sock. When you are heading out the door for a quick run, or packing for a race, it’s nice to have one less item to find. However, I prefer running in SmartWool socks for shorter runs, and regularly slip on knee-high compression socks for longer runs (even on the trails, where the added coverage is an additional barrier from ticks and other bugs). The socks are functional and will get the job done, but aren’t quite as comfortable and durable as I would like in an everyday sock.
So, the DebriSoc 38 may not be my new go-to gaiter solution, but they do offer an excellent option for a shorter trail run, and are really easy to grab on your way out the door for a run. At around $20, the price is right as well. You probably aren’t going to wear them more than twice without washing them, which no doubt means they will wear out faster, but they are still a nice trail-running tool to have at your disposal!