Ankle Gaiters are probably the least thought about piece of equipment prior to an event and it goes without saying, if you are an ice skater, footballer, netballer etc. you will not need gaiters!!
But walking, trekking, tough mudder, trail running athletes definitely do, debris and water that enters through the top of the sock and shoes will sit next to the skin and start to rub causing excessive shear and then blisters, which will be very painful and maybe put a halt to completing the event altogether.
Why do you need Gaiters?
When walking or running especially in all terrain conditions dirt, debris, grit, mud and water can so easily get into the shoe and sock, once it is able to do this, it causes friction – hot spots – sheer – blisters on the feet. Gaiters form a barrier from the elements from the base of the shoe to either above the ankle or to below the knee. They can be made of various materials and designed for different activities.
- If you are thinking of trail running or extreme ultra-running events, ankle gaiters would be an essential item to wear.
- Hiking, walking or military manoeuvres would require the longer gaiters to just below the knee for the same reasoning as the ankle gaiters. The terrain and environment would be slightly different in that the ground cover is longer, dense, fields with wet grass, thorns and debris this gaiter would give better protection from the wet getting into the boots and into the socks and causing blisters from the moisture. Even with tough mudder events, although water is likely to enter the shoes, mud getting into the shoes is totally different story! It will have grit and small stones in it and when it dries and hardens, it makes it almost impossible to run in and finish the event.
- Sand events are a specialised activity composing of ultra-endurance events or trekking, these are very extreme desert conditions can be very challenging in more than one way! Because sand grains are so small they can easily get down the shoe and socks causing hotspots- blisters on the skin and conventional gaiters will simply not work in these conditions. There is a company in Scotland that make a silk gaiter and offers 100% protection from sand! Check them out at http://www.sand-baggers.com/gaiters/ the gaiters are made from extremely lightweight high quality ripstop nylon (aka parachute silk). They feature a double toggle- tie system which allows them to be comfortably secured below the knee.
Are there any drawbacks to gaiters?
The ankle gaiters are not completely waterproof but are water resistant but they are really designed more for protection from debris.
The long gaiters can exacerbate the production of sweat underneath the gaiter due to the warmth generated from exercise, which is unable to evaporate off, which can in turn create moisture going into the socks and causing blisters.
Although most gaiters claim to be waterproof, not all are made of a breathable material, which can then create the buildup of moisture, this can be overcome when taking a comfort break from any activity and taking the gaiters off to allow the sweat to evaporate, or a change of socks to keep the foot as dry as possible. If they move around a lot below the knee and are not a snug fit, that too can cause friction and blister the skin in the area below the knee. They need to be secure in their fittings to the shoe to create the best possible seal from the elements and not too irritating at the contact areas adjacent to the skin or trousers. Some straps that fasten under the arch of the shoe can often be the first to perish and snap, so making sure they are made of a durable material with strong fittings is very important as this seems to be the weakest part of the construction of gaiters.
I still feel, the benefits of wearing gaiters in preventing blisters is a very worthwhile strategy.
Why did I choose the Inov8 all terrain debris gaiter and Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiter?
The inov8 all terrain gaiter can be used with the clips to some of the Inov8 shoes and can be used with other shoes as it is supplied with a strengthened O-ring which uses the existing fittings and stretches under the shoe which allows a universal fit for all shoe types. I like the knitted sock cuff design at the skin junction of the leg, which keeps a flexible seal with the skin, repelling water and debris during all movements of the ankle.
The Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters have been around a long time and for good reason, they are literally “a do it all gaiter”. They have a triple Gore-Tex breathable top half and a wider heavily reinforced Cordura bottom half making them extremely resistance to the outside elements. A strong durable strap with strong attachments that goes under the shoe which keep the gaiter in place. They literally last for years, a worthwhile investment for walkers and trekkers.