(originally published September 14, 2008)
As a break from my daily runs on the hardwood, where I've been beating down such gems and busts as the Nike Hyperdunk, Nike Max Bizness, Reebok Pump Omni Hexride, Reebok Talkin Krazy and the And1 ME8 lately, my good friend Cam and I decided to hit up the Clackamas River last weekend, a roughly 2-hour tubing trek that begins a little over twenty minutes away from my SE Portland crib. Being the ever-innovative sneaker connoisseurs that we are, we decided to rock some base layer footwear in the form of aqua socks, with a few Miller High Lifes added in to spruce up the day. (Note: Any sport that includes the phrase 'Miller High Life' during competition is perhaps not
a sport.) Cam opted for his trusty Nike Sneakerboats
, while I broke out my newly acquired Bape Sockstas. (Shout out to Sole Supreme for the shipping help!)
The plan of attack seemed fairly simple: Kick off the tubing adventure in the middle of a surprisingly sunny September Saturday afternoon, knock down a refreshing pack each, and switch shoes half way through after an hour for the sake of performance comparison. Surely Bape is a stranger to performance, as no one would readily call the Roadsta an innovative runner, and the brand is primarily based off of "inspired-by" footwear silhouettes anyways. Nike, as you all obviously know, can lay claim to industry leading innovations like Zoom Air, Foamposite and Flywire, while sweeping Interchangeable IPS, Tubular Air and the Air Pressure under the rug as forgotten but admitted gimmicks. But, at least they're known for actually trying. From the outset, there's an agreeable difference between the two companies. One is a performance based athletic provider renowned for its innovations, while the other is a trend-based clothing brand able to continually re-invent itself that also happens to make shoes and other styles of footwear. Quite a difference.
It goes without saying that this is an entirely ridiculous performance review, but should you be in the market for a comparable water sock for your rafting and river-based water sports needs, hopefully you'll find the in depth review of (some) value. It's also worth mentioning that each shoe was worn for a total of one hour, with the aid of the aforementioned Miller High Life (and perhaps some Bud Light...but who's counting), as compared to my sneaker reviews normally conducted after at least ten wearings during high intensity competitive basketball down at the local 24 Hour Fitness. Again - quite a difference.
Round 1: Comfort & Fit
It's in this category where there's noticeably a world of difference between the capabilities of both companies. I've personally seen the extensive Nike Sports Research Lab in action, and whether they're testing the pressures applied to the latest Zoom LeBron shoe with the help of countless high speed cameras or placing strains on rehabbing athletes with a one-of-a-kind anti-gravity running treadmill, I'm willing to bet another pack of High Life that there's more performance and innovation resources in Beaverton than Bape has access to. Just a hunch. The difference in fit is most notable in the simple ease of entry of the Sneakerboat, as compared to the awkward fit of the Socksta. Both feature a neoprene based upper, but the Sneakerboat's is slightly thicker, yet looser, allowing for the foot to slip right in, with the adjustable toggle lacing system handling the tightening duties. The Sneakerboat (man is that a terrible name) uses a simple four eyestay speed lacing system, and with one tug and toggle you're good to go. The Socksta goes sans laces, and as a result the neoprene is more stingy and taught to start, providing a more restrained and less comfortable feel once you get the upper wrapped up around your feet.
Another drastic difference between the two can be found in the crucial category of overall comfort, as the Sneakerboat offers up exponentially more cushioning. The Sneakerboat is made with Nike's Considered method of construction, and while that means more stitching and less glues on a fundamental level, it's the way in which the Sneakerboat's insole is stitched directly to the upper (think Zoom Kobe II) that offers up the most padding in such a thin product. In using a slab of foam underfoot, the Sneakerboat is able to maintain its low stance and give a soft feel and generous protection against the pesky rocks that can at times go unnoticed in a river's murky water. The Socksta, by comparison, relies only on a slim layer of rubber that provides a more firm feel and allows the wearer to feel everything that comes into contact with the foot, not something you're aiming for when tubing I'm told. The edge in Comfort & Fit undoubtedly goes to the Sneakerboat, as its full sleeve upper and toggle system work efficiently, while the Socksta gives a far too minimal feel and there are some chafing issues thanks to the nubuck backed heel tab, an entirely unneeded element.
Round 2: Drainage
Once again, it's fairly apparent that Bape is taking its first swing into the water footwear category, as they've entirely forgotten about an important element that all aqua socks must provide - drainage. I'm not an avid water sports enthusiast by any means, but it's no secret that a poorly drained shoe is the enemy of all who enter nature's rivers and seas. The Sneakerboat fares well in this category, with the help of two holes along the medial heel and a very breathable, yet protective, upper made primarily of mesh, keeping water from overloading the shoe should you decide to hit the beach for a break. The Socksta's neoprene upper would seemingly do the same, and yet it became filled with both sand and water quite often, unable to rid itself of excess water and taking on some added weight. (And yes, I actually weighed both aqua socks, with the Socksta coming in .3 ounces lighter at just 7.6 ounces. You should have seen the looks the lady behind me at the USPS Automated Shipping center was giving me.)
Another problem with the Socksta's poor drainage was the way in which the sand overtook the neoprene upper, turning it an...ahem...oft-putting shade of brown. Let's be honest, the only reason anyone would buy the Socksta - or any Bape item, for that matter - in the first place is to profess an inflated sense of self worth to all who care to notice, so I'll admit that this added color tone put a damper on my swag. Though, I did get a nice compliment from a quite friendly tube-goer in the most straightforward form of "I like your shoes." (It's irrelevant that she had a 64 oz jug obviously not filled with a Slurpee) After just an hour of wearing, the Socksta looked like hell, with the upper taking on all kinds of brown tones and in need of a deep cleaning. The edge again goes to the Sneakerboat, unless for some reason you're into that kind of discoloration.
Round 3: Durability
You're probably noticing a trend here, as the Sneakerboat without question kills the Socksta in any form of discussion concerning durability. While I initially was impressed with the Socksta and figured the designer implemented the star logo in its wrap-around fashion along the forefoot as a lateral support structure element along the upper, it turned out I was giving Nigo's brand 100% too much credit, as the shoe instead features a flimsy upper filled with poor fit and uncertain levels of longevity.
The star logo envelopes the forefoot and looks quite cool, certainly, but there's barely anything remotely resembling protection along the thin neoprene upper, and I was often worried that the shoe would easily tear if it hit a rock or another firm object. The Sneakerboat's lightweight yet sturdy mesh upper protects the foot from harm, and its anti abrasion rubber toe cap works the protection angle even more, shielding the foot from any potentially harmful rocks that I would commonly run into when the current decided to pick up its pace. Again - edge to Sneakerboat.
Round 4: Traction
Here's where I thought the Socksta would finally redeem itself, as the star logo that dominates the outsole is actually comprised of sticky rubber herringbone grooves, a must in the slippery footed water sport world. Unfortunately, the rubber proved to provide a tad less grip than I'd hoped, and was under-assuring in its levels of stability, of course a must for low-impact tubing on a relaxing Saturday down a mostly calm river.
The Sneakerboat's combination of sticky rubber nubs along most of its outsole with a herringbone rubber inset along the medial side of the forefoot proved to be an exacting duo, allowing for perfect traction and reliability, though not looking nearly as cool nor as branded as the Socksta. This one's a toss-up, and I'll throw out all performance advantages that the Sneakerboat without question holds and give a slight edge to the Socksta. That outsole is just too damn cool!
If you're in the market for an aqua sock for all of your fun-filled water adventures ahead, whether you're a lazy beer-crunching tubing bum or a high intensity participant of actual water sports, the Nike Sneakerboat is definitely the choice. That's before taking into account that the Socksta is hard to locate to even purchase, and comes in a size range from M-XL, ideal for phone orders from a store that doesn't allow returns. (As a size 13, the XL fit just fine length-wise) The Sneakerboat is available in the more accommodating whole sizes of 6-15, and is also $30 less than the Socksta, assuming of course that you live in either LA or New York near a Bape flagship store and can avoid shipping costs.
It's the Sneakerboat's combination of great fit, surprisingly padded comfort and awesome levels of protection, drainage and durability that make it the outright winner in this Toe To Toe. While the Socksta might earn more cool points (maybe up for discussion) and WDYWT glory when worn casually with camo shorts (don't think I won't!), Bape's first attempt at aqua footwear is hardly a success. Hopefully they re-evaluate this first iteration and make the necessary improvements before releasing the second generation of Socksta next spring, which really can't be that hard in a shoe with such a simple construction and such basic needs. I'm not calling for Nigo to kickstart an aqua sports wear testing program, but at least some effort in the functionality departments would be nice. Afterall, wouldn't a full-zip Socksta be next level enough?
: Black/ Zest
combination partially recycled mesh and neoprene upper, toggle lacing system, anti abrasion toe cap, OS44 sticky rubber oustole with Nike Regrind, recycled foam sockliner with Nike Considered construction.
Rafting, boating and other leisure friendly water sports.
Amazing out of box comfort and wearability. Great ease of entry and variable lacing thanks in part to easily adjustable toggle system. Excellent durability and traction due to combination sticky rubber nubs and forefoot medial herringbone inset. Also reasonably priced considering lasting durability and comfort provided.
None, though you're not as next level as your friend in a pair of Sockstas. Don't worry, you can laugh it up when you destroy them in every imaginable performance category.
The Sneakerboat is certainly the choice in this Toe To Toe rivalry, outshining the Socksta in crucial categories of comfort, durability, fit and comfort. Despite its performance and construction merits helping its cause, the Sneakerboat is also close to half the cost of the exorbitantly priced Socksta.
One Bowerman Drive
Beaverton, OR 97005
- Increase padding along insole for comfort
- Replace nubuck heel tab that causes awkward fit and some discomfort
- Um...pricing is ridiculous. But, that's just Bape.
: Grey/ White/ Navy
Neoprene upper construction, rubberized forefoot support overlays, herringbone traction outsole
Some leisure tubing. More for non-performance style. What that is, I'm not sure I want to know.
You just spent $70 and have the added aura of owning Bape aqua socks! What could be better!? The one redeeming non-material factor is the neoprene upper is fairly comfortable.
Fit is marginal, as heel tab can fit harshly and arch can be awkward if not uncomfortable. Shoe is too minimal for even the most minimal of footwear categories, offering up zero support and protection against the rocky and murky river waters.
The Socksta should be avoided in nearly all high performance water sport needs. Perhaps relegating it to your friend's pool party is your best bet, where you'll undoubtedly be the freshest streetwearrior in attendance. Hey, I'll gladly admit that's why I bought them.
A Bathing Ape
Mysterious Parts Unknown
(Black/ Zest Sneakerboat images courtesy Allegro
. Socksta profile images courtesy Bape)