orange hat ladies, sea swimming, wild swimming, outdoor swimming, portyanki, swim blog, swim kit

Even the Russian Army has given up

My swim buddy friend Karen is a real ‘creative’. She has wonderful ideas, the skills to try them out and the attitude to give something different a go. But sometimes I wonder if her enthusiasm takes her too far….

“I’ve had a brilliant idea about an alternative to socks” claims Karen as we meet up to swim. 

“What on earth are those?” I ask, looking at her bandaged feet, wrapped in swags of soft green fabric and wondering exactly why we needed an alternative to the well-honed design of the sock. 

“Portyanki!” she proudly announces

“Port what?”

“They’re Russian foot wraps” states Karen, as though this was the most normal item to be sporting on a beach on the South Coast of the UK in January. 

“To be fair” she adds” they’re actually an old dog blanket cut up, but I thought I’d give the concept a go”.

I was relieved to hear that the cloth had been washed before foot use but still had images of her dogs ripping them off her feet in an excited frenzy after they inevitably recognised their prize bedding, leaving her barefoot and bowled over on the drive.

“Just use socks?” I suggest.

“I really think these are the answer…so much easier” she said as she showed me how you fold the cloth around the foot, one way, then the other…or was it the other way? Or…

“Socks seem pretty sensible you know”, I say.

“But these have been used for centuries, especially by people who couldn’t afford shoes”

I point out that we now mainly have socks AND shoes and maybe don’t need the medieval peasant option.

“I reckon we could market these” ponders Karen who is forever the optimistic entrepreneur. 

“I’m not totally convinced that people are going to go for footware made from bits of dog blanket over say… socks?”

We swim, natter and laugh, and then get out of the water keen to get warm and clothed. As it is after all winter, the British weather isn’t too warm and so any time delay in getting dressed can take its toll. The portyanki take time to wrap (and unwrap…and rewrap) and the appeal is lessening even for the ever confidently optimistic Karen. She manages to bandage, sorry ‘wrap’, her feet only to find that they now won’t fit into her waterproof clogs. This means that she has to shuffle precariously with feet half in, half out of her shoes over the muddy grass back to the car. 

orange hat ladies, sea swimming, wild swimming, outdoor swimming, portyanki, swim blog, swim kit
To wrap or not to wrap…

“The Russian army use these”

“Not sure that’s a selling point?”

“No really… they’re a real thing that people use” said Karen, yet to convince me.

I look at my friend who is sporting soft green bandaged feet, half hanging out of (strangely matching) soft green PVC clogs attempting to slide up a muddy bank. I love her commitment to the idea but have a niggling doubt that these are not going to fully catch on with the outdoor swimming community… or any community to be fair. 

“Actually, I think the Russian army have just stopped using them…”

Yes, they have and I can’t think why … maybe they’ve just realised that socks are a much easier option

orange hat ladies, sea swimming, wild swimming, outdoor swimming, portyanki, swim blog, swim kit
The subtle styling of the portyanki
orange hat ladies, sea swimming, wild swimming, outdoor swimming, portyanki, swim blog, swim kit

Just in case you’d like to have a go yourself…

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