Choosing The Right Socks

Walking, hiking or trail running, they're all really enjoyable when your feet are feeling good. One niggly little blister can make or break your day. Choosing the right socks will keep your feet pain free and make your next outdoor adventure a happy one!

This is probably one of the most commonly over looked items that the outdoor enthusiast forgets about, yet as part of your kit it should rate amongst the most important. Everybody knows about the importance of good footwear but it does not matter how good your boots are, if your socks are of poor quality or if they are uncomfortable you will end up having issues with your feet. In saying this it makes sense to invest a little extra time and money on a good pair of socks.

A few things to look for when purchasing:

  • Good toe and heal impact support.
  • Moisture wicking abilities.
  • They should provide a reasonable amount of arch support.
  • They should be durable.
  • And most importantly they should feel comfortable.
It is important to select socks that are going to be most relevant to the trip that you are going on and its conditions. 

Think about the trip ahead:
When choosing socks it’s best to select the pair that’s right for you e.g. Technical walking socks are normally harder wearing, have more cushioning on key pressure points and they provide better temperature control depending on the environment that you are in. It often pays to carry a couple of different types of socks to cover your needs. Below are some categories that socks fall into.
  • Sock Liners- These are normally thin, lightweight, moisture wicking socks that are intended to be worn next to skin. Some liners wick sweat away from the foot to help keep you dry, while others are designed to help provide extra warmth should you need it in colder climates. They also act as a barrier to limit the amount of friction between the sock and your skin. They are made to be worn under other socks, as well as on their own.
  • Lightweight socks – These socks are often designed for warmer conditions, when doing easier walks or wearing light footwear, they concentrate on their wicking performance and comfort rather than their ability to keep you warm.
  • Midweight socks – These socks are made with comfort in mind and normally provide enough cushioning and insulation for colder conditions but also work better with heavier boots and for long trekking. Many good models are made with extra cushioning built into the main impact areas such as the heel and ball of the foot. These socks can be worn with lines to boost warmth and wicking abilities.  
  • Mountaineering socks – These are the warmest and thickest socks around, they are best suited for longer trips, hard terrain and cold conditions. Normally these socks are not suited for backpacking in warm conditions due to how thick they are. Liners can be worn to help with moisture wicking and blister protection on long treks.
It can be confusing when trying to understand what all the ingredients are that go into making these socks, as many of them combine different materials and construction techniques. Below is an outline of some of the most commonly used materials.
Cotton- It’s breathable, washable, lightweight and it absorbs moisture. Although 100% cotton is not recommended as a good sock material for trekking because it absorbs sweat and dries slowly so it doesn’t have any insulation properties when wet, that means it can become uncomfortable and cause blisters. However when combined with something else like wool, the cotton blend can be great when light walking in summer.
Wool – The original easy care fibre. It features great qualities such as breathability, great shape retention and warmth when wet. Air becomes entrapped between the fibres making it the ideal insulator. Woollen socks also tend to keep your feet drier because it can absorb as much as 30% of its own weight before it starts to feel damp. 
Merino wool - This is the finest grade of wool that is sourced from merino sheep. It has all the characteristics of classic wool plus the added features of softness and comfort achieved by the finer fibres. Unlike normal wool merino does not itch, or smell as much, and it holds its shape after repeated washing.
Synthetic fibres - Synthetic materials are made to help wick moisture and insulate like wool, the different materials they use mimic the ability to trap warmth and yet they are softer on the skin. The synthetic wicking materials used in wicking socks are often woven into walking and trekking socks as well to increase the performance. They tend to be better wearing and have the ability to be faster drying. They make these different fabrics in a variety of styles and thicknesses.

Choose the right socks today and your feet will thank you next time you hit the trail.