Hiking socks aren't just another gimmick to get more of your money. Wearing good quality socks while hiking will make your hike a much better experience and are an important piece of gear you should invest in.
Hiking Sock Goals
The main goals of your hiking socks are:
- Cushioning your feet to make your hike more enjoyable
- Wicking moisture from your feet to help prevent blisters
- Keeping your feet warm when hiking in winter or adverse weather
- Reducing blister-causing friction
- Improving boot fit, but only very small amounts
Types of Hiking Socks
Hiking socks have evolved a lot in the past few years. Your old rag-wool wonders are now relics of the past. (I still have a few pair that I love, but don't wear hiking.) Now-a-days, socks are composite technical wonders, using different materials in different sections of the sock to best fulfill a job.
Stronger fibers to resist abrasion are used in the toe and heel areas.
Elastic fibers hold the sock snug to the ankle and calf.
Wool and synthetic cushioning and moisture wicking fibers are used around the foot to help keep the foot dry and warm.
A sock liner is a special kind of sock that creates an extra friction-reducing, moisture-wicking layer at a small price in money and extra weight.
When choosing socks, consider these tips:
- Never use cotton socks for hiking. Cotton absorbs moisture and takes forever to dry.
- Use wool to stay warm and still wick away moisture. Tend to be most expensive. Look for Merino Wool for softer, finer fibers.
- Use synthetics if your feet sweat a lot because they wick moisture away better than natural fibers.
- Turn the sock inside out and check the denseness of the fabric loops. Smaller, denser loops will hold up longer for cushioning and absorption.
- Thicker socks tend to wear longer. The thickness can also help improve the fit of a very slightly large boot. Or, a thicker pair of socks in the morning and a thinner pair after lunch when your feet have swelled a bit might be something to consider.
- Seams should be flat so they do not create more points of pressure on your foot.
- Socks should have elastic stretch so they hold to your foot and do not slip down into piles in your boot.
- The fit should be snug, but not tight. Any bagginess or extra length between heel and toe means its too big.
Caring for Socks
Hiking socks aren't cheap. You'll want to make yours work as well as possible and last as long as possible:
- Wash inside out so skin particles, salt, and sweat are washed away.
- Use just a small amount of fabric softener in the wash cycle to keep the socks soft.
- Air dry or remove from dryer before they are completely dry and allow to finally air dry for a fresher feel and safer dry.
- Commercial dryers are too hot and can shrink or ruin the socks.
- Only use them for hiking, not for everyday
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Bamboo's great for hot weather.
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