Space age fibers. Antibacterial! Antifungal! Shock absorbing! Wicking action! Antifriction! Battle shearing forces! Who would of thought the lowly sock worthy of such hyperbole? Many of us just throw on a pair of cotton crew socks, lace up the shoes and hit the trail. Some of us are bold enough to wear nylons or even go sockless in our shoes or sandals. Ah, but sock technology is catching up. They promise to keep sweaty feet dry, prevent blisters, reduce fatigue, and control temperature.
Podiatrists Recommend Acrylic Socks
The American Podiatric Medical Association says, "Your choice of athletic socks is also important. Sports podiatrists frequently recommend appropriately padded socks of acrylic fiber. Acrylic fibers tend to "wick" away excessive perspiration, which active feet can produce from 250,000 sweat glands at a rate of four to six ounces a day, or even more. Again, there are popular brands of athletic socks which are authorized to use APMA's Seal of Acceptance
Thorlos Kept Me Walking
The first special socks I ever bought were from Thorlos. I bought seven pair of their hiking socks to take along on a llama packing trip. True to their word, I didn't blister and even when my boots filled with water my socks kept my feet insulated and cozy. This weekend I picked up a Thorlo brochure and read about myths about specialty socks, and not surprisingly saw many of my own prejudices answered.
Why spend over $5 per pair of specialty socks when you can just walk in your cotton crews for far less? The answer is that the specialty socks last longer. I can verify that those original seven pair of Thorlos are still going strong 10 years later. A little of their cushion is gone, but no holes have been worn through in thousands of walking miles. They also argue that if the socks provide the other benefits touted that you save money on blister treatment, etc.
But They Don't Fit in My Shoes
Specialty socks are often thick, so they don't fit into your present shoes. Yes, this can be a problem. You really have to try on the whole "foot system" together before buying either. Hikers know that already with boots - you take along your thickest socks or layers of socks you plan to wear on the trail when you try on the boots. If you are a serious walker and want to take advantage of the latest sock technology, try them on at the same time you fit your next pair of shoes. And don't let shoe size vanity keep you from buying a larger or wider size if that is what is needed for walking comfort. Another sign that you need bigger shoes is if the specialty socks seem to make your feet hotter than the cotton socks. With their special fibers, this only happens if your shoes are too small.
Keeping Cool, Keeping Warm
CoolMax is a sock fabric touted on many walking and running socks. The CoolMax fibers contain large spaces between the filaments which allow for better breatheability. It moves moisture quickly away from the skin into the outer layer of the sock, letting the foot feel cooler in hot weather. In cold weather, the new fabric is ThermaStat. It also wicks moisture away from the foot so that the foot stays dry. Its hollow core fiber surrounds the foot with warm , insulating air. The fabric heats up quickly and retains the warmth while the ultra fine filaments help block radiant heat loss.
What Works For You
When it comes to preventing blisters, each person has to experiment with what sock or combination of socks works for them, and with what shoes. The high-tech double layer socks with high-tech fabrics might work, but your feet will tell the tale.
Knee length, crew, mini-crew, roll top, tube - there are a large number of styles of socks. Let your tan line be your guide! I have a dozen pair of AVA logo socks, which are mostly cotton. I bought them for the logo, but have a high tan line in the summer from wearing them. So I bought some mini-crews to at least vary my sun exposure and not have a single tan line. Meanwhile - how comfortable do you feel wearing logos - do you prefer a solid color? Or do you want to go for fun designs? Is the logo more important than the other features of the sock?
Top Picks for Walking Socks