Dr. An here from Foot and Ankle Associates. Today I wanted to review some basics on socks. Although our lives have not yet returned to normal, many people are still taking advantage of the beautiful weather and outdoor environment we have available to us in California. While participating in outdoor activities you should remember to wear appropriate socks to protect our feet.
Let’s talk about different things to consider:
Good quality socks that may be used for special occasions usually cost more than your run of the mill cotton socks. Do not be alarmed by this and understand not every sock in your drawer will need to be a specialty sock that is expensive.
Thinner, lighter socks will be more appropriate for warmer weather, while thicker, heavier socks would be a good choice for cold weather. High-performance socks are usually classified into lightweight, mid-weight, or heavyweight thickness. You will find that some socks have increased padding in the heel or forefoot and some have mesh paneling for ventilation.
Look for socks with at least 30% wool content if you want the benefits of wool.
Synthetic materials are also a great option because they are very durable and will be long lasting. Many socks are blended with multiple materials to maximize the benefits of each different material. For example, wool for moisture wicking and nylon for durability.
Acrylic - relatively light, durable man-made fiber that provides softness and warmth.
Bamboo - natural plant fiber that is softer and more breathable than cotton. It has a natural sheen that feels similar to silk or cashmere. Bamboo is hypoallergenic, naturally microbial and very durable.
Cashmere - come from the hair of a Cashmere goat. It provides natural, light-weight insulation with bulk and is considered a luxury fiber.
Cotton - harvested from around the seeds of the cotton plant and are 90% cellulose. It is a lightweight and moisture-absorbing fiber. It is one of the most common materials for socks because it is breathable, washable and durable.
Nylon - very strong, versatile, hard-wearing fiber. Nylon socks can range from thin and silky to bulky and elastic. Nylon is often blended with other fibers to give added stretch or to increase durability.
Olefin (polypropylene) - water-repelling synthetic fiber. It is commonly used in a blend with absorbent outer layers that work together to wick moisture away from your body. It is the lightest of any man-made fiber.
Polyester - hydrophobic, water-repelling fibers that are known for their durability and are extremely colorfast for vivid coloration.
Rayon - natural cellulose filament fiber known for its sheen, soft feel and high moisture absorption properties.
Silk - woven from the cocoon material of special caterpillars. It is a very smooth, soft and moisture-absorbing fiber. It has a high tensile strength and acts as a natural thermal retainer that does not conduct heat.
Wool - harvested from sheep and other animals. It is naturally wrinkle resistant, colorfast and breathes with your body. Wool socks keep feet drier because wool absorbs as much as 30% of its own weight in moisture before it begins to feel damp. Because of these properties wool socks are great for hiking.
Always consider the type of shoe gear you will be wearing. If your shoe already fits tight, you should wear a thin/lightweight sock. A proper fit is important to prevent bunching or displacement of your sock that can cause skin irritation. Many high performance socks are designed without prominent seams to prevent skin irritation and discomfort.
All socks, including high-performance socks, need time to air out and dry. If you are having an active day, take time to remove your shoes and even your socks if you feel they are becoming damp and uncomfortable. On longer trips make sure you pack multiple pairs of socks.
I hope you find this information useful. Stay safe, healthy, active and remember to always take care of your feet.
Dr. Stephen An