Hiking socks are more important than your boots!
Experienced walkers know that their socks are critical for a comfortable hike. Although your boots will help get you over rough terrain, your hiking socks play an even more important role. Not only must they keep your feet comfortable, at a good temperature, support your natural posture and distribute pressure evenly, your socks have to promote circulation, absorb shock and be tough enough to withstand chafing – that’s no mean feat!
How to pick the prefect hiking sock
The message is simple – if you don’t want your walking holiday to turn into a painful experience you’d rather forget, picking the right hiking socks is crucial. Below you’ll find a quick guide of things you need to think about when choosing the perfect hiking socks for your next walking adventure.
During any hike, comfort is key – chafing, blisters, cracked and swollen feet can be extremely painful. When you pick your sock, you will want to make sure it fits correctly. If your socks are too tight you’ll be uncomfortable, but too loose and you’ll risk blisters and chafing. Most socks come in a size range or are classed small, medium or large. If your sock doesn’t fit properly, try the next size up.
When it comes to buying hiking socks, you will come across the term “wicking”. Essentially this means taking sweat off the surface of your foot and transferring it away. Materials like cotton tend to trap moisture and sweat around your foot – and this can lead to rubbing, sore and painful blisters and smelly feet!
Wool has been a traditional choice for walkers for many years, but this material can also hold onto moisture and lose its shape over time. Many of today’s hiking sock manufacturers combine wool with synthetic fibres to keep your feet dry, keep the moisture out, keep your feet warm and allow them to breathe at the same time. Sealskinz for example mixes merino wool with synthetic fibres to produce totally waterproof and highly breathable socks, hats and gloves.
In general, hiking socks will be classified as either light, medium or heavy. A light hiking sock will be great for walks in the heat or few hours of light walking on easy trails. If your hike is a bit harder, you’ll want to go for a medium hiking sock, while heavyweight socks are the thickest, warmest socks around. If your hike tackles challenging ground in the cold for several hours, a heavyweight sock is a must.
Jumping over a stream or descending a slope can lead to what’s known as ‘shearing’ – where your skin moves one way and your tissues another. With that in mind, good hiking socks will be specially designed to have thicker areas at the toe, heel and ankle as these are the areas which receive the most wear and tear. A good sock will provide just enough, but not too much cushion.
To sum up, your hiking socks should be matched to the type of hiking you’ll be doing in the weather you’ll be doing it in. Whether you’re taking a stroll in the Dordogne or hiking in the Pyrenees with a heavy backpack, selecting the right socks for your next walking adventure will make all the difference.