Sock Buying and What You Don’t Know!

One is the loneliest number that youll ever know. It happens to us all. With all of our laundry perfectly folded we find our minds boggled at how we managed to always end up with that one lone sock. Where did its companion escape to? How is it that day after day more join St. Peppers lonely sock club and yet with all of these socks flying solo-we can never manage to find two that match! Is there online dating for socks? Given this little fact, we are always in the market for new socks. So the question becomes, “How do I buy a good pair of socks?”

When buying socks it is important to evaluate what they are being used for. A wide variety of activities requires a wide range of socks. Different activities require different materials and features. The socks needed on frozen tundra are different than the ones needed in a tropical forest. What grandma needs is not what a teenager needs.

The biggest factor in choosing socks is choosing material. The different types of sock material determine what the sock is used for. Wool and cotton are typically for regulating temperature. Synthetics like nylon and lycra are for regulating moisture. Silk if the sock is for comfort and cotton if you want it to last.

REIis a specialty outdoor sporting goodssupplier, whose website offers information regardingwhat socks to use withdifferent types of outdoor activities. REI has a great reference guide on buying socks. If you would like to read it, click here. Below is a reference from their guide for choosing sock materials:

“Merino wool:The long, fine, itch-free fibers of merino wool have largely replaced the scratchy ragg-wool socks you may have grown up with. Their biggest advantage is that they are thermostatic (temperature-regulating), so your feet stay comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water, which means your feet remain dry longer.
PROS: Comfortable in cool or warm conditions, absorbs and wicks moisture, cushions, doesn’t itch like ragg wool.
CONS: Dries a bit slower than synthetics, more expensive.

Synthetics:Several materials are often combined or used in select areas of the sock for great comfort and fit. Nylon and Lycra spandex help socks retain their shape, create a snug fit and, in some sock styles, provide arch support. CoolMax polyester, Wickspun acrylic and Isolfil polypropylene are commonly used fibers that wick away moisture to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
PROS: Durable, dries fast, wicks moisture, cushions.
CONS: Less comfortable in hot conditions, insulation reduced when wet.

Ingeo:PronouncedIN-gee-oh, this corn-based polylactic acid (or PLA) fiber acts similarly to polyester but is an eco-friendly alternative.
PROS: Made from renewable resource, recyclable, wicks moisture, controls odors.
CONS: Less durable than other fabrics; can only be commercially composted.

Silk:This natural insulator is used in sock liners and sometimes blended with wool for a soft feel. It offers reliable wicking and smooth texture against the skin.
PROS: Lightweight, wicks moisture, comfortable against skin.
CONS: Less durable than other fabrics.

Cotton:Cotton is not recommended for active uses, so you’ll find few or no such styles at REI. The problem with 100% cotton socks is that they absorb sweat, saturate quickly and dry slowly, which is a perfect recipe for blisters.
PROS: Comfortable for non-active uses, inexpensive.
CONS: Not recommended for active wear.

Apart from the sock material, the other big factor is sock features.Athletes benefit from built-in arch support (compressive weave around the longitudinal arch of the foot) and extra cushioning over the heel and ball of the foot. This helps reduce compressive forces at the heel and twistingand shearing forces at the ball. Socks with segmental compression from the toes towards the knees helps reduce swelling. They work by squeezing fluid which is pulled towards the feet by gravity back up towards the heart. These are very popular in runners as they squeeze the calf muscles giving a spring-like sensation to their gait.

Length of socks is mostly a functional vs. stylistic question. Boots require crew length or higher to prevent uncomfortable skin-leather contact. Heels or flats require mini crew oranklet socks to avoid being seen.

And so, whatever activity you may be participating in and whether in the jungles of Brazil or mountains of Italy, it is important to know how to buy the right socks. Just remember fashion faux pas #1: please don’t wear them with sandals…

For more information on this blog (or online dating for socks) please contact Dr. Jeffrey Bowman at 713-467-8886 or online appointments available at

2013 Jeff Bowman., All Rights Reserved

Category: Socks

Tags: Althetic Foot Care, Blisters, Foot Care, Footwear, Socks