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What to Look for When Buying Hiking Socks

Every hiker admits to conducting enormous amounts of research before buying hiking shoes, equipment, backpacks, and even hydration packs. But one piece of gear that unmistakably goes unnoticed is the simple pair of socks.

Wearing the wrong socks can land the most seasoned of hikers in quite an uncomfortable position. Therefore, it is imperative to pay adequate attention while shopping for this seemingly menial piece of clothing.

Buying Guide for Hiking Socks

It may sound a little preposterous to have a ‘buying guide’ for socks, but rest assured that you’ll be thankful for this information during that unexpected lash of rain on your next trip in the mountains.

Consider the Material

Say no to cotton.
It’s natural to prioritize comfort and opt for cotton socks, but this fabric can be a nightmare for hikers. It is a poor insulator, it does not dry fast enough, and it may cause blisters due to friction.

100% wool is no good either.
Woolen socks provide amazing warmth and cushioning. They have better wicking properties (the ability to draw moisture away from the skin), as compared to cotton. But they don’t dry fast enough, and may feel itchy to some.

It’s better to skip silk.
Silk socks are lightweight and airy. They also wick well, and offer comfort to the wearer. The downside, however, is that they are quite delicate, and also very expensive.

Synthetic blends are the best buy.
Synthetic socks can be made of elastic, acrylic, spandex, polyester, nylon, GORE-TEX, or COOLMAX fibers. These provide comfort through cushioning, possess good wicking properties, and can take a lot of wear and tear. Another plus point is that they are easy on the pocket as well. When blended with cotton, wool, and silk, they enhance the qualities of the natural fibers.

Types of Hiking Socks

Heavyweight
As the name suggests, these are meant for colder climes, and are usually worn over a pair of liners. They provide considerable warmth and cushioning.

Mediumweight
Here, the cushioning is slightly lesser than the heavy-weights, but these are also worn over a pair of liners, and are known to provide warmth.

Lightweight
These are comfortable and light, and are recommended for short hikes in the summer season.

Liners
As you already know by now, liners are usually worn under heavier socks for their wicking properties. But they can be worn by themselves at times, if the weather demands it.

How to Choose Hiking Socks

Armed with this information, it will probably be easier to make a choice. But while you’re in the store trying on some pairs, do not make a hasty decision. Check for the comfort of the elastic, along with the padding on the underside. They should also provide adequate support to the arch of your foot.

Besides these qualities, look out for the following factors as well.

Weather conditions
The first point to consider while making a purchase is the weather. Hikes in peak summertime (when the weather is hot and arid) call for synthetic liners, which are good at wicking the moisture away from your skin, especially if your feet are prone to perspiration. For winter hikes, you may need to carry socks made of a thicker fabric like synthetic blended with wool or silk to keep your feet warm. You may want to wear these over a pair of liners to maintain warmth.

Perspiration factor
Highly absorbent materials tend to be thin, so you can never have a pair that keeps your feet dry, and provides warmth at the same time. Therefore, if your feet tend to perspire heavily, donning liners underneath your regular socks is advisable. By doing so, you will not be compromising on providing insulation for your feet.

Comfort level
Your comfort level is of utmost importance, in tandem with the necessities mentioned above. As an individual, you may be allergic to certain materials, so you need to test them at home before you venture out on a hike.

Duration of the hike
Long hikes call for extra pairs of socks, of course, but you need to also consider the factors mentioned above. If your hike includes more than one overnight stay, ensure that you keep the changing weather conditions in mind, and pack accordingly.

So, the next time you go sock shopping, remember that it isn’t such a trivial matter as it is made out to be. Keep these points in mind and make the right choice.

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