How to Buy Comfortable Hiking Socks

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A Hiker

Socks are not a “one size fits all” solution. This once simple piece of apparel now comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, all with their own unique properties. Socks designed for hiking comfort epitomise the technology that goes into creating a performance-driven garment. As part of the design, each hiking sock must take into account weather, terrain, size, materials, padding, and more. Comfort is often a matter of personal preference. There are some good basic guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for socks, starting with the different materials available, and why natural is not always best.

 

Natural and Synthetic Materials

Material plays an important role in sock design, fit, and function. Heavier materials work well in colder climates, while lightweight, moisture-wicking options work best in the heat and humidity. Blends are a common part of the industry, as many socks use both natural and synthetic fibres to create the best of both worlds for the modern hiker. Below are some of the most commonly used materials for top-of-the-line hiking socks.

Cotton

Although an all natural material, cotton makes for a terrible hiking sock. All cotton socks have little moisture-wicking capacity, dry slowly, and have no insulation once they get wet. This can create an increasingly footsore experience for hikers in the great outdoors. On the other hand, cotton is extremely comfortable, so a blend with minimal cotton might be nice for those who hike in moderate weather and dry conditions.

Silk

Not just for dresses, ties and other evening wear, silk also makes a great addition to hiking socks. It has good moisture wicking, insulates well both dry and wet, and tops the list for comfort. The downside is that silk is best used in very warm weather. It has little weight to help combat the cold. This makes it good for warm weather or to wear as a liner under a heavier weight sock.

Wool

Hearing wool might bring to mind itchy, lumpy, and uncomfortable socks, but modern techniques make wool one of the most useful materials for comfortable hiking socks. Worsted wool and mohair both offer cost-effective options, but merino tops the list for comfort. Those that need a hypoallergenic option can try alpaca, as it has no lanolin, the ingredient in wool that most are allergic to. Wool offers some of the best insulation available in a sock, keeping feet warm in even the worst conditions. It dries quickly and scores well for durability.

Synthetic Fabrics

There is a huge variety in the type of synthetic materials available to improve performance of a hiking sock. Some of the most common include polyester, nylon, acrylic, coolmax, gore-tex, or spandex. These fibres add additional moisture-wicking, insulation, cushioning, and durability. They also help socks keep their shape after wear. Even most natural socks have a small percentage of synthetic fibre to give them better functionality on the trail.

 

Matching the Hike with the Right Socks

Weight and density play an important role, depending on the area chosen for a hike. Different terrain and weather demand different sock weights. Below is a chart that illustrates what weight to use for terrain and weather conditions.

 

Sock Weight

Environment

Liners

  • Warm, mild weather

  • Short hikes with easy terrain

  • Helps prevent blisters

  • Can be worn with heavier weight socks

Light Weight

  • Warm weather

  • Easy terrain

  • Short hikes

Mid Weight

  • Cool weather

  • Long hike

  • Moderate to challenging terrain

Winter Weight

  • Cold and arctic temperatures

  • Long/multi-day hikes

  • Challenging terrain

 

Comfort is always the key factor, so hikers should not be shy about layering different types of socks to achieve the most comfortable solution.

 

How to Buy Hiker’s Socks on eBay

There are many different ways to find comfortable hiking socks on eBay. Experienced buyers may know their preferred brand such as Balega, Smart Wool, or Darn Tough. A simple search using the brand will bring up many options. Another way to search is using descriptions like “wool hiking socks” or "merino wool socks."

 

Conclusion

Tying on the hiking boots and going for a long trek, absorbing nature’s wonder can be an exhilarating experience. The awesome sights and adrenalin-filled challenge may keep a hiker’s mind focused on something other than his feet. At least, right up until he gets his first blister. Good jackets, a knife, camp stove, and other gear may seem more important during the planning stages, but nothing ruins a great hike quite like returning footsore and in pain on the first day. Comfortable hiking socks can make the difference between making the summit and turning around halfway through a planned excursion.

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