All of us have a favorite pair or two pairs of socks, and we hate throwing them out when holes make an appearance. Socks are an incredibly important part each day however they generally go unnoticed unless there is something wrong with them. As we replace our socks (that get sent to the running trails in the sky) let’s discuss some interesting materials you may not have tried yet.
Your feet are densely covered with about 250,000 eccrine sweat glands per foot, producing up to 2 cups of sweat each day. To absorb and disperse all that moisture is a key reason quality socks feature performance fabrics. Here are your most common choices:
Merino wool: Merino wool is to wool as the smart phone is to the flip phone. Merino wool does what wool can with less volume and perhaps most importantly it doesn’t itch. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water, which means your feet remain dry longer. The only disadvantage is that it doesn’t dry as fast as synthetics and costs more.
Synthetics: Several materials are often combined or used in select areas of the sock for great comfort and performance. 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. For example a leading producer of diabetic socks contains the following combination: 93% Polyester, 6% Nylon, 1% Lycra® Spandex.
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. Often times silk liners can be used as a first layer and a second synthetic or wool layer can be worn over them to ‘wick’ the moisture away.
Cotton: Although cotton is the self proclaimed ‘fabric of our lives,’ cotton is not recommended for active uses and is not found in diabetic socks that require the most sensitive protection for feet. The problem with 100% cotton socks is that they absorb sweat, saturate quickly and dry slowly, which is a perfect recipe for blisters, bacterial/fungi growth. We may be able to get away with cotton on the average sedentary day however if you are active a synthetic or wool sock will be much more comfortable.