Whenever I head to the sock section of a store, I'm always overwhelmed by the towering wall of socks they have in stock. Are there really that many options? What's the difference between crew cut and knee-high? Lightweight vs. middle-weight? Cotton vs. merino wool? Unfortunately, when you're out on the trail, and that recurring blister has made its appearance during the 2nd mile of your 20 mile backpacking trip, you think back at all the sock options in the store and wonder - would I be getting this blister with the merino wool pair? Well, we're here to answer your sock shopping questions.
Merino Wool - the king of the sock world. Breathable, soft, durable, and even odor-resisting, (antibacterial), these socks are great all-around, especially in wet climates (because wool retains heat even when wet).
Cotton - is rotten. Great at keeping moisture close to your feet, increasing chances of rubbing and blisters. Avoid for high-intensity uses, but great to wear around town.
Nylon & Acrylic - versatile fabrics that are comfortable, and relatively quick-drying. Not quite as nice as Merino Wool, and they will stink, but more affordable.
Tall socks (knee-high) are great for skiing, and crew-cut socks protect your ankles while wearing hiking boots. When wearing running shoes (or other low-top shoes), ankle socks will work fine.
Thicker socks are typically warmer, and provide more cushioning. On longer trips, it's a good idea to bring several socks of different thicknesses in case blisters start to form. With less cushioning, thinner socks can lend themselves to more blisters, but it's important to experiment and see what sock thickness works for you and your boots.
Make sure that your socks have no folds or wrinkles when you put on your boots, as they can create pressure points that can lead to blisters.
Now that you're sock-savvy, go out and give some different types of socks a try out on the trail!
Origionally written by:The SEAG and Copper Oar Crew Written for: St. Elias Alpine Guides