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Choosing the Right Sock for Hiking and Backpacking

This video discusses how shoes and socks work together to keep your feet happy and why wool or a synthetic sock should be worn for hiking and backpacking.

Choosing the Right Sock for Hiking and Backpacking

If you’re thinking about buying a new pair of hiking boots or shoes, have you also considered buying a new pair of socks? Socks play a very important role in the comfort and fit of any footwear and they’re not something that should be ignored when you’re buying footwear.


One of the most important things that your socks are doing for your feet when you’re hiking or doing other outdoor activities and sports is managing moisture. That includes the sweat coming off your feet, as well as moisture that’s in the air, or even perhaps coming through your boot if you walked through water and do not have a waterproof upper. Socks for outdoor activities and sports are made from different materials that will perform moisture management differently. These materials include wool, synthetics and cotton, as well as blends of more than one type of material.


For outdoor activities, cotton is something you want to avoid in your socks because cotton acts like a sponge, absorbing water and pulling it into the fabric and holding onto it. This results in a very wet, uncomfortable foot, which often results in blistering and hot spots. A merino wool sock, such as the one shown in the video above, is a great option. Wool is a natural material like cotton, but it manages moisture, body odor and temperature better than all other fabrics, both man-made and natural. Socks made from synthetic material are also a better option than cotton, and they may also be more appropriate than wool depending on your preferences. If you are allergic to wool fiber or just find it uncomfortable for some reason, synthetic materials may be the best choice for you.


The main benefit of a choosing a hiking-specific sock for hiking and backpacking is the fit of the sock. Socks that are designed for hiking, backpacking and other outdoor recreation typically have a kind of a knitted arch support that fits the foot snug and doesn’t move around excessively. These socks usually offer some support and cushioning in the heel and through the forefoot as well. Spandex or elastane content will be found in the ankle so the sock stays up and doesn’t slide down. Well-fitted socks designed for your particular outdoor activity won’t bunch up or slide around, which results in less blistering and more comfort for your feet.


It is important to remember that socks and shoes work together as a system to keep your feet more dry and comfortable. So, whether you’re just out for a day hike or you’re going for an extended backpacking trip, remember to be kind to your feet.