Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Know your fabrics to select best hiking sock

A variety of fabrics are used to make hiking socks. Photo courtesy of Photoree.
When purchasing hiking socks, you’ll likely face a number of fabric options. Knowing a little about each of the materials can help you decide which sock is the best for you.

Generally, hiking socks are made of four types of fabrics:
g Wool – This is the most popular fabric because it’s warm, offers maximum cushioning, and nicely wicks moisture away from the foot. These characteristics are enhanced in modern wool by synthetic materials weaved into the natural fabric. In addition, opt for merino wool over ragg wool, as the latter can be itchy.
g Synthetics – Several brand names such as Hollofil, Thermax and Thermastat have been designed to be as warm as wool yet to dry more quickly and to be more abrasion-resistant. Other synthetics, such as polypropylene and CoolMax, typically are woven into wool socks or used in liners, primarily because of their superior wicking ability. Stretch nylon and spandex also often is blended into natural fabrics to help the sock retain its shape; without it, the sock would bunch up or wrinkle, resulting in abrasion.
g Silk – While comfortable and lightweight, silk isn’t so great at preventing rubbing. Because of this, it typically is only used in sock liners, mainly for its wicking power.
g Cotton – Though extremely comfortable, cotton absorbs moisture and dries slowly, making your feet vulnerable to blisters on the trail. If blended with other materials, however, cotton can be worn for short, easy walks on days with moderate temperatures.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.