If you think that buying a pair of hiking boots is difficult, then just wait until it comes to getting a suitable pair of hiking socks.
Now socks are socks, right? Well, when it comes to hiking, grabbing any old pair of sports socks out of the drawer simply won’t work. Unfortunately, sports compression socks are not hiking socks and you don’t want to wear the same socks that you use for jogging or playing football when you head off on a lengthy hike.
Good hiking sock need to be comfortable but they also need to be thick and very hard wearing with terrific thermal and moisture-wicking properties. Remember that, even if you are just hiking modest distances at the weekends, you’ll probably cover getting on for 1,000 miles in a year and you should expect a good pair of hiking socks to last just about that distance.
Most importantly, you want your socks to provide you with comfort for that 1,000 miles. Problems such as chafing, blisters other foot damage can quickly turn a two or three mile hike back to your car into sheer agony if your socks aren’t up to the job.
Good moisture-wicking is also an absolute must. ‘Wicking’ is a process similar to that provided by the wick in an old-fashioned oil lamp and simply means drawing sweat off the surface of your feet to keep them dry. If your socks don’t do this, you will develop chafing, blisters, fungi and other less pleasant results. And, if you’re worrying about bad smelling feet, this will be a minor issue – we’re talking about real health problems here.
Whether you’re spending a lot of time hiking, or just undertaking short hikes at the weekend, you will also need good thermal properties from your socks. In hot weather your socks have to conduct heat away from your foot and out through your boot and, in cold weather, they need to keep your feet at a comfortable temperature.
It might seem strange to think that one pair of socks could cope with both hot and cold conditions, but modern materials and manufacturing technology means that this is indeed possible today.
A good starting point when looking for a pair of hiking socks is to start with cotton, which is one of nature’s materials that offers the range of attributes you are looking for. However, clever engineers have now been able to improve on Mother Nature and blends, such as Lycra, wool and others, combined with micro-geometry manufacturing, can also produce hiking socks with great support and comfort, excellent thermal control and superior moisture-wicking.
All hiking socks should also have thickened areas around the toe, ankle and heel as these are the area that will get the most wear. You should also make sure that there are no ridges, particularly near the toes or at the ankle bone. Ridges can irritate your feet as quick as a stone in your boot. Socks should also be long enough to come well above the top of your boot so that they can be folded down.
All socks will lose elasticity at the top and often folding them down over the top of the boot is necessary to stop them sliding inside the boot as you walk. Despite this fact, you should still try to buy socks which will not lose their elasticity too quickly.
Hiking socks are not cheap and you can expect to pay $10 a pair, or more, for a decent pair. Nevertheless, this is one investment that, like your hiking boots, is well worth the cost and you should arm yourself with at least three or pairs of hiking socks and always carry at least one spare pair with you in your backpack.