Hiking Sock Guide: Want Help To Avoid Blisters?

Great hiking socks are critical to a comfortable trip when there's hiking or walking involved. Make sure yours deliver in the following important areas.

I'm curious as to how many people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the "trip of their life" and then skimp on something that could ruin that same trip they've worked so hard for. At the very least, raw foot sores will make you uncomfortable. It'll only get worse if your feet become infected. Don't cut your trip short because you wanted to save a few dollars by buying "cheap socks". It may cost you later.

Your hiking socks are probably like you at work – they do a lot more than they're given credit for. They must be comfortable, wick moisture, protect against shear, support your natural posture, keep your feet at a good temperature, distribute pressure, promote circulation, absorb shock and be tough. That's no small order. They are almost as important as your boots and shoes when it comes to your comfort. Here are some things to consider.

Blood Flow
This is the circulation of blood through the foot. A decrease or cutoff in blood flow can be caused by unyielding fabrics in hiking socks. Acrylics in combination with other fibers and a terry weave can help with this and shear.

Moisture
With exertion, one foot sweats one to two pints of vapor/fluid per day. That's why wicking technology in hiking socks is so important. Without it, bacteria and fungus can become a problem. Hungry yet? ;-)

Position
If your hiking socks don't help maintain correct anatomical alignment, this can cause premature fatigue. Good posture also helps to correctly position your foot in your boot or shoe to make it feel like it's an extension of your body.

Pressure Areas
Pressure causes discomfort and leads to damage if not addressed. A good example is a bedsore. Most people hopefully won't experience pressure to this degree, but keep it in mind when looking at hiking socks. Padding is especially important around bony areas like the heal and ball of the foot.

Shearing Force
This happens when your tissue is moving in opposite directions, when jumping over a stream, or descending a steep slope. Part of your skin is moving one way and the tissue under it is moving another way. This causes a tearing action right under the surface of the skin – most common way of getting blisters.

Temperature
Good hiking socks need to be appropriate for their intended use, for a warm weather day hike, or a week-long mountaineering trip. They should help maintain a consistent comfortable temperature. Like a shoe or boot, your hiking socks ought to be matched to the type of hiking you'll be doing.

Liners
Thin socks called liners are made to be worn under your hiking socks next to your skin so they can wick the moisture away and keep your feet dry.

Marc Wiltse learned how important good quality hiking equipment and camping gear were after his pup tent flooded with over three inches of water forcing him to sleep in the front seat of his two-seat Honda CRX (translation: research is a good thing).

If you'd like more information and recommendations on hiking socks, hiking boots and what's important regarding fit and construction, go to this website.

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Older comments on Hiking Sock Guide: Want Help To Avoid Blisters?

RTGriffin
03 March 2010

Hi Marc,

Nice article on socks. Helps me understand more fully how I recently got quite sore feet, even though I’m a regular walker.

I think we sometimes take our feet for granted. I usually use socks made for walking.

Richard
http://www.hikingequipmentsite.com