I used to have a couple of sock jokes, but I lost one. 

Awww Socks ! After researching for this article I’m eager to nerd out on the subject. Years of podiatry education and training had barely educated me on all that there is to know about these little wonders. We all know that they are important, often escape artists from the dryer, sometimes a way to show off a quirky fashion sense; but there’s so much more.

Socks are an important barrier to prevent foot injury. Socks help to decrease friction and shear forces that cause blisters, callus and fissures. Socks promote good pedal hygiene, wicking sweat helping to preventing odor and athletes foot.

Plus they should be comfy, keep you warm in the cold, provide cushion in shoes and can even bring some flair to your wardrobe.

One size does not fit all. Socks come in a wide variety of sizes, heights, materials and the right pair is waiting to cater to your specific needs or activity.

Whats the deal with “Moisture Wicking”?

Lots of athletic apparel boasts the ability to “wick moisture” but what does that actually mean? Let us break down the process of wicking. “Just like a candle draws wax up the wick to the flame, wicking fabric pulls moisture from the body to the exterior of the shirt where it can evaporate more easily.”1

In the past, “natural fabrics like cotton, linen and even wool have been better for excessive sweaters than synthetic fabrics because they breathe better.” Breathable means the fabric absorbs the moisture, once the air hits the moist skin it cools lowering your body temperature. The problem is that the natural fabrics will retain that moisture, if you are sweating during exercise the garment will remain wet and become uncomfortable.

Synthetics do not retain moisture like natural fibers and are often not considered breathable. “Being a fiber derived from oil, polyester is water-repellent, and therefore not absorbent. For this reason polyester fabrics do not absorb sweat and can give one a moist, warm, clammy feel. Since it is produced from petroleum, polyester is not considered sustainable and it is not biodegradable.”2

Wicking fabrics are made of a synthetic fiber or a synthetic and natural blend. Polyester, acrylic  or nylon are often the synthetic fiber, cotton and wool are popular choices for the nature fiber. The nature in which these fibers are weaved together produced the wicking ability, the sweat evaporates exiting through the weave then sits on the outer layer of the garment. Knowing the properties of each fiber helps in choosing which combination is right for you.

A Cotton is the most common fiber used for socks, often blended with nylon or polyester. Remember avoid 100% cotton socks they will not have that wicking property. Stance is a brand offering quality cotton blend socks. Wool socks are made of knitted wool fibers trapping warmth and are especially useful for hiking and skiing. SmartWool brand is a great wool example. Bombas offered both cotton and wool blends, plus they donate one pair for every pair purchased.

More information on sock materials and the fibers they are made of can be found at: 

https://sockdrawer.com/pages/fiber-content

Diabetic Socks:

I wanted to make sure we addressed this type of sock specifically!  30.3 million people in the US have Diabetes with 7.2 million are undiagnosed. Socks should be considered therapeutic and an extremely important consideration for folks with Diabetes.

Diabetic socks have special features to help prevent injury associated with neuropathy (altered sensation or numbness to the feet ) and poor circulation. For a diagnosis of these conditions associated with Diabetes please contact one of our Podiatrists.

It is always recommended that Diabetics wear light colored or white socks. This will help to see any soils or stains on your socks. A stain or spot on the sock may come from a cut or blister that you were unaware off because of neuropathy. Inspect your socks daily to check for any red flags.

Proper fit is important. Socks do come in sizes that correlate to shoe size, may sure you have the right one for you ! Make sure that the sock is not to tight and that the toes have ample room, but just as important make sure the sock is not too loose and that there is no excess fabric that may cause irritation.

These socks should be warm, non-constricting, have a padded sole, and most important no seams!

Compression Socks: 

Compression socks may be prescribed by you doctor to help with circulation, circulating blood back to your heart from your legs and feet.  Athletes can benefit from these type of sock to increase the efficiency of your veins as they are working over time during exercise. Compression socks help relieve leg swelling, cramping, lower extremity fatigue and the associated heavy feeling.

Running:

 

Now a days there are so many great options for good running socks. Here is what I look for when shopping for a new pair. Obviously moisture wicking made of a natural synthetic blend. Padded toe and heel with a thinner midfoot, reinforced arch for support, a low crew or no show height, with large achilles or heel tab.

Heres a Runner’sWorld sock review:

https://www.runnersworld.com/socks/10-high-performance-socks-for-runners/slide/9

Hiking:

Considerations for the best hiking sock should include, height, cushioning, fabric and fit. The height is important to protect against abrasions from shoes and environment, higher socks can help avoid bug bites, scrapes and poison ivy. Cushioned toes and heels for shock absorption, thinner for summer days thicker for longer trips and colder weather. Liners are a great trick to avoid blisters. Liners can be made of silk, merino wool or a synthetic material.

Skiing:

“Surprise! Good socks are one of the most important—and overlooked—elements of your ski setup. The best ones are thin, hug your feet like gloves (no heel or toe bunching), and come up above your calf. Socks like this aren’t just more comfortable, they’re also warmer: Thick, heavily cushioned models restrict blood flow, causing toes to freeze.”5

I couldn’t have said it better myself… Check out the full list on:

https://www.outsideonline.com/1786066/what-are-best-ski-socks

I could go on and on for each sport/season/shoe specific socks. I hope this information gave you a foundation for your search of the perfect pair. If you are suffering from blisters, profound sweating, swelling or just cant find the right sock for you, please call and schedule an appointment at Bay Area Foot Care (800)871-8606 we are happy to help.

 

 

 

References:

  1. https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/men/sweating-odor/clothing-materials-reduce-sweating.htm
  2. https://www.barnhardtcotton.net/blog/know-fibers-difference-between-polyester-and-cotton/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
  4. https://hikinglady.com/2017/12/01/win-injinji-toe-socks/
  5. https://www.outsideonline.com/1786066/what-are-best-ski-socks