It may upset your Granny, but really the socks that she knits while she's watching Coronation Street are positively primitive compared to the modern, high tech, functional garments produced by specialist sock manufacturers today. This article explains what to look for in a pair of walking socks and why all socks are not equal.
The choice of the right socks is important to get the most out of your boots. Today, the manufacture of performance socks is a highly technical business involving a great deal of research and development work.
Today, the manufacture of performance socks is a highly technical business
A range of factors are taken into account by high performance sock manufacturers, including the activity being performed and the external environment in which the activity will take place. Getting a precise fix on the conditions is the start point. It's also important to look at the desired performance characteristics of the sock: maintaining an optimal foot temperature and environment, protection against rubbing and blisters, wicking away of moisture and providing outstanding comfort are all desired benefits.
Thorlo hiking socks
American brand Thorlo is widely accredited with having 'invented' the whole arena of modern technical socks for outdoor, ski and sport use. Thorlo now has over 30 years of in-depth scientific and medical research relating to feet and the huge range of movements, pressures, temperatures and environments in the various activities you undertake. Protecting your feet in this multiplicity of environments requires careful product development. Several factors are now hallmarks of Thorlo socks. Amongst these are their use of new fibre developments and some exclusive knitting technology: secrets that they jealously guard.
Many, consumers (and even a number of sock manufacturers) assume that 'natural' fibres are the best materials to use. But years of research, together with developments in modern fabrics and materials, have exploded this myth. Cotton, for example, is one of the worst materials from which to make socks. It absorbs moisture and holds that moisture next to the skin. It increases rubbing against the skin when wet; loses its shape when used and offers little or no padding. Equally, wool absorbs and retains moisture, takes a long time to dry-out and lacks strength and resiliency. Although wool does have some advantages, man-made fibres like Coolmax, Thermolite, acrylic and nylon all offer other benefits that wool simply cannot match. Protecting your feet in a range of environments requires a carefully selected and intelligently blended mix of many fibres.
It is not uncommon to see four of five different knit areas in one sock
Then comes the construction. The best socks are knitted to ensure that they fit perfectly in every area of the foot. It is not uncommon to see four of five different knit areas in one sock, as they vary the construction to give the best possible protection and comfort in each area of the foot. Thorlo actually customise their knitting machinery to uniquely knit and construct each sock to give the exact performance required.
Look for socks that have been specifically made for your chosen activity and follow these guiding principles:
- Seek out socks that have carefully blended yarns to deliver the performance and protection for your feet.
- Look for a high quality knit construction.
- Check carefully the construction and shape of the socks (never select tube socks!)
- Pay careful attention to the elastication at the neck of the sock and the seaming at the toe.
- Ensure that the socks you select clearly show that they are designed to maintain the right temperature, will protect your feet against sheer and impact pressures, will wick moisture away from your feet and provide the right level of comfort and stimulus for your feet.
- If you follow these tips and take a little time to select the right socks, then you can ensure that you will get the best from your boots and also help to ensure that your feet are well protected and comfortable.