Nothing ruins ski runs, backpacking trips, jogs or walks faster than a painful blister or cold and wet feet. Finding the right pair of socks -- that'll help keep you dry and work best for the weather conditions -- can make a big difference in protecting your feet during these sporting activities. In addition to being an essential piece of athletic gear, the best wicking socks can also be good medicine, by preventing uncomfortable dampness or odor -- and helping to prevent various foot ailments or injuries.
Select the Right Fiber for the Activity or Sport
The best wicking sock depends on two factors in addition to fiber selection -- fit and activity. Despite the right fiber, loose socks can cause blisters. Socks should be snug, but not constricting. Finally, the type of activity helps you choose the right fiber. Cold weather participants, like skiers and snowshoers, will want synthetic socks. Runners and participants in high aerobic activities will want synthetic or a synthetic, natural fiber blend, which offers a bit of the best of both worlds. A camper would do well to choose merino wool, a fiber that will carry her through hiking, a variety of camp chores and warm right into the cool evenings.
Synthetics Wick Away Moisture Best
Polypropylene and polypropylene blends comprise the most common synthetic blend socks. Synthetics repel moisture above and beyond any natural fiber, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Their construction is key; many popular synthetic blends contain a greater surface area than natural fiber socks, offering moisture additional channels on which to evaporate. Synthetic fibers also offer excellent cushioning and are ideal in cold conditions or when heavy perspiration occurs.
Merino Wool Adjusts to Both Cool and Warm Temps
Wool insulates when wet and keeps cold feet warm in winter and hot feet cooler in the summer. The new wool -- or smart wool as it is sometimes called -- is actually merino wool, a type of wool that does not itch and is known for softness. The versatility of merino wool makes it an excellent choice for a wide range of temperatures and activities.
Comfortable Cotton Absorbs Sweat and Keeps You Dry
For the money, cotton is the least expensive fiber. It is warm and comfortable, and can absorb a fair amount of perspiration. However, once wet, it dries slowly and the now moist environment of your foot is perfect ground for yeast overgrowth or a blister. Cotton works just fine, but only if the activity level is low and the wearer desires inexpensive comfort.