Saturday, October 23, 2010

Socks! An Explanation

     Proper socks can make a big difference in staying comfortable all year long.   If you walk a lot or go hiking, proper socks can be a godsend.  Rule number one for keeping your feet warm, toasty and comfortable is to keep your footwear, especially socks, dry.   By keeping your feet dry you help keep them warm and insulated in the winter, and comfortable, blister-free in the summer.  Wet feet can also promote fungus growth, and trench foot, which you definitively don't want to mess with.

     Layering and proper use of fabrics is, again, the key to obtaining this.  Also paying close attention to when your feet are wet and or cold, making sure to change socks and get your feet dry/warm as soon as possible.  When wearing boots, or shoes try not to tie the laces to tight as to restrict blood flow, and allow the circulation of air.  While taking a break, or stopping (i.e. getting to your office after your morning commute) take time to pay special attention to your feet, especially your socks.  If their wet, change them.  I recommend carrying an extra pair of socks either in your EDB, or leaving a pair or two in your office for the days your feet do get wet.  

     During warm/hot seasons, the main goal is to wick moisture away from the feet allowing them to breath.  Use of a thin, lightweight sock liner made from materials like silk, nylon, and polyester are excellent choices.  Polyester and nylon blends with stretching materials mixed in like Lycra are easy to find, and cheap.  You can also ditch socks all together if you wear sandals, but don’t expect your feet to be very clean when you get home after walking the city streets.  If you decide to wear leather shoes with no socks (which is in style right now) be very careful of forming blisters.  I really don't suggest this option but if you must, make sure to carry moleskin pads around and use them as soon as the problem starts, not after.

     As the thermometer starts to drop you are going to need more than sock liners to keep warm.  Keeping the sock liners as your base layer, you can start to use heavier, more insulating socks as the middle layer for your feet.   In these types of conditions I suggest medium, to heavy hiking socks.  I also suggest looking into buying a higher cut 'ski sock', because they don't cut off the circulation to the feet like normal cut socks do (there is a major artery located right where our normal socks lay, leading to poor circulation.) The fabrics I like to use are wool, or wool blends (wool mixed with synthetic fabrics dry faster) because it make an insulating, breathable mid-layer that help keep your feet warm and dry.  Polypropylene blends can be used for extremely cold weather due to its great insulating qualities, and super-fast drying time.  As a personal rule of thumb in cold weather, especially when outdoors, I never go to sleep with a wet layer on my feet.  I do not recommend, or use cotton or cotton blend socks anytime of the year.  They absorb sweat, and take a long time to dry.  If cotton is your only choice though, make sure you have multiple pairs, and change them often. 

     There are currently a number of companies that make great socks.  I suggest looking for hiking socks and trying a few different companies and materials to see what you prefer.  I personally love Patagonia and Smartwool wool socks.  When it comes to liners, you don't have to break the bank, just make sure they are a light material and dry fast.

These socks make great all-around lightweight socks for the warmer seasons here in the city.

These Patagonia liners are my personal favorite hiking/city walking sock liners.

Patagonia also makes really nice midweight hiking socks that are perfect for our winter weather.  Remember your liners though!


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