When I was younger a sock was a sock, usually made of cotton. When we would play outside, and you got cold-you came in. In today’s world a sock is no longer just a “sock”! There are so many socks made of so many different materials. Now I truly believe a sock is a very important part of getting dressed in the morning. Depending on what you are doing that day here is some important information on what kind of sock you should be wearing!!
Athletic Socks: Traditional white gym socks to technical socks intended for cross-training and running. Most provide some sole cushioning but have minimal bulk overall.
Casual Socks: Distinguished by their casual styling (colors, stripes, etc.) these lightweight socks are usually made for fabrics such as merino wool.
Hiking Socks: They wick away moisture and offer cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot.
Cold Weather Socks: They are heavyweight socks that usually made out of wool, with extra bulk and padding to withstand cold conditions.
Your feet may be the hardest working part of your body. They bear the entire weight of your body for every minute you are standing, walking, running, jumping, etc. Bearing all this weight, maintaining balance and assisting in movement, this is why the construction of the sock is very important.
- Wool is an excellent natural fiber and is sometimes woven with nylon on the outside to make it wear longer. It is a great insulator and can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water before it feels damp. It retains its insulating properties even when wet. It does not crush like cotton when wet but it does not wick moisture particularly well. However, knitting small loops on the inside of the sock improves ventilation, cushioning and moisture flow. It is a fabulous cold weather fabric because of its insulating properties but for most applications, we think it works best when combined with synthetics to better manage moisture. Higher end socks generally use Merino wool because it is one of the softest types of wool available, having fibers that are finer with smaller scales, which reduces or eliminates the “itchy” feel normally associated with wool. American Merino wool is a bit curlier than the “down-under” variety but, grade for grade, functions equally well. The packaging won’t tell you much about the grade of wool used in the sock. The longer stranded wool is more highly prized because the yarn then has fewer fiber joints that could fail. The finer stranded wool is more highly prized because it allows for a softer feel and denser, more durable knit.
- Acrylic is a light-weight synthetic (man-made) fiber featuring softness and warmth as well as high durability and the ability to hold bright colors. It tends to dry quickly and can be used in wicking sections of socks. There are some blended, branded versions of acrylic that provide some very advanced features. We think acrylic’s resilience makes it great for cushioning the foot. Because it does not absorb water, it helps keep the feet dry and does not tend to create the odors associated with some synthetics.
- Nylon is a very strong, versatile and hard wearing fiber that can be silky thin or bulky. It is often used with other fibers to provide added stretch or durability. Nylon is a component in almost all modern socks, whether as a coating on natural fabrics or as a strengthening or stretching material. When nylon fibers are crimped and heat set, they become elastic and can then be used to provide the stretch feature of socks.
- Olefin/Polypropylene is an excellent water-repelling (hydrophobic) fiber. This property plus its serious strength and amazing light weight make it a good candidate to work with absorbent outer layer as a two-layer moisture management system in sock
- Polypropylene/Olefin is a superior water repelling fiber (hydrophobic) that is used with absorbent outer layers to wick moisture away from the skin. It is one of the strongest and lightest of the synthetic fibers but is easily damaged by heat.
Polyester & stretch Polyester is hydrophobic fibers known for their durability and colorfastness. This material is usually bended with other fibers to maximize the functionality of the sock. It has been used to create many special purpose and branded fibers such as:
> 4-channel polyester (think of it like little hollow tubes) is a high-performance synthetic designed to facilitate the movement of moisture and perspiration, termed “wicking,” and is fast drying.
> Coolmax ™ is branded 4-channel polyester that is superior for wicking and fast drying. For some people, it can make the feet feel a bit hot. We think it is best blended. Our experience is that when used alone, it can reflect heat toward the foot and can sometime generate unpleasant odors after wear.
> Hollofil™ is very light-weight polyester made with a hollow core which provides warmth and loft and is usually blended with other fibers.
> Dri-release ™ is a patented technology which layers a hydrophobic material next to the skin which then pushes moisture to an outside hydrophilic layer. It generally consists of a high percentage of polyester combined with a small amount of cotton or rayon to pull moisture away from the skin. Seems to work well and offers odor management as well.
> Spandex ™ and the branded Lycra ™ are elastic, synthetic fiber used in place of rubber in the arch and legs of socks to hold them in place and provide extra support.