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Family Foot & Ankle

Getting the Most Out of Your Winter Socks

Winter Socks

There was likely a time early in your life when a nice pair of socks was the least-welcomed gift you could ever hope to receive.  

How young and foolish we once were.

For many of us, something about entering adulthood flips a switch and reveals to us just how wonderful a great pair of socks can be. Although a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that we now have to pay for our own, if we’re going to be honest.

For many of us, our eyes lit up with genuine delight when we unwrapped a pair of socks over the holidays. Some of us even leave enthused reviews of socks online!

Yes. Pure, genuine reviews proclaiming the joys of good socks! Take this real Amazon review, which we suggest reading in your best Nick Offerman or Morgan Freeman voice:

I work outside on my feet for eight to 10 hours at a time in rain, shine, snow, sleet, and everything in between. These are the only socks I’ve ever worn during the winter that not only kept my foot warm, but my TOES as well, an impossible feat. Got a pair from a friend as a joke gift, immediately ordered 10 more pairs. Barring a career change to sock blogger, this is hopefully the last time I’ll ever be evangelizing for socks.

We like poking some fun, but we’re really very happy when people take socks seriously! A good pair of winter socks will be good for your feet, and having the right pair for your needs will not only be comfortable, but help prevent certain problems as well!

The next time you are looking for ideal winter socks for yourself or a loved one, keep these following tips in mind:

Make Sure They’re Made of the Right Stuff

Two of the primary goals of winter socks are to insulate your feet and keep moisture from building up around them. The material used to make the sock can play important roles in both of these factors.

First, let’s talk about a fabric you should not have in your winter socks: cotton. Cotton is not only far from the most insulating material out there. It’s also notorious for trapping moisture.

Socks with high cotton composition are quick to get wet (whereupon they lose what little insulating properties they had) and slow to dry. And remember, a puddle isn’t the only thing that make your socks sop. If you are walking and moving around a lot, your feet will naturally sweat—and all that moisture will get absorbed by the cotton!

What materials should you look for instead?

  • Wool is an excellent choice for a natural material. It has superb insulating properties and tends to resist temperature changes in both hot and cold conditions.

    Merino wool is a common type you will find in many winter socks. Grown by a specific breed of sheep, it is thinner and finer than the more “standard” form of wool. It also tends to be more water repellant and better at wicking moisture away from your feet.

    A big downside of wool is that it’s rather delicate and won’t last extensively through the normal wear and tear of being inside your shoes. To help counter this, sock companies will often blend the wool with a synthetic fabric such as Nylon for increased durability.
  • Fleece is ultra-comfortable and warm, and tends to come in cute and cozy patterns. They tend to be rather fragile too, however, and they may be best for wearing around the house only if you want them to last.
  • Synthetic fabrics tend to be less expensive than natural fibers while still possessing some good qualities.

    Acrylic tends to shine as an all-around reasonable fabric for winter socks, providing good cushioning and quick drying. It’s not going to provide as much comfort as the sheepy softness of wool, but can still be quite reasonable for the price.

    Other synthetics, such as the above-mentioned Nylon and Polyester, will tend to play more supportive roles to add durability to socks, as they are not as breathable as Acrylic. You might also see other synthetics like Elastane, Spandex, or Lycra in the mix, as these tend to add to the stretch and fit of the socks.

    One potential downside of socks that are heavily synthetic is that they might hold foot odor more than natural fibers, so keep that in mind.

socked feet

Check the Fit

Speaking of fit, what should a good winter sock be doing on your foot?

While loose might seem like a good quality at first, like having a soft winter blanket around you, trouble can develop if the sock slides over your foot too much, or starts bunching up in areas. This is a good way to get blisters or calluses.

Instead, look for a snug fit that isn’t so tight as to pinch any part of your foot or cram your toes together. Seams should also lie flat on the toes.

When it comes to thickness, that will largely depend on your temperature needs. If you feet get cold easily and you won’t be moving around a great deal while wearing them, you may want to opt for thicker pairs. If you like to move a lot or even go running in the winter, a thinner, lighter pair would likely serve you better.

Have You Considered a Sock Liner?

Sock liners have become rarer since the days when wool was more of an itchy nightmare than it is today. However, a liner can still benefit people who find their socks not providing as much warmth as they need, as well as people who are actively hiking, running, or cycling during the winter.

For those needing heat, liners can add an extra insulating layer. Hooray!

For those who are active, liners can add even more moisture-wicking properties to keep feet dry. They’re also easier to wash and dry.

Liners tend to be made of synthetic materials, to be warn under your socks. Make sure a liner/sock setup will fit in your shoes properly before you decide to go out and do any long-period activities.

Comfort Isn’t Always in the Sock

A great pair of winter socks can feel like heaven to your feet, but if they’re already suffering from persistent pain on their own, they’re likely not going to do much to help you out.

But we can! We can help you conquer the obstacles that are keeping you uncomfortable, so you can enjoy the full benefits of socks and, well, just about anything else that makes sense to put on your feet!

We have six offices throughout the region here to serve you. Give us a call at (888) 689-3317 and we can schedule an appointment at the most convenient location for you.
Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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