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Socks added to Trailspace Gear Guide

by Tom Mangan
January 5, 2010

Today I added about a dozen brands of outdoor socks to our Gear Guide. We've got all the major players -- Wigwam, Smartwool, Thorlo, Fox River, Darn Tough Vermont and more -- and we couldn't possible leave out Injinji's line of toe socks.  These are the categories:

  • Liner Socks -- Conventional wisdom once held that liner socks protected your feet from the scratchiness of wool socks. Now they're more likely to be a wicking base layer or stand-alone ultra-light foot protection.
  • Backpacking and Hiking Socks -- Thicker with more insulation, these socks are built for the peculiar conditions of walking continuously for hours on end. The options are mind-boggling: cushion vs. non-cushion; Merino wool vs. Coolmax; crew height vs. over-the-calf.
  • Running Socks -- Lightweight and typically ankle-height; runners typically don't have a lot of cushion -- it's assumed if your feet can handle the abuse of running, they don't need much padding (which adds heat and friction, leading to blisters).
  • Snowsport Socks -- Most of these are over-the-calf socks for skiing; many aren't as heavy as you might expect, since ski boots often have a fair amount of insulation already.
  • Waterproof Socks -- These have impermeable liners beneath their fabric. SealSkins is the best-known brand.

These represent the first phase of socks added to the Gear Guide; I'll be adding many more in the weeks to come.

Hikers talk up a storm about shoes, but I find that socks are equally essential to the health of my feet. As long as I don't need the insulation, my feet get along best in thin socks; more padding just makes my feet hotter and leads to blisters and hot spots that cushioning is supposed to prevent (who says there's no irony in the wilderness?). 

What are your thoughts on socks? Have you joined the Merino wool generation? How do you fight gunk and funk? Around here, we're always in the mood for sock talk.