Any recommendations on sock liners?

6:52 p.m. on June 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I just got back from a 4 day/night backpacking trip in Haleakala, Maui and I developed blisters on the first day. :(  I think it was because my feet got wet but I can't say for certain.  Also the toe next to my big toe on my right foot got a little smashed and the toenail looks like it's turning a slight black color.  So I'm thinking that possibly my boots may be too tight...which would really suck cause I don't want to have to buy a new pair of boots.  I previously wore these boots (Scarpa Kailash GTX) a couple times on some short hikes to break them in but this trip was the first time I was in them for more than a few hours.

Anyway, to the sock liners....I've NEVER gotten blisters on my feet from hiking before so this was a shocker.  Then again, I've never lugged around 45 pounds of gear for 4 days, either, so that may have something to do with it.  I used Thorlo wool socks, by the way.  I'm thinking liners will help keep my feet drier in the future.  I'm a bit worried, however, that my feet will be even MORE snug in the boots that I think may already be too tight in the first place.


7:43 p.m. on June 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi nworbled,

When I buy boots I size them (or get fitted) while wearing a liner sock, as well as a expedition weight (thick) wool sock, and I make sure there is room to spare. This is really the only way I know to make sure I get boots big enough.

Not having enough length or width in your boots can really be hard on your feet, especially in steep or rough terrain.

Carrying a pack for 4 days is enough time to tell if your set up (socks & boots) is working or not, and I'm guessing you probably knew by the end of day one.

Carrying a pack day after day is way different that going for a day hike, as you know, but it's one way to work out the kinks in your set up. We all learn as we go, sometimes it's through asking or reading, sometimes it's through experience. (I've learned a lot the hard way)

I almost always wear liner socks, my feet simply do much better over the course of a multi day trip if I do. I also carry three pairs of wool socks and change often keeping my feet dry. This is very important, damp feet do not resist abrasion well because the skin softens.

Liner socks add more cushion, wick water away from your feet, and help to reduce friction. They also take up more room in the boot, as you say.

Beyond wearing good socks, changing frequently, and addressing foot problems before they turn into blisters, you must have boots / shoes that fit your feet properly.

I have bought more than one pair of boots in the past that just didn't fit well and ended up getting rid of them.

If you are in doubt that your boots fit correctly I would go try some more on and take your socks (liner & wool etc) with you. It wouldn't hurt to take along your current boots for comparison. If at all possible go to a store who has someone trained to measure your feet and help you find boots that fit the shape of your feet.

Getting a boot that fits isn't always easy, be willing to try different brands. Different brands can have slightly different shapes, or may offer wider or narrower sizes to accommodate your feet.

Boots aren't cheap, but your feet are priceless when you are in the woods 20 miles from your vehicle.

I like Thorlo socks, as well as Smartwool & Wigwam, I would certainly try out some of their liner socks. A neat, flat toe seam is very important so make sure to look for that.

I'm glad you got to go packing, sorry about the foot trouble. I've been there, believe you me.

9:58 p.m. on June 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for your input. :)  The more I think about it, the more I think that perhaps my boots are half a size too small.  Ugh. 

Unfortunately, we don't have outdoor gear stores in Hawaii.  The closest we have is a small section in Sports Authority.  Hahaha.  Therefore, I order most of my gear online, sight unseen.  I ordered my boots through Zappos since they seemed to have a good return policy but now that the boots are used, I can't return them.  When I first got them, I thought they fit well.  Now I'm second guessing that.  I guess I'll try to wear them on some more day hikes before I decide to order another pair of boots. 

In the meantime, I'll buy some liners and see how they work out for me...though like I said, they'll make the boots even MORE snug which is exactly what I don't want.  Haha.  Still, it's probably good for me to have some liners for future use, anyway.

4:17 p.m. on June 3, 2011 (EDT)
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i'm generally of the mind that if the boot fit when you originally bought it, there were probably some conditions you encountered this time around that changed the calculus.  so, i think it's worth experimenting a little before tossing what may be a perfectly good pair of boots or relegating them to geartrade or ebay.  maybe the boot really doesn't fit, but why not make sure via a little experimentation. 

whacking your toe on the end of a boot doesn't necessarily mean the boot is too small.  it could also mean the boot wasn't keeping your foot seated in the heel, so your foot was sliding forward a little, especially walking downhill.  most of my blackened/lost toenails are caused by boots/shoes that are too loose, not too tight.  it could also mean the boot doesn't fit your foot well, and it could also mean the boot is too tight; however, it sounds like you had walked some in these boots before without a problem, and that they didn't feel too small before.  also, any well-fitting hiking boot should feel reasonably snug.   

don't discount the impact of getting your feet wet at the outset of your hike.  getting your feet/socks wet definitely could have contributed to blistering.  socks tend to chafe and bunch more when they are wet. 

i agree with trout that hiking with weight on your back creates issues that day-hiking does not; if your feet tend to slide forward a little in your boots, that tends to happen more when you're carrying a backpack. 

liners can help with blisters.  because liners are relatively inexpensive, it might be worth trying a pair with your existing socks and the same boots to see how they feel.  if the combination feels tight, thorlo (and virtually every other brand available) makes a variety of different sock types and weights, so you could pair a liner with a slightly thinner wool sock without making your boots feel much tighter, if that's an issue.

changing footbeds sometimes helps people with boot fit.  so, some people remove the manufacturer's footbed and use 'superfeet' or insoles they like from their favorite running shoe company.  this can help deal with boots that are a little too loose or tight, too.  worth exploring, perhaps. 

finally, some people benefit by lacing up their boots in a slightly different way - it can help take pressure off certain parts of your foot, and it can make a boot fit and feel slightly different.  a couple of basics here:     and here:

 best of luck. 


4:55 p.m. on June 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks leadbelly2550!  That was really helpful...I'm going to re-check the sizing of my boots and explore as many alternatives as I can before making the decision of buying another pair of boots altogether. :D

7:02 p.m. on June 4, 2011 (EDT)
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liners. don't hike without them. don't sleep without them. dry feet are happy feet. dry feet are blisterless feet.

3:15 p.m. on June 5, 2011 (EDT)
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If you're not hiking sloped terrain, liner socks are OK. Otherwise, liner socks will cause your feet to rotate away from the slope due to the low friction between the two socks. It's an awkward way to hike slopes that are bushwacked versus the relatively flat switchback trails. Regarding boots, unless you're carrying more than about 20 pounds and rough trail conditions, I would suggest trail shoes/sneakers. Every pound you wear on your feet is roughly equivalent to 6 plus pounds carried, (a long known hiking fact). Your performance clearly suffers in the areas of fatigue, comfort, energy conservation and speed. Joint and muscle pain is inevitable. We need to periodically review our existing gear and question how to lower our carried weight.  Obviously, depending on season, altitude, terrain and hike duration, carried weight will vary. Gear, food and water weight are necessary to achieve our desired hiking objective. Reducing weight improves our performance and enjoyment. Saving weight should not ignore the primary concern of being prepared for survival and having reliable related gear. One of the main issues I've noted over the years related to survival is lack of attention to energy conservation. Making  tools and shelters for example requires searching, finding and constructing, all of which consume energy. Under survival circumstances performance and rational thinking is impeded. Carry essential survival tools and shelter with you. 

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