Gear Guy

Are there any new develoents with hiking socks?

With technology constantly improving outdoors gear, are sock makers following suit? Should I still use my old standard of wool socks against my feet, then an oversock, usually cotton (never had a blister)? Glenn Aquebogue, New York


Ok, I’ll bite—where in the world did you come up with the wool/cotton combo? And this works? I ask because cotton socks are typically the worst thing to wear for hiking or other outdoor use; they soak up sweat and other moisture, then just rub your skin off. In any event, there are a gazillion new sock options these days, so you need to drag your feet into the 21st sock century.

Bridgedale Trekker Socks

Bridgedale Trekker Socks

I will say you’re not necessarily on the wrong track with the wool underlayer. For a number of years now, sock makers such as SmartWool ( have been making socks using Merino wool, which is very soft and also has great water-absorbent qualities. Socks made with this material wick moisture away from your skin, so SmartWool has long claimed that there’s no need for two sock layers when using their socks. I’ve taken them at their word, and it does seem to work in preventing blisters.

Still, I typically stick with two layers. I like to wear a thin wicking sock such as Fox River X-Static Liner Socks ($9;, which have a specialty material incorporated in them to reduce odors. Over those I’ll add something like a SmartWool Hiking Sock ($17). The liner helps cut friction and keep my feet drier, while the oversock does most of the heavy lifting for cushioning, blister prevention, and climate control.

That said, there are lots of sock makers doing great things. Bridgedale, a British company, imports several excellent socks such as the Trekker ($18;, which combines wool with polypropylene. Thorlo makes a women’s specific sock called the Lamb’s Wool Light Hiker for Women ($16;, which has a slightly different shape to accommodate the anatomy of a woman’s foot. And the Teko EcoMerino Wool Ultralight Crew Hiking Socks ($16; are made with all-recycled or organically raised materials. So you can feel as good about them as you do about your feet!

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive hiking section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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Filed To: Socks
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