The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Socks: Your First Line of Defense

Posted by on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Let’s talk socks.

Yes, those things you slip over your feet before you put on your shoes. I know, you don’t put a lot of thought into your socks other than maybe, “Is it okay that I’m wearing my Halloween pumpkin socks in February…to my performance review with my boss?” Or “Did the dryer eat my sock?” Or the ever popular, “Are these clean?”

Socks are a vital part of foot health, though. They protect your feet from the friction created by your foot rubbing against the inside of your shoe. They absorb sweat, and therefore cut down on foot odor (and we all love it when people cut down on their foot odor). Socks with the right kind of padding can cut down on pain during activities that pound our feet (yes, I’m thinking of you, running!).

So what should you look for in a sock? Here are some tips:

Fit Even though socks seem all stretchy and one size fits all-ish, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear the wrong size socks. If you do, you’re creating a disaster—socks that are too large will let your feet slip around inside them, and next thing you know, your feet have become a study in blisters. Don’t go overboard the other way, though. Socks that are too small can force your toes to curl up and you can actually end up with hammertoes or ingrown toenails! This is something that’s especially important to think about with children; when they outgrow their shoes, check out their socks as well.

The best way to get your socks and shoes in sync is to try to wear the type of socks you will typically wear with a certain pair of shoes when you’re buying the shoes. For example, if you’re planning on stopping buy a running store after work to pick up some new running shoes, don’t try them on with your lovely thin stockings; make sure you have a pair of your regular running socks with you.

Fabric Cotton socks may feel nice when you first put them on, but give them a few minutes and you won’t think they’re so comfy. Cotton just absorbs water but doesn’t evaporate it or wick it away from your feet. That means if your feet start sweating, you’re going to be stuck in cold, clammy socks. Wool is the same—you may think that wool socks are going to keep your feet nice and warm, but that’s quickly wiped out once they become damp.

That is why you should thank your lucky stars that we live in this time of marvels such as moisture wicking socks. Go for socks made out of synthetic materials polyester, acrylic, or, if you must have something from nature near your feet, look for wool-blend socks.

Cushioning Feet can take a lot of abuse during high impact sports such as running, tennis, or basketball. Choosing socks with some kind of padding can help cut down on the pounding.

Also, as we get older, we lose fat on our heels and the balls of our feet. Yes, that’s right, your feet lose weight, and no, you can’t give your heel a fat transplant from your butt. Instead, look for socks with padded soles. Remember, though, to make sure you get the right size—padding won’t help if your feet are swimming in your socks.

So there you go. Next time you find yourself staring at your dog and thinking, “Is that my sock Rufus is chewing?” pause for a moment and think about the wonders of socks!

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.