The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How Sock Choice Affects Your Feet

Posted by on Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Though often overlooked, sock choice can greatly affect your foot health. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine explains that the type of hosiery worn by athletes can directly contribute to the development of foot pathologies like toenail fungus, hematoma, friction blisters, hyperkeratoses, bacterial and viral infections, capsulitis, bursitis, fat pad atrophy, bunions, contusions and more. Here’s a quick guide to choosing the best socks.

 

1. Look at the size.

Over-the-calf socks are made for skiers and snowboarders, as well as baseball, basketball and soccer players. Mid-calf socks are ideal for skaters, whereas aerobics participants may opt for slouch socks. Crew socks are recommended for running, tennis, golf, racquetball and hiking. Style aside, it’s a common assumption that socks are stretchy, so they should be “one size fits all,” but that’s not usually the case. Be sure to check the label before buying. Otherwise, a sock that’s too big could bunch and cause a blister, whereas a sock that’s too small can slip and cause cuts on the back heel.

2. Look at the type.

Socks in the “athletic” category range from traditional white gym socks to premium cushioned, moisture-wicking socks. Running socks range from those with very little padding to socks with densely cushioned toes and heels. Walking socks have better cushioning and moisture-wicking capabilities. There are lightweight hiking socks, mid-weight backpacking socks, thick mountaineering socks, and specially padded snowboarding / skiing socks. It’s good to look for features like padding, arch support, and proper fit.

3. Look at the thickness.

Thin or thin double layer socks are used in cycling and racing. These socks will keep your feet from becoming too sweaty during a prolonged physical activity. On the other hand, you may want thick, padded socks for jogging, skiing, hiking, tennis or basketball. This will help you prevent blisters from intense movement or also keep your feet warm during cold weather sports.

4. Look at the fiber material used.

Socks can be made out of acrylic, acrylic/wool blend, acrylic/Thermax, acrylic/CoolMax, CoolMax, wool, cotton or MicroSafe. You’ll want a wool blend if you will be outside in the cold. CoolMax is better for cyclists or runners who need to keep their feet dry. Therapeutic hosiery and diabetics may want to look into MicroSafe material that promotes circulation. Acrylic is generally preferred to cotton because the cotton stretches when wet and becomes bunched, thereby causing blisters and abrasion.

According to sock retailer REI.com, there are pros and cons to each type of sock material:

  • Merino wool helps your feet remain comfortable and dry in a wide range of temperatures, but is also more expensive and dries a bt slower than synthetic socks.
  • Synthetics like Nylon, Lycra and CoolMax fit snugly and wick moisture away to prevent blisters and keep your feet dry, but are not always comfortable in the hot weather.
  • Silk is a good natural insulator with a soft, lightweight feel, but it’s less durable than other fabrics.
  • Cotton is inexpensive and fine for sedentary people, but becomes very wet and uncomfortable for active people.

5. Consider the latest in sock technology.

Speaking of sock technology, you can choose anti-microbial socks if you are worried about foot fungus and odor. However, it’s important to know what those socks are made of and choose wisely. Some socks may not be as resilient in the wash and others may be treated with chemicals that have not been thoroughly vetted in the labs. Compression socks can be great ways for people with diabetes or circulation problems to enjoy a longer walk.

6. Consider top brands.

Runner’s World recommends the following performance socks:

  • Darn Tough Vermont Run/Bike 1/4 Cushion – for medium thick cushioning on all terrains
  • DeFeet Cloud 9 Regular Cuff – for long distances in cool weather
  • Bridgedale X-Hale Speed Diva and Demon – for any run in any weather
  • Teko EcoMerino Wool Ultra-Light Micro – for short distances
  • Nike Elite Structure Running – for marathoners who need dry, energized feet
  • Feetures Bamboo & Wool Ultra Light Cushion Quarter – for sweaty runners and hot days
  • Drymax 1/4 Trail Running – for hiking and short treks
  • Injinji Performance Series Mini-Crew – for distance running and summer
  • Eurosocks Sprint Silver – for short races in cold weather
  • Pearl Izumi Silk-Lite and Ultra-Lite – for short races in warm weather

Prevention Magazine recommends workout socks made by New Balance, Teko, Asics, Point 6, Ice Breaker, Smart Wool, Wigwam and Keen Footwear. A podiatrist would always be happy to discuss the latest brands that are doctor-recommended for comfort and performance.

 

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.