I was reading an article. It was on REI’s website and it talked about sock thickness.
“Proper sock thickness depends on the fit of your footwear.”
This is sort of right...
The proper sock thickness depends on the sock. Not all socks function the same. The primary role of socks is to help ward off sweat. We use the term ‘second skin’ and I think it’s a good synonym for a sock.
Animals exist in environments, and we need a protective outer layer. Our skin is an example of an outer protective layer. Skin, fur, scales or feathers offer a function. Let’s take the African spiny mouse.
It’s 77% easier to tear off the skin in these mice than other mice. A peel-off type skin allows it to get away from predators easily. Skin can also regenerate in just a few days. A wound can reduce in size by 64% in one day.
It would be nice to have a wool sock that performed like the skin of an African spiny mouse. But, we don’t need all of those bells and whistles. There are many attributes that we can take advantage of in a wool sock.
In this article, we’ll learn about wool and how it can really make a difference in your life.
Putting Wool in its Place
Merino wool has itch-free fibers. Do you remember or have you seen the raggy-wool socks used by your grandparents? The well known Merino have one important advantage-they control the surrounding temperature.
This results in your happy go lucky feet staying comfortable across a broad array of temperatures. One of the ‘out of the box’ features of wool is that it can absorb water. And this keeps your feet dry in most conditions.
I am throwing this in to break things up a bit. Cowboy movies are great. Have you ever seen the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood?
The plot revolved around, 3 gunslingers competing to find a buried treasure chest of Gold. The story was set in the middle of the American Civil War. On their journey they fought in battles, and duels along the way..
These 3 characters had different personalities. They had different attributes, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Let’s drill down a bit and learn about this and how it relates to our own wool socks.
The Good: Comfort in different conditions. Absorbs. Breathes. No ‘Itchy-Richy’ feeling.
The Bad: Drying takes longer compared to synthetic. And wool is more expensive due to raw materials etc.
Comparing socks side by side, a wool sock can smell rotting flesh by the end of a long-trail run and walking through mud.
The Ugly: There’s no ugly if you select the right blend. But, if you insist, a thick wool sock can get in your way. The right thinner sock will perform just as well or better. To some people it may feel like a liner at first because you’re just not used to wearing this type of wool sock.
The Mental Model of Wool
I assume, this comes from the mindset that something that is heavier is better. A thick jacket is warmer, right? When that’s all that we had that was true. With that being said, clothing changes over time. There are all kinds of materials and new ways that textiles are being produced.
A thick sock meant symbolized warmth. Remember, that socks were first invented to keep people’s feet warm. From there, they started to evolve into a symbol of wealth and they were worn only by nobility.
Ironically, wool socks were a sign of poverty. If you wore, Silk you had extra money to spare.
In some cases family.
A lot of R&D has gone into socks from the military. Rightfully, they we’re looking to reduce the formation of blisters in recruits. Synthetics work well but wool is where much of the research lies.
Moisture management is the main problem. Here are the reasons why:
- The sock is more durable
- The surrounding environment remains dry and this prevents blistering and chronic skin fungal infections
There are so many choices when it comes to socks. We wrote a guide to finding the right sock. Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more.
Wool is an INSULATOR. I’ll use our own socks to illustrate a new application of the properties of wool.
Trapped air pockets in the fiber creates an interaction with the water molecule. Water passes through the skin to the sock and to holes where it builds up. You then have wet feet. Some wool socks create a concentration gradient within the fabric that reacts with water to prevent wet feet.
The blend of a sock should be at least 30% wool. Wool content varies.
A blend of for example Merino wool and Al Paca performs well. It can keep you as warm as a Siberian Husky.
We recommend changing socks daily to give the sock a chance to completely dry.
A New Path and a Solution
Modern wool socks have a hidden secret. There are a few cutting-edge companies that have been augmenting the wool sock as we knew it. A gradient that is internal to the sock can change how it responds to moisture. Wool has the built-in feature of absorbing moisture and we can add elements that will create a micro-environment.
Common thinking is to get yourself a thick wool sock. Most of us have been taught this by habit. As technology changes there are new innovations that allow us to do more. A thin wool sock can keep you warm and at your best.
Performance socks work well for a variety of reasons. They are designed for form and function so you get more bang for your buck.
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