Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Socks protect your feet from the rubbing that would otherwise cause blisters. Traditionally, many of us wore rag wool socks. When polypropelene sock liners came out, we would often wear two socks. The theory was that the heavy outer sock would stay with the shoe and the inner sock would stay with the foot. Any rubbing that occurred would happen between the two layers of socks and therefor your foot was protected from blister producing rubbing.
Socks have since gone high tech and there are a plethora of manufactures making socks specifically for hiking. While rag wool socks are still widely available and used, the newer socks have made broad inroads into the hiking comunity. These socks offer extra padding at high pressure points such as under the ball and heel of the foot as well as extra around the back of the heel. They also offer extra support through the arch. Each sock has its own features.
Also, each person has their own requirements when it comes to socks. Some people prefer wool. Others like myself have wool sensitivities or allergies and try to avoid it. Some people like thin socks. Others like thick.
I have an extremely low volume, narrow, foot and find it very difficult to find shoes that fit well. I like to wear thick socks to help fill up the extra volume in the shoes or boots.
Years ago, I "discovered" Thorlos. I bought a pair of "Trekkers" (now "Backpackers"), one of their thickest styles. Having heard about them from a number of sources, I tried them on a short hike without any liners. I was pleasantly surprised that I had absolutely no problems with them. After longer and longer hikes, I was so impressed with their capabilities and comfort that I replaced all of my rag wool socks with the Trekkers.
On my thruhike, the three pair of Thorlos I used to start the trail (they were nearly new when I started) got threadbare by the time I got to Damascus, just one quarter the way down the trail. At the suggestion of the Superfeet folks who suggested socks with a tighter weave than the Thorlos, I replaced them with two pair of Bridgedale "AT Boot Plus" socks, all the local outfitter had left. These two pair of Bridgedale socks (and a pair of Ultimax socks that I hated and almost never wore) were all I needed to get from Damascus to Katahdin. They held up extraordinarily well on the trail and I'm still wearing those same two pair of Bridgedales for short overnights and day hikes. While they are no longer as thick as they used to be, they are not at all threadbare either.
Bridgedales tend to be more expensive than Thorlo and Smartwool brand socks, but given their durability and comfort, I feel they are worth every penny of that premium. Why pay $14/pair of Thorlos for two pair when you can buy one pair of Bridgedale for $18 that will last just as long?
Almost all hiking socks have some wool so if that is an issue for you, check out their web sites for content information. Some Bridgedale socks use "new wool," others use "Merino wool." Bridgedale wraps their Merino wool in nylon which may be why their socks don't cause as much wool discomfort as others. I also like Bridgedale's web site which says: "It takes six months to hike the Appalachian Trail. Our socks have a three year warrantee." :-)
Every manufacturer that I'm familiar with has a large variety of styles. If one doesn't seem to work for you, try another. Try a different manufacturer. Your feet are so important to a hike. If you hurt them and cannot walk, your hike is over. Do what it takes to keep your feet in good condition.
Addendum While their web site no longer mentions the three year warrantee, Bridgedale still provides the warrantee. They removed that claim from the web site because each country has different laws regarding such matters. When I inquired about the change, I was pleasantly shocked to find out that because Bridgedale has so few complaints about their socks, when they do, they still investigate every situation.
Last updated, February 20, 2005.
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