The humble sock is not often found in many gear reviews online.
After all, a crappy sock can bring misery to a hike, far more than a leaky anorak or a smelly base layer. A leaky anorak just means that you will get wet for an hour or so before you dry off. A smelly base layer may mean you are not the most popular bloke in the pub, but after a scrub down, perfumed perfection is once more restored.
Poor socks, however, can lead to blisters and blisters means one thing: Walking misery! And not just for the period of your hike, but for weeks afterwards, as they nag away at you from within your shoes.There are loads of reviews in the bloggersphere on anoraks and base layer but very few on the humble sock.
You can spend hundreds of your hard-earned beer vouchers on an anorak and quite possibly half a hundred or so on your base layer, depending upon your level of financial flashiness. The humble sock, that bastion against blisters, costs a fraction of that: The price of an average round in the pub for you and three mates.
So: What makes a decent hiking sock?
There are all sorts of manufacturers out there making all sorts of socks out of all sorts of materials. After years and years of picking through the racks in outdoor shops and the resulting misery of that poor sock choice out on the hill, I have come to my own conclusions.
I like a sock that doesn’t “bag”. Baggy socks lead to bunching in the shoes and bunching can only lead to discomfort and blisters. Your sock needs to fit snugly around your foot with no loose material. This is helped if there is some elastane or similar shruggy material in the weave; It gently moulds the the sock to your foot.
If it’s cold I like to make sure my feet stay nice and warm, especially so if wearing trail shoes, so I like a high wool content, preferably merino wool for fineness and strength. The finer the wool, the less they will itch against your delicate skin,
But wool on its own can wear out quite quickly and so it’s a good idea to have a bit of man-made stuff in the mix for longevity. I know socks aren’t that expensive, but you don’t want to be flashing the cash every fortnight, do you?
A few weeks back I was contacted by by a company called Ski & Trek and asked to pick any piece of gear that took my fancy. I expect they were taken aback when out of all their wonderful stuff I chose just a couple of pairs of socks.
SMARTWOOL LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING SOCKS
SMARTWOOL MEDIUM WEIGHT HIKING SOCKS
By clicking on the pictures, the keen-eyed amongst the congregation will spot the differences immediately: In the heavier sock (bottom picture) there is much denser material beneath the foot and above the ankle. They also have a thicker density on top of the foot, handy for when your shoes are done up tightly for the twisting about in the bogs of Scotland.
You’ll also notice that there is good ‘elastication’ around the arch in both pairs. Again, a feature of both pairs is a thin channel between the upper and lower sections of the sock. You can see this clearly on the “inside out” socks. This is so bunching can’t occur when the sock is the right way round. Clever, that.
In both weights of socks there is plenty of padding in the areas where you will expect friction – the soles and heels. You will also notice that all the seams that join the various bits of the sock, especially at the toes, are all flat, so there is no rubbing possible against your delicate tootsies.
So! Thank you to Ski & Trek. These babies will be coming along on my trip to Scotland in May for the TGO Challenge. The medium weight for the twisty tumbly stuff and the lighter weight for the more gentler sections of the route.