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Choosing and Layering Socks

Team the right socks for your footwear

Most people understand that appropriate footwear is essential for a successful outdoor experience. While choosing the right boot/shoe is carefully considered, the need for suitable socks is quite often overlooked. Footwear will only show peak performance when teamed up with the right socks. A well-fitting sock system will keep your feet dry and comfortable and free of blisters and sores.

Your socks have three basic jobs: comfort, being tough, and protecting the skin from moisture. To do so, your socks should have a snug fit. They must be wide enough to allow circulation and toe movement but should not sag or bunch at the same time. To choose the best pair of socks you should keep in mind the type of shoes you will be wearing and the weather conditions you may encounter.


The major types of socks are:

  • Liner socks (excellent moisture transfer, use as inner layer or running sock)
  • Lightweight (cushioned, thinner more breathable upper)
  • Midweight (well-cushioned all-round socks for day hiking and backpacking)
  • Heavyweight (maximum insulation for cold weather hiking and other winter sports)

Layering usually combines the liner sock (moisture protection) with a specific other sock designed for the task at hand (e.g. cushioning or insulation). Those socks are manufactured from natural fibres as well as synthetics. Synthetics or wool lead moisture away from your feet much better than cotton does, though it should be noted that wool is naturally odour-resistant. After a long day this can make a real difference.

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