Eight questions you never knew to ask about walking socks
Along with your walking boots, getting the right socks for your expedition can make a huge difference.
Bridgedale are the global leader in walking socks and manufacturer of DofE recommended HIKE walking socks on the DofE Kit List. Here they tell us what you need to know about your expedition walking socks.
1. Why do you need hiking socks for a DofE expedition?
Hiking socks have targeted padding on them using something called ‘Terry Loops’ – the same kind of stuff your bath towels are made of. This padding goes up the back of the ankle, on the heel cup and around the toes and will vary depending on the type of footwear you choose.
2. What does padding do?
The padding on hiking socks acts as a cushion so your feet get less tired or sore, particularly on long hikes or if wearing heavier boots.
3. Does the sock you use vary on the type of walk you want to do?
The sock you choose depends more on the type of footwear you will be wearing. Start with a mid-weight sock that will work for all seasons.
If you are wearing a thick leather boot you might want more protection around the toe of the sock for warmth and padding.
Similarly, if you have ankle boots, choose a sock with more padding higher up the ankle.
Bridgedale top tip: wear the walking socks you’ll be wearing on your expedition when trying on your boots. This will make sure the fit won’t change.
4. What causes blisters and how do Bridgedale socks help?
Blisters are caused by two things:
1. Friction – this occurs at any place where your foot rubs against your sock or boot. You will feel it start to get hot and if you take your boots off, it will look slightly red. That is how a blister starts to form.
Put a plaster on the area immediately before the blister forms, preferably a blister plaster. The DofE recommends the Lifesystems Blister First Aid Kit.
Re-adjust your sock or laces and check your boots and socks for anything that may be causing the hot spot e.g. a stone. Try to avoid socks with a seam on the toe.
2. Moisture – when skin gets wet, it gets soft. Add friction to the mix, and a blister is likely to occur. Moisture doesn’t just come from standing in puddles in boots that aren’t waterproof, it also comes from sweaty feet! Hiking socks are designed to wick the moisture away from your skin.
Bridgedale top tip: stop and air your feet and socks during a long walk to remove excess moisture. You could do this when stopping for lunch on your expedition.
Bridgedale use a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres to draw the moisture from the foot and hold it within the sock so that it can evaporate away.
5. Do you need a liner sock?
Liner socks are worn underneath your hiking sock. They don’t have any terry loops, so they’re much thinner. They are typically used for extra warmth and protection as well as improving hygiene and cleanliness on extended expeditions.
Liners scrunch up really small in your rucksack so you can have a fresh pair of socks against your skin every day under your thicker socks.
They can be changed easily midway through a walk, to reduce moisture, whilst keeping the same pair of hiking socks on throughout the day.
6. How do you choose the right size sock?
Socks come in a size range e.g. 4 – 7, and there is normally enough give in them to accommodate your feet if you are on the cusp of a size e.g. on the line between medium or large.
If you have to choose, go for a slightly bigger sock than a smaller one. You don’t want to go too big, as that will cause excess fabric in the boot that could rub. Having a sock that is too small means that the heel cup will try to pull downwards as you walk, leaving your sock halfway down your foot.
7. How should you care for your socks?
Ideally, you should wash Bridgedale socks inside out (helps reinvigorate the cushioning and keeps it cosy) and shouldn’t go into the tumble dryer.
Never use fabric softener when washing your socks. Why?
Fabric softener’s active ingredient is silicone, which causes the fibres to feel soft. But silicone hates water – it’s what is used on the outside of waterproof jackets.
If you wash your hiking socks with fabric conditioner, you are in effect applying a layer of silicone to your socks, which removes all the natural moisture-wicking properties they have.
8. How long should a good pair of socks last?
They can last years – in fact, Bridgedale’s are guaranteed for life. Socks often last longer than the boots, yet cost just 10 – 15% of the price, so they are a worthwhile investment.
So, what do you need to remember?
- Get socks with padding where you need them.
- Try to avoid any socks with a seam on the toe.
- Look for moisture-wicking qualities – blister prevention is much easier than blister cure.
- Start with a mid-weight sock as an all-rounder.
- If you’re on the cusp of a size, go bigger rather than smaller.
- Be sure to try your socks on with the footwear you’re going to wear them with – you need the perfect sock/boot combination.
- As soon as you feel a hot spot while walking, sort it out immediately before a full blister develops.
- Stop and air your feet and socks during a long walk to remove any excess moisture.
- Always wash your socks inside out – the water gets amongst the cushioning, bringing it back to life and it will feel like putting new socks on every time.
- Don’t use fabric softener when you wash your hiking socks.
See the whole DofE Recommended range of Bridgedale walking socks, and save at least 10% with your DofE Card.