How to Choose Summer Hiking Socks: 6 Tips to Consider
When the weather is colder, finding the right pair of HIKING SOCKS is a no-brainer. As you prepare to hike through the woods, you know that bulky feel will keep your feet warmer.
Yet, for a summer hike, things are a bit different, with more factors coming into play, including the type of HIKING BOOTS you’ll be wearing, the conditions of the trail, the weather, and the duration of your journey. So you don’t get too sweaty or start feeling blisters midway through, take these points into account:
1. Go With Wool
It may sound counterintuitive to wear wool socks on a hot summer day, but more and more outdoor experts understand this natural fiber’s benefits, especially when it comes from merino sheep, a breed common in New Zealand.
Miraculously, the same tiny crimped merino wool fibers that keep you warm in winter also cool you in sweaty conditions through the process of “evaporative cooling.” They act as perfect little wicks to pull moisture off your skin, move it across the face of the fabric, and expose it to the outside air, where it can evaporate quickly. These wicks make wool a better moisture manager than many other fabrics.
In response, merino wool is ideal for long, hot hikes that will get your feet perspiring. What’s more, the material also keeps odors to a minimum and is extremely stretchy, staying snug against your foot without bunching up in the toe or heel. When combined with synthetics, it has greater wicking properties, keeps your feet dry, and even airs out quickly if that puddle ends up being deeper than you thought.
2. Avoid Cotton
Even though cotton is a cool, soft material, it quickly drenches your feet in sweat. Once this happens, don’t expect them to dry quickly, either.
When it comes to warm-weather hiking, outdoor experts say to avoid anything labeled “100% cotton,” as this combination absorbs rather than wicks away sweat, gives no insulation, and, while lightweight, rubs against your skin to create blisters.
This isn’t to say you should completely stay away from anything with cotton in it. The lighter feel proves to be an asset in hot and wet conditions, so, instead, look for a sock with a low percentage of cotton.
3. Go Light
In summer heat, the average pair of feet sweats a shot-glass worth of water a day. To keep things cooler and to reduce perspiration, go with a lightweight sock. Though they’re thin, lightweight socks specifically built for hiking are still designed with extra cushioning in the heel and ball of your foot.
SmartWool is a pioneer in creating lightweight, comfortable wool socks that are ideal for warmer conditions. The PhD Ultra Light Mini Socks, for example, fit snugly around every curve in your foot to improve comfort, and withstand hours and hours of hiking. These are some of the lightest you can buy, so it’s good to understand that there won’t be any additional cushioning.
If you normally wear a heavier sock and are switching to something lightweight, pay attention to the fit. Because the lighter sock is taking up less room, you may find that your foot is sliding about in the shoe more than you’re used to. If you feel the fit is too sloppy, you may have to go back to a heavier style, regardless of the heat. The worst scenario is getting blisters because of a poorly fitting shoe.
4. Sock Height
Crew-length socks are traditionally worn when hiking, as they keep higher boots from rubbing against your ankle. However, if you’re wearing low-top shoes, consider socks that stop just above the cuff, as these will help keep your feet cooler.
5. Know the Terrain
Choosing the right summer sock also means knowing where you’ll be hiking. If you expect the trail to be mostly hard rocks with little vegetation, like in a southwest canyon, you may want a micro style that doesn’t go above your ankle. On the other hand, if you’re hiking in the bushes, crew socks tend to be the better option.
When you want to conserve space and reduce weight, the same socks you choose for a summer day hike also work here. If shedding every possible ounce is your goal, an ultralight micro pair, such as those made by SmartWool, can really make a difference.
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