So what’s wrong with wearing ordinary socks when hiking? Well it is all about understanding the particular challenges of the type of walking that you like and maximizing your comfort whilst hiking.

As trivial as they may seem the right socks will help you enjoy anything from a short ramble up to an energetic hike across the roughest terrain, however the wrong socks can make walking unpleasant and ultimately lead to foot problems. So how should you chose what’s right for you?

Firstly think about the material the socks are made of. Any gear that is worn whilst undertaking activity has to be able to do two apparently conflicting things i.e. firstly it must keep you warm but it must also allow perspiration to escape otherwise sweat can make you cold and very uncomfortable. This ability to let sweat escape is called wicking, and if your socks become soaked that is a real recipe for blisters and an uncomfortable walk. So good walking socks need to be made from wicking material but also insulate your feet to keep you warm.

Wool socks retain heat well when wet but pure wool will usually wear out quickly if not combined with some synthetic material. Socks made from synthetic materials offer the best compromise between all the conflicting needs as they will have been designed specifically with walking in mind. If they include a synthetic wicking element they will easily wick moisture whilst insulating and are often made from abrasion resistant materials for longer life. Silk is also a great insulator and very light, however, you are most likely to find it as one of the materials making up your walking socks rather than walking socks made entirely of silk. Cotton on its own is a very comfortable material to wear but for walking socks it is not really practical on it’s own as it absorbs sweat and when wet offers no insulation; wet socks are most likely to lead to blisters. However, combined with other materials it can create comfortable, effective walking socks.

Walking socks also come in a variety of weights, your favoured type of walking will determine what is best for you. The heavier the sock the warmer it will keep your feet and the more cushioning it will provide. Sock liners can be worn under walking socks and are effective at wicking as well as providing a further layer of insulation. Lightweight walking socks are designed for warm weather and light walking conditions (i.e. they offer the least cushioning). Mid-weight socks will provide a decent level of cushioning and will often have reinforcement in the high impact areas such as the heel and ball of the foot. They are meant for colder temperatures. Finally heavy weight walking socks provide for the coldest temperatures and provide the most insulation and padding. These are probably over kill for most situations and definitely should be worn with a sock liner.

Stating the obvious socks and boots must work together that’s why particularly if you are buying new boots you must try them on with walking socks. The socks must make a snug fit with no areas where the foot can move within the boot whilst walking, this or seams in the wrong place will lead to blisters.

The author is a director at My Outdoor Store, the premier walking and hiking outdoor gear store.

Author's Bio: 

Bruno Blackstone is a freelance writer interested in all things to do with the outdoors and helping others get the most from the outdoors. Starting with a psychology degree his early career was as a social worker and family therapist working with families to help them achieve more positive and stable relationships. In his more recent career he has coached many senior executives in both small and large organisations in areas such as strategy, human resources, organisational design and performance improvement. He now continues his work in the business world but he is also co-owner of My Outdoor Store a price comparison site for outdoor enthusiasts.