Sock Materials and Benefits
What kind of sock do I need?
Starting in the 1980’s and continuing to the present, significant advances in fiber technology have been applied to the sock industry, resulting in a wider variety of socks made for specialized use. Whatever the situation—whether it is running in the Boston Marathon, camping in the Adirondacks, relaxing at home, or waiting out a long business meeting, donning a sock made with consideration of the movement and properties of the foot makes an astounding difference to overall comfort. Below is a general list of sock materials and their respective qualities.
Antimicrobial socks are treated with an agent that forms a molecular bond to the fibers themselves, acting as a barrier between the socks and the microorganisms attempting to land on them. These non-leaching antimicrobial agents reduce foot odor by impeding mold and mildew, and prolong the life of the sock by preventing excess bacteria from compromising the integrity of the fabric.
Acrylic fibers and yarns are generally characterized by their durability and their hydrophobic quality: unlike cotton socks, acrylic socks wick moisture away from the foot and reduces the risk of blisters. For this reason, acrylic socks are highly recommended for any athletic enterprise where shear force on the foot causes rubbing and possible irritation. Because acrylic socks do not absorb perspiration, they are naturally sterile and easy to clean without bleach. While some acrylics are more exclusive than others, all of the acrylic socks on TopSocks are woven with special attention to yarn quality and durability.
Bamboo’s natural flexibility, softness, and lightness gave way to an ecologically-friendly fiber with astounding properties for the sock industry. The natural anti-bacterial and antiperspirant elements that allow Bamboo to proliferate in hot Asiatic climates translate into highly-durable socks that keep feet dry and hygienic. Recommended year-round for a variety of activities, these are exceedingly soft, comfortable socks, cool in the summer, and, as they are 100% biodegradable, they are as helpful to the environment as they are to the foot.
Cashmere speaks to the ultimate luxury in wool socks. These are indulgently soft, and can be appropriate for any climate, although they are especially useful in the winter due to their high moisture content and capacity for insulation.
Coolmax® is the quintessential fiber for athletic socks due to its superior wicking ability. The revolutionary brand from Invista is soft to the touch, and constructed with four channel cross-sectioning that moves perspiration away from the body to the outer surface of the fabric, where it evaporates before dampening the clothes. CoolMax® garments are breathable, lightweight, and preferred by top athletes around the world.
Cotton has been a material used in most casual and formal socks in recent history. Cotton socks are comfortable, have good stretch, and absorb moisture from the foot. Many high-quality socks are made with treated mercerized cotton to encourage an even softer texture and richer colors during the dyeing process.
Holofiber®, a revolutionary innovation which has proved through clinical testing to improve circulation and oxygenation by 10 to 18%, works by converting certain wavelengths of visible and invisible light into energy. This altered light energy, transmitted through the sock and into the skin, serves to oxygenate the body, and can improve the comfort and performance of athletes, speed the healing of ulcers, and ease pain from tired feet. Because Holofiber® is a responsive textile, some people have noted a warming or tingling sensation when wearing Holofiber® socks. This sensation indicates blood flow engaging the foot, and subsides when the body returns to a natural state of equilibrium. Socks with Holofiber® are especially useful for diabetics and those with ailments affecting the circulatory system.
Lycra® is the most popular form of stretch fiber, or spandex. An extremely versatile fabric, it dries quickly, retains its shape, and remains soft as it compresses the skin without restricting blood flow. Lycra® is an essential material that enables many socks to fit snugly and comfortably to the foot, and when strategically placed, can help relieve venous insufficiency and blood clotting in the feet and legs.
Merino Wool, the most highly-regarded wool used for socks, has the capacity to simultaneously wick moisture away from the foot while its inherent 8% moisture content moisturizes dry or cracked skin. Because Merino Wool is hypoallergenic, breathable, resilient, and wicks moisture even when damp, it is especially beneficial in socks worn in cold weather and outdoor winter activities.
Like other silk products, silk socks are lightweight with a smooth, soft texture that feels remarkable on the skin. Although silk is an incredibly strong natural fiber, silk socks are thin—often uses as sock liners—and they lose considerable strength when wet. Silk is utilized most often in formal footwear.
Thermax is a wicking polyester with a hollow core that traps air around the body and provides extra insulation, even when wet. Thermax is used in premium outdoor sport and ski performance socks.
While the price of a quality sock may be higher than a standard “bin” sock, the exceeding durability and longevity of the better-made sock more than redeems its original cost. With proper care, your socks can last ten years before wearing beyond capability. Below is a quick list referencing suggested washing methods for various sock materials. To be safe, it’s always best to follow washing instructions found on the packaging of an individual pair of socks.
Why Should I Buy Premium Athletic Socks?
Athletic Socks - The Blister Story
Thanks to state-of –the-art fiber technology and construction techniques, modern socks have evolved into high-tech sports equipment with possible medical applications. Blisters, foot swelling, toenail damage, and pediatric bacteria have been the most pervasive afflictions compromising athletes’ performance. All of these ailments are caused by the toll of shear force absorbed into skin when running, jumping, and pivoting, and all are exacerbated by cotton socks.
A Defense Against Cotton
Because cotton retains rather than repels moisture, when cotton socks absorb sweat during exercise they swell, bunch, wrinkle, become less-breathable, and cause irregular friction that leads to blisters and foot bacteria. However, socks made from hydrophobic fibers, and which are constructed in a cross-sectional geometry, wick moisture away from the foot and encourage evaporation. In multiple studies cotton has been proven to absorb three times more moisture than acrylic, and fourteen times more moisture than CoolMax®. Once wet, cotton swells up to 45% and wool swells up to 35%, while acrylic fibers swell less than 5%. In ranking order, fibers that wick moisture away from the foot best are:
What Sock Is Best For My Sport?
Sock style is always specific to the individual, with the athlete’s unique taste and foot sensitivity leading him or her to prefer a certain design or degree of thickness over another. That said, below is a general grid outlining common sock materials and styles corresponding to various sports activities.