Hiking socks are integral parts of any hiking gear. On average, each hike gulps up to 2,000 steps. So it's to pay extra attention to your feet.
Now when it's winter, you need to gear up differently down your feet. Great hike boots will come first naturally. That's not out of place.
However, socks are more important, and you don't have to wear those hiking boots without them to find out.
I'll give you a sneak peek: it's one hell of an experience. The boots won't do all the protection, your feet will grow cold, you'll suffer from frostbite, and it'll affect your entire body. That is just a preview.
The good news is that, you are here already, and you will find out more about why you need the best socks for hiking in cold weather.
Let's begin by answering the question below.
What is the Importance of Hiking Socks for Cold Weather?
Firstly, you need hiking socks for hiking in any weather condition. But when it's cold out there, you need them to keep your feet warm and eliminate any chance of frostbite.
When the weather is cold, your head, hands, and feet need all the protection they can get. These are major access points of cold into your body system. Your feet are paramount here because they are doing the most job, and when they are not comfortable, the entire hike will be in jeopardy.
The right hiking socks keep the feet warm and dry. Since your feet are going to be super busy, they are still going to sweat despite the cold weather. However, a suitable hiking sock for such a climatic condition will ensure that sweats are away. They will wick the moisture out to keep the feet dry.
When you have a build-up of sweat down your feet, what you witness is wet feet and wet socks as well. Thus, you have a terrible situation where the pool of water down your feet naturally finds its way to your whole body. And although you have your hands and head covered, you will still have to suffer from spontaneous shivering.
So the primal essence of hiking socks for cold weather is to provide insulation for your feet against perspiration. The insulation ensures your feet stay dry at all times.
These hiking socks can carry out this role very well because they are thick, and this thickness enables them to absorb moisture better. Also, this thickness is excellent at keeping the feet warm. It is the first benefit they offer.
Now that you are aware of the sheer importance of this often neglected hiking gear, let's proceed to how you can find the perfect one for your cold-weather hike.
How Do You Choose a Hiking Socks for Cold Weather?
When it's time to choose hiking socks for that cold hike, the first thing that should come to your mind is finding the right size. The right size for you will fit perfectly into your feet and ankles without sagging. It will also be moderate in terms of space; somewhere between tight and loose.
This way, you don't get to feel uncomfortable having it too tight on you, and it doesn't feel too loose either to allow for sagging.
In getting the right size, you should be aware that your boot size and that of your feet aren't the same. Hence you choose according to your feet size and not boot size because the foot offers some level of allowance.
Socks come in different heights. Now it's winter, and if you are hiking in shorts, you need knee-high socks. Otherwise, anyone around these (no show, ankle, and crew) ranges will do.
For you to understand the importance of socks height when choosing, let me briefly explain the various heights of socks available.
There are four major heights of socks which are:
This height of socks is your best shot at getting fully geared for cold weather hiking. Just like its name suggests, it's very high and gets up to your knees. This will keep your legs and feet fully covered against the cold. Most hikers go on shorts, so this is an excellent choice.
This height takes the middle position of your legs. It's in between your knee and ankle. This is the most preferred hiking socks out there and the most ideal. This is because, it's great for summer and more importantly, a fine option for winter as the extra length above your ankle keeps you warm.
This height stops at your ankle and is a preferred option for casual hikes. Casual hikes don't need high jungle boots, a low-cut boot will do. Generally, ankle hike socks are made for low-cut and mid-cut boots. Never settle for this option in winter.
The name says it all. It's no showing off. So if you're putting these socks on, it means you're only concerned about the safety of your toes and soles. They don't show up and nobody knows you've got them on. Their job is mostly internal and not ideal for the cold season. This is the worst option for cold weather unless you're going to cover them up with another sock; preferably knee-high socks.
Things to Consider While Choosing Hiking Socks
Since we are talking about cold weather here, there two major considerations you have to make while choosing hiking socks.
Material and Cushioning
Let's start with the first.
The kind of material used in making the socks will, to a great extent, determine how they will serve you adequately. Wool and cotton are both famous in the industry and cotton is known to generate lots of heat that are needed for the cold climate hiking.
Although wool is the most ideal for warm weather hiking, most people still prefer wool in the cold weather due to its rich qualities. Merino Wool is the best choice and it comes with anti-microbial properties. Consider wool your first option here.
Cushioning is a very important factor to consider in choosing hiking socks when you know it's going to be cold out there. Cushioning is what makes the socks thick and this is good for warmth. Ultimately, you need to feel warm because it's cold already. So choose socks with heavy cushioning. They are the thickest and provides the best warmth.
Different Types of Fabrics for Hiking Socks
There are different types of fabrics used in making hiking socks. Each comes with its unique property, but the best comes from a blend of two or more fabrics. This blend provides the right balance in warmth, cushioning, fast-drying, ventilation, and durability.
Here are the different types:
Naturally, wool is the first choice for hikers. It has been recommended by experts all over the world and has lived up to the hype. Merino wool from Australia is a special one since it comes with anti-microbial properties. This quality makes it odorless and bacteria-free. A blend of wool and spandex or polyester is a must-have for every hiker. This combination provides every great quality you need in a sock. From durability, comfort, moisture-wicking, breathability to cushioning, temperature regulation, and fewer odors, you've got everything in one sock.
Nylon is a synthetic material that doesn't fare off well on its own as a material for making hiking socks. It is mostly blended with others.
This is a synthetic material and just like Nylon, it is blended with other materials in a small ratio. Spandex makes hiking socks very elastic.
This is yet another synthetic material for making socks. Unlike the others, it can stand alone because it offers insulation, wicks moisture away, and dries faster. It is the best material to combine with wool.
Cotton and Silk
Both materials are natural but are rarely used because they offer less in value. Cotton has been ruled out as a choice for any hiking socks by many hikers. However, silk is still relevant since it's a natural insulator.
While it's common to pick socks for hiking, most people do that without arming themselves with prerequisite knowledge about them.
In the end, they find themselves with tons of socks but not getting the best out of them. Thankfully, this guide has been able to provide in detail, some of the handy tips needed to get it right.
So when next you go out shopping socks for your next hike, this guide should be your reference point and we do hope you find it resourceful.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q)
1. What are the best socks to wear in cold weather?
The best socks for cold weather are the ones that provide warmth to the feet and legs via cushioning and insulate the feet properly.
2. What type of socks keeps the feet warmest?
The best kind of socks to keep the feet warmest is the one made of wool and a blend of polyester. This kind does not retain sweat, rather than keep the feet dry and insulate them against perspiration.
3. Which socks are best for hiking?
The best socks for hiking are wool socks. Seasoned hikers strongly recommend them and they are truly the best.
4. Does wearing more socks make your feet colder?
The answer is certainly no. More socks amount to more heat and less ventilation. You will have the right cushioning but you will certainly be uncomfortable.
5. Should you wear two pairs of socks when hiking?
It all depends on the nature of the socks and terrain. If they are too light weighted, you can double them because harder terrains require heavy cushioning. Otherwise, stick to one.
6. Should hiking socks be thick or thin?
Hiking socks are meant to be thick. The thickness helps limit Injuries due to friction between your feet and the hiking foot. More importantly, thick socks are best for a cold-weather hike.
7. Why should we not wear socks while sleeping?
Wearing a pair of socks while sleeping will cause overheating. This overheating can spread to other parts of your body and cause you to feel uncomfortable.
8. Why are my feet cold with socks on?
When your feet are always cold even when you've got socks on, it points to one major thing. This is due to poor or reduced circulation of blood down your feet. Your feet are not getting enough blood flow which is essential for temperature regulation.
9. Why is my body warm but feet cold?
This also has to do with poor circulation. The extreme parts of your body receive the least blood flow. Your palms can also be cold.
10. What are the best socks for chilblains?
Wool socks provide the needed warmth for people suffering from the chilblain condition. However, there are therapeutic socks that will assuage the condition better. You can simply ask your dealer.