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#52895 - 04/15/18 04:08 PM Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks
over1812 Offline


Registered: 07/24/16
Posts: 38
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I got some wool socks last year because someone told me they were superior for wicking away moisture and staying warm in winter and cool in summer. Up until that point I had always gotten by with cotton socks without any problems (no blisters, etc.). I also bought waterproof low-top Merrell hiking shoes.

Here's what I have found:

I can't really do the waterproof shoes with anything. My feet sweat too much without the ventilation, but they are definitely worse with wool versus cotton in the summer. I thought Gore-Tex was supposed to be the answer to that, but others I have read said those still don't really breathe, else they would allow water through.

So I have Merrell Moab Ventilators that I really like. I can do 18 miles at 80-90 degrees in cotton socks with those and not get a single blister. However, if I wear wool, at around mile 7 I find that my feet start to exhibit signs of immersion foot. I can feel blisters already starting to form. I've somewhat mitigated this with polypro liners, but still not as good as cotton.

My problem is when I am in warm weather with the possibility of several water crossings and hiking all day, like on Whitney in the summer. Anyone else out there have the same problem as I do? I wore cotton socks my first year on Whitney with some non-WP Columbias, and the rain and big wet snow we encountered had soaked my feet, but I didn't even notice, and it wasn't until towards the end when I dunked my foot on wet water crossings that I even felt my foot was wet, until I took off both shoes and saw both socks were completely soaked, and I had no blisters! Not sure what it is about cotton that makes it so I don't get them.

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#52896 - 04/15/18 04:27 PM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: over1812]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 586
Loc: Manchester, NH
For most people, wool - overall - is preferable to cotton, at least in warm weather hiking conditions. However, it sounds like you've given both types a good try, and you have come to a different conclusion. So ... my advice is to go with what you know works for you.

You might consider bringing an extra pair (or two) of whatever sock you choose. They weigh almost nothing, and on a long hike putting on a fresh pair about 2/3's of the way thru can make a big difference in comfort level.

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#52897 - 04/15/18 08:48 PM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: over1812]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7340
Loc: Fresno, CA
You should try a pair of Bridgedale hiking socks. I bought a pair at REI a few years ago (don't think they sell them anymore), and they worked so well on a major x-c hike that I hunted down more pairs. They're pricey, but in my opinion, really worth it. I also had a pair of merino wool socks on that trip, and whenever I started feeling hot spots forming, I changed to the Bridgedales, and no more trouble.

Here's a link to Mens Light Crew socks. The thing that sets them apart is the fiber -- these are 42% Nylon, 38% Wool, 19% polypropylene, 1% Lycra. I think the synthetic Nylon/Polypro/polyester content in their socks really sets them apart.

I see on that site they also have a 'viscose from bamboo' sock. Maybe I should try those -- I picked up a bamboo/cotton T-shirt at Elevation in Lone Pine one time, and it is my goto sleep T-shirt! The softest most comfortable fabric I have ever experienced! It will be a sad day when it wears out.

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#52908 - 04/17/18 01:15 AM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: Steve C]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2225
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
I live in the catchment area for the Great Barrier Reef. Plastic microfibers from washing clothes are a distinct threat to the Reef. I've been picking up bamboo clothes as I can afford them. Most comfortable stuff ever. I even pick up some at the local thrift shop! Note that clothes here need to protect from sun, wick away sweat and discourage mosquitoes.
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#52910 - 04/17/18 08:49 AM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: wagga]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 459
Loc: Saugus, CA
Wagga, really? That's super interesting! Are plastic based clothes prohibited in that area?
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#52911 - 04/17/18 11:36 AM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: Snacking Bear]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7340
Loc: Fresno, CA
Question is, what part of the world washes their synthetic fabrics in water that flows to the ocean. I sure don't think anywhere in North America. But quite likely in third-world countries, no?

...but I could be completely wrong.

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#52947 - 04/22/18 02:46 PM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: KevinR]
over1812 Offline


Registered: 07/24/16
Posts: 38
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Kevin, my problem is that cotton is not supposed to be a good idea for cold/wet weather. "Cotton kills" as they say, though socks do cover a rather small surface area :-) My wool socks are Darn Tough brand and worked well for cold/dry conditions, I wish they would work for warm weather as well.

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#52948 - 04/22/18 02:52 PM Re: Sweaty feet, wool v. cotton socks [Re: Steve C]
over1812 Offline


Registered: 07/24/16
Posts: 38
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Thanks Steve! These look interesting having the polypro as part of the material, then I wouldn't have to worry about separate polypro liners inside of my wool socks.

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