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.
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.
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.
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.
Wagga, really? That's super interesting! Are plastic based clothes prohibited in that area?
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.
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.
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.
I've hiked with a number of people over the years who walk through the streams and think noting of it and continue hiking until they hit camp which is sometimes 8 to 10 miles.
I'll approach a stream, stop, remove my socks and shoes and cross the stream. My friends end up waiting on me.
I hiked 12 miles in wet socks one year, not on purpose, but fell into a stream and just continued. Absolutely no problems. It wasn't enjoyable, but I had no issues.
My wool socks are Darn Tough brand and worked well for cold/dry conditions, I wish they would work for warm weather as well.
Been hiking and cycling in Darn Tough socks for over a decade now. For me, they work totally fine even in warm weather. Not sure why they wouldn't. They totally beat cotton in cold/hot/wet situations, and poly-anything isn't going on my feet, primarily because of the funk they generate. I'd wear wool for its anti-microbial qualities alone.
I also always take my boots off (note boot, not flimsy trail runner shoe) when crossing streams. Longer breaks, boots always come off on warm days and socks air out. Dry boots and socks mean happy and cool feet. Blisters is something others suffer from.
There are as many opinions as there are feet,
I prefer polypropylene liners with Merino wool over them for several reason
The separate liners (not just a synthetic portion/mix of the hiking sock) provides a mechanical/physical sliding layer. This protects the skin better, whether wet or dry. You can think of this layer as being like moleskin.
That separate layer “lifts and separates” the moistness into the thicker spongy main sock where it can be dissipated. It always amazes me how effective this is when I go from a high humidity climate like my VA mts, to a low humidity area like the Sierra. My feet stay dry in the Sierra.
For those of us us with oddball size feet, surgery, deformities, ill-fitting boots, worn or sideways warped uppers, one can add (or subtract) one of those polypropylene or other preferred synthetic layers., using sock combinations to insure the fit. I know, I know, someone will say just get boots that fit. Nope. Not always possible.
Yeah, I started to use sock liners about a year ago and rarely have blisters any longer. Highly recommend their use along with the thicker hiking socks for cushioning and moisture wicking.
This is what I use (the individual toes also seem to help, but there are sock liners that are just like other socks that seem to work the same (my first pair had no toes)): https://www.rei.com/product/881305/injinji-liner-crew-socks
Whoa! Those look great. I just ordered a pair.
I've used poly liner socks for decades, Ultimax brand. I call them slip socks, because, as Harvey says, it provides an extra mechanical/physical sliding layer. Then Merino wool socks over that. And I carry Millipore paper tape, but only ever used it to patch up other folks with inadequate sock systems...
And for problem areas that even liners cannot protect, use Leukotape.
This stuff goes on and stays on for a week, even if you bathe. You can use it like moleskin by cutting a hole, or using it plain. For example, if you have a tendency for repeat problems with a heel or a toe, cover the area with Leukotape before you go, add the aforementioned poly liners and Merino, the Bob’s your uncle.
Well, we are a few weeks out from winter and we've already had a bitter cold snap, with night-time temperatures plunging to 65 degrees. So, it's time to sport the extreme winter boots.
I've been using sock liners for 20+ years. I use polypro in warm weather, and Smart Wool liners in winter. The Smart Wool are a bit thicker than the 'regular' polypro, and but more importantly, add about 10-15 degrees of warmth to an insulated boot. That's way too much for summer wear - at least for me - but essential in winter (I live in northern New England).
Nearly all my hiking socks are Smart Wool (there's an LL Bean outlet nearby which sells Smart Wool seconds for 50% off). Darn Tough makes excellent socks, and my son gives them to me regularly as gifts, but ... they have too much elastic in the cuffs for my taste so I rarely wear them either for hiking or everyday use.
I just want to report...
On my last trip, 40 miles in 4 days, the Injinji liner socks
were the best I've ever experienced! I used a wool/nylon outer hiking sock with them (also used my Bridgedales as the outer sock), and I never once had any hot spots -- that's almost unheard of for me.
REI online only shows a single crew sock, but in-store, I bought some different ones off-the-shelf. I accidentally picked up a low-top "no-show" sock, and worked just as well as the high-tops.
It takes a bit of fussing to put them on, and they always peel off inside out, but no matter. I am sold on them. May never hike again without them.
"Injinji" ought to be "Ninja" -- easier to remember and pronounce.
I'm a huge fan of these socks too.
Glad my suggestion helped you. I know I've loved them since I first wore them.
Thin SmartWool socks for trail runners/light weight boots which helps with the odd shaped feet I've been left with after 35 years of abuse in the PacNW and beyond. Standard wool socks and whatever moleskin it takes in mountaineering boots. Put me in the cotton kills row (although I wouldn't worry about it on "casual" hikes in the summer, but I don't wear it). Cotton doesn't insulate when wet = cotton kills.
I've sworn off Patagonia fleece and all types of fleece. It's heartbreaking, but the microplastic ends up in the ocean. Even Patagonia admits it. Our waste water goes to Puget Sound and then to the ocean. Everybody's waste water runs down hill, ya' know?
Yes, you are completely wrong. (No offense!) In California, where I live, and where I have read and followed the studies Patagonia has done on the shedding of microfibers from its wide range of polyster-based clothing, wash gray water goes to sewage treatment plants and then is released to the sea, but the fibers are too small to be filtered out and are not destroyed in the treatment process. That's how they end up in the ocean.