We have 250,000 sweat glands in our feet which can produce up to half a pint of perspiration daily. So having the correct socks as well as shoes when you go walking seems obvious. Yet how many of us consider our socks when we think about our feet?
This blog gives you the low-down on socks – things to consider for Nordic walking, what’s on the market, plus a few handy tips.
Don’t wear cotton
1. Standard cotton socks have a single, all-over loose weave which has no traction. It will slide around as you walk, afford your feet no protection, and cause blisters.
2. Cotton isn’t breathable so your feet will sweat more plus the sweat will have nowhere to go. Result: damp (smelly) feet and blisters.
Features of a good Nordic walking sock
1. Cushioning and panels: Nordic walking demands much from our feet. First there’s the strong heel plant; next the powerful roll through the mid-section; and finally the push off from the toes. Padding around the heel, Achillies tendon, and forefoot gives a springy cushion which supports and protects. Panelling means less bulk in places where you don’t need or want it.
2. Traction: Walking socks have a complex yarn to provide good traction in your shoe, stopping it from sliding around. This makes your walking experience more enjoyable and helps prevent blisters.
3. Wick-ability: With those 25,000 sweat glands producing half a pint of perspiration you want a sock that wicks away moisture – and good walking socks do just that. They keep your foot dry and comfortable and help prevent blisters.
A sock for all seasons?
Yes it’s true - there’s a Nordic walking sock for each season. It’s obvious when you consider it – who wants to be wearing winter warmers in the height of summer? You can buy wool socks (pay the extra for Merino Wool here), synthetic socks or a mix of the two. You can buy ankle socks, short socks or long socks. You can even buy silk socks, bamboo socks or waterproof socks (see below). Basically, as one famous wizard said, “One can never have enough socks” and clearly there is plenty of choice out there.
What about sock liners?
Like Marmite, you either love sock liners or hate them. Sock liners are thin, lightweight, wicking socks worn under hiking socks. Their primary benefit is for blister prevention and those who wear them say they prefer the fit and general comfort that two pairs of socks give them.
Can you buy waterproof socks?
Yes again. The biggest name in this market is Sealskinz. Their waterproof socks are made with merino wool plus a hydrophilic membrane which works just like the membrane in a boot. They work very well but feel slightly plasticky so a sock liner is a good idea. One of the biggest sock manufacturers – Bridgedale – has also just brought out a waterproof sock. Plus Aldi now have waterproof socks. Some of our walkers have tried and tested them and they've proved good quality as well as being inexpensive.
3 Top sock tips
1. Always shop for socks when your feet are warm. It’s the only way to judge the fit of a sock in true walking conditions.
2. Take your walking boots/shoes with you and try the sock in them – are there seams which annoy you, is the sock too thick/thin for your footwear?
3. If you are going on an all day walk, take two pairs of socks and change half way round. It feels utterly gorgeous discarding the old and putting on the new - gives you a spring in your step and no blisters!