It’s official! Summer is over, and with it the flip flop and sandal season. That means wearing socks. And that means you should probably buy new socks, because the old ones have holes in them, and there is nothing better than the comfort of a new pair of socks. But, you may ask, what kind of sock should I buy for the cold weather ahead? For some people, purchasing socks can be a formidable task. Why? I don’t know. In the past, I was the type to get the cheapest pack of white crew socks and call it good. Although now, I must admit there are more factors to consider, because there are many different activities that have different needs, and several different sock choices for each occasion. But, for now, we’ll stick with socks to keep our feet warm this winter.
When choosing socks for the colder weather, it comes down to cotton or wool.
Cost? Cotton wins
Cotton: less expensive (1 pack = 1 pair of wool). If you are the more frugal shopper, it is a no brainer, buy the cotton socks.
Variety? Cotton, again
Cotton will give you more variety in sock length, pattern, and colors.
Wool socks are warmer than cotton. They retain heat by design (how else would sheep stay warm up in those mountains?). Because of the way the fibers are crimped together, wool has greater bulk than other fibers, which allows it to retain heat. Cotton socks are breathable, and so are cooler because of it.
Keeping your feet Dry? Wool
Although cotton socks are breathable, wool fibers are both hydrophobic (water repellent) and hygroscopic (can give off or absorb moisture), a fancy combination that allows wool to “wick” away moisture. In fact, they—wool fibers—can absorb up to 1/3 of their own weight in moisture before feeling “wet.” This capacity to wick the water away is an added benefit for keeping your feet dry.
Cotton socks are machine washable, whereas wool socks take extra care in laundering. For best result, wool socks should be hand-washed in water with very little soap (soap, heat, and friction are wool socks’ mortal enemies) and then left out to air dry. If they are machine washed, they should be washed with like fibers, with little soap, and line-dried. With this said, one added benefit of wool socks is that you don’t necessarily have to wash them every time you wear them. Air them out, and spot clean them, and they should be fine to be worn a few more times. Rinsing them out, and letting them dry overnight works well, too, since they dry quickly.
Wool is more expensive, but each pair can be worn more than once between washings. Wool keeps your feet warmer and dryer than cotton does, but comes in less variety. Cotton is more convenient and low-maintenance, but in order to keep your feet sufficiently dry, you may need to replace your socks throughout the day.