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Sock Types: What Are They & Why Should You Wear Them?

by Pivotal Digital 03 Feb 2023
Sock Types: What Are They & Why Should You Wear Them?

The humble sock. Many people get dressed each morning without much thought to what goes on their feet. Indeed, before you know it, the shoes are on and you’re flying out the door, charging head-first into the day.

And you might think that a colourful, jazzy sock is as complicated as it gets for a foot covering. However, you’d be wrong. There’s a world of socks out there, all created with different purposes in mind.

Chances are, you already have a wider variety of socks in your drawer than you realise. And we’d bet you might not be aware of the difference.

The fact is, not all socks are designed with aesthetics solely in mind. Like any item of clothing in our wardrobe, different types have different uses and purposes.

You wouldn’t go swimming in jeans, would you? So why wear the wrong protection on your feet? But before we get into the different types of socks, we’re going to take things back to basics…


What does a sock do?

You might think that’s a silly question, but take a moment to consider it. They keep your feet warm, yes (and a comfy pair of knitted slipper socks will always go down a treat). But what else?

Actually, quite a lot.

Socks are the padding between your feet and your shoes. They provide a barrier that protects the somewhat delicate skin of your feet from the tougher materials of your shoes. This barrier prevents the inner seams of your footwear from rubbing on your skin, causing friction and the accursed blisters we often associate with a new pair of boots.

That’s not all, either.

Socks also absorb moisture from your feet. Like it or not, feet can get sweaty inside even the most breathable of footwear. This contributes to reduced friction, minimises uncomfortable ‘hotspots’, and helps to regulate your temperature.

So no, a sock doesn’t just keep your feet warm.


row of feet wearing variety of socks, how do sock types vary?

How do different sock types vary?

Besides their shape and size, socks designed for different purposes have varying thicknesses, cushioning and even different ways to fight sweat and odour.

Most of us have known someone with particularly unpleasant foot odour (or we’re the culprit ourselves). Well, did you know that often said person’s choice of sock is a contributing factor?

Instead of selecting your socks by colour or style, we suggest you decide based on what you intend to use them for. Yes, for wearing on your feet, of course. But then what? Hiking socks are thicker and more hard-wearing, for long treks. If you need more protection for your feet, you should consider looking for socks with a higher thread count.

How about running? Sports socks often have a reinforced heel and toe to prevent rubbing. Some have additional support with cushioned soles. And, of course, remember to check the sizing of every pair.


6 Essential Sock Varieties

Casual Socks

Casual socks are those that require the least input from you, as the wearer. These are the type that you’ll wear most days. The kind you will be comfortable in for day-to-day walking. They can be made of a variety of materials, both natural (cotton, silk) or synthetic, and don’t need to counter extensive sweating.

These are the foot soldiers that get most of us from Monday to Friday without any drama. They’re a great option for expressing your individuality with a fun colour or funky print. And honestly? Who doesn’t love a gift of socks?

So long as they fit well, and are comfortable, casual socks don’t take too much thought.


Dress Socks

Sometimes referred to as business or formal socks, dress socks are usually targeted at men. Since men’s formalwear isn’t as complicated as women’s, dress socks are often a great way to put a bit of personality back into a suit or tuxedo, along with ties, bow ties, cufflinks, cummerbunds and the like.

Since formal and business wear are similar, but not quite the same, the requirements for a dress sock can vary a little.

For example, if you’re going to a wedding, you might dance. Here, comfortable dress socks are a must. You’re also able to be a little freer in your colour and style choices.

However, if you’re selecting dress socks for work, then your choices are limited to the expected level of workplace professionalism. In this case, more muted colours such as grey, black and dark blue are safer.

As with all socks, quality counts. Choose your dress socks according to the impression you want to make. They might not be as visible as the rest of your attire, but mismatched, colourful socks in a business meeting will be noticed.


hiker in nature sitting on a log wearing hiking socks

Hiking Socks

A somewhat self-explanatory variety, but important and more nuanced than you might have thought. Hiking socks come in more shapes and sizes than you might expect, much like hikers themselves.

If you’re one for a casual walk on a sunny day, that means selecting a sock that’s lightweight. You wouldn’t want your feet overheating, after all! It also means looking for socks with some padding, because even a shorter walk can lead to chafing and blisters.

For a mid-weight hiker’s sock, look for materials such as merino wool, cotton or Ingeo (which is made from 100% renewable sources). These are great if you’re backpacking and carrying additional weight, as they help your feet absorb the extra shock.

Merino wool is a particular favourite of ours, as it’s tough enough to survive even mountaineering, and provides extra cushioning.

No matter what type of hiker you are, with hiking socks, sizing is more important than ever. Wearing ill-fitting socks for any length of time can:

  • encourage chafing
  • cause blisters to form
  • restrict the flow of blood

They’re also providing you with less support than correctly fitting socks, and will wear out more quickly.

Another consideration you should keep in mind with hiking socks is the length. Many avid walkers and hikers wear boots specifically designed to protect their feet; this means their socks need to be higher than the boots.

Shorter socks will lead to chafing and discomfort around the ankles, and quickly spoil your hike. You might not have worried about sock length before, but you’ll certainly regret it when blisters rear their horrible heads.


Sports Socks

Running socks should be light and breathable, as you’re more prone to sweating when exerting yourself. They also need to fit into your shoes well, and offer some arch reinforcement, as well as additional padding.

Padding in socks should help them to fit more securely, but not be tight enough to cut off the blood flow.

If you run long distances, it’s worth investing in compression socks; these handy dandies have been specifically developed to promote better circulation, which can help prevent injuries and soreness. Most compression socks are made of special synthetic materials.

Sports socks tend to be made of stronger materials and are designed to wick away moisture from your feet in addition to providing support. No matter what sport you take part in, you should always choose your sports socks for their fit and comfort; they should be smooth across your toes, sole, and heels in order to avoid chafing and blisters.


closeup of person sitting on blanket and wood floor, wearing thermal socks, reading, books nearby

Thermal Socks

Often lumped in with hiking or sports socks (and we can see why), thermal socks are designed for cold weather, outdoor activities.

While they appear to simply be thicker than the average sock, you might be surprised to learn that many actually have small air pockets for additional insulation and warmth. They work by trapping heat but remain breathable to avoid a build-up of moisture inside the sock.

Thermal socks aren’t just for skiing and snow-related activities, though. Sure, there are varieties with differing thicknesses suitable for different levels of skiers (thicker for novices, thinner for more professionals). But they’re also suitable for a range of purposes, from commuting on the chilly bus to protecting the health of the vulnerable and elderly.

There's even a range of thermal socks designed specifically with women in mind, since their feet tend to get colder than men's.

Finally, there's the famously comfortable slipper socks for at-home lounging, or bed socks with high wool content to keep your toes warm at night. Now, these aren't technically thermal socks in the same nature, but they serve the same purposes (only for indoor use instead of outdoor).


Specialist & Support Socks

Specialist socks include medical support items, such as stockings and compression socks. These are often provided to people who’ve undergone surgery, or if someone is at particular risk of blood clots (such as later in pregnancy). You may have seen people wearing compression socks on long flights, as they can protect against Deep Vein Thrombosis.

There are also specialist socks for those with diabetes. Oh yes, you read that right. These socks are made of less restrictive materials to minimise pain from compression. Effectively, they help reduce swelling in the ankles and feet.



So, there you have it. Most days, you can select a jazzy, patterned sock of your choice, and have no problems.

But if your feet are under duress, it’s in your best interests to select a sock for the occasion. That way, you can get on with your activities without worrying about what’s going on inside your shoes.

There’s a world of master-crafted socks out there designed to make every aspect of your life just that bit easier and more comfortable. Go forth and enjoy it, we say!

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Welcome to SocksFox is owned and operated by Zapzero Ltd (referred to in these terms as SocksFox). We provide access to the website ('website') and sell our products to you subject to the following terms and conditions. The following terms and conditions of sale constitute a binding agreement between SocksFox and its customers, which applies to all purchases made on the website, by telephone or email.

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5. 60 Day No Quibble Returns

You may return any items purchased from us for whatever reason, even if you just change your mind, as long as you send them back within 60 days of receiving them. Products must be returned in their original condition, unworn with tags attached and the packaging undamaged and complete.

To ensure you order the correct size and colour of an item we would advise the following. As different Countries and Brands have their own size systems, before placing an order we advise that you check the size guide provided for each item in the Size Guide tab to ensure you are ordering the correct size. Colour swatch samples and photographs are provided as a guide only. The colour you see on your screen may not be an accurate representation of the item's actual colour due to inconsistencies in how display screens reproduce colours. Ordering the wrong size or a colour not being to your liking does not mean that the item is classed as being faulty.

The cost of return postage for damaged, faulty items or if we have made an error will be refunded to you. Return postage for items you choose to return will not be refunded.

When returning products we advise you use Royal Mail First or Second Class and obtain proof of postage. If you are returning items from overseas we advise you use the equivalent Airmail service provided by your countries postal service and obtain proof of postage. If you choose to return items by a tracked service or courier you need to gain approval from SocksFox, otherwise we will only refund the amount it would have cost to return the items by Royal Mail First or Second Class or the equivalent Airmail service.

For Customs duties on Returned items please also refer to section 8 Customs of our Terms and Conditions.

Gift cards are non-returnable & cannot be refunded.

For more information on our Returns and Cancellation policy please see here.


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All prices quoted are for new products. All prices are based on the Great British Pound (GBP / £) but, for your convenience, can be displayed in the Euro or US Dollar equivalents at ruling exchange rates on the website.

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The prices on our website are the same whether you purchase from within the United Kingdom (UK) or from outside of the UK. Within the UK all prices include VAT. For purchases made outside of the UK prices do not have VAT included; the item price you see is the price you will pay.  

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7. Dispatch and Delivery

SocksFox aims to dispatch items the same or next working day. If demand exceeds our stock holding dispatch may be delayed by around 7 working days. If this applies to your order or there is an availability issue we will be in touch by email. At SocksFox, offering an extensive range of styles, colours and sizes at competitive prices to customers in both the UK and Worldwide is what sets us apart from many other retailers. To be able to do this we are unable to hold in stock all items all of the time and in our experience most customers are happy to wait. If immediate dispatch is a priority for you please contact us for current availability.

The postal service selected to deliver your order will be the best one to ensure a successful delivery and a signature may be required as part of that service. All packages are sent using a tracked service. Information on how your package is progressing can be obtained by contacting the SocksFox Customer Service Team.

Estimated Delivery Times: UK Standard Delivery: 2-3 working days; Europe Standard Delivery: 5-7 working days; Rest of the World Delivery: 8-13 working days.

For packages being sent to Europe and the Rest of the World once a package arrives in the destination country for many orders the national postal service will complete the final delivery. If your order has not been delivered by 10 working days from the date of dispatch, 15 working days for Europe & Rest of the World, please contact us and we will look into what has happened to your package.

Whilst most International deliveries are made successfully within the above timeframes unfortunately this is not always the case due to circumstances outside of our control. Sometimes delivery may take up to 6 weeks and for this reason a package is not deemed to be lost until 6 weeks from dispatch have passed.

Non delivery of a package (UK or International) cannot be investigated after 10 weeks from the dispatch date due to carrier tracking limitations. SocksFox will not provide a replacement package or refund if first contact has not been until after 10 weeks from dispatch. 

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It is the customer's responsibility to inform us of any change of delivery address immediately. Unless instructed otherwise your order will be dispatched to the shipping address as shown in the order confirmation email you will have been sent.  SocksFox accepts no liability for dispatch made to the wrong address. Please note that if you request delivery of your order to a designated place (for example in the porch, by the green bin, over the hedge) for if you are out when delivery is attempted and subsequently the order goes missing SocksFox does not accept responsibility for non-receipt.

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Please note that due to U.S. Trademark Restrictions we are unable to sell any Burlington items to customers with a U.S. shipping address.

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For items ordered for delivery overseas you as the recipient are deemed the importer and you may be liable for local customs, import duties or taxes ('duty'). The amount of duty depends on the type and value of goods and some items can be imported without paying any duty.

For all packages destined for delivery outside of the United Kingdom it is a legal requirement that SocksFox declares the full value of the goods (not including delivery costs).

Each country's customs policies are different and you should contact your local customs office for more information. Any additional costs for clearing customs must be paid by you. Unfortunately we have no control over these costs and cannot predict what they may be.

SocksFox will not be responsible for any local customs, import duties or taxes that may be levied when the goods enter the country of destination.

When returning any goods from overseas, please clearly mark the package on the outside with 'RETURNED GOODS' Unfortunately if any incoming customs charges are incurred as a result of this message not being added a charge will be deducted from your refund to cover the costs incurred by us.

If delivery of a shipment is not possible due to import duties not being paid, when the shipment is returned to us a charge will be deducted from your refund to cover any return costs incurred by us.


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10. Zapzero Ltd  

Please do not send any returns to the address below, see here for the SocksFox returns address.

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