A good pair of socks is an indispensable asset for enjoyable outdoor pursuits in winter. From brisk walks out in the countryside to hardcore hikes in treacherous conditions, the right socks will help keep your feet warm, dry, and protected.
Frankly, it’s pointless investing in high-end footwear if you don’t pay equal attention to your socks. It is, after all, your socks that will be in direct contact with your feet.
Picking up the right socks is as much about personal preferences as it is technicalities.
What matters most is choosing socks that are both comfortable and capable of providing the protection and support you need. There’s some overlap between the types of socks available for various activities - some are quite multipurpose in nature.
But before placing your order, it’s worth taking the time to consider exactly how, when and where you intend to put your winter socks through their paces.
Socks by Activity
Despite the abundance of one-size-fits-all socks out in the world, different types of socks are, in fact, constructed for purpose. A lot of thought goes into creating the right sock for the right activities.
Perhaps the broadest category of all, suitable for everything from working out in the gym to running, cycling, golf and more. Sports socks are typically lightweight with minimal bulk. They provide a little cushioning on the sole and are comprised mostly of moisture-wicking fabrics.
Lightweight socks can be paired with super-comfy insulated shoes for outdoor activities in winter. Or you can use them as a base layer beneath a second pair of warmer socks to beat the winter cold.
Another broad category. Running socks encompass everything from ultra-thin running-shoe-liners to thick, densely cushioned socks for extra protection. This is where personal preference comes into play; while some runners appreciate padding to combat foot fatigue, others like their running socks to be as thin as possible.
For running in winter, material choice and fit can be more important than weight. Sticking with the same volume (thickness) of socks you usually wear is important to ensure your trainers fit correctly.
Our popular Falke RU4 all-rounder running socks are ideal for all seasons. Longer socks are also good for keeping your ankles warm, while compression socks can improve circulation for better blood flow.
All-purpose everyday socks for comfortable winter walks, with a moderate amount of padding and moisture-wicking properties to keep the feet dry and comfortable.
Most winter walking socks fall within the midweight category, combining day-long comfort with cosy warmth in cooler weather. Our Donegal Welly Boot Socks are just the thing for muddy walks in winter, while these Falke Walkie Ergo Socks feature a quality Merino wool blend for unbeatable warmth and comfort.
Rohner Original socks are also ideal for casual winter walks, but can also be great for longer hikes in walking boots.
Pictured: Corgi Donegal socks
Hiking and Trekking Socks
The lighter varieties are like walking socks but designed with lighter hiking in mind, plus additional cushioning around the ball and heel of your foot. Also with moisture-wicking properties to prevent feet from getting overly moist and uncomfortable, which could otherwise result in chafing.
Our best-selling TK1 Trekking Socks combine optimal cushioning with an advanced Merino wool blend for total warmth and comfort, whatever the weather throws at you!
Designed with far more challenging conditions in mind, heavy-duty socks are significantly thicker with plenty of padding and extra bulk. A great choice for demanding hikes in extreme conditions, or for tackling difficult terrain like snow and ice.
If you like your winter walks and outdoor excursions extreme, these TK4 Trekking Expedition socks are unbeatable - made with the highest-quality virgin Merino wool.
Ski and Snowboard Socks
As the name suggests, these specialist socks are designed for skiing and snowboarding, with plenty of additional padding underfoot and around the shin.
Ski and snowboard socks are designed primarily to provide protection from the pressure and rubbing associated with ski boots. They’re also here to help retain your warmth, and keep those sub-zero temperatures at bay.
These high volume (thicker) Merino Wool Silk Blend Skiing Socks are an excellent all-rounder, while more advanced skiers preferring thinner materials without sacrificing warmth could find these SK4 Socks a better option.
Pictured: Falke TK4 socks
Key Material Considerations
The blend of materials used in your winter socks, no matter what activity they're for, is vital to how well your socks perform in cold weather.
Making sense of the materials available can seem like something of a minefield at times. But it really doesn’t have to be, once you get to grips with the basics of these major sock materials.
Natural Material Choices
Ideal for casual everyday use, basic cotton socks are not built with cold-weather outdoor pursuits in mind. Once cotton socks start getting moist, they quickly become uncomfortable. They are slow to dry, offer next to no insulation, and generally feature no padding. Fantastic at home and work, but not so great for strenuous outdoor activities.
The choice of the outdoor adventurer for generations, sheep's wool is renowned for its outstanding insulation properties and heat retention.
Typically blended with other materials nowadays, wool has been trusted as the ultimate winter warmer since the dawn of mankind. It’s also exceptionally durable and hardwearing - perfect for the more punishing pursuits.
Merino wool is technically one of many types of wool, sourced exclusively from Merino sheep. A fantastic choice for winter socks, it is much finer and softer than sheep’s wool. And it has the potential to combine the best of both worlds – warmth, comfort, and a bunch of moisture-wicking properties.
It offers fabulous warmth and comfort, and is renowned for its odour resistant properties and non-itchy texture. Fantastic for hiking, hillwalking, and enjoying the great outdoors in winter.
While cashmere may be the gold standard of fabrics, it has its limitations. It is by far the warmest of the materials, offering up to five times the insulation of standard wool.
However, this dreamy softness makes for a fabric that is not particularly durable. Pure cashmere is somewhat susceptible to damage, which makes cashmere blends a better option for outdoor pursuits.
Included in many material blends for winter socks to maximise comfort, while maintaining the material’s lightweight properties. Silk is renowned for its incredible comfort and robust durability, though is particularly versatile when blended with other materials like Merino wool, cashmere, and polyester.
There’s also a fairly long list of manmade blends that make their way into high-quality winter socks. Each has its own unique properties and benefits, and we’ll explore a few of those below:
- Polyester - the second most widely used fibre in clothing after cotton. Resistant to shrinkage, highly durable, and wrinkle-free.
- Elastane (Lycra) - used in a variety of fabric blends to make them comfortable and stretchy, while ensuring they return to their original shape after use. Lycra often features in a complementary style in winter wear, such as inner cuffs that stop snow going up a skier’s arms.
- Acrylic - a lightweight material with great insulating properties. Acrylic brings warmth and comfort to a wide range of winter sports garments.
- Nylon - highly durable and resistant to shrinkage, used to reinforce sports clothing while maintaining maximum comfort.
- Polyacrylic (Acrylic) - a derivative of acrylic, known for its excellent heat-insulating properties and lightweight characteristics.
- Polypropylene - one of the strongest yet lightest textile fibres, with highly efficient sweat-wicking properties to keep your skin dry.
- Lyocell - stronger than modal and viscose, renowned for its soft texture and fantastic moisture-absorbing properties. Unlike other manmade fibres, rayon, modal, and lyocell are not synthetic. They are made from cellulose, commonly derived from wood pulp, and more recently from bamboo.
For more information on choosing the right winter socks or to discuss your requirements in more detail, reach out to a member of the SocksFox team today.