Since we could walk, or before, choosing socks for healthy feet wasn’t the issue. We learned to pull on our socks one at a time before sliding into the shoes which matched the clothes we’d wear that day. It was all about the shoes; the color, the style, the buckles or bows.
As far as stockings went, girls’ were made from super soft cotton — maybe with lace around the tops — and boys’ were made from wool for sweaty feet and durability.
Sounds practical, right? But that was then, and this is now. So what’s different? These days we like to know all the facts so we can make the choice of what’s best for our own lives. Okay, so let’s start from the source — facts about our feet that almost nobody knows.
We take our feet for granted, yet we use them every day for mobility and propulsion. For young adults, who are the precursors of great athletes, choosing socks for healthy feet isn’t a talking point. Most aren’t even aware how much their feet are integral to the rest of their bodies. Here are some remarkable facts to memorize:
There are times when opting to wear shoes without socks is convenient or fashionable, but activities, from taking a walk to dancing, and bicycling to hiking are NOT those times. Just as shoes give us support, socks keep our feet dry, blister-free and comfortable — at least they should. They help keep you cool in the summer while keeping bad odors, bacteria and foot rot at bay.
Moisture-wicking properties are especially important to consider when you’re purchasing socks for activities. Boys aren’t the only ones, as you saw above, whose feet sweat. The good news is that certain fibers are able to wick away the sweat (absorb and remove moisture from the skin) to help avoid blistering. Considered the best materials today for wicking properties are Merino wool, Olefin or polyester; blends of these can be expensive but tend to provide better comfort and performance for sports fanatics.
Cotton is more lightweight and absorbs moisture effectively; actually a little too efficiently. When nylon or other non-absorbent fibers and blended with cotton, moisture wicking improves. Cotton fiber is ninety percent cellulose and is harvested from around the seeds of a cotton plant.
Wool fibers stretch but also have great shape recovery. They are colorfast, resist wrinkles and breathe with your body. Bulkier wool traps the air, keeping your feet warmer and drier; wool absorbs up to ⅓ of its weight in moisture. When selecting the right socks for healthy feet it’s critical to know what it is that you need to solve.
Polypropylene (Olefin) is the most lightweight fiber made by man, yet it is quite strong. Generally blended with outer layers which are normally more absorbent, Olefin acts as a moisture wicker. This manufacturing process by Italian scientists actually won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
For best results, turn your socks inside out before washing. Avoid bleaching, wash in cool or cold water (to reduce shrinking) on the delicate cycle. Hang or lay flat to lengthen durability. If you must use the dryer, tumble dry on cool, and definitely avoid ironing.
When your socks lose their elasticity, toss them out. Rethink 100% cotton socks, which retain moisture and attract fungus. And, by the way, did you know that sock sizes (9-11, 10-13) have nothing to do with shoe sizes; the numbers actually stand for how long your foot is (in inches).
The answer is: absolutely. There are hundreds of specialty socks on the market; for running, jumping, long walks, and sports. Finding socks for healthy feet is a lot easier now, with information brought to light by doctors — particularly podiatrists. From diabetes to arthritis and plantar fasciitis to Achilles tendonitis, your local podiatrist has suggestions that will make your life more tolerable while undergoing treatment and perhaps for future prevention.
It isn’t often you find a podiatrist who establishes their practice in a place where they can connect with the community in the way Dr. Elizabeth Auger does. As an athlete, she participates in all the Salt Lake City outdoor activities and knows exactly what the challenges are, and how to overcome them — so you too can experience the joys of this rugged wonderland.
Treating all patients, from infants to the elderly — and educating patients on maintaining good foot health, Dr. Auger offers personalized foot care solutions whether you are in a rehabilitative state, observe a sedentary lifestyle or are an enthusiastic athlete trying to improve your performance.