Socks, the simple pieces of fabric that keep your feet warm and dry. The importance of socks cannot be overstated, because nothing is more important than your feet. In a survival situation the ability to walk or run is critical, and if your feet are not well taken care of you may lose this ability.
What Socks Do
Socks provide your feet with several services. The first thing they do is protect your feet from wear and tear by cushioning them against the insides of your footwear as well as absorb shock from movement. Socks also help to keep your feet dry by absorbing and wicking moisture away from your feet, if feet are damp for too long they become more susceptible to fungus which can cause problems ranging from an unpleasant smell to the actual rotting of flesh. Finally socks keep your feet warm or cool depending upon the environment you are in which prevents both discomfort and/or frostbite.
- Wool and wool blends are probably the most popular hiking and survival sock. Wool is tried and true with a track record of several millennia of use and abuse. It is an excellent insulator, fire retardant, provides a good cushion, has some natural anti-bacterial qualities, and will last for a very long time. Wool that is going to be in contact with skin should generally be a merino wool as it is the softest mass produced wool available. The disadvantage of wool socks is that they can shrink in hot water or when heat dried so should be hand washed, and air dried.
- cotton is used for most dress or athletic socks, however, when wet such as with sweat or after immersion in a stream, cotton socks can cause chaffing which leads to blisters and over time immersion foot aka trench foot. This is due to cotton not wicking water but rather retaining it. So for hiking or athletics other fibers are preferable.
- Polyester and Nylon are synthetic materials that offers good insulation and cushioning for the foot. They are also far more stretchable than wool and cotton plus are easier to maintain (wash). They are less durable than wool, however, and may melt when exposed to heat. Synthetic socks can be acquired for less cost than wool and makes a good alternative for those who are allergic to wool.
Sock Liners are generally made of cotton or nylon and provide an extra layer of insulation and moisture wicking ability.