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Worldwide Ace » The Socks Make the Man

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The Socks Make the Man

30 November, 2013 (14:05) | Skiing

Ski Socks

There is nothing less comfortable than an ill-fitting pair of ski boots. After all, the only thing harder on feet than ski boots is Chinese foot binding. Jackson Hole, Wyoming boasts more bunions on men than women (bunions are typically caused by cramming ones feet into small or pointy shoes, like high heels or ski boots).

As much as I love skiing, if my feet weren’t pampered with custom fit boots, I wouldn’t survive an entire season as a ski instructor.

Fitting a boot is not a simple task. Different brands have different widths. Stiffness varies and sole length (the distance from the tip of the boot to heel) isn’t always in ratio with the size or fit. The European standard of sizes means that American skiers often aren’t sure of their size or get it wrong because conversion is imperfect.

All these things add up to making boot fitting more of an art than an easily learned science. Going to a professional is the only sure way that you won’t accidentally sacrifice comfort for performance.

But there are a few easy things you can do to make sure your boots fit and function better, and most of it has to do with socks.

It’s always sad when I see someone in cotton athletic socks trying on ski boots. Cotton socks soak up moisture, which can make your feet extremely cold and uncomfortable. Cotton is breathable, meaning that cold permeates more easily as well. And while cotton may be cheaper, unless there’s an allergy issue, avoiding cotton in cold and wet weather is certainly the best bet.

Wool is the traditional sock of Winter sports. The way in which wool is crimped together means that it retains heat better. If you’ve ever seen sheep in rain you’ll know that wool is also hydrophobic, meaning it helps push moisture away. The moisture it does absorb doesn’t feel wet nearly as quickly as cotton. The major downside to wool is that it’s more difficult to wash, but an upside is that they don’t need to be washed as often (need is a term relative to your comfort in dirty socks).

While wool is great, most of my ski socks are synthetic or silk. Silk, like wool, is a fast-wicking material, pulling moisture away for added dryness and warmth. Silk also doesn’t have bulk of a wool sock, meaning that you can get a tighter and more responsive fit in your boots. When I have new boots, I try to use the thinnest socks possible to keep myself from packing them out or messing with fit too much.

Synthetic microfibers have come a long way. Usually, they’re mix of multiple fibers or even a mix with wool, getting you the best of both worlds. The majority of my ski socks are a merino wool blend, meaning they have  synthetics mixed in. I get the warmth of wool with a snugger and less bulky fit.

As ski boots get used, the liner packs out or expands, meaning the shoe literally becomes looser. Adjustable buckles allow me to fine tune the fit, but to get more and longer use from my boots nothing is better than choosing the right socks for the job.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at active-wear socks and the materials they use, check out this guide from REI.



  • Dave

    Where do you bought this kind of sock? I think it is perfect to wear during winter.


  • Ben

    Personally, as a professional ski instructor, I order directly from companies like Smartwool or Icebreaker. I get better deals that way and excellent customer service.