Winter running and hiking are cold enough without cold feet – proper socks can save you a lot of hardship.

Having run many miles in snow and cold as well as on snowshoes in the mountains, I have learned to treat my feet very well.  A few cold, wet foot trips convinced me that I needed be much more careful before I did damage to the toes.

As a learned if a bit over zealous backcountry and climbing mentor of mine once intoned,”Cotton kills!”.  While I do believe this to be overstated, for my feet I take no chances. Cotton socks, you see, when wet do not hold heat. The problem with 100% cotton socks is that they absorb sweat and moisture, saturate quickly and dry slowly, which is a perfect recipe for blisters and cold.  When you are miles out and start to get really cold, there is nothing you can do to dry that sock.

Go wool.  Once out of favor, wool is the one for me.

For running I go with a light or mid-weight wool sock even in winter. The fit is snugger and so they don’t slide around at all. Since I am generating a fair amount of heat, I am less worried about getting cold. Also since my knees have learned to make more noise, I don’t run as far.

For snowshoeing I may move to a heavier sock depending on where I go.  If I am going backcountry, I will wear a good medium or winter weight sock as well as carry at least one spare pair depending on how far out I am going.  Again, snowshoeing is a lot of work, so if I get too hot I can switch out.

Backpacking, even when done in winter brings you to high places, the possibility of snow any time of year as well as cold rain, streams and plunging temperatures. Cotton socks can lead to frostbite and loss of toes. Wool won’t always keep you away from that, but it will sure help.

I may have old knees, but my feet are relatively happy.

4 thoughts on “Protect your feet! Ditch those cotton socks!

  1. I’ve been a wool sock guy for years and agree with you that they are the way to go for winter adventures. I’d take wool sweaters as a great way to go as well.

    1. Mostly, I agree. But some technical fabrics bother my skin. Sometimes an old t-shirt is just right. A lot depends on what I am doing and where. I won’t wear cotton in wet/cold conditions, but sometimes it just feels so good.

      1. On really really hot runs, there is not much that beats a white cotton t-shirt soaked in ice water, at least that’s what has worked for me!

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