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Appalachian Trail socks

Socks. We all wear them. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re barefoot or you wear flip flops. I think barefoot is the way to go, but there are some situations where you just need some padding.

These little foot robes are especially important when hiking, as they’re your main defense against blisters (assuming you have comfortable shoes).

In general you want something that wicks, that moves the moisture away from your skin. Wetness causes discomfort and abrasion and blisters. You probably also want something that’s durable, and comfortable, and if you’re in cold or wet weather you need a materiel that insulates even when wet. As far as I know that rules out cotton of any kinds (and I can attest that cotton socks are nightmarishly uncomfortable when soaked in foot sweat) and leaves you with either wool or a synthetic blend.

In the past I’ve gone with a system of two pairs of wool socks and two nylon liners, which are just super-light socks that go inside your socks and assist the mission of wicking. Liners also take on your foot funk to lessen the stink of your main sock. It’s easier and faster to wash and air dry a liner than a wool puppy.

This time around I’m going with three different types of socks. The first (left) is an REI merino wool liner. It’s comfortable and light, and can be used as a sock in its own right.

The second is a darn tough merino wool sock (center). This is mostly wool with some nylon blended in. It’s guaranteed for life, which I like, and it fits comfortable. There’s also something about the design which keeps the sock from moving around too much, preventing the material from bunching.

The third sock I’m bringing (right) is an interesting species. It’s a combination of liner and regular sock, made of pure synthetic materials, namely a special polyester and nylon. The idea (as far as I can tell) is that by having two layers built in you get extra wicking, and extra dry feet. I’ve taken them on a few runs and they’ve been comfortable, though with two layers the material tends to wander and bunch in the toes. The packaging guarantees they’re blister free, so if there were ever a way to put that to the test a 2100 mile hike would be it.

All the socks are light gauge. I’ve found on other hikes my biggest problem has been hot, sweaty feet, rather than cold, and if I do get cold I can stuff ‘em all on together. Why three different types of sock, you ask? Well maybe I’m nuts but I think it’s good to vary the material and pressure going on my feet however slight. I don’t want to put too much stress or friction on any one area, in order to prevent blisters. Hopefully, it’ll work.

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