Why do socks exist? Sounds like a question a fuzzy-eyebrowed professor might scrawl on a blackboard during a college philosophy course. Since we’re talking socks, let’s bring that navel-gazing proposition closer to the ground with the top five reasons why socks matter (We know you saw this spoiler coming: Socks do have a purpose. Multiple actually).
By the time class is out, we’ll see that beyond proving their purpose with function, socks just look cool. Does that count as a reason? We have our opinion, but ultimately that’ll be your call.
1. They Keep Your Feet Warm
Are socks bad for your feet? If you could have asked Otzi the iceman, a 5,000-year old hunter found frozen in a glacier in 1991, we’re not sure what he’d have said. He didn’t have socks on, but what he did have were grass-lined boots— a likely pre-cursor to the idea of the cushioning and added warmth that socks can provide.
Ask the Romans, and you’d probably get a clearer answer. Their 'Udones' warmed Roman soldier’s feet underneath the sandals they wore into their continent-spanning battles.
When you look at the history of socks, their original purpose most likely starts right here. Luckily, you don’t have to be a foraging hunter (although we do have plenty of socks that work great for both hunting and gathering) or a Roman warrior to understand the benefits of keeping your feet warm. If you’ve ever gone outside on a cold day in the wrong footwear, or perhaps a pair of socks made out of cotton, you get the gist. We’re not here to bash another natural fiber, but frostbite and hypothermia are no joke.
Socks provide a layer of much-needed insulation against frosty temperatures. Well-made socks with wicking materials like Merino Wool can even help prevent feet from getting sweaty. And if you’ve been active outside only to stop and get the chills, you know that staying dry is crucial to staying warm.
It’s safe to say, if there’s cold where you live, work, and play, socks are not bad.
2. They Keep Your Feet Cool
Is it opposite day? Nope. The benefits to wearing socks apply whatever the weather. And where Merino Wool is concerned, warm and cool are definitely both part of the program. Merino Wool’s natural ability to balance the temperature between your foot and the environment, whether that’s hot or cold, is called thermoregulation.
Whether you’re out in the snow or running in the summer, Merino’s unique structure works with your body to trap and transport heat and moisture at the right times, keeping you warm when it’s cold out, and cooling you off when it’s hot. It’s one of the reasons we love this natural fiber.
Which brings us to the next point about what happens if you go commando style in your sneakers.
3. They Keep Your Feet Dry and Funk-Free
Sneakers and boots are great, especially when they are used for the specific purpose they were made for. But even with all the venting in the world, they can be like lacing your feet into a blanket— a fairly toasty situation. And given that our feet have the highest concentration of sweat glands in our body, we want to be on the lookout for keeping things dry down there.
What can happen if you go sockless in sneakers? A buildup of sweat and the resulting bacteria can lead to athletes’ foot, a problem that can lead to ruining your favorite shoes or ski and snowboard boots with some serious foot stink. By historical accounts, the Greeks knew about this. Well, maybe not the ski and snowboard boot part. But wearing something akin to socks with sandals was part of Greek poet Hesiod’s advice on daily living circa 700 BC.
For dealing with sweat, the question of when to wear socks is simple: pretty much anytime your foot goes into a shoe or boot. Think about all that sweat, being soaked up by your favorite footwear — it’s only a matter of time till that stinky bacteria takes up residence for good. Socks make all the difference here by capturing that sweat. Not to mention they’re way easier to wash than your shoes.
Merino Wool socks take it a step further, naturally wicking away sweat and neutralizing odor. Combined with thermoregulation, Merino socks create a balanced, drier environment where your feet are less likely to get sweaty in the first place.
4. They Protect Your Feet from Blisters
High friction zones and hot spots that go unchecked can lead to the top layers of skin separating from the layers underneath, with the space in between filing with liquid. If a sock could only prevent one thing, and that was a blister, would socks have a reason for existing? If you’ve ever had one of these painful eruptions midway through a trek, you’d likely say yes.
Whether you’re a runner, hiker, or even just avid walker’s nemesis, the first step (oh so punny) in preventing these painful hot spots is wearing socks. It goes beyond that; dialing in a setup that has minimal friction and rubbing includes properly-fitting footwear and break in time, but the socks remain a crucial component.
Of course, as we’ve teased at here, not just any socks. Merino Wool socks that can balance the temperature of your foot and outside environment, wick away sweat, and offer a no-slip fit are going to reduce bunching, slipping and other sources of friction. Sounds like a Darn Tough sock. You knew that was coming, but there it is.
5. They Add Cushion to a Hard Day at Work
Lots of folks work on their feet all day long. Would you jump into a pair of work boots and expect to pull a 10- or 12-hour shift without something between your bare feet and those steel-toes? Probably not. When the alarm goes off at 4 in the morning and you’re standing and moving until the end of the day, all the above benefits plus some added cushion go a long way.
You don’t have to be a badass lineman to pull these perks either. Anyone can clock a little extra comfort by wearing socks, especially the ones that come with a loftier level of cushioning.
6. They Just Look Good
We know — five reasons, right? We couldn’t help a bonus round, since really, there’s more than could fit in this list. This one might be subjective, and maybe we’re a little biased. But why else would we knit up so many designs in so many colors than to add some fun to your day?
From the Animal Haus to the Number 2, and tried and true solid colorways, we’ve got looks that will liven up that sneaky zone between the top of your boot or shoe and the cuff of your pants. Or if you’re somewhere warmer than Northern Vermont (send a postcard!), add a flash of style to your shorts, skirt, kilt, or whatever you choose to run your socks with.
These five reasons lay out a pretty good roadmap on the path to understanding the purpose of socks. From warmth to temperature regulation, staying dry, preventing blisters, adding cushion, and (twist!) their good looks, socks have plenty of purpose. Know them, use the, wear them.