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  • Writer's pictureHenry

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Ski Socks

Updated: Apr 3

Yeah thats right, everyone's favourite subject. A topic I know you've just been waiting for me to get to the bottom of. My mailbag has been positively flooded with a letter from a Mrs. Trellis of North Wales ...

... OK, I'll stop now.

But there is such a thing as a right or wrong ski sock. The right sock can keep you warm, reduce space in your boot and be used multiple times in your ski week. The wrong sock can cause blisters and freezing toes. Not fun at all. So what do you need to consider when grabbing a pair of socks?



The first step is to think carefully about the material your socks are made of. This will be less of an issue now as most ski socks are made of one material, but if you still have thick wool or even worse, cotton, socks lying at the bottom of your drawer, hopefully this will be the excuse you need to upgrade your sock game.

Merino wool is the perfect material for ski socks, and as a result, this is the dominant material you will see on racks in good ski shops. Found abundantly on merino sheep in New Zealand, the modern ski gear industry prwctically runs off the stuff, providing the basis for many key basica layers

What makes merino so special? First of all, it's warm. Like other forms of wool, it has great heat retention capabilities for its weight, designed to keep sheep warm in cold southern hemisphere winters and therefore perfect for humans too!

Secondly, alongside this warmth, they wick sweat away really really well. This makes it a perfect material for any layer that sits next to skin including base layers and, you guessed it, sock. I'll dive into more on why wicking sweat is important a bit later on.

Finally, they retain this heat capability even when wet. This is ideal for skiing, especially ski boots which aren't waterproof, and, with nowhere for moisture to go, keeping things warm when they get a bit damp is key.


Thick or Thin?

If your skis socks are more than ... oh, say five or ten years old? There's a good chance they'll be quite thick. They may even be "ski tubes", that is thick wool socks lacking in any shaping or generally other identifying features - other than, you know, a hole at one end for your feet to go in.

Thin socks are infinitely better than thick. Why this is the case boils down to the fundamentals of why your feet get cold when skiing, and it's not quite what you think it is.

When you ski, you generate sweat, even on your feet, and you may find a bit of water getting in from melted snow too. This then freezes against the skin, making you feel cold but also causing blood to retreat from your extremities (i.e. your toes) exacerbating this cold feeling.

Therefore you need a sock that can wick away sweat (hello merino wool), stay warm when wet (another win for merino) and stimulate blood flow back to your toes. This is where a thin but fitted sock comes in - by sitting tight to the skin, the added little bit of pressure engenders blood flow down the foot - where there are lots of blood vessels close to the surface - helping you stay warm.

Top tip: if you begin to lose the feeling in your toes, this is the first sign that blood is retreating from your extremities. Stand in a stable position, let one leg go limp and swing it fairly violently back and forth - you will notice feeling returning quickly.


Should I Ever Wear Two Pairs of Socks?

No. No no no no no. No. No.

Blisters occurs when part of your shoe or boot is rubbing against the sock, not necessarily the foot. When wearing two pairs of socks, they will move over each other and generate blisters by themselves, let alone before the boot has had its go.

If you know you feel the cold, then look at getting thicker merino socks - but not as thick as your old ski tubes. If that isn't enough, then look at boot heaters; these are amazing things, with heating elements under the insole and battery packs attached to the cuff of the boot. These are the way to go if no amount of sock will help.


How Many Pairs Do I Need?

Good question. I have three pairs of socks that I know can do me multiple days each.



Wearing socks several times?

Well that's the fourth miracle ingredient of merino - it is naturally anti-bacterial. A single pair of socks or a single base layer can be worn several days in a row, probably up to three, before needing to be washed.

I take any combination of these depending on how long I'm away for. A quick weekend will just be the single pair, as often I'll be travelling light and ski socks take up a surprising amount of space.

Five days, such as at ski test. Two. A full week of skiing? Then I'll take all three.

Most importantly, I try really hard to pack any. Over the years the single bit of kit I lose, either down the back of my chest of drawers or simply forgetting to pack, is my socks. These days, I make a point of keeping them somewhere I'll remember and stash them away as soon as they're done drying.

I've had a really good time with Smartwool , especially their PhD fit thin socks. They are thin but have extrapadding at the toes, heel and down the shin for comfort and to ensure things don't move in your ski boot.

I've also stumbled upon Darn Tough recently And would highly recommend. They seem to be a generation down the line from Smartwool offering a thinner but better fitting and warmer sock.



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