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Socks. Too thick too much of a good thing?


I need some thoughts on socks. 

I need new boots. I was going to get a good deal on some Lowa Caminos that would have been 1/2 size wider than I usually wear so I ordered some heavy socks from Smartwool to compensate. Maybe not such a great idea but I may never know as the “cheap” Lowas never worked out.  

The Smartwools seem good but wow they are thick.  If I keep the socks I’m sure I’ll need 1/2 size up.  

Seems like I should figure out my socks before I go boot shopping.  I hike in the Rockies in Alberta and BC in the summer so I need cool socks.  I also often carry a heavy pack - I heard thick socks are good for this??

Is thicker better?  I can remember wearing socks about this thick ice fishing when I was a kid - I never would have thought they would be good for hiking.  What is ideal?  

Thanks for your time. 

3 Replies

I find that two layers of socks works better than one thick sock. The inner layer is thin polypropylene (or similar.) It's meant to stick to the skin, wick moisture and help prevent blisters. The outer layer is thicker. I prefer synthetic acrylic but, of course, most people buy wool. Not only do the liner socks help prevent blisters but they're much easier to wash out and dry every night.

As for boots, a pair that's the wrong size is no bargain no matter how great the price may be. You're more likely to develop blisters with boots that are too loose or too tight. But also they may not last as long. Like you, I once bought a pair of boots that we 1/2 size too large also because they were on sale at a price that was too good to pass up. I found that using thick socks in the summer was too hot. When I used thinner socks the boots were too loose. The liners still prevented blisters but the larger size resulted in the leather getting more stress and the stitching soon broke. I was able to get them restitched. But that put holes in the Gore-Tex which meant they were no longer waterproof. 

Long story short: Yes, work out your sock strategy first. Bring those socks to the store with you when fitting boots. Get a size that fits even if it's not on sale.

Have fun in the Canadian Rockies. What a great place to hike and backpack.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @Frznrth 

I agree with @Wanderer regarding the use of liner socks.  And also that you should match your socks to the boots you choose.  But I also have a few additional thoughts for you to consider.

I happen to love thick, warm, cushiony socks.  Particularly for the winter months.  Towards that end, I have different boots for the different seasons, and the socks to match.  In winter, I have heavier, waterproof boots that I intentionally chose to fit while wearing wool, "expedition" weight socks with thin merino wool liners.  The cushioning is great, and my feet have never gotten cold out on the trail.  I live in Maryland, but have worn this combo on hikes in Minnesota and in Banff, and even down the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon.

When the seasons turn, I shift to a pair of what are essentially ankle high trail-runners.  With those, I wear silk or synthetic liners with ankle cut "standard" weight wool socks. Again, I matched the sock combo with the boot fit.

I've never done an extended through-hike, but for the past several years, I do day-hikes at least every weekend, with a few weekend long (or longer) excursions per year.  These hikes range  anywhere from 5 to 20 miles in length, on a wide variety of terrain and intensity.  Woodland trails, rock scrambles, mountain ascents, you name it.  My longest one-day hike was 30 miles, but that was relatively mild terrain.  And I am happy to say that I have yet to experience any blisters on my feet.  Maybe I'm just lucky, but I swear by my footwear methodology.

So, in my opinion, you should not choose a boot or sock, irrespective of the other.  They are an integral system and should be looked at and selected as such.

I hope this helps.  Good luck and choose wisely.  🙂

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@Frznrth What a great topic! Thanks for posting.

I don't have a lot to add to the good advice you've gotten here, however, I did want to mention that after moving to Alaska I purchase all of the thickest socks I could, in order to make sure I was warm enough. As it turned out, the thickness of the socks was actually inhibiting the blood flow in my feet and actually making my feet colder. The thick socks, coupled with a boot that was a bit too small, prevented my body from keeping my feet warm. When I switched to a thinner sock that gave my foot a little more room my feet were much, much warmer.

I definitely second the idea of trying on the boots you are considering with the socks you plan on wearing. It is also helpful to try them on at the end of the day as your feet tend to swell during the day and that is the best way to get an accurate fit.

Hope this helps!


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