US Outdoor Store
US Outdoor Store


Guide To Socks

Running, hiking, snowboarding, or every day, the right pair of socks can make or break any adventure. But with a multitude of fabrics, cushioning levels, and heights to choose from, looking for the right socks can incredibly daunting; so in this sock guide we’ll try to make everything as easy as possible.



Cotton is the only major no no for active wear. While cotton is incredibly comfortable for casual days around town it has a tendency to trap moisture instead of wicking it away, which ends up being the perfect combination for show stopping blisters that can ruin your entire week. If you’re planning on doing anything active it’s best to avoid cotton all together.

Acrylic / Polyester

Comfortable and moisture wicking, acrylic and polyester are both awesome fabrics for a variety of activities. Acrylic and polyester are both synthetic fabrics and are the perfect combination of warmth, durability, and quick drying capabilities.


Wool has been around for centuries, from primitive tribes in ancient Mesopotamia, to modern day humans, we all spend our winters curled up in wool fabric to stay warm. But wool could just as easily invade your summer closet as well. Wool isn’t just a cold weather material; this versatile fabric has a natural heating and cooling system to help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s the same process that wool uses to help the sheep stay regulated all year round. Wool is also incredibly durable with natural sun protection and is naturally odor-free.

But not all wool is created equal, if you want the performance of wool without the itchiness, then merino wool is about to become your new must have essential. Most wool fibers are large and not very flexible, which causes them to poke into the skin and creating that dreaded itching sensation. Merino Wool on the other hand is different, with finer, more flexible fibers that bend instead of poke the skin, merino wool stays itch free all day.


Though sometimes used as a main material, most socks will have a small amount of nylon woven into them for increased durability. Nylon can also help to improve drying time.


Silk is soft, light weight, and moisture wicking, but not very durable, so you usually see this fabric in sock liners instead of used in regular socks.

Elastane / Spandex / Lycra©

Most socks will have a small amount of elastane, spandex, or Lycra© in its construction. These fabrics help your sock keep its shape, reduce wrinkles, and adds comfortable stretchiness.


From no show socks to knee high, there is a wide range of styles to choose from when you’re trying to find the right pair of socks.

Ankle Socks

Ankle socks are another great option for a variety of activities as well. They offer a little bit more protection than the no show socks by covering your ankle bone. But just like the no show socks, you’ll want to wear shoes that aren’t taller than your socks to reduce the chance of rubbing.

Knee High Socks

Made to protect your feet from heavy duty footwear and keep them warm in snowy or icy conditions, knee high socks can mostly be found in the mountaineering, snowboarding, and skiing categories. Knee high socks that are aimed towards mountaineering will be extra thick and bulky, to keep you comfortable.

If you’re looking at ski and snowboard socks they’ll have strategic cushioning in the shin area and underfoot, but will be thin everywhere else. Snow socks aren’t meant to keep you warm (though they do help), their sole purpose is to protect your feet from pressure points and chafing in your boots.

Crew Socks

Crew socks are the most common and versatile style of sock. They offer great protection from abrasion and work with any style of shoes. Whether you’re headed to the gym or the mountain, you can’t go wrong with these classic socks.


The amount of cushioning in your socks can determine what activity and weather conditions they’re made for. Thinner socks generally have little to no cushioning and are ideal for summer, while thicker socks have more cushioning for better warmth and protection from the cold.

Made specifically for warmer weather, most ultralight socks have no cushioning or light cushioning in important areas like the heel and ball of your foot for a little bit of extra impact protection. Running, hiking, or just wandering around town, these socks are a versatile addition to your summer activities.

If you’re going on a longer hike or the weather is a bit on the cold side, socks with medium cushioning are going to be your best choice. With a decent amount on cushioning in the heel and ball of your foot these socks help to keep your feet free of blisters while adding a little bit of extra warmth.

Unless you plan on going on a long, cold backpacking trip you probably won’t need to get any socks with heavy cushioning. These socks are mostly used for mountaineering and to keep your feet warm in extreme temperatures while also protecting them from your burly mountaineering boots.


Most hiking, snowboarding, mountaineering, and ski socks come in sizes that can be different from the cotton socks that you’re used to so fit is more important than usual. An ill fitting sock can bunch up, reduce circulation if to tight, and/or cause blisters that could ruin any trip. Your socks should fit snugly around your heel and arch without feeling tight on your toes. A flat seam construction is also a nice bonus when looking at socks. Flat seams reduce chafing especially in your toe box to keep your feet comfortable on your most active days.

Types of Socks

Toe Socks

Toe socks are usually found in lightweight running or hiking socks and help to prevent blisters forming in between your toes. Blisters can also be caused by shoes or socks that are to tight, so if these socks don’t help, try sizing up your shoes. Toe socks are usually made out of highly breathable synthetic fabrics like polyester, acrylic, nylon, or a blend of multiple fabrics.

Liner Socks

Liner socks aren’t used as often as they used to be, but are still utilized by some mountaineers. Liner socks are worn underneath a pair of regular hiking socks to help promote moisture wicking and because they’re lighter than regular socks, they can be washed and dried quickly.

Heated Socks

Pretty self explanatory, heated socks are battery powered to give your feet instant, continual heat. These socks are great for sports where you don’t have to move much, like fishing or some types of hunting.

Waterproof Socks

Waterproof socks are great if you spend a lot of time in wet, rainy weather. Here in the Pacific Northwest we get a fair amount of rain and waterproof socks are a great way to eliminate the problem of soggy toes. Most waterproof socks have a 3-layer construction with a water resistant knit outer, a waterproof membrane beneath that, and a soft interior wool or synthetic lining next to your skin.

Email Offers:
Sign up now to receive special offers & discounts!
Thank you for subscribing.
Please enter a valid Email address.
Hang out with us on:
  • Blog
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

U.S. Outdoor Store Inc BBB Business Review