Ski socks are one of the most overlooked components of ski wear and are often underrated in their importance to maintaining a high level of comfort, warmth and performance on the slopes.
However, they are absolutely crucial. Even with the right ski boots, an inadequate pair of socks can easily ruin your performance, as you’ll be left with not only cold but sore feet, as they are not properly protected to be worn in the boots. As you’re on your feet all day, ski socks are a necessity to be able to enjoy skiing and excel at it, too.
There are a few basic questions that are frequently asked, but their answer isn’t always readily available. Never fear though: Expert Advice is here to change that and guide you on all that you need to know…
Do You Wear Socks Under Ski Socks?
Now, this is a question that everybody will have asked or at least thought about when it comes to ski preparation.
The answer is no. But why not?
For one, ski socks are expertly crafted from a thermal material that will provide more than enough warmth for your feet, while being breathable enough for them not to get too sweaty or damp. Wearing a pair of ordinary socks underneath ski socks will only make it harder for your feet to breathe and will provide more discomfort than additional warmth.
Secondly, ski socks and ski boots are both designed with their partner in mind, so adding more layers may make the boots too tight or uncomfortable for no good reason at all.
How To Wear Ski Socks?
Well, not with ordinary socks underneath them, as we established.
But, just like any other pair of socks, you should own more than one pair of ski socks. Re-wearing the same ones each day without washing them will carry over moisture from the day(s) before and won’t be as comfortable as a fresh pair, so be prepared with a selection of pairs before you head off on a ski trip for a few days.
It’s important to bear in mind never to wear two pairs of ski socks at once, for the aforementioned reasons.
If you’re unsure what else to pack for a ski trip, check out our Skiing Essentials Packing and Check List.
How Should Ski Socks Fit?
Snug. Snug. Snug.
When buying ski socks, it’s all about the snug fit. They shouldn’t be loose whatsoever, but it goes without saying that they shouldn’t be too tight, either. Make sure they’re fitted to keep the cold air out and your toes nice and comfy, but don’t go cutting off your circulation.
Thin or thick?
All ski socks are designed to provide insulation, so the thickest ones available do not necessarily mean that they are the best.
Be sure to take note of the material and warmth of each pair, as the weight of the material is not always the deciding factor. Ski socks nowadays are often categorised into lightweight, midweight and heavyweight categories.
Lightweight ski socks are ideal for warmer days, allow for greater flexibility and high performance owing to the fact that mobility is lost in thicker sock layers.
Midweight ski socks are the most popular and arguably the best thermal socks, as they strike a good balance between warmth, comfort and performance; making them suitable for any average skier and those who are content with a jack of all trades. However, it should be said that these are not the recommended choice for extreme winter conditions.
Heavyweight ski socks are the thickest available, providing the highest level of cushioning, support and insulation. These are preferred among beginners who spend the most time sedentary on the slopes, and anyone who wants to shut out the biting cold completely and don’t mind skimping a little on performance.
Ski socks can be made from of a variety of materials, the most common of which are synthetic, such as nylon, polyester, acrylic and elastane. The material of the sock influences its properties, and an increasing number of ski socks are made from a combination of different materials to elicit their best features, such as maximum comfort, shape retention and moisture-wicking. These fabric-blend socks generally offer the best performance as they contain the right balance of characteristics at the correct percentages to create robust, functional ski socks.
Nylon is a popular synthetic fabric used in the making of ski socks. Nylon is highly durable and resists abrasion excellently – hence why it’s the preferred choice for the reinforced areas of the sock, where friction and impact are concentrated. These areas are generally the shins and the heels, which need extra protection. Nylon also boats anti-bacterial properties which make it a great ally for odour control.
Polyester offers a good combination of softness to the touch, thermal properties and moisture management. For this reason, it’s a top choice for the major percentage composition of ski socks. Polyester wicks sweat away from the foot with exceptional ease and also maintains a desirable level of comfort, making it a staple in ski sock fabrics.
Acrylic is a high-quality, high-functioning synthetic wool substitute, making it a perfect solution for skiers who are allergic to natural wool. Certain forms of acrylic can be very soft and simultaneously lightweight, also form-fitting and highly elastic. This versatility makes the material popular and a befitting choice for ski socks. From its warmth, softness and colour retention to its stain and wrinkle resistance, acrylic is notable for the group of benefits it brings to socks.
Elastane and Lycra exhibit high levels of elasticity and are stretchy fabrics used to perfect the fit in socks. These materials help prevent ski socks from bunching up and losing their fit while the feet move around in ski boots. Ski socks always have to have a certain degree of elasticity to allow the skier freedom of movement and good performance, and elastane and Lycra perform this function to a high standard.
Wool is known for its wicking properties, as well as the comfort and warmth it provides. Merino wool, in particular, is a highly insulating material and can wick sweat away with ease. Skiers covet it due to its longevity: a pair of Merino wool socks can last longer between washes as odour does not build up as quickly as in synthetic materials. Merino wool also maintains its shape better than regular wool and is very durable.
There are two main types of ski socks: tube and ergonomic. Each has their pros and cons, with tube socks generally being the most basic, simple and affordable, and ergonomic socks being the more technically advanced option that comes at a dearer price.
Tube socks consist of a long, elasticated tube of fabric with a sewn-on toe cap at the bottom and a more strongly elasticated band at the top to secure them into place and prevent them from sliding down the leg while in action. This simple design means that tube socks have no left or right foot, no top or bottom and neither are they gender-specific. Children’s tube socks tend to be different than adults’ to account for the smaller leg-to-foot size ratio.
Ergonomic socks are designed with an anatomical fit and thus ensure maximum performance and comfort. Each sock is built specifically for either the left or the right foot, meaning that it’s imperative to wear them on the corresponding one. Technical features of ergonomic socks include angled toe boxes which accommodate the differing lengths of your toes, and specific shaping around the arch, instep and ankle. Ergonomic socks cater for a much broader range of sizes, usually including increments in between whole-numbered foot sizes. This is because a closer fit means less bunching up, pinching and a more comfortable fit on the whole. Ergonomic socks provide exceptional support to your feet while skiing and are snowsport experts’ go-to gear.
Cushioning is a key element in providing the comfort and protection needed in ski socks. Ski socks are cushioned in high-impact or high-pressure areas which are also usually the boniest parts of the foot, such as the instep and ankle. The shins are also a critical cushioning area: due to their frequent impact against the front of the boot, ski socks help to mitigate the damage you would otherwise suffer from prolonged impact. Padding increases the amount of fabric and space between the point of impact and your feet, thus dispersing the force of the blow considerably.
The in-built supportive shapes in ski socks contribute to higher comfort and performance by reducing foot distortion. Arch support is the most common ski sock support feature, followed by ankle support. The support is created through the thicker, tighter or more elasticated fabric around the foot at the arch, helping to stabilise your foot’s position inside the boot and hold its shape more naturally. This avoids the feet from flexing into unnatural positions while skiing, decreasing the risk of injury.
Since feet are trapped under ski socks and in ski boots for long hours at a time, ventilation is a significant factor in keeping your feet comfortable and breathability plays a big role in supplying this means of ventilation. While providing warmth and insulation is important, ski socks should focus on offering good levels of breathability. Perspiration can quickly accumulate just outside the foot, creating the ideal conditions for blisters and pressure points. The wicking properties of ski sock materials move this moisture away from the foot, leaving the space between the socks and the feet clean, dry and fresh.
Although it’s not essential to have gender-specific ski socks, these can sometimes help to offset the anatomical differences between men’s and women’s feet and thus provide more adequate support. Men’s socks tend to have a longer leg section whilst women’s will feature shorter leg sections to reflect the length difference. While it’s not imperative to own socks specifically assigned to your gender, picking ones made for your gender does produce a noticeable shift in comfort.