Socks get techier this year thanks to svelter fibers.
As hiking boots get more flexible and sneaker-like, socks, too, are thinning out. “Throwing a thick pair of socks in a lightweight hybrid boot just feels weird,” says Jimmy Funkhouser, owner of Feral Mountain Co. in Denver. The tech is keeping up: The use of finer, stronger yarns creates different zones for better breathability and compression—features that have migrated over from the running industry. To craft smarter socks, mills have reduced the diameter of wool yarns from 20 to 22 microns down to 12 microns in low-wear areas. Many winter socks are now using nylon underfoot for durability, while loading the upper and toe sections with wool for comfort and warmth.
Typically, new colorways and patterns do not constitute a trend, but they’re hard to ignore this year. “Color is in, patterns are in,” says Brendan Madigan, owner of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City, California. “The days of boring socks are over.” Look for bolder visuals peeking out beneath rolled ski pants, or worn alone with leggings for the après.
In one example of a traditionally thick sock getting thinned out, the PhD Hunt Light Crew ($24) from Smartwool has mesh zones for breathability, while the heel and toe get a boost of durability from thicker yarns.
Farm to Feet targets backcountry skiers with its lightweight Little Cottonwood ($24), which foregoes shin and arch cushioning. The socks use mesh in the calf for a mix of densities that still cushions and vents. The toebox includes extra wool for warmth.
Darn Tough overhauled its performance line this season with finer yarns that allow for higher thread density and better durability. ThePress Endurance Sock ($20) uses “flex windows” for better mobility in the heel and toe. Mesh-like weaves on the top of the sock improve ventilation and keep the foot close to the shoe.
Wool’s natural stink-fighting properties make it a footwear staple. Now, Balega puts the antimicrobial properties of silver ions to work alongside wool and nylon in its Silver Sock ($15) to further snuff foot odor. The close fit includes compression support in the arch.
This article was originally published on p. 36 of the Day 0 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2017.