By Mary Lee Hermann

“Thank you so much! I always buy whatever is cheapest, and they aren’t this comfortable! I never knew I could have a favorite pair of socks!”

That’s the kind of message I receive every January or February from a friend or family member I’ve gifted socks to over the previous holiday season. Yes, I give my loved ones socks, because I care.

Up on Your Feet

When it comes to being on your feet daily, sitting at your desk, and participating in your hobbies and activities outside of work, good quality socks can contribute to your healthy quality of life.

Several years ago, I was working in retail, which required long hours standing and walking. Since I had an employee discount, I decided to try out various sock brands and styles for fun. However, I noticed quickly that different socks had benefits beyond “fun” and not all socks are created equal. Far from it.

Happy Feet!

Talking to me about footwear in general, my chiropractor said the best thing for our bodies would be if we could all go barefoot. Since that isn’t acceptable in most workplaces and other public places, people are accustomed to wearing shoes. Yet they often give little regard to their socks, and even forgo them altogether.

In addition to keeping your feet warm, socks can prevent blisters and cut down on the friction between your shoes and your feet. And whether you are aware or not, your feet are sweating! Socks can help avoid the growth of fungus and bacteria.

With so many designers branching into fun, creative ways to adorn ankles and feet, socks can be a pick-me-up. One friend of mine says that even though his style is classic and basic, when he is wearing socks with a little panache and he sits down and sees that pop of design between his pant cuff and shoe, it makes him smile. And he receives compliments from others, which can be a boost.

Done Purely for Sock Value

With so many options on the market these days, how do you shop for what to put on your feet? Here are some of the things I’ve learned that can help you when it comes to buying socks:

  1. Material makes a huge difference. I used to think 100% cotton was better, though I have no clue where in my life I got that impression. I’ve discovered that 100% cotton socks absorb the sweat and don’t let your feet breathe. Now I prefer merino wool, particularly with manufacturers designing assorted weights that are comfortable in different temperatures. From cotton to wool to polyester blends to bamboo and more, there are pros and cons to each fabric, so be sure to read the packaging to know exactly what they are made from. When I have a question about sock fabrics and what is best for my purpose, I often refer to this this site. “Moisture-wicking” and “breathable” are good descriptions to look for in a sock material.

  2. Size matters. Yes, socks are no longer a one-size-fits-all, which is especially good for those with smaller or larger feet. There are sock companies that design them in small, medium, and large, providing a much better fit, enhancing comfort and circulation.
  3. There are socks created for people with specific health concerns, such as diabetes, bunions, plantar fasciitis, and poor circulation. My dad, who had diabetes for many years, was so grateful when we discovered nonbinding socks for people with diabetes. He was astounded at the difference they made in how he felt throughout the day and at how he could get around better.
  4. Compression socks are popping up in places other than simply the medical supplies stores. Don’t let this be an impulse purchase. (I learned the hard way.) They can be very beneficial; however, they are made with varying levels of compression, and too tight can slow your circulation. So consult your doctor, and do some research as to whether compression socks are a good fit for you and what level of compression is best for your needs.
  5. In addition to cushioning, one of my favorite features I discovered is arch support stitching. It doesn’t take the place of actual arch supports, but I like the reinforcement I get, particularly when I power walk.
  6. Look at the sock wall in most any store, and there will be at least a few hangers loaded with fun, cool patterns sure to fit most any personal style. There are even shops dedicated to socks with hundreds of looks where you can find something for even the toughest person to shop for. These can be fun to wear and to give, but always check what they’re made from to make sure you aren’t compromising between an amusing pattern and quality.

There’s a Sock for That!

Hiking? Tennis? Skiing? Snowboarding? Golf? Walking? Sitting? Traveling? Warm climate? Loafers? Boots? Holiday party-going? With the realization of how much foot health contributes to a person’s well-being and abilities, companies are finding ways to enhance those experiences. Whatever your favorite activity or style of footwear, or even for your day-to-day, the design of a sock can make a difference.

Yes, even if your favorite activity is sleeping. I wear loose-fitting chenille socks every night. My feet tend to be cold, and wearing something to cover them directly assures they stay warm and I sleep better.

Sock It to Me!

It can be tough to know where to start with expanding your sock wardrobe. If I had to pick one brand of sock for the rest of my life, it would be Smartwool. Between lasting quality, comfort, and different styles, this is my go-to sock brand.

Feetures is a great performance sock as well, particularly for runners. I love them for casual all-day wear too when I’m running errands.

For novelty foot apparel, I like Happy Socks, as they have a huge and fun-to-shop array of options and are well-made.

Isn’t It Rich? Aren’t We a Pair?

Purchasing high-quality socks can mean higher cost per pair. I try to buy on sale and at discount stores when I find them. No matter, the difference felt and the payoff for buying socks for your own health and daily comfort is well worth it.

Besides, as my aunt used to say, in her own turn of a popular phrase … ”Cold hands, warm heart. Cold feet? No sweetheart.”