Selecting the right ski sock for your time out on the slopes can be a make or break for your day. Nearly every skier has at some point experienced numb, cold feet which doesn’t do much for your enjoyment of the sport. This guide has been created to help run you through the different features to look out for in ski socks.
It’s important to make sure your socks fit just right. Too big and they’ll bunch up inside your ski boots and create pressure spots, too small and they’ll constrict blood vessels and reduce the blood flow to your feet, causing cold feet. The ideal fit with socks is for them to feel like a second skin. Socks will come in a variety of sizes, and each size guide is pretty bang on. If you find you're on the cusp of two different sizes go for the bigger size if you have average to wide or high volume feet, go for the smaller size if you have narrow, low volume feet.
You should never wear more than one pair. Two socks won’t actually keep your feet warmer – they’ll cause your feet to sweat and that extra moisture becomes cold in alpine environments. This means cold, wet socks around your cold feet! If you feel you have to wear two pairs of socks to make your boots fit, your boots are too big and it’d be worth seeing if a bootfitter can help you fix the fit.
Cold feet are better off going into midweight socks, rather than light or ultra light socks. Midweight socks use more and thicker material around the foot and up the lower leg and will provide additional comfort and insulation from the cold. Made from the same materials, light socks have less thickness to them, and ultra light socks are very thin. Light and ultra light socks are usually recommended by bootfitters as they allow the ski boot to fit snug and securely.
A better quality sock will use elastic in the right places to stay secure on your feet. If you see a sock which has elastic over your instep or around your arch, and at the bottom of your shin or near your heel, you know it’s going to stay in place all day.
Ski socks are made from a variety of materials, but they generally always incorporate natural fibres. These types of fibres are great as they work extremely well to control odour and provide warmth.
Merino is a tried and tested insulator which will also wick moisture from the skin to help keep your feet dry. By keeping your feet dry they will therefore be more warm. Merino is an active fibre which means that when you are hot it works to keep you cool, and when you are cold it works to warm you up. The best of both worlds!
Bamboo is another natural fibre which is far more soft than wool which makes it exceptionally comfortable when it is next to your skin. It’s very breathable and is much less irritable to the skin than wool. Bamboo is also much more eco-friendly than alternatives as it uses less water to grow or produce and no harmful pesticides.
The use of synthetic materials has both advantages and disadvantages A cheaper sock made from synthetic materials doesn’t let the foot to ‘breathe’ as well which results in perspiration building up next to the skin and causing cold feet. However, there are some fantastic synthetic materials such as Coolmax which has been purposely developed to wick moisture away from the skin. Compression socks also use synthetic materials to allow the sock to become tight enough around the foot and lower limb.
Higher end socks will be individually shaped for the skiers left and right foot. Having specific left and right foot construction provides the benefit of cushioning and elastic in all the right places and will increase comfort for the skier.
Ventilation is a big contributor to keeping your feet dry and warm. As our socks are often jammed into tight fitting ski boots for hours on end, having a sock with good levels of breathability will help to reduce the buildup of perspiration which will make your feet get cold. Look for thin or half-stitched sections of the sock on top of the foot which add to the breathability of a ski sock.
Compression is a relatively new feature in ski sock technology and is only found in socks that are up there with the best of the best. By incorporating medical grade compression technology the socks can reduce lactic acid build up, muscle vibration and swelling. This means less soreness and tiredness so you can spend more time skiing. Compression also helps to promote blood flow keeping the skiers feet warmer and reducing numbness. As the compression has to be for specific areas of the foot these socks will always have anatomical left and right fit.
If you get cold feet you can’t go past heated socks. Using heating elements throughout the socks they’ll keep your feet toasty warm all day long. A battery fastens to the top of the sock, above the boot, and is rechargeable. Good quality heated socks are made from technical materials which still work to wick moisture from your skin and keep their shape. Although they’re designed for snow sports, there is no reason they can’t be used for hiking, horse riding, going to the footy or a cold Winter’s morning spent on the sideline watching the kids.