If you are new to hiking, wearing two pairs of socks when hiking seems a little unnecessary. I don’t like wearing shoes or socks much myself, so just the thought of wearing two pairs makes my feet sweat. There are some good reasons though to double up those socks, particularly for blister prevention. Let’s take a look.
Why Two Pairs Are Better Than One
Before we start, if you are already happy wearing one pair of socks or not wearing socks at all on your hikes, that’s totally fine. I’m not here to convert anyone to the 2 sock club. After all, I don’t like wearing them myself, but they do have their advantages.
Blister prevention is the main reason why people wear two pairs of socks when hiking. When it comes to taking care of your feet, it’s a lot better to be proactive than reactive.
I remember during one of my ultra marathons, I stopped at mile 30 and noticed a blister the size of my thumb. The reason? Bad socks! Loose socks to be exact.
The socks I grabbed were visibly not in good shape. A poor mistake on my part, but a good hands-on lesson on why socks cause blisters.
Along with friction, there are two other factors that cause blisters, which are moisture, and heat. Layering up on your socks takes care of the two biggest reasons, friction and moisture.
When you wear two pairs of socks, instead of the 1 sock rubbing against your foot, the two socks rub against each other instead, eliminating friction on your foot.
The other reason why this two sock hiking system can work is the inner sock can wick moisture away into the outer layer sock, helping to keep your feet dry.
Eliminating moisture will help prevent blisters, but it’s not the only benefit to having dry feet. I’ve seen many hikers and racers turn their feet to prunes because they’ve been wearing a single layer of socks on long hikes. You can still get immersion foot by sweating in your socks all day.
Extra Padding and Fit
If your boots don’t quite fit or want extra padding, wearing two pairs of socks could work to make your boots more snug. It’s still preferred though to find boots that fit, but this is an option.
Wearing two pairs of socks could help with cold feet if done correctly. If you have room in your boots, then yes, wearing two pairs can help. The trick here is to make sure you aren’t constricting circulation to your feet. If wearing two pairs of socks is too tight, you could make your feet feel colder.
If you’re hiking with a lot of little buggers or critters around, having two pairs of socks might help. Two socks can help against mosquitos and even other critters such as leeches.
Now, if you are going into extreme environments, I’d be more apt to wear gaiters or pants, but it’s a consideration.
Introducing the Two Socks System – Which Socks Are Best?
Two make the two sock system work, you need to know how to layer your socks properly. You can’t just throw on any old sock from your drawer and call it a day. You need to know how to layer your socks properly. Let’s see how it’s done.
First layer – The first sock is the thin sock liner that is meant to be worn underneath the heavier sock. Its main purpose is to be snug (but not too tight) and wick away moisture.
When finding the best sock liners, there’s a lot of different kinds of socks hikers use. Different fabrics for sock liners include silk, nylon, polyester, and wool. Cotton should be avoided. Sock liners that are moisture wicking are best.
Sock liners don’t need to be super expensive. A lot of hikers use men’s dress socks and ped liners.
If you are looking for something that’s higher quality that will perform better, Fox River, Injinji, and Coolmax are all great brands with lots of good reviews. Head over to Amazon to see some of the sock liners with the best reviews.
Second layer – For the outer layer, wool is the most popular choice. Again, cotton should be avoided. Some of the most popular sock brands are Smartwool and Darn Tough.
Doubled layer socks – Yes, they even have socks with built-in liners! Wright socks are socks specifically designed to reduce blisters with their “patented Double Layer anti-blister system”. Lots of hikers love and recommend them. Compare prices on REI.com and Amazon.
Three pairs of socks – To my surprise, I learned that there are some hikers that pack in 20+ mile days who wear 3 socks because they haven’t found anything else that worked. If 3 pairs works work for you, then rock on.
Getting the Right Fit
I’m certainly guilty of this mistake with my photo above, and that’s to make sure your socks fit before every hike. When you wear socks, you should make sure they fit right. The heels, toes, and sides should all fit snuggly without being too tight.
If the socks are too big, they are going to bunch up or flap around, which is a recipe for blisters. And if the socks are too tight, it could cause tension and fricken too.
When socks are too old, that you repurpose them for sleeping socks or to make some cozys out of.
Wearing two socks for hiking isn’t for everyone, but if you get blisters or sweat a lot, the double sock layer system might be worth the try.
When you using the two sock system, make sure the inner sock is a thin sock liner, preferably moisture wicking, covered by a heavier sock made from wool.
Always make sure your socks fit properly and aren’t old and ragged, and if they are, repurpose them!
Photo credit Preston Rhea