14 Tips for Buying Better Socks

From only a few months old until this very moment, you have worn socks.  They rank up there with deodorant, toothpaste, and heck, even Q-tips when it comes to mundane purchases.  

In short, you’re familiar with picking out a pair of socks.

But here’s the deal:

When you get into the nitty-gritty of it, the type of sock you buy directly impacts the comfort of your feet.  From wicking away excess moisture to preventing blisters and odor, the sock is the unsung hero of the wardrobe.  

When buying your next pair of socks, take a moment to consider the following:

1. Fabric is the Most Important Aspect

The perfectly engineered and fitting sock will mean nothing if it relies on a poor fabric.  Poor fabrics will cause socks to slide down, transfer lint to your toes, and make your feet smell.

Therefore, double-check the fabric composition before buying any pair of socks.  At a minimum, you’ll want socks that contain cotton.  For an upgrade, consider one made from merino or alpaca wool.  These animal fibers are naturally breathable and moisture-wicking.  Additionally, merino and alpaca feel pretty comfortable on the skin.

Try to avoid polyester or manufactured fibers when possible.  While these artificial fabrics are durable, they can easily be stretched out and trap foul odors.

2. Quality Beats Bargain Brands

While you can swing by your local supercenter and pick up a pack of 12 socks for under $20, the chances are that those socks will be far inferior to some of the better quality options available.  

Not to mention, do you really need 12 casual socks if you do laundry once a week?  

Related: How Many Socks Should You Own? 

So, instead of cluttering up your sock drawer with a bunch of junky socks, consider buying quality pairs that are sold individually.  While they often carry a higher price per pair, you can get fewer yet higher quality socks that’ll last longer. Also, remember to look at the fabric composition and design details to ensure you are getting a well-made sock.

Lastly, when your multi-pack socks come in a plastic bag, you’re unable to inspect the quality and craftsmanship.

3. Look for These Details

When examining socks, keep the following in mind:

  • Instep Fabric:  Opposite the sole, you have the instep that runs along the top part of the sock.  If you have hot or sweaty feet, make sure the sock has a mesh lining.  It’ll increase air circulation to your toes, ultimately reducing moisture and odor.
  • Pronounced Pockets: Mass-produced brands make socks for the most common foot shapes.  This results in compromises, particularly in the toe and heel pockets.  Look for an extended “Y” heel pocket, as this will result in a better fit and reduce slippage.  
  • Arch Support: Many athletic socks will feature raised and recessed ribbing wrapping around the instep and sole.  This provides light arch support while also ensuring a secure fit.
  • Reinforced Footbed: Whether it’s for formal or casual wear, a reinforced footbed is always a good choice.  The extra fabric provides a cushion for greater comfort.  However, it may cause your shoes to feel tight, especially if you have little room to spare.
  • Odor Treatment:  Some brands may treat their socks with a special coating to neutralize odors.  These may lose their effectiveness with time.

4. Are They Sized Appropriately?

As you are likely aware, most socks are available in size ranges rather than individual sizes. But what if you are between two ranges? Should you size down or size up? 

Too small, and your sock will slip off.  Too large, and it’ll bunch up, causing discomfort.  Our recommendation is to opt for the smaller size as the fabric will stretch with time.

Additionally, some companies have sock sizes that differ from shoe sizes.

For example, when you look at the size chart for Hanes men’s socks, you’ll see that size 10-13 socks are intended for shoe sizes 6-12:

Hanes men's sock chart
Shoe size doesn’t always equal sock size

Come on!  I thought buying socks was easy!

Alas, some companies such as Kane11 offer socks in individual sizes for a better fit.  While others, such as Feetures have more size ranges.  

The takeaway: pay close attention to the size of socks you purchase and make sure they fit your feet comfortably.

5. Why Are You Buying Socks?

While this seems like a simple question, the answer is complicated.  When shopping for socks, it’s important to buy based on their primary intent.

For instance, if you buy house socks, go for comfort and thickness.  Even some traction on the bottom is a nice touch.

However, if you’re buying running socks, a moisture-wicking and form-fitting sock will perform better than a standard crew sock.

The point here is to own socks for different occasions.  Try not to force one sock to serve multiple purposes.

6. Socks Can Express Yourself (But Be Careful)

Bold and expressive socks are a fun way to demonstrate your personality and style.  But you have to be careful here and only wear them for casual use.

When going to an interview or funeral, the last thing you want to do is wear socks with tacos printed on them – it’s not a good look.

7. Special Care Instructions

Some socks require special care instructions depending on their fabric and construction. 

For instance, we came across one premium sock brand that requires a strict cold wash only and air dry. On the other hand, another sock brand requires that their socks be hand washed only.

If you aren’t interested in special cleaning for your socks, then be sure to double-check the label before purchasing.

8. Anatomical Design

Some premium sock brands make their socks with an anatomical design, meaning that one sock is for the left foot and one for the right.  An anatomical design provides a better fit while subsequently reducing blisters.

You’ll often find the anatomical design feature in athletic socks.

9. Ankle Height & Outfit

If you buy casual or dress socks, consider how high the socks extend up the leg.  In general, when wearing pants, the skin between your foot and calf should never be exposed whether walking, sitting, or crossing your legs.

For summer wear, no-show socks provide a nice streamlined appearance that works well for shorts, skirts, capris, etc.

Avoid the cumbersome ankle sock as they are primarily intended for athletic use only.

Related: What are Ankle Socks?

10. Why Do You Need New Socks?

Looking at your old socks will tell you precisely what you need in your next pair.  

For example, if you have toe holes, get a pair of socks with reinforced fabric in the toe pocket.  Also, consider investing in a good toenail clipper and file to prevent the sharp nail from cutting its way through the material.

The same goes for the sole of your sock.  If you are seeing excessive signs of wear on the ball of your feet, then consider a sock with a thicker cushion to the footbed or reinforced fabric.  

11. Country of Origin

Brands such as Boardroom Socks, Feetures, and Darn Tough make their socks in the United States.  This often correlates to better design and craftsmanship. So if you like to buy USA-made products, you have some options here.  

12. Does the Company Stand by its Socks?

We always love to see a lifetime guarantee on products. While you may not always act on it, a lifetime guarantee demonstrates that the company stands by its socks no matter what.  

13. Return the Socks if you Aren’t Happy

It is estimated that 20% of all online purchases are returned (source).  Companies such as Bombas, Feetures, and more offer gracious return policies.  Some even offer lifetime returns for free.  

Use the return policy if you aren’t satisfied with the socks’ performance.

14. Support Good Companies

Lastly, when shopping for socks, consider who you are buying from.  Are you looking to fatten the profits for some large conglomerate, or do you want to support a company that donates a pair of socks for every pair you purchase?

You have the power in your pocket when it comes to supporting good causes – even if it is just a pair of socks.

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