How to Choose Ski Socks

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If you’re an avid skier, hiker, or mountain man/woman and your skin isn’t made of steel, chances are you’ve felt the effects of the wrong pair of ski socks. Maybe if you’re really unlucky you’ve even gotten a full-on, teeth-gritting blister that you’ve had to use Band-Aids or the duct tape and paper towel method to cover up, just so you can enjoy the rest of your ski vacation.

I’ve been there and I feel your pain.   As a Jans’ Athlete Team Member, I’ve logged over 70 ski days so far this season and it’s only the beginning of February. I hit rails and jumps in the terrain park, crush the moguls, tour up 10,000 ft. peaks, and even I have gotten blisters from choosing the wrong pair of ski socks! What did I do wrong? Let’s explore that in my ski sock review.

Several factors go into choosing ski socks based on your body type. Let’s start with the most common phrase, “my feet are always cold.” That means that you need ski socks for cold feet, right? Not necessarily. Frequently, cold extremities are a result of a cold core. It is important to use proper base layers and ski outerwear for the impending weather conditions.

A secondary reason for cold feet is ill-fitting boots. Pressure points, leg alignment (canting), and cramped toes are regular problems that may restrict blood flow to the foot. See a boot fitter at one of our stores for help selecting exactly the right ski boot for your feet. An added benefit of having one of Jans expert boot fitters sell you a pair of ski boots that fit your feet is that you’ll enjoy free service throughout the life of the boots should you need any adjustments or tweaks.

If these problems are eliminated, and you still suffer from cold feet, the next step is to choose a heavier weight sock. Socks range from lightweight to heavy weight and work on the principle that more insulation = warmer feet. And then there is the dreaded issue of sweaty feet. If you are plagued by this, choose a breathable, moisture-wicking material such as Merino wool.

To find the most durable ski sock, it boils down to three things: boot fit, hygienic care, and material. In order to reduce wear on your ski socks over time, you want a tight-fitting boot with very little internal movement. Most ski socks wear out on the heel. This is usually a result of unwanted space right above the ankle that allows your heel to lift while engaging the front of your boot in a turn. To avoid this problem, make sure to get properly fitting ski boots.

Hygienic care, aka washing your socks, is another factor. If socks are not washed regularly, dirt and skin particles build up within the sock material. The effect is like stretching a rubber band against sand paper. The dirt particles that remain in the ski sock restrict the material’s natural elasticity and begin to wear out the sock in an abrasive manner. Make sure to wash socks frequently, while paying attention to the manufacturer’s wash and dry recommendations.

Lastly, is the material that makes up a ski sock. A sock may be made of all sorts of different fabrics ranging from synthetics to Merino wool – all of which have different elastic and wear properties. At Jans, we suggest Merino wool for its odor reducing capabilities, breathability and the fact that wool wicks sweat away from your feet to keep them warmer and drier.

Sock Weight
Sock weight is an essential deciding factor in two issues: boot fit and foot warmth. If your boots feel too big, you can buy a heavy weight sock (extra padding) to fill up unwanted space. This will also help reduce the issue of wear and thus give you a more durable ski sock. As stated earlier, a heavier weight sock can also be used for those troubled by cold feet by providing extra insulation.

Which Sock is Right For Me?
So which ski sock should you choose? I’ve gone through the testing, bloody heels, and research for you, and my recommendation is the Smartwool PhD ski sock. This series of Smartwool socks come in the full range of weights to meet your warmth and sizing needs, as well as the 4-degree fit system to provide additional support to the contours of your foot.  Smartwool even produces an Ultra Light “UL” version for those who want the most skin-like fit ski sock to wear in a high performance ski boot.

In regards to material, the medium weight Smartwool PhD is made of 78% Merino Wool, 21% Nylon, and 1% Elastane. This provides for an impressive blend of moisture wicking and temperature regulation (Merino wool), durability (Nylon), and a beautiful fit that takes years to wear out (Elastane). To top it all off, the same sock can also be bought in a variety of colors and designs to keep you looking good when you transition to après ski.

So learn from my mistakes, as an athlete and ski expert. Don’t suffer with uncomfortable blisters when all you should be focusing on is the beautiful Utah snow.  Choose the right ski sock for your feet on or visit one of our Park City locations.

Giray Dadali, Jans Athlete Team Member