The human foot needs extra attention in the winter months. Namely, a good pair of wool socks is essential for support, cushion and warmth.
For the past three months, I tested a dozen pair made for wintertime athletes. It was hard to declare any one the best, as each excelled in its own niche, but I did come away with a few favorites.
At the top of my list, Defeet’s Ski-D socks ($16; http://www.defeet.com) were great for skiing, ice climbing and snowshoeing. Made with a combination of wool and polyester fabrics, the sock breathes, cushions and insulates only where it needs to. There’s a built-in shin pad, extra-thick wool on the toes, a durable sole, and thin breathable fabric on top of the foot. Plus, for the fashion conscious, Defeet will let you pick the sock’s colors and sew a custom graphic onto the ankle for just $1 extra per sock if you order bulk quantities.
Smartwool’s Ski Light Cushion ($17; http://www.smartwool.com) is a simple, streamlined sock that I loved for Nordic skiing. It has lightweight cushioning on the foot and shin, but the rest of the sock is thin and breathable. For sweaty, aerobic activities, these were my favorite.
Fox River’s AXT Wick Dry Toro ($16; http://www.foxsox.com) is made with a blend of wool and polypropylene, which the company says makes it more abrasion resistant and quicker drying. The fabric blend also pulls moisture off the foot quicker than all-wool socks.
For a good all-around sock, I liked Wigwam’s InGenius Hiker ($15; http://www.wigwam.com), a traditional wool sock with a moisture-passing liner. The sole is extra-thick and the toe area is seamless to lessen the chance of blisters.
And while I’m having trouble forgiving the company for the hokey name, Thorlo’s Extreme Snowboard sock ($20; http://www.thorlo.com) was nice for cold days. The sock pulls up to the knee and fits well all over. It comes in five sizes and uses synthetic fabrics of varying thicknesses to breathe where it needs to while providing padding and warmth to the toes, shins and other tender spots.