Why Are Ski Socks Important? (Thick or Thin)

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

Ski socks can be your best friend and your worst enemy. For such a simple piece of clothing, they can make your day a whole lot more enjoyable. But which are best? Natural or synthetic? Thick or thin?

Ski socks perform a vital function acting as the protector of the feet, while also letting you feel what your foot is doing inside the ski boot. Being in sub-zero temperatures all day long can leave the extremities very cold. A good pair of ski socks will go a long way to keeping the feet warm. Creating good support for the foot and ankle is important as well.


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Why Thin Socks are Often Better

Ski socks serve several functions and as technology has advanced the style of ski socks has also changed considerably. Prior to the 1990s, thick woolen socks were the generally recommended type of socks.

Nowadays thinner socks are recommended, which mold to the shape of the foot. The boot, when clamped in position will still maintain the correct posture of the foot and ankle in the boot even when a thinner sock is used. Socks that can ‘wick’ moisture away are the most comfortable, as a wet sock can quickly become cold and smelly from microbial action.

However, drawbacks included poor ability to lose, or wick sweat, difficulties with keeping the sock pulled up on the calf, and lack of sensation of what your foot is doing in the boot.

Why Are My Feet Cold?

Photo by Jerome Bon licensed under CC BY 2.0

Skiing is a demanding and energetic sport so it’s not surprising skiers start to sweat. During exercise, the body starts to perspire to reduce body temperature. The body can sweat approximately 1 cup of water (284ml) through the feet during the day.

Usually, this moisture evaporates from the surface of the skin but if the foot is contained in a boot the moisture has nowhere to go and remains in the sock. When you are continually active during the day it is unlikely you will notice this but sit still for a few minutes and you will notice your feet become cold very quickly.

Similarly, with thick socks, if they do not have enough elastic around the shin, they slip down the leg into the boot, where they can become bunched up. This can feel uncomfortable but can also restrict the blood flow and cause part of your foot to become numb. The restricted blood flow will also contribute to the cold feeling because warm blood is not able to circulate around the foot.

If your boot is the wrong size this can also result in compression of either blood vessels or nerves. The combination of the boot and the sock together should provide adequate support for the leg and ankle.

If you have existing circulation problems, it is best to see an experienced boot fitter. They will advise on the best way to manage the problem. This could include alternative socks or a battery-operated boot heater, which has small elements in the lower part of the boot.

What Is The Best Ski Sock?

Modern-day ski socks are surprisingly thin but offer so many more advantages to the older style of socks. Some of the best socks are made with a combination of merino wool, nylon, and a small proportion of Elastane, which helps keep the sock on the calf and to the contours of the ankle and foot.

Merino wool has excellent thermal properties to keep the foot warm, while also being able to transfer any moisture away from the foot. The nylon in the fabric is very strong, enabling the sock to return to the right shape and be durable. It has also been proven that Merino wool is very good at reducing the odor that socks normally produce. How this works is quite involved but instead of the bacteria odors attaching to the wool fibers, they remain in the moisture to be evaporated later.