At one time, the only criteria for the purchase of athletic socks were that they be white and absorbent. A similar purchase today requires an advanced degree in materials management.
High quality athletic attire is often made from materials that have wicking and antimicrobial properties. Wicking materials are typically synthetics that lift moisture away from the skin. This creates a dry barrier between the body and garment. Names like “Dri-Lex” and “Dri-Fit” indicate that these wicking compounds are present.
Antimicrobial materials are designed to keep the article of clothing free of bacteria, fungi and mold. This reduces the chance for infecting any open wound. The use of silver-embedded fibers creates these antimicrobial capabilities.
Socks are among the articles of athletic attire that benefit most from these features. Constant friction between the foot and shoe will result in blisters. The combination of moisture and heat in a closed environment with an open wound will cause infection. Sharing unlaundered socks can cause spread of bacteria like MRSA.
“The key factors to choosing proper athletic socks are stitching and materials,” said Dr. Joseph Di Francesca, a Norwich podiatrist on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff.
The best socks are those that have no stitching since these serve as a source of irritation. He agrees that materials should be both wicking and antimicrobial. Di Francesca recommends socks made from merino wool since they have natural wicking properties and silver-based fibers that reduce infection and odor.
While these developments are the result of efforts to create a better athletic sock, the cross-over to non-athletic activities is easily understood. Many people who spend long hours on their feet, as well as those who suffer from chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and vascular disease, have also benefitted greatly.
While the purchase of athletic socks should not become a major life decision, there is more to it than just color.