Blisters suck, we know, Whether they're on your toes, heel or arch, they can really screw up your trip, cut short a hike or make the days after a big run very painful. Fortunately, choosing socks with the right features can make the biggest difference in preventing blisters, letting you enjoy yourself, with less pain and hot spots, without the need for Band-Aids, salves or hobbling around for days afterwards.
What causes blisters when we’re running or hiking?
Blisters are caused by friction. The cause of this is usually our feet, shoes or both rubbing against our skin creating heat and eventually, the dreaded blister. It’s like starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together - it can be done but it takes thousands of repetitions.
Add to this a moist environment, toes that angle in against each other, too tight shoes, to name a few and if you go long enough, you’re all but guaranteed a blister!
How can socks help prevent blisters?
Your socks can help or hinder depending on your sock choice, so it’s key that you know what features are going to do the job for you, and not set you up to fail and be suffering from blisters for the next week or cut your adventure short. To prevent blisters best, you need to look at the yarn composition, seam construction, weight and design for the best results.
Anti Blister Sock Design Features
Internal socks seams are normal in most everyday socks but in athletic socks,, once you’ve put in a few miles it’s a recipe for disaster. The seam running across the front of your toes or at your heel creates increased rub and if you want socks that are the best for preventing blisters, you’ve got to go seamless, or virtually seamless.
Sock width varies a lot and if you are brave enough to go for the better option in toe socks (more on that below), then choosing socks with a wide, more natural shaped toe box is key. Why? Narrow socks have toe stretch more to wrap aroudn your foot, causing more compression on your toes. Compressing yoru toes together more increases friction, and pressure and ultimately does not help prevent blisters.
Too often the marketing we see everywhere can throw us off. Thicker or padded socks are often chosen to help reduce blisters but in reality, thicker socks lead to almost twice the frictional force or lighter socks - independent of the fabric used. Lightweight socks hold less moisture against your skin, bunch up and stiffen less and create less heat, which is ideal for reducing the dreaded bringer of blisters… friction!
You’ve got two choices, and when it comes to preventing blisters, there’s an obvious winner. Toe socks or regular socks? Knowing that skin-on-skin contact is one of the biggest causes of friction, hot spots, and blisters, choosing socks that have low friction and a seamless sleeve for each toe should be a no-brainer. Remove the skin-on-skin rubbing (toe chafe) and you’ve taken the biggest step you possibly can in preventing blisters. Doing this with socks rather than wrapping toes in Band-Aids, lubing them up, or shoving wool between your toes is far easier, more comfortable, and long-lasting as long as you can get past the fact that they look different!
Sock yarn composition
The material of your socks plays an important part in preventing blisters when running, hiking or walking long distances. Different yarns have their own stellar qualities and combining them is where we get the blister-busting results.
Synthetics yarns like nylon and polyester but also CoolMax, drymax and more are all hydrophobic yarns that don’t absorb water and can create a wicking effect of drawing moisture through the fabric to be evaporated away when there is a gradient from too much moisture on your feet. Having some synthetic yarn in your socks can really help as having dry skin, means less friction and better blister prevention.
Natural yarns can really vary! Cotton is hydrophilic and absorbs moisture and isn’t great at drying out, often leaving a wet fabric against your skin. Contrast that to the merino wool that is often used in athletic socks. Merin wool has a couple of key features that are hard to beat when it comes to preventing blisters.
A Hydrophobic outer surface and a hydrophilic inner core - this means it absorbs moisture away from your skin into its core while keeping the surface, and your skin dry!
Low friction if merino wool’s middle name. Merin wool has a lower friction coefficient than synthetic yarns and that is a huge factor. Socks with at least a little merino yarn are far better than none when it comes to blister prevention for this reason (more on this).
Combine a synthetic, moisture-wicking fabric with a natural performance fiber like merino that has super low friction and moisture regulation and you’ve got the perfect combination for a comfortable, blister-free adventure.
* Keeping your feet dry and cool with this combo is also fantastic in reducing smelly feet and athletes foot.
The key features when choosing socks that are best at preventing blisters:
- Low weight for less bulk and heat
- Seamless construction for no irritating spots
- Wide toe box construction for less toe compression
- Separate toe sleeves to remove all skin-on-skin rubbing
- Low-friction fabric ideally with Merino wool and Synthetics
We created our merino blend toe socks for this exact reason. They’re a blister-preventing second skin that is soft, lightweight, and secure - take a minute to check out our reviews or get yourself some to feel the difference.