Snow hiking offers walkers a leisurely way of exploring the mountains or can be enjoyed as a more athletic pursuit. Whatever your preference, the equipment you choose for this outdoor winter pursuit will be key in determining whether you enjoy a comfortable hiking experience. Starting with your socks. Check out our advice on how to choose the right pair of socks to keep your feet dry and warm so you can enjoy a happy hiking experience.
Did you know? In winter, to help deal with the cold, the body prioritizes the organs that are essential for our survival such as the heart or brain by keeping them nice and warm. And to conserve energy, it prefers to restrict the flow of blood to exposed but non-essential parts such as the hands and feet.
This means that the best way of keeping them warm is to cover them with good quality fabrics. When it comes to your head, if you don't keep it covered, you risk losing the heat produced by your body to keep your brain warm: which means your entire body will become cold more quickly.There are 4 different criteria that will help determine your choice of socks: thermal comfort, construction, length and use.
1. Thermal Comfort
Dry, still air is one of the best thermal insulators available and ideally you want to be able to trap a layer inside your garment to ensure you stay warm and well insulated. Clothing made from thick fabric will tend to be tighter-fitting, leaving less room for air. So, as you will have gathered, the thermal comfort properties of a sock are not determined by the thickness of the fabric.
Thermal comfort is determined by:
The need for warmth will vary depending on your sensitivity to cold and your day's activity. To keep warm, opt for natural materials such as wool or silk, particularly on the parts of the feet that are most sensitive to cold - namely your toes! The absolute best? Merino wool is one of the warmest, natural materials that there is.
Breahtability helps wick away perspiration to keep your feet dry.
Your comfort will therefore be determined by the construction of your sock: warm fabric where it's needed, strategically placed breathable fabric and material in sensitive areas to protect from chafing.
2. The Construction of Your Socks
1. Cuff area/rib
This is the top part that keep the socks in place. This is very important with regard to your comfort: the cuff needs to hold the sock in place but mustn't be too tight or mark your calf.
This is the tube part of the sock that extends from the ankle to the cuff, and helps ensure breathability. It may be longer or shorter, depending on the height of your sock.
3. Heel area
This is the insert section on the heel of the sock. This section, where the sock rubs against the shoe, must be hard-wearing to ensure your socks are long-lasting. On the other hand, this pre-shaped area, designed to follow the shape of your heel, is also important for user comfort and support, holding the socks in place and thus preventing chafing.
3. Toe area
As the toes are particularly exposed to the cold, the section that covers the toes is often made from a warmer fabric with better thermal qualities than other parts of the sock. As you may know, our toes are one area of the body that produce a lot of perspiration which means that they can get cold very quickly if moisture isn't properly removed and sufficient warmth provided.
Don't be afraid to try on different knits and quality fabrics. Our Decathlon sales assistants are on hand to offer advice about technical materials and the best sock design for hiking in snow.
4. Foot area
This is the area that covers your foot, extending from the ankle to the toes. This zone comprises different sections which help hold the sock in place (the part that covers the instep and goes under the sole of the foot), protect from chafing and keep the feet warm and dry.
This part of the sock helps keep you warm and, at the same time, allows the sock to breathe, wicking away any moisture, caused primarily by perspiration, thus keeping your feet dry.
Another important point: make sure you find a sock that fits you: length.
As with shoes, when it comes to choosing socks, body shape is very important. The height of your sock will therefore depend on your body shape and use.
Socks are available in 2 lengths:
Use: low and mid-height (MID) hiking socks; not suitable for boots.
Suitable for all shapes but may have a tendency to slide down, depending on your shape (calves which are too slim or too bulky).
Use: particularly suitable for high top shoes but also boots.
Suitable for all shapes with the added advantage that this length offers better support than the MID sock and better shin protection.
Once you've found a sock that fits your shape and suits your shoes, you then need to check that it's compatible with the type of hiking you want to do.
The warmth and breathability of the pair of socks you choose, will depend on your day, the route you've planned, your personal preferences, body shape and weather conditions. When choosing your socks, you also need to think about the kind of snow hiking you'll be doing.
Choose a pair of socks that matches your hiking intensity: for more energetic hiking, where you get warm quickly and work up a sweat, you need socks that offer good breathability but less warmth. But if you're planning a more contemplative hike where you can rest, explore and enjoy a picnic, then opt for a warmer sock that provides good insulation.
For a more energetic hike, we advise you to choose higher-end, more technical socks which are both warm and breathable
Find out the weather forecast for your trip and choose your socks accordingly. In addition, everyone experiences the cold differently; women's muscles and distribution of fat layers differs from that of men and, in many cases, women feel the cold much more than men.
Are you cold intolerant?
No problem! a pair of silk socks worn under your regular socks will provide warmth and comfort. And if you're really cold intolerant, you can also slip a pair of insulating insoles in your boots - well-being guaranteed!
To sum up, when choosing your socks, you should have one sole objective in mind: to keep your feet warm and dry. And when looking for a sock that will provide the right balance of warmth and breathability, you need to consider your body shape, your levels of cold intolerance and the type of snow hiking you're planning to do. Our Decathlon sales assistants are available to provide a more personalized service and will be able to offer appropriate advice on the pair of socks that best suits your needs.