It’s time to talk about one of your most vital items of field gear – something that can improve your mobility, protect you from injury, make you more comfortable in any climate and even make you be a more pleasant person to be around: Socks. No, socks aren’t very exciting; but they are extremely important. Get them wrong and it doesn’t matter how much you spent on your top of the line go-faster boots; you’re going to have foot problems. Unsuitable socks can cause blisters, hot spots, serious skin issues or even trench foot – which in extreme cases has ended in amputation. Any of these issues can take you right out of action, and at best they’ll be highly unpleasant.
Dress socks don’t have to do much apart from look good and not be nylon, but the ones you wear in the field or on duty have a more demanding life. Your socks need to carry out several important functions:
- Prevent friction between feet and boots
- Give cushioning to the sole
- Control temperature
- Wick moisture away from the skin
Socks that fail at any one of those tasks are going to cause you problems, and it’s probably already obvious that the same ones might not be suitable in all conditions. Are the same socks that keep your feet warm in a wet German forest going to keep them cool as you patrol over scorching desert sand? It’s not impossible – but it’s not likely either.
Two main factors affect sock performance; the first is material. Pure wool has been popular for a long time because it’s pretty good at absorbing the impact as you walk, good at preventing friction and is a good insulator, even when it’s wet. However, it’s also slow to dry and not that great at moving water or sweat away from your skin. Cotton has been used for some hot-weather socks, but it doesn’t give much cushioning and is less help against friction. Modern socks are very rarely made of pure natural fibers. Polyester is a popular choice because it’s relatively quick-drying and comfortable; often it’s combined with Spandex for better fit and small amounts of nylon for strength. Blends of polyester or nylon with wool are also common and can be extremely good; Darn Tough’s Tactical Sock is one example.
The second thing to look at is construction, and this is where modern socks really shine. Loop-stitch soles have been around for a while and do a lot to improve cushioning; if you do a lot of foot drill, or marching with heavy loads, this is a great feature to have. Some warm-weather designs are now incorporating mesh panels for better ventilation – Under Armour’s Heatgear socks are a great example of this.
When you’re packing for exercise or deployment, it’s tempting to just throw in whatever socks you have in the drawer, but that can cause serious problems a few weeks down the line. Use time on exercises to try out what works best for you in different conditions – take one or two different pairs as well as the ones you use regularly, so you have a backup – and make sure that when you deploy for real your feet have the best gear you can give them.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.