Could putting on a second pair of socks make you more comfortable while hiking?
Wearing two pairs of socks while hiking can help to prevent blisters, keep odors under control, keep your feet warm, and aid in wicking away moisture from your feet. On the other hand, doubling up on socks may be too tight, make your feet too warm, or may not fit in your hiking boots or shoes.
If you’re thinking about wearing two pairs of socks on your next hiking adventure rather than just one, it may help to know what benefits you can get from doing so. For some hikers, there may also be downfalls. Not all shoes are made to fit two pairs of socks, for example.
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Continue on through this article and I’ll shed some light on whether or not you should be wearing two pairs of socks on your hiking adventures.
Biggest Reason To Wear Two Pairs Of Socks
The biggest reason hikers might want to wear two pairs of socks is to prevent blisters. Although it might not be the first reason you think of, it’s a benefit that your feet will really appreciate. Blisters get started when your skin rubs against your shoes or socks for too long. The more this chafing occurs, the more irritated your skin gets. Before long, it will go from a little bit of redness to becoming an open wound.
Blisters develop to protect that wound from further damage. While they do intend to be helpful, they aren’t comfortable – especially while you’re still hiking.
In some cases, even higher quality socks can contribute to the creation of blisters if they are paired up with the wrong shoes, get wet, or just aren’t the right material for the journey. Because of this, some hikers will opt to wear a smaller, thinner pair of socks under their normal hiking socks. Adding another layer helps to protect your feet from friction and blisters.
The most popular sock type used as a sock liner are Injinji socks (see at REI, or here at Amazon). They are specifically designed to reduce friction because they are toe socks, which makes it so your toes don’t have the chance to rub up against one another.
Other types of sock liners are any type of smooth, thin sock–in fact some people wear super-soft silk socks as a sock liner, while others choose thin wool.
My brother uses Neoprene socks and they’ve done a great job at helping him with his blister problem. Often, these socks are used in combination with others to keep the skin dry and protected. If you’re curious about how helpful Neoprene socks can be on your hiking trips, take a look at our article on the benefits of Neoprene socks here.
How Many People Wear Two Pairs Of Socks While Hiking?
While by far the number one reason people wear two pairs of socks was to prevent blisters, other reasons included warmth or extra cushion.
I was curious how many people actually wore two pairs of socks while they hiked and so I decided to ask a community of hikers and got 141 responses. It turns out that most people choose to wear two pairs of socks while hiking:
By far, the most common answer by most people who wear one pair of socks, they say they wear Darn Tough socks and there’s no need to wear more. Other popular brands were Smartwool and Wright Dual Layer socks by other one-pair-of-socks wearers
The most common combo for two-pairs-of-socks-wearers was Injinji toe socks with Darn Tough. The second pair of socks were mostly Darn Tough, Smartwool, or some other wool sock.
Other Reasons To Wear Two Pairs Of Socks
If you’re struggling with hot spots and blisters while you hike, then the possibility of avoiding that problem could be more than enough for you to try adding a second pair of socks. However, those who aren’t as concerned about blisters might benefit from some of these other reasons to wear two pairs of socks.
The most obvious reason to put on a second pair of socks is to keep your feet warm. If you’re someone who enjoys hiking in colder weather – or even snow – you just might find that your feet get a little chilly while you’re on your adventure. Just like with any other part of your body, it only makes sense that you’d think to add an extra layer to aid in keeping your feet warm.
The only issue with this is that you also have to pay close attention to whether or not the socks are getting wet. In cold weather, sometimes moisture can soak in from the outside. Wet feet and socks aren’t going to have an easy of a time staying warm if you’re in a seriously cold, wet climate. If you notice your socks getting wet and cold while you’re out and about, make sure to stop and change into some dry socks to keep your feet protected.
Choosing warmer materials for your socks, like thick wool, can also be a great way to make sure your feet are staying warm!
Moisture Wicking Abilities
With the right combination of socks, you can get some extra warmth and moisture-wicking abilities. These benefits can be useful during colder weather, helping to pull sweat away from your feet and keep them nice and cozy during your trek.
If you want to try out using two pairs of socks for this purpose, it’s important to use high-quality wool socks. Often, hikers will use a thicker wool sock with a wool liner or light sock as the inner layer. The pair of wool layers will help to pull sweat even farther away from your feet, allowing the outer layer to hold the sweat and the inner layer to focus on adding warmth.
For those who are wondering, wool is a top choice because of the ability to wick away sweat and regulate temperature. When sweat is allowed to stay on your skin, it ends up making your skin colder.
Improved Shoe Fit
In some cases, wearing two pairs of socks might even stop or limit chafing that comes from shoes that don’t fit quite right. If you notice your shoes are a little too big in certain areas, but you don’t want to return them, you might be able to get more comfort from wearing two pairs of socks instead of one.
Another aspect of this involves trying socks of different thicknesses. Often, hikers like to use sock liners. In other cases, they might use a thin pair of socks as the inner layer and some wool socks for the outer layer. Depending on your shoes, you might decide to go for thicker options.
Just remember that when it comes to the fit of your hiking shoes, there’s only so much socks can do. It’s best if you can at least get close to the fit you need before you start making adjustments with socks.
Socks are soft, comfortable, and warm. On the other hand, hiking can be pretty rough on your feet. Between the fit of your shoes and the obstacles on the path, you might find that your feet are feeling pretty beaten up by the end of the journey.
An extra layer of socks may not cure foot pain completely, but it can add a bit more cushioning against walking on hard, rocky surfaces. More cushioning can also mean less sliding around in your shoes, allowing you to get a better grip wherever you happen to be walking.
If you’re going to try adding another pair of socks just for the sake of comfort, make sure you’re thinking about the kinds of socks you’re choosing. Some socks may be better suited to colder weather than others. Wearing thick socks in the hotter months may actually add to foot issues rather than make you more comfortable. Aim for some thinner socks if you’re worried about your feet getting too hot.
It can also be helpful to take at least check your socks when you take breaks. Change them if they need to be changed, and take care of any potential hot spots that might be starting up due to friction.
Are There Reasons Not To Wear Two Pairs Of Socks?
Most of the time, hikers choose not to wear two pairs of socks because one pair is doing the job perfectly well. Typically, they have found a brand or material that keeps their feet warm and comfortable without having to double up.
A brand that hikers often swear by is Darn Tough, which creates high-quality hiking options such as the Bear Town style. Many hikers who like these socks find that one pair is all they need. Because these socks are made from Merino wool, they do a decent job of regulating temperature. The brand also offers a variety of weights and thicknesses so that you can adapt your socks for each hike you go on.
I was blown away by how popular Darn Tough socks were. By far, out of the people I asked, Darn Tough was the top choice followed by Smartwool.
Overall, wearing two pairs of socks isn’t likely to cause any harm. Some hikers just don’t feel that they need to add another pair. What matters most is that you are comfortable in whatever weather you decide to hike in. Just remember to bring extras no matter how many pairs of socks you’re choosing to layer up with.
However a few people say they tried wearing two pairs and experienced a lot of discomfort (because the socks were too tight) and some even experienced more blisters.
The materials and brands you wear can play a role when it comes to chafing just about anywhere on your body. If you’re concerned about chafing issues in areas other than your feet, take a look at our article on how to prevent and treat chafing just about anywhere here.
Other Reasons Not To Wear Two Pairs Of Socks
Not all hikers already have a strong preference for a particular brand of socks. If you haven’t found socks that keep your feet comfortable enough, then trying a second pair of socks might seem appealing. That said, make sure that you keep these potential downfalls in mind. In some cases, doubling up on socks may not be as comfortable as it seems.
Just like anywhere else on your body, too many layers on your feet can make them uncomfortably warm. That heat can also result in sweating. Wearing multiple layers of socks can mess with the ability of a single pair to wick up that moisture.
Instead, the sweat may get trapped within the inner layer. That moisture might make you more uncomfortable. It can also contribute to chafing, blisters, odor, and the growth of bacteria. Warm, damp areas are a prime place for bacterial and fungal issues to start forming.
If you decide to try out wearing two pairs of socks, make sure to check on your feet here and there. Change out your socks if you need to so that moisture won’t become a problem. That way, you can stop any issues before they get too bad.
In some cases, adding another pair of socks to your outfit might actually cause discomfort. As I mentioned previously, two pairs of socks might be helpful when your hiking shoes or boots might be a little bit too spacious.
However, if your shoes are more form-fitted, there might just not be space for two pairs of socks. Your feet might end up feeling cramped, too sweaty, or you might start experiencing friction when there wasn’t any before.
It’s because of these possibilities that you should pay special attention to your feet if you’re attempting a hike with two pairs of socks. Pay attention to how your feet are feeling. Are they comfortable? Are they feeling hot or sweaty? Are you noticing any friction?
Socks are not meant to be baggy but rather are meant to be form-fitting and squeeze your feet a little. Putting two layers of form-fitting socks on can actually feel very tight and uncomfortable depending on the fit of the socks.
If you’re finding two pairs of socks to be too uncomfortable, then it might be worthwhile to consider just wearing one pair of quality socks instead.
How Many Pairs Of Socks Should I Take While Hiking?
The answer to this can range from a single extra pair to three pairs of socks in total. Backpackers often like to take three pairs of socks so that they have two they can switch between during the day, and a comfortable, cleaner pair to wear at night.
That said, the number of extra pairs of socks you bring with you can depend on a few things. Consider the following when you’re trying to decide how many extra pairs of socks you bring with you:
- How long is the hike? Assuming the weather isn’t too wet and your hike is only for a day at the most, you may not even need to bring any extra socks. That said, at least one extra pair is always a good idea – just in case. If you plunge your foot into a bog or a river, accidentally, you’ll have to hike with that wet foot for the rest of the day.
- What will the weather be like? Cold weather may call for more pairs of extra socks. You might also just end up with cold toes that need an extra layer to be comfortable.
- What will the environment be like? Are you going to be walking through water at any point? That might be a good time to have extra socks on hand so that you can change out of the wet ones..
- What kind of shoes will you be bringing? Do you prefer hiking shoes or boots? Some types of footwear might be more likely to allow rain or other forms of moisture in. Meanwhile, others may not do a great job of letting moisture out. Both of these can effect the number of extra socks you should bring. (see our article about hiking shoes if you’re curious what the difference is)
- Are you trying to keep weight to a minimum? Backpackers often try to keep their pack as light as possible, so they may not want to bring more than what they absolutely need for the trail.
- Are you planning on wearing one or two pairs of socks? Wearing two pairs of socks at once can mean that you’re getting two pairs of socks dirty rather than one. That also means both pairs will need to be changed. You may need to bring two extra pairs for each double-pair you get dirty in this situation.
- Do you mind stinky socks? Socks that are used heavily tend to absorb more odor. It’s completely up to each hiker whether they’d rather keep that odor to a minimum, or don’t mind letting it build up a little until they have a chance to get clean.
If you’re still uncertain about how many pairs of socks you should bring on your next hike or backpacking trip, take a look at our article on the topic here. In this article, we take a deeper look into how many pairs of socks to bring and how you can get the most out of them on your journey.