Sock liners prevent blisters in two ways: they wick foot perspiration away from your feet which can lead to increased friction and they help prevent ill-fitting boots from rubbing your skin and causing a hotspot. Sock liners are a common blister prevention technique among people who wear hiking boots and over-the-ankle mid boots. These trap heat and perspiration particularly if they are made with leather or lined with a waterproof/breathable material like Gore-tex which can make boots warmer. Sock liners also help cushion poorly fitting hiking boots or shoes, so they don’t create hotspots, which are the precursors to blisters.
When you hike, your feet generate about half a cup of perspiration per day, which explains why your socks are often damp when you take your hiking boots or shoes off. Leather hiking boots, winter hiking boots, mountaineering boots, or waterproof/breathable boots all accumulate foot perspiration. Sock liners are useful because they transport foot perspiration away from your skin into your outer layer of socks, a process called “wicking”, that keeps your feet drier. Wet feet are soft feet and more prone to hotspots and blisters. Both are caused by friction, especially when your foot has too much room to move around inside your boots, your boots are too hard and not well broken-in, or you have an anatomical issue with your foot such as a bunion or hammertoe that rubs against the inside of your boot.
|Make / Model||Material||Best Use|
|Fox River X-Static Sock Liner||Propylene||Three-season|
|Fox River Therm-a-Wick Liner Socks||Nylon/Spandex Blend||Three-season|
|Icebreaker Liner Crew Sock||Wool||Winter|
|Icebreaker Snow Liner Sock||Wool||Winter|
|Icebreaker Skier Liner Sock||Wool||Winter|
|Injini Liner Crew||Coolmax (Polyester)||Three-season|
|Injini NuWool Liner Crew||Wool/Nylon Blend||Three-season|
|Smartwool Liner Sock||Wool||Three-season|
|REI Coolmax EcoMade Liner Crew||Coolmax (Polyester)||Three-season|
|REI Silk Liner Crew||Silk Lycra Blend||Three-season|
|REI Merino Wool Liner Crew||Wool||Three-season|
|Wigwam Coolmax Liner Socks||Coolmax (Polyester)||Three-season|
|Wigwam Ultimate Liner||Nylon/Acrylic Blend||Three-season|
|Wigwam Gobi Liner||Polypropylene||Winter|
Sock Liner Fabrics
Sock liners are usually made with Coolmax, Wool, or Polypropylene. Coolmax is a polyester blend that absorbs very little liquid and dries quickly. Wool, which is warmer, dries more slowly. Polypropylene Liners are another wicking synthetic fiber that’s available in thin three-season and winter thicknesses. Silk sock liners are also available but far less common and heavily blended with nylon and spandex to make them more durable and wicking. Avoid using cotton sock liners or other plant-based fabrics like Tencel or bamboo, which absorb a lot of moisture and take a very long time to dry. They hold onto foot perspiration and accelerate the formation of blisters.
Sock Liners Fit
When purchasing sock liners you want ones that are thin and conform well to the size and shape of your feet without any bunching or folds. If you get blisters on your toes, I’d encourage you to try Injini toe-socks which wrap each one of your toes individually, with wicking and cushioning to prevent hotspot formation and blisters. For a really close fit, you can also try wearing compression socks or knee-high pantyhose, which also provide superior wicking action and close fit.
Other Hiking Blister Prevention Options
Socks liners are just one potential solution to hiking blister prevention. If they work for you that’s great, but it’s normal for people to try several different options, including taping with leukotape or moleskin, lining their shoes with slick blister prevention patches, lubrication with vaseline or HikeGoo, spraying your feet with antiperspirant, or switching to a different pair of shoes before they find a solution that eliminates hiking blisters once and for all.
- Plantar Fasciitis and Compression Socks
- A Hikers Guide to Heel Pain
- ENGO Blister Prevention Patches
- Leukotape Blister Prevention Tape for Running and Hiking
- Band-Aid Hydro-Seal Blister Bandages