What is So Special About Merino Wool Socks?
Why should you spend extra on merino wool socks instead of the typical crew socks that you can easily find in stores? Because they're better!
For literally any application, merino wool socks are superior to cotton, to synthetics, and to cotton-synthetic blends. Thick pairs are better for winter, and thin or medium (crew) are better for warmer climates.
Why is that?
It's because of the superior properties of merino wool to...basically anything else. While you CAN get a pair of socks that aren't made from merino wool and be just fine, a good pair of wool socks is going to do every single thing that socks do better.
The Properties Of Wool
Why merino wool socks are better starts with what's superior about wool compared to other materials.
Wool will absorb moisture, but also sheds it and slowly evaporates as its worn. Wool also doesn't allow for the growth of any microbes like foot fungus nor will it mold, like wet cotton does, due to the natural coating of lanolin on the surface of the wool fibers.
Wool's structure also allows for more air flow through the fibers, meaning that excess heat is radiated away, but also acts as an insulator.
In other words, wool doesn't get soaked as easily as other fibers. When it does, it will start to evaporate the moisture it holds, especially if close to a heat source...such as your feet. It also prevents the growth of Athlete's foot fungus and so on.
Your feet stay drier, warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and won't get cold if they get wet. You won't develop foot fungus, nor the odor caused by it.
Not only that, but wool is also far more resistant to ignition, making it naturally flame-retardant and - therefore - the best possible choice of socks to go with firefighter boots
Have a look at this report on the structure of wool from the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Centre of Australia for more information.
So...wool is better for regulating temperature, keeping your feet dry and healthy.
Great! So what's so special about merino wool, specifically?
Why Merino Wool Socks Are Better Than Standard Wool Socks
We already know what you're thinking. "But wool is so itchy! How could merino wool socks be anything other than miserable?!"
Glad you asked!
Merino is a specific type of wool, which is only found on a few specific breeds of sheep. Initially, they were bred in Spain for their fine wool and good meat production. The Spanish maintained a monopoly, but eventually exported them for cultivation in other countries.
Breeds such as the Peppin, Rambouillet, Poll, Delane, Saxon, Booroola and others all produce similar wools, all developed from the original Spanish breeds.
Now, what's different about merino wool compared to other sheep wools is the nature of the fibers.
Merino wool is very fine, with individual fibers being typically 17 microns wide. By contrast, typical coarse wool is 25 to 40 microns, which is why it seems so dense and itchy.
The only natural fibers that are any finer include silk (which is not really used for boot socks unless as part of a blend) and certain alpaca wools, which are not made in the same abundance as wools.
Combined with the properties that wool already has, the finer fibers make it softer and lighter, which means you can have socks that are very comfortable, warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and can even be worn multiple days in a row without stinking.
It's a good idea to change your socks every day, but it's a good thing to know that you don't have to worry about it if you find yourself in the situation where you can't or forget to.
Merino Wool Socks Are Already The Preferred Choice For Outdoor Use
Multiple countries' armed services issue merino wool socks to soldiers or allow them as an option, including our own.
Look at the outdoor industry and you'll find merino wool...everything...from socks to base layers for backcountry hikers and hunters and other adventurers who brave the worst weather on foot.
Merino wool is also finding its way into casual clothing, for lower-maintenance dress shirts and other clothing items for the trendy set.
In other words, if you haven't noticed it yet...merino wool is catching on as a superior textile for anything that goes next to human skin for any purpose. It is more comfortable, and - in more adverse conditions than walking from the car to the office - practical as all get out.
It's almost a question of why WOULDN'T you want a pair of merino wool socks?