Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

The Importance of Good Socks

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So, you know I’m doing a sponsored walk in a few weeks? (You didn’t? Read this.) Well, I finally made it out onto the local downs (aka hills) for a few ‘practice’ walks and to make sure that my venerable walking boots still fit, and, um, don’t cause blisters.

I’ve had a few problems with those boots (which are illustrated in my post on the sponsored walk). They’re very nice boots – made by Scarpa, with the old “Attack” sole and bought as a gift for me by my parents in 1993 (when I was 22). They always were slightly prone to causing blisters, but more so recently. They seem tighter these last few years; this is unlikely to be the boots shrinking, so it must be my feet subtly changing shape as I’ve got older.

I always used to wear the traditional thin cotton sock under a thick woollen walking sock, even in the summer – but then, I have strange, almost permanently cold feet which hardly ever sweat, so there was no way they were going to get too hot. Having said that, I believe that this arrangement – the traditional way of wearing walking boots – actually does a pretty good job of wicking away moisture. This year, I realised that this arrangement no longer worked for me with these boots. It was just too uncomfortably tight!

I had two options: new sock arrangement, or new boots – which could be very expensive indeed. I settled on the idea of trying out a single, specialist, pair of socks. I considered wearing ‘ordinary’ socks, but shuddered at the idea of the potential blisters, so off I went to the outdoor shop. I picked up a pair of One Earth activity bamboo socks in Millets, and they were the ones I tried out first (bamboo makes a fantastic fibre – soft, naturally antibacterial, and ecologically friendly to boot; these socks have extra padding – consisting of loop pile – on the toes, sole and heel).

8.5 km (5.2 miles) and 2 hours later, I returned from a lovely walk with happy feet.

The next day, buoyed with success, I tried a pair of wool-rich trekking socks that I’d had for a while (and that I’d worn every now and then with lightweight hiking boots, but not with the real deal until now). Big mistake. These socks seemed to have the same sort of padding in the same areas, but something wasn’t right: after half an hour (barely more than a mile), my heel was hurting like heck so I stopped to inspect it – and to apply a Compeed plaster to the very large blister that had appeared there. I cut short my planned walk, but still totalled 13.5km (8.3 miles) that day. By the time I limped home, I had three blisters – all on my heels – and the Compeed had rubbed off, leaving my feet in a dreadful mess.

I’ve got a couple of pairs of those two layer socks to try out (these have a tactel inner and a cotton outer and are described as being for ‘lightweight’ hiking). I managed to snag one of them and the tactel inner has a nasty run in it, so I now only have three socks (one and a half pairs!) like that. They didn’t seem to like being washed very much, either – I’m at the small end of their stated range and after the first wash the socks seemed to barely fit. They don’t have any padding, either. To be honest, I don’t much like them, and have little confidence that they will do the desired job in my – seemingly rather harsh – boots. I reckon they’ll be fine for less serious jaunts in lightweight boots, though.

In the meantime, me and my healing blisters are off to Millets in search of more bamboo socks!

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5 thoughts on “The Importance of Good Socks

  1. I looked at those bamboo socks in Millets but they were so expensive I didn’t buy them in the end, I might go back and get them after reading your experiences. I suffer from Raynauds disease so I wanted something to keep my feet warm, but not made from a synthetic material.

    • They seem to have vanished from the face of the High Street, Beth; I couldn’t find them online, either (although there are some Bridgedale bamboo socks around). Our local branch had no bamboo socks at all, so I’ve ended up with some wool based ones, also rather pricey, but should do a good job on the keeping-feet-warm front. Having said that, there are plenty of less techy wool-rich socks that might be better value if you don’t need the extra padding for distance walking.

      I’m definitely impressed with bamboo as a fabric, though; I love the fact that it’s sustainable. What I didn’t know, though, is that pretty much all of the bamboo grown for textiles comes from one company, who hold the patent on the process for turning bamboo into viscose* yarn. Might be why the stuff is still quite pricey.

      *Viscose is traditionally made from wood fibre. As there is a fair amount of processing involved, it seems appropriate to think of all viscoses, including bamboo viscose, as a sort of half way house between ‘natural’ and ‘man made’ fibres.

    • A thoughtful (but brief) look at the pros and cons of bamboo as a fibre can be found here: http://craftingagreenworld.com/2009/03/24/fab-fabrics-the-pros-and-cons-of-bamboo/ . It has to be said that the Wikipedia article I referenced earlier may, as it stands, be a bit biased.

  2. I should probably report that I got on very well with the heavyweight Ladies Bridgedale Summit socks. These were sold as Ladies Large (UK 7-8½, EU 41-43; I’m a UK 9, which usually translates to an EU 43 in shoes, so I thought it was worth a punt – just to try some socks designed for the narrower female foot for a change!). I was slightly disappointed that the only available colour was a boring, androgynous beige; if I’m buying Ladies’ socks, shouldn’t I get a chance at the pinks and purples usually offered to ladies with smaller feet?

    On the hills, my feet were warm, but not uncomfortably so – despite the unseasonably warm temperatures. And, more importantly: no sign of any extra blisters.

    So that’s at least two ‘approved’ pairs of socks.

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