Reasons Why Socks Wear Out
Cheap socks will certainly wear out more quickly, but even quality socks can have a shorter lifespan when not properly cared for.
The longevity of your socks begins with good materials and construction, and continues with proper care.
To learn more about why socks wear out, and how to ensure your socks last longer, click on the video above. You can also follow the guide below.
5 Reasons Why Socks Wear Out
1. Heel angle and depth: Modern knitting has become very time-efficient, however following the angles of your feet and legs doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list in many cases.
It takes extra time to get a machine to knit a well-shaped, deep heel, as close as possible to 90 degrees. Most people find that when they lay socks flat, the socks are quiet often nearly straight.
The L shape from leg to foot is a rare thing, but when you start walking and your socks start to get eaten by your shoes, you realise the heel shape has a lot to answer for.
The key to getting socks to last longer is to minimise movement. More movement means more friction, which has potential to cause blisters, and it also starts to pull fibres apart. A well-shaped heel is a major factor in minimising movement, as it effectively anchors socks into place on your feet.
2. Yarn quality and composition: Smelly feet, sweaty feet, itchy skin, pilling, worn out patches, holes, shrinkage, bagginess; all of these things (and then some more) can be attributed to the material used.
Starting from the farm, the selection and processing of natural fibres has a huge impact on your feet and the longevity of your socks. Fibres that are not too fine, but that combine strength and comfort are the best for socks. We look for a fibre diameter that is strong enough to produce hard-wearing socks, yet soft enough that it doesn’t cause itchiness or discomfort.
In processing wool, there are different techniques utilised to create different attributes for the yarn as required. Woollen spun yarn refers to the technique that allows pockets of air within the spun yarn to increase insulation. This has great applications for warm and snuggly jumpers, scarves and blankets, however it is more prone to pilling and felting, and it lacks the strength and durability required for long-lasting socks. Worsted yarn spinning ensures that all fibres are aligned parallel and a twist is applied to the fibres after they are brought together. This results in a smooth and strong yarn that is perfect for knitting high quality socks.
For the skin, natural materials like merino or cotton are best kept pure but due to the heavy demands of wearing and washing socks, other fibres like nylon, polyester, elastane or silk are usually added as the yarn is spun or as the socks are knitted to support and strengthen them for better fit and durability. We have found that a proportion of 75% natural fibre to 25% nylon is the optimum balance between resilience and moisture control. We avoid elastane as too many socks become bags around your feet once the elastane looses its stretchiness.
The micron or thickness of merino fibre itself, and the construction of the yarn, and whether it’s woollen yarn or worsted yarn, all impacts the final outcome.
We are currently investigating a natural and sustainable nylon replacement so that we can move away from synthetics for more comfortable and eco-friendly socks.
3. Knit style: Even though modern machines have evolved to do some amazing things we believe that the traditional rib knitting our machines achieve has an important role to play.
The socks that our grandparents may have knitted by hand were usually ribbed, and it’s the older patterns and ribs that actually perform a great function of shaping to the form of our feet. Add the deep heel angle and shape, and you have socks with a snug fit.
Even knitted without elastic our Loose Top Socks don’t fall down because they hug your leg. A well-fitting sock means less movement and friction on the yarn fibres, fewer worn patches and holes, and a pair will last long enough to become old favourites.
4. Shoes not a good match, or wearing on rough floors: You can spend serious money on the best high-tech socks, but shoes and boots can be sock destroyers. Shoes will make months or years of difference in the life of a sock. Like a great marriage, the union of quality shoes, well-fitted and matched to the correct thickness of socks, is the key to getting wear after wear out of your socks. Added to that the common blister, rubbing and sore feet problem, it is worth getting this shoe/sock combination right. For help matching the right shoe with the right sock see Selecting Your Style.
Like many, we love to wear socks around the house, especially in winter. But, carpets and rough-textured tiles inside, or splintery decking and abrasive concrete when you quickly duck outside the house, can easily snag or wear holes in socks over time.
5. Over-washing: In our modern life, throwing clothes into the machine is just another task that takes up too much of our busy lives. With the over-use of synthetics, smelly feet and tinea become common and familiar problems, so it’s part of routine to get our socks into the wash after a few hours of wear. But get into wearing a high-end merino sock and things are a little different. Natural fibres like merino are expert at wicking away sweat and moisture. If the content of merino fibre is a truly high percentage, then socks of 60% content to 100% pure wool can actually be air-dried overnight for a number of wears without any smell or problems.
Over-washing or using harsh detergents or softeners can quickly break down natural materials, so keep this in mind when caring for your socks.
For information about washing, drying and storing our socks, accessories and apparel, see Caring For Your Socks and Apparel.
And two bonus points for keen readers and sock enthusiasts:
1. Toenails: Trim them. Frequently.
2. Mysterious Laundry Disappearances: Can’t help you here. It's one of life’s great mysteries and likely never to be solved!