What are your socks made of? Fabrics explained…

By March 24, 2014 Blog No Comments

Fabrics.fwAt Compression Advisory, we often get calls from people with cotton allergies or who are concerned about sweaty feet and blisters during training. We have done extensive research on the ideal uses for each fabric and how to incorporate them into compression socks.

As your feet support the entire weight of your body and contain a quarter of a million sweat glands, it is important that their temperature is kept regulated and that they are kept dry. When creating socks there are two basic approaches to managing moisture. One is to insulate the feet from temperature extremes and thereby reduce perspiration. The second is to devise methods of transporting moisture away from the foot. By combining materials, we manufacturers attempt to do both.

Bamboo – is an all-natural, eco-friendly material. It is incredibly soft and breathable and also repels odours and has antibacterial properties. One of the greatest advantages of bamboo socks is that they are safe alternative for people with diabetes. Bamboo has thermo regulating qualities, it helps in keeping your feet warm in the winters and cool in the hot season.

Cotton – is a fabric that we are very familiar with. It is a 100% natural fibre from the cotton plant’s seed pod. Cotton has a soft, smooth feel, yet is a strong fabric that keeps its shape even after repeated washings. It’s also breathable and biodegradable. Cotton is less likely to shrink or show wrinkles and retains colour well. It stands up to abrasion and wears well. It will retain several times its own weight in water and is stronger when wet than dry.

However, cotton gets wet and stays wet, holding moisture close to your skin. Your feet can get hot and become tender in extreme activity so for athletic purposes, you actually want to stay away from 100% cotton socks as friction increases with the moisture content of the skin.

Microfibre – is often used for athletic attire because of its ability to wick moisture away from the body. It is better at keeping your feet dry than cotton for example and will thus help to prevent you from developing blisters during exercise. It is durable in nature and allows manufacturers to create thinner socks, which will take up minimal room inside your shoes. It is a synthetic fibre that is widely used in the medical and sports industry. It is also a very stain resistant fabric making it easy to maintain and allowing it maintain the quality of its appearance over time. In hosiery, it is used to make products that are extra soft.

Polyamide – generally agreed upon by everyone from ASDA to Wolford as the most attractive fibres for hosiery. Nylon is a polyamide yarn for example. It allows you to range between sheer, semi-sheer and opaque products while maintaining the finest appearance depending on the denier of the product. It can be finished to help resist ladder formation which is often a problem when such fine fabrics are damaged.

Nylon is a very strong, versatile and hard wearing fibre that can be silky thin or bulky. It is often used with other fibres to provide added stretch or durability. Nylon is a component in almost all modern socks, whether as a coating on natural fabrics or as a strengthening or stretching material. When nylon fibres are crimped and heat set, they become elastic and can then be used to provide the stretch feature of socks.

Wool – is an excellent natural fibre and is sometimes woven with nylon on the outside to make it wear longer. It is a great insulator and can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water before it feels damp. It retains its insulating properties even when wet. It does not crush like cotton when wet but it does not wick moisture particularly well. However, knitting small loops on the inside of the sock improves ventilation, cushioning and moisture flow. It is a fabulous cold weather fabric because of its insulating properties but for most applications, we think, for socks, that it works best when combined with synthetics to better manage moisture.

Hopefully this article will help you to make a more informed decision when purchasing compression socks. Manufacturers’ fabric choices (should) reflect the use for which the socks are most adapted. As always if you have any further questions, you can contact Compression Advisory on 0207 326 0900 or email Emma, ecahill@compressionadvisory.com.

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