Socks can be made out of just about anything. The most common material of choice for regular socks is cotton, but wool, polyester, nylon, elastane, and a whole bunch of proprietary materials can be found as well. The material blend says a lot about the sock, defining the fit, the comfort, the features and much more.
As we said, cotton seems to be the favorite. It’s cheap, readily available, and it’s natural. Socks made out of cotton are lightweight and breezy, making them ideal for hot weather.
They also color very easily, so you can find socks in every shade possible if they are cotton. However, cotton is simply not a good material choice for athletic socks. For starters, it can absorb a good amount of moisture and water, but it doesn’t dry fast – instead it holds onto that water and as a result, causes friction inside the shoes.
It’s also very flimsy, and it tears very fast leaving you without the socks you need. Wool is the second natural material of choice. It usually comes from Merino sheep.
Their wool is very thick and insulating, working both in hot and cold climates. The trapped air bubbles in the wool can simultaneously cool and warm you up. This kind of wool can also absorb 2/3 of its own weight in water, but as opposed to cotton, it wicks it away, letting the moisture escape through the surface. The only drawback of wool is the price – it’s the priciest material out there, especially if it comes from Merino sheep!
Now let’s describe the manmade materials usually chosen for socks. Nylon, polyester, spandex, and mesh all have the same source – plastic. The plastic is worked on in different ways, giving different kinds of materials with various properties unique only to them. Polyester seems to be the favorite here, as it is relatively lightweight and it takes on colors well.
Polyester can wick away moisture very good, but it doesn’t let air circulate, making you feel stuffy and warm. This is where the mesh comes in. Mesh is super lightweight and breezy, letting air come in and out freely. Nylon is resistant to abrasions, and it’s stretchy, but it doesn’t resist tearing or puncture damage well.
Finally, spandex or elastane is extremely stretchy, expanding up to 500 times its original length! And it has the ability to bounce back to its original shape no matter how much you stretch it, creating the very same tight fit every time you put your socks on.