I'm looking for socks for the following conditions and to complement the following footwear.

My wife frequently spends several hours driving a car (setting car temperature to stay around +20°C) , then switches for 30 min to 2 hours for moderate outdoor walking in weather like -5..-10°C (eg waiting for a child which rides alpine ski). Her current socks (cotton) get wet while in the car because of sweating, so her feet quickly starts freezing once she gets outdoors.

It looks like she needs a socks with (a) strong moisture-eliminating properties (think Coolmax or similar fibers?) that will be also (b) comfortable in car conditions and (c) warm enough in outdoor conditions. Is such approach correct?

Given her current shoes, what are optimal socks to keep feets warm during a day?

  1. What mix of fibers/materials to look for (olefin: Coolmax/Drymax etc; modal; viscose; bamboo fiber etc);
  2. What % composition of each fiber is most suitable for the problem in hand?
  3. Thin or thick socks?

Her current shoes are: Salomon Rodeo WP W (art. number 308922). Photo

  • 8
    To be frank, if it's that cold out, you should not be cranking the heat up inside the vehicle until you're sweating. If you're dressed for the cold, then you don't need your vehicle to be room temperature. You don't need to buy her different socks at all, you just need to break her of her habit of causing her feet to get wet.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 12, 2017 at 20:39

5 Answers 5


For any type of cold you want wool socks. I wear one type of socks all year-round:

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They are 74% merino wool, 20% nylon, and 6% Lycra Spandex. They breath very well, and keep you feet warm even when they are wet.

I wear them in my hiking boots in the heat of the summer, and all the way down to -30°C. I have them on my feet right now actually. I've been walking to work in them on the coldest snowiest days of winter (normally I ride my bike, but still wear the same socks).

Of course I have nice boots too, you can't expect a sock to compensate for poor footwear, they're meant to compliment them. When it gets really cold, and I'm going to be standing around for a while, then I'll layer these socks inside of a pair of big thick wool socks in thinner boots. But I've never had cold feet wearing these socks in my Sorel Glacier boots (rated to -74°C).

  • What about "wool vs Coolmax/Drymax" comparison chart like this one from DryMax FAQ, basing on your experience?
    – yurkennis
    Jan 12, 2017 at 18:19
  • 1
    @yurkennis I don't know what type of wool they're comparing too, but it isn't merino wool. Some of the items on that chart are pretty silly, like resistance to moths and beetles, and UV light? We're not living in log cabins with dirt floors anymore, or walking around outside in the sun without boots on, I wouldn't care if my socks got sun bleached anyway. Can't say I've ever had an issue with static buildup in my boots before... Never had issues with persistent bacterial odours or organisms... They're a little vague on things too, like softness: wool=Fine, Drymax= Finer than wool.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 12, 2017 at 19:08
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    @yurkennis Notice how "cost" isn't one of the items on that chart? Wool is more affordable.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 12, 2017 at 19:11
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    @yurkennis As someone whose skin is highly sensitive to wool, I can personally say that I'm absolutely fine with merino and angora. For hiking I exclusively wear SmartWool socks like ShemSeger shows. There is significantly less rubbing than any other socks I've used in 30+ years of climbing serious hills, they're still perfectly warm when they're wet, and they seem to accumulate smells less than most other socks too. I can't measure the numbers from that chart, but for all the subjective items I'd score SmartWool socks significantly higher.
    – Graham
    Jan 13, 2017 at 10:26
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    @Aron I've been wearing them everyday for at least the past... 7 years? I've been putting a pair in all my family's and wife's family's stockings for the past couple of years. They're the type of sock where once you try them once, you can't go back.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 15, 2017 at 0:37

Just change socks.

I always wear different socks when hiking compared to when doing anything else, like driving. I don't like hiking with thin socks and shoes and I don't like driving with thick socks and boots. It only takes a couple of minutes to change.

  • I do the same! hiking boots and socks for hiking, who case what else for driving. My hiking boots live in the car anyway.
    – Aravona
    Jan 12, 2017 at 15:51
  • I think this is the most sensible answer.
    – Desorder
    Jan 12, 2017 at 19:56
  • 1
    Even simpler -- add hiking socks over the top of the everyday ones
    – Chris H
    Jan 13, 2017 at 16:59
  • @ChrisH That has some downsides. It makes feet+socks larger. It also means that if you get wet feet you make two pairs of socks wet. One reason I like changing socks is that I have clean and dry socks to change to at the end of the hike.
    – gerrit
    Jan 18, 2017 at 11:34
  • @gerrit I've always gone for 2 pairs hiking and always been blister-free, so my starting assumptions may be a little different to yours.
    – Chris H
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:11

Wicking is not the most important factor here. You need a material that wicks and also has good insulation when moist / wet. With boots her feet are going to sweat in the car.

This is a good article from REI

  • Cotton: 100% cotton is not recommended as a sock material for hiking. Cotton absorbs sweat, dries slowly, provides no insulation when wet and it can lead to blisters out on the trail. However, cotton is quite comfortable and, when combined with wool or other wicking and insulating fibers, can be a good choice for light hiking in summer.
  • Wool: Wool is the most popular natural sock material. It is warm, cushioning and retains warmth when wet. While older ragg wools could be scratchy next to your skin, newer merino wools are itch-free. Most wool socks use blends of wool and synthetic materials for better durability and faster drying.
  • Synthetic insulating materials: Some man-made materials are designed to insulate like wool and wick moisture. These materials (Hollofil®, Thermax®, Thermastat®) trap warmth like wool, but dry more quickly and are more abrasion resistant.

As for thick or thin you need to go for what fits with the existing boots. Thick is warmer.

In the car use vent or both rather than pure heat directed at the floor. Wear a light jacket so she can comfortably drive the car at a lower temperature.

  • Thanks, sounds espcially relevant! Any suggestions on proportions between those fabrics / components, as rough percentages or at least "highest to smallest %%" order?
    – yurkennis
    Jan 12, 2017 at 21:09
  • @yurkennis Not really. There is also construction and fit. Once you are are at least looking for the correct type of sock they are all pretty close. Go to an outdoor store with the boots and try a few.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 12, 2017 at 21:24

The problem seems to be not in the socks. She should prevent her legs\socks from getting wet. I suggest to take off the shoes while driving. Especially shoes with Thinsulate.

If her legs\socks are wet then it will be cold in any socks.

  • "If her legs\socks are wet then it will be cold in any socks.": That's the point of my original post: fabrics like Coolmax are specifically designed to move perspiration away from feet. The question is what proportion of Coolmax or similar fabric to choose to balance this function with overall comfort and other factors to consider.
    – yurkennis
    Jan 12, 2017 at 16:39
  • A couple of weeks back, I went hiking in deep snow at temperatures around 0F (-17C). Upon getting home, I discovered that snow had worked its way inside my boots and my socks were soaking wet. My feet did not get cold, presumably because I was wearing thick wool socks.
    – Mark
    Jan 12, 2017 at 22:51
  • @Mark I think you didn't get cold because you moving all the time while hiking and producing heat. Jan 13, 2017 at 7:53
  • @yurkennis you are looking for a solution how to fix a problem let say. What I suggest is to prevent a problem. If legs and socks of your wife will be dry she will feel warm in any sock. Jan 13, 2017 at 7:57

I second the SmartWool - I have one pair of those. My favorite winter riding socks are made by Wigwam - they used to be called Ingenious - they wisk the moisture away from your feet, and keep you warm and dry!

  • 2
    Hi Cucula, welcome to TGO. You only address part of the question and don't elaborate on your choice - please extend your answer. Currently it is more of a comment than an answer. Once you have sufficient reputation, you will be able to comment.
    – imsodin
    Jan 13, 2017 at 11:54

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