In our upcoming article on boot selection and break-in, we'll cover some of the important points to consider before taking your boots on their first high-mileage adventure. However, as anyone who’s had large sections of skin slough off at the end of a hike can tell you, your sock material and selection is just as critical to success as the boots themselves. Today, we'll be addressing that topic.

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We spoke briefly with John Ramsey, Director of Sock Development for Smartwool, to help understand the considerations required when choosing a pair of socks.

RECOIL OFFGRID: Tell us about the new hunting line from Smartwool. Is there a difference in materials or construction between this line of socks and your other lines? It seems like the same concepts that make a good hiking sock would apply directly to a hunting sock. 

JOHN RAMSEY: The new line has similarities to Smartwool’s performance socks, but here are the features that make Smartwool’s hunt socks different:

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  • Achilles strap: specifically designed to protect heel in hunting boots.
  • Flex zone: reduced bulk on inside of sock where your foot creases/bends when field dressing a kill or otherwise crouching.
  • Ankle cushion: thinner cushion on ankle bone, where otherwise it rubs!
  • Flag on inside of cuff. Like all of Smartwool’s performance socks, they are made in the USA, but these are the first to feature the flag!

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Do you have recommendations for a type of sock to wear with hiking/hunting boots, and what about thickness? We usually wear heavy socks and are used to that. Would there be any reason that someone would want to use a lighter sock with boots? 

JR: It depends on the type of hunting you are doing.  If it’s a more active hunt — tracking big game and doing a lot of hiking — a thinner pair might work better for less bulk in the boot. However, if you are sitting in a bluff or tree stand, you might want a thicker pair to provide more warmth.

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What sort of adjustments to the socks might end-users want to make? Everyone knows how to put socks on, but are there certain points of the sock to have aligned with certain parts of the foot? 

JR: Choose the correct size and the fit should take care of itself! Otherwise, make sure that the Achilles strap is lined up with your Achilles and the toe box is aligned with your toes.

Does any kind of a “break-in” period apply to socks like it does to footwear? Or should socks be 100% comfortable out of the box? 

JR: 100% comfortable out of the box!  As a matter of fact, Conrad Anker, a world-famous mountaineer, pulls a fresh pair of Smartwool socks out of the package for summit day on Everest.

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For more information on footwear, check our past articles on how to make your own sandals, Filson / Danner's latest boot offering, and and Browning's new Upland Hiking Boots.

About the Author

Andrew Schrader is a licensed professional engineer and is certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Structures Specialist. His company, Recon Response Engineering LLC, advises state and federal government organizations on the subject of urban search and rescue and building collapse. He recently assisted the U.S. Department of State’s Italian Consulate in the development of their post-earthquake response and rescue protocol. Instagram: @reconresponse

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