Stinky feet and wool socks

stinky feetI have stinky feet. Been that way my whole life and nothing seems to help. Foot powder, vented shoes, whatever – my feet sweat during the day and then they stink. It’s never a problem – heck I’m already married so who cares, right? (Just kidding honey…) But when I went to my wilderness first responder course it became a problem. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is for complete strangers to know you have stinky feet? Well maybe not for you, but for me it was.

Wool socks to the rescue…

Luckily I had some wool socks. I bought them mainly because all the backwoods, bushcraft, prepping, whatever books and blogs tout the benefits of wool clothing for cold weather wear. Wool is naturally flame retardant so it’s better around camp fires than cotton or polyester. It also keeps its insulating ability when wet. Another benefit I’d read about but either ignored or didn’t believe was wool’s odor fighting ability. Would they really work to control the stink? I decided it was worth a try.

It turns out that wool socks are made for stinky feet. To give them a good test, I wore each pair for several days in a row. The first pair I wore for 5 days. After 5 days, the socks still didn’t stink. There was so much dirt and dried sweat in the soles that they were starting to get stiff, so I decided to change. Then I wore 3 more pairs for 3 days each. No noticeable foot odor for any of them. Then I stuffed all the dirty pairs in a plastic bag where they sat for over a month until I got around to getting some Woolite so I could properly hand wash them.

Not all wool socks are created equal

For this trial run, I only tested the 2 least expensive brands I had: American Pride (71% merino wool, $16.84 for 2 pair) and Minus33 (85% merino wool, $13.49 for 1 pair). Both did a great job of keeping my foot odor under control, but the cheaper American Pride socks held up much better. You can see in the picture below the difference in sole wear between the 2 brands – circled area is a Minus33 sock. I guess the much higher wool content of the Minus33 socks affects durability somewhat. The pair in the picture had been worn for 3 days and showed more wear than the American Pride pair I wore for 5 days.

Another thing to watch out for is wool content. For some “wool” socks that info can be hard to find. I have a pair of “wool” socks from Costco I eventually found out are only 28% wool. They’re comfy, but they don’t control odor like the higher wool content socks do. Based on this little experiment, I’d say optimum content is 71% wool because the 85% socks didn’t hold up as good. I still have a few more brands to try though, so my opinion might change. For now it’s pretty hard to beat the American pride wool socks.

One thing to be careful of is that wool socks require special care. Harsh detergents can ruin their odor control, getting them too hot while drying can make them shrink a bunch, and rough handling can destroy their elasticity. None of those are show stoppers, just make sure to wash them properly. Until next time…

Peace out,

Everybody talks about the weather…

merino wool socks “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” – Mark Twain

It’s the same thing with wool clothing. Everyone talks about it. Every prepping, survivalist, bushcraft, camping, whatever web site or book that talks about clothing talks about wool clothing. How much better it is than anything else. The fact it insulates well, even when wet. Its inherent fire resistance. Wool’s natural wicking ability. It’s antimicrobial characteristics. It all sounds really good, and it is. Wool, especially merino wool, is just about the perfect material for outdoor clothing. So what’s the problem? Nobody does anything about it.

Well, I guess they do. They use it and write about how wonderful it is. What I mean is, none of the people talking about it tell you where to find good wool clothing. This is a problem. Online searches for “100% wool clothing” or “100% merino” return tons of results that… are NOT 100 percent wool, merino or otherwise. What percentage of wool does it need to have to be considered “good” wool clothing? I’ve found “highly recommended (and highly expensive), made in USA” merino wool socks that only have 60% wool in them. Are they any good? The world may never know, at least by trying to find info online…

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it

Since everybody talks about wool clothing, but nobody provides details about it, I’ve decided to do it myself. As a service to my readers, I’ve ordered four different kinds of merino wool socks. Wool percentage ranges from 64 to 85 percent and price range was $13.99 to $25.00 per pair. The socks I ordered were Darn Tough Hiker Boot Sock, Full Cushion (66% merino), Darn Tough John Henry Boot Cushion (64% merino), American Pride Unisex Merino Wool Hiking Sock (71% merino), and Minus33 Merino Wool Day Hiker (85% merino wool).

I thought it was interesting that the second cheapest pair (Minus33 – $13.99) had the highest wool content. It will be interesting to see the differences in quality and comfort between the different socks. I’m taking a 2 week outdoor wilderness first aid course next month, so I’ll get a chance to try them out in real world (cold, wet, and outdoors) next month. When I find out what’s up with them, I’ll report back here. Until next time…

Peace out,