I 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…