Tragically, I’m a Toe Socks Guy Now

Toe Socks

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, a.o-button”} }”>

Toe socks were my favorite thing about my outdoor career. Normal socks worked fine—they did everything they were supposed to, and did it without subjecting you to the indignity of forcing each of your individual toes into their own sweaty little pockets. They took an already functional piece of gear, like zip-off pants or those tiny nose covers that attach to your sunglasses, and made it more complicated for the sake of novelty. As far as I was concerned, they were a gateway drug into dad-fashion: Today you’re putting on toe socks, tomorrow you’re trying to tell everyone you meet on the trail about how comfortable hiking in a utilikilt is. 

It is with great sadness that I have to admit that I was wrong. I’m now a Toe Socks Guy after spending a winter with them.

It started with a blister—a big one. My son, my toddler, was with me on a shotgun ride in a pulk. He had taken up Nordic skiing and enjoyed the snowed-in roads and hiking trails throughout Colorado Rockies. He was captivated by the scenery and laughed as he went downhill; it was great to be able to spend more time outdoors, which can be difficult when you have a toddler. 

Problem: My Nordic boots. My backcountry skis with metal edges were well driven by the boots, but my heels were also roughed up. After a long session my feet would develop red hotspots. After a couple of days in a row, they’d evolve into full-blown blisters the width of my heel. Even putting on my boots was difficult.

I tried every anti-friction technique in my arsenal. I wadded wool into the backs of my socks (it didn’t help), pasted on moleskin (it rubbed off), even layered duct tape on top of my tender skin (ditto). It seemed like the only choices I had left were to drop hundreds of dollars on a new pair of boots that, likely as not, wouldn’t change anything, or to just grit my teeth and push through.

Injinji Liner Crew toe socks (Photo: Courtesy Injinji

Salvation came with toes and was knit. I bought a pair Injinji Liner crews, which are thin synthetic toe socks made with a combination of Coolmax and lycra. It was not as easy as I had remembered. Each toe needed its own pocket and it took me several tries to get them on. I wrapped the Injinjis in thin ski socks before hitting the local park to test them out.

It was amazing. It took me two to three miles to notice the difference. I had no skin irritation after that. The socks were form-fitting and moved with me. When I peeled them off at home, I didn’t see a hint of redness either at my heel or on the edges of my toe, where I’m prone to calluses. 

Still, the worst of my blister problems didn’t usually start until after I had logged a few trail days in a row. That weekend, I packed up the kid and drove to Mayflower Gulch. This popular winter hike leads to the remains a former mining town that is situated in the shadow of 13,000 foot Pacific and Atlantic peaks. The trail was still icy and slippery in the early season. By the time we reached the top cabins, I had already sweated through my baselayer. But my feet weren’t just un-blistered, they were downright comfortable and dry.

I haven’t totally given up my trail fashion prejudices, but I can’t argue with that kind of success. Because of their blister-banishing record, my toe socks are now a permanent part of my winter rotation. You may not see me hiking in a utilikilt soon, but if you meet me on the trail, you’ll know what I’m wearing inside my shoes.

Tragically, I’m a Toe Socks Guy Now

Comment here