Sunday, November 25

Sex, Socks and a Snug Fit

Right - it's about time that I finally got this gripe off my chest. But first an apology to any of you who may have arrived at this post for a reason not necessarily related to its subject matter.

The spellchecker on this darn machine seems to drop into Martian English at times. Normally not a problem as my command of the language is sufficiently old school to be able to use grammar (even if it is based on my own rulebook) and have a modicum of sense when spelling.

However those who know me understand that my typing ability has never kept up with my thought processes, so at times the gooblygook that appears on the screen defies even my attempts to understand what I intended to communicate. So in common with most of us IT literate folk these days that's where the speelchecker (ha ha) comes in. To sort out the more obvious errors. Just laziness I guess, or making best use of the tools available as I prefer to think of it.

And so it is that along the way every time I use the word SOX, the spellchecker tries to replace it with SEX. I won't even start to work out how that one got into the dictionary in the first place.
But suffice to say from here on this article is definitely not about some niche fetishistic interest, despite what one fellow Blogger has already implied (thanks WD - now what made you think of that? - lol) and I'll avoid the word S-O-X.

Righty ho. Anyone still reading now?

Then a few simple questions for you to ask yourself.
1. What size are your feet?
OK - so that was easy. Most people can answer this one. Give or take a size.

2. What size walking boots do you put on those feet?
A little trickier. It's mostly dependant on the type of personal fit preferred, the configuration of socks to be used, and even the different size of each foot, where typically there will be half a size difference between the two assuming no amputations etc. Eeer - best we don't go there)

So foot and boot sizes will normally differ - typically around one size - but all specific to each individual. Hence I'd anticipate that most walkers have at some time had their feet measured for a boot fit. And usually that is the first formal foot measurement since childhood years where mum's accompanied visit to the Start-Rite shop for 'proper' shoes before each new school year may have included an exposure (apparently in more ways than one) to the now infamous foot X-Ray machine.

But whatever the choice and purchasing process a walker pays a lot of attention to getting that foot/boot fit correct. We rely on our feet for our adventures, and a wrong fitting can bring discomfort with chafing/blisters, or at worst may be positively dangerous.

3. What size socks do you wear?
Easy answer this on isn't it? The same as our foot size. And with the ever expanding range of specialised socks being made available the design and material of the sock, and the fit, is key to its performance and wear rate.

Or is it?

Take a moment here to check your walking sock size. Depending on the cost (and that's not really too much of a guide) I'd virtually guarantee that your sock is designed for range of of foot sizes. Usually covering a two to three foot size spread.

For instance a reputable manufacturer like Bridgedale, whose socks I've used for years, and will happily use in the future, lists their Explorer model in fittings 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12+ . A specialised woman or child's fit is slightly better, normally spreading across only 2 sizes.

And to make matters worse I've just spotted that the online Cotswold Outdoor Shop offers the Bridgedale Endurance Trekker in sizes small, S,M,L,XL. Whatever that equates to in feet size?

So does it really matter? After all with the wonder materials used these days (and haven't they sent the price of sky high - come on £12 a pair!) surely this has been taken into account during the design and testing of each product.

Well I'm sure it has.

But let's say that a pair of 6-9 socks is actually manufactured to size 7.5. That means that either there will be too much material, thickening the fit slightly at the lower foot size, or a slight stretch of material at the higher. And this assumes a median manufacturing target. It may be, for all I know, that a 6-9 is made to a size 6. Or maybe a 9. Or then again perhaps range sizing permits the manufacturing process to reduce production tolerances, reducing quality control overheads. So it could be anywhere inbetween.

Personally I've no idea, and I suspect no-one is likely to come forward to offer any explanation.

Meanwhile I have socks with a predilection for rapid heel wear on one model, or a (very slight) surplus of material at the toe, on another.

All of which means the care required to put the socks(s) on the foot, to arrange heel and toe fitment, is as important as the fit of the foot into the boot itself.

And as for the effect this has on the technical performance of the sock itself? That item for which we pay an increasing premium precisly because of the technical claims made for its material and fit. Well once again I've no idea.

But an interesting question to pose next time I bump into a sock retailer.

Personally I'll pay the price as the socks do their job. And the alternatives - wool or tube fitments, just don't have the same wear comfort. However the wear rate and specialised nature of the technical products sometimes make me suspect that Joe Public is being taken for a little ride (or is that walk?) Well sometimes at least.


What? No mention of the US/UK sock size conversion confusion? No mention of the sock shrinkage factor that's usually omitted from the blurb on the pack? What a missed opportunity.
I am with Mr Hee on this one: I did a huge amount of research before setting off on my LEJOG. I tried out loads and tested each lot only after washing them. I tried them all on in the shop first to make sure they were slightly generous in length (I always buy merino wool socks) and that they were not baggy in width (I have skinny feet so bagginess is a no-no). Knowing that they are likley to shrink in length, I usually ended up with a pair that fitted. I always ignore (to a point) sizing on the packaging and go for trying them on.

In the end I go for the best sock combination that fits the boot I am wearing - I wear liners as well to wick the sweat into the wool main sock.
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