Anyone can enjoy a good hike, regardless of their skill level. However, like any form of exercise, it can be physically demanding. This is especially true if you’re not equipped with the right footwear. Besides sporting quality hiking boots or walking shoes during your trip, you’ll also need to wear comfortable socks for better leg and foot support.
Remember: without the right pair of socks, you could be susceptible to muscle fatigue, cramps, and blisters. Keeping all this in mind, compression socks are a great option for any hike.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks were originally made for medical purposes before they became go-to gear for running and hiking. They’re often used to alleviate health conditions like deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, edema, and leg ulcer.
Generally, these knee-high socks are made of an elastic material that applies a gentle squeezing force onto the lower legs. This pressure helps blood flow faster to the heart, which aids in better blood circulation and reduces muscle inflammation.
In recent years, compression socks have no longer become limited to being used for medical purposes. They’re now a staple garment used for all sorts of physical activities that involve regular leg movements, such as running and hiking. But what exactly makes them such a popular choice among hiking enthusiasts? To learn more, below are four reasons why you should wear compression socks on your hikes:
They’re More Comfortable
While you can opt to wear regular hiking socks, they’re not nearly as comfortable as compression socks. Though regular hiking socks usually offer a decent fit, they tend to be much thicker and bulkier than your usual everyday socks. This can be quite bothersome, especially if you tend to sweat a lot. No one wants their feet feeling moist and sticky while they walk or climb, after all.
On the other hand, compression socks are made from a breathable, moisture-wicking, and stretchy spandex material that fits snugly and feels lightweight. Some of the best brands even offer men’s compression crew socks with advanced cooling technology and heel cushioning. These are just two examples of modern features that can provide your feet and legs with added comfort during your hikes.
They Prevent Blisters
Blisters often form due to excessive friction and moisture on the skin. Hence, socks that are too bulky or sweat-absorbent can cause your feet to develop painful blisters. Overly large socks tend to bunch up and chafe feet, while cotton socks tend to soak up too much moisture. Since most compression socks are made from light and moisture-wicking fabric, they’re ideal for preventing pesky blisters, ensuring you won’t experience any discomfort while hiking.
They Boost Endurance
Wearing compression socks can also keep you energized and boost your overall endurance. In fact, many hikers who use these socks have observed a noticeable increase in their performance, with a good number of them able to travel longer distances during their excursions.
This boost in performance is due to the sturdy support that these kinds of socks provide to your muscles and veins. The pressure exerted by compression socks creates a more solid structure for blood to travel through, lessening the overall strain placed on your legs as you walk.
Additionally, the squeezing force of these socks can greatly increase blood flow. This is essential to endurance, as muscles require oxygenated blood to function properly. This blood is supplied through a process referred to as venous drainage.
First, the heart pumps oxygenated blood to your muscles. Once your cells have absorbed the oxygen and nutrients from that blood, it’s deoxygenated and pumped back to the heart. Then, the blood is reoxygenated so the whole process can start again. However, blood often fights against gravity as it’s pushed through your system. Wearing compression socks can speed up this blood flow through added pressure, making this process more efficient.
They Aid in Quicker Recovery
By increasing blood flow during venous drainage, compression socks can also reduce muscle aches that occur during and after a hike. Aching muscles are caused by a substance in the blood called lactate, which often builds up when you’re walking for long periods. This, in turn, causes swelling in the feet and legs.
Luckily, lactate buildup is removed during the venous drainage process. Since compression socks speed up this specific process, they can also quicken the removal of lactate in your body. This reduces muscle inflammation in a shorter period. Hence, compression socks not only increase your endurance, but also promote faster recovery. This is particularly useful if you plan on taking a long trek that could last for hours or days.
While it’s not technically necessary to wear compression socks during your hikes, doing so can enhance your overall experience. These handy pieces of footwear are built to keep your legs comfortable and in good shape, so you can enjoy your hike without the inconvenience of aching muscles and sore feet.