Is it Better to Wear Two Pairs of Socks? Hiking Tips

Frankly, when I was still a beginner to the whole camping and hiking thing, I haven’t paid too much attention to the socks I was wearing. I just took the first ones that I saw in my drawer and went on my way. That was when I suffered a lot from blisters and began to think of wearing two layers. Nevertheless, there were times when I felt too snug in my shoes and felt my toes are squeezed continuously. Is it better to wear two pairs of socks? Whether you are hiking, camping or just walking at your workplace – you should know its advantages and disadvantages.

Yes, it is better to walk with two pairs of socks – that would provide you with better protection from leeches, improve thermal insulation and lower the chances to develop blisters. It would also protect you better from water or moisture and enhance the general hiking comfort due to added padding. 

Later on, I will also show you two tricks that will allow you to stay dry as much as possible even under extreme conditions.

Still, wearing two pairs of socks might be problematic since it could get your feet squeezed and stinky. Also, in severe cases, it might cause ankle pains – for that, I will show you what the right way to wear them is and what type of socks you should pick.

Advantages

  • Leech Protection
  • Flip Quickly on Short Breaks
  • Better Insulation
  • Better Comfort
  • The Water Protection Trick
  • Moisture Control

Disadvantages

  • Foot Squeezing
  • May Slide on Each Other
  • More Stinky
  • Could Cause Ankle Pains
  • Requires Specific Types

Leech Protection

Before I used to hike with two pairs of socks, there were several times I got a leech bite through my socks. That is becoming more relevant if you are traveling in tropical areas, although you may find these annoying creatures almost anywhere if you are hiking next to water streams.

There is no doubt that you get better protection when wearing two layers, which create a thicker barrier a leech won’t be able to pass through. 

If you haven’t encountered one yet – don’t take any chances; a leech bite could affect your hike dramatically since rubbing against your boots only makes it worse.

Flip Quickly on Short Breaks

I’ve been using that trick countless times, and it never happened to fail me. When you make short breaks, which I highly suggest you do, you may switch the inner sock with the outer one. 

The reasons you might find it useful is that the inner usually soaks sweats faster which may cause problems in distant hikes. If both your socks are wet – you have a problem there, and I recommend that you take a more extended break to hang them up to dry.

As I’ll explain later on, the inner and the outer socks should be different in types, although if you make the switches frequently, it’s okay to wear them in the opposite order.

Better Insulation

There is no doubt that thick socks insulate heat better than thin ones, although I’ve found that the combination of the two works best. When you wear two pairs of socks, you create two barriers instead of one. 

This way, air wouldn’t be trapped just between your skin and the inner layer, but also between the inner one and the outer. That might seem insignificant, however, when temperatures start to drop down – every means of heat make all the difference.

On that matter, I suggest that you read my article in which I state why sleeping naked is the wrong way to go, and why cotton socks might get you much more comfortable.

Better Comfort

When hiking long distances, it doesn’t matter if you own the best hiking shoes or boots, your feet are going to hurt. That might happen when your footwear is new and requires breaking in.

If that is the case – don’t worry about it, the leather would expand over time and adjust to your feet. Also, the outsole rubber would get softer, which would improve its grip and soften your steps.

When you hike with two pairs of socks, you overcome that issue by padding the bottom of your feet. If none of these had worked, perhaps you need a different insole, or maybe – a new pair of hiking boots.

The Water Protection Trick

If you’ve been searching the internet whether or not you should wear two pairs of socks while hiking, there is a good chance you saw it improves water resistance.

Well, that’s partially true. If you encounter a small amount of water, there is a chance only the outer pair would get damp. On the other hand, if you dip inside a puddle or slip into a river – it doesn’t matter how many layers you wear – things are going to get wet.

What I’ve learned during my hikes is that you can wear a plastic bag between the two layers. For that, I recommend that you use a small one so it wouldn’t get too snug – perhaps one for sandwiches. 

The cool thing is that plastic is entirely water resistant so that moisture would stay away on hard conditions.

Nevertheless, you should take into account that the trick compromises ventilation and would increase sweat – balance the two and decide which one works better for you.

Less Likely to Develop Blisters 

If you’ve been suffering from blisters in the past, please take a chance and wear two layers of socks. Blisters occur when your feet rub against the insole consistently – the friction harms your skin and is followed quickly by an inflammatory reaction.

When you wear two layers, it prevents that friction in two different ways. First, your foot would be snugger inside, so it would be more difficult for it to slide freely. Second, if the friction still occurs, it would be mainly between the inner sock and the outer one – instead of your skin. 

Creating snug footwear may have its disadvantages though; I will discuss them later on in this article.

Moisture Control

As I’ve mentioned, moisture is a serious issue when you hike a couple of hours a day, since it is prone to blisters and infections.

Well, wearing two pairs of socks allows you to control the amount of sweat which lays on your skin. That is mainly because the inner layer seats more tightly and absorbs sweat just as you produce it. 

Of course, that couldn’t act on its own and requires having ventilated shoes and socks – otherwise, sweat won’t have anywhere to evaporate.

In this case, I suggest that you wear the kind of footwear which features mesh on the sides, perhaps hiking shoes would do better than boots on that matter.

Foot Squeezing

One of the most crucial points for consideration is whether or not wearing two pairs of socks would end up with squeezed feet.

That might happen if your shoes are precisely on the right size and your feet are already snug while wearing a single layer of socks.

The general recommendation is getting hiking shoes which feature half an inch gap between your toes and the edge of your footwear. Squeezing is also more likely to happen when you are using socks which are too thick – the right type will be explained later on. 

Before you start hiking, try wearing two pairs at home, walk around for a while and see how it goes – ideally, you should be able to bend your toes entirely without any effort.

May Slide on Each Other

Remember when I said earlier that two pairs might decrease friction and prevent blisters? Well, that is true, although the socks may still slide on each other.

Usually, the socks which are touching the insole would stay in place while they grab the outer pair. That, unfortunately, would end up with the outer ones getting pushed down, leaving the higher part of your ankles exposed to friction. 

Also, when your socks slide down, the back of your foot might rub against the tongue, which is usually higher in hiking boots. To avoid that, you have to make sure that the outer pair seats well and is on the right size.

More Stinky

If you are suffering from stinky feet, there is a good chance that using two layers of socks would worsen it.

The primary reason for this is that two pairs decrease ventilation, ending up with sweaty feet.

To avoid that, you should make sure that your socks are breathable, besides your hiking footwear. Frankly, I suffer from that issue quite often, and for that, I use a special spray before I start walking. 

Stinky feet shouldn’t be the reason you won’t be wearing to pairs, although you shouldn’t underestimate comfort either.

Could Cause Ankle Pains

When I said two pairs might squeeze your feet, I haven’t mentioned it could also cause ankle pains. I’ve decided to separate the two because those kinds of pains should be treated seriously.

The truth is that I’ve dedicated a whole article regarding the question – why do hiking boots hurt your ankles, spending hours pouring through the data and offering solutions. 

If you’ve been walking with two pairs for a while and experience ankle pains – please try using a single pair – there is a good chance your feet get squeezed at the ankle area.

Requires Specific Type

When hiking with two pairs, it’s essential to pick the right types; walking with two layers of thick, cotton socks isn’t the right way to go.

Usually, the inner one should be thinner so it would seat tightly on your feet, while the outer one should be thicker. Also, it is essential that both of them are breathable to prevent moisture accumulation.

All of this might be exhausting to handle, and one could quickly get confused. If you haven’t got a chance to stop by a store and get yourself the right types – please don’t improvise and hike with those which you already have at home.

What Socks Should I Get & How to Wear Them?

I’ve been saying several times that choosing the right type of socks is crucial, and now it’s time to elaborate on the topic.

When hiking with two pairs of socks, I highly suggest that you use a thin, synthetic kind of socks as your first layer – in my case, I’ve been using what I had at home. 

Make sure that they are not cotton or silk – synthetics (or mixed) have provided me the best performances.

For the outer pair, make sure that you use thick, wool socks, which are on the right size and relatively breathable. These I also had at home, although a few comments on the internet mentioned that going with the ‘bridgedale’ works best. 

Remember, the inner layer should be tight to absorb sweat and keep your feet dry, while the outer layer does the main job in keeping you warm and provide padding.

How Many Pairs Should I Take?

If you are planning on hiking with two layers, I believe you should take at least three pairs.

When walking long distances you shouldn’t carry things you aren’t going to use, and frankly – there is no reason why you would use more than three. 

When a pair becomes stinky, ventilate it outside – you may even hang it outside your backpack so it would smell better at the end of the day.

When its smell gets better, switch it with another pair which now stinks, and repeat that circle until the end of your adventure.

How Many Days Can You Wear a Single Pair?

Frankly, I’ve been using the same pair for over a week when I was hiking long trails in Europe and the USA. Maybe I’m not the best example, although you should consider that the conditions are different when you are backpacking and away from home. 

The food you will be eating is different, the clothes you will be wearing would probably stink, and the general hygiene wouldn’t be what you were used to.

The crucial ingredient here is that you should switch your socks when they are damp or soaked with water due to a river or puddle. 

You can walk an entire day with wet socks; however, that would dramatically increase the chances of developing blisters and infections. If you do have an extra pair – take it off your backpack and wear it.

Will Adding More Pairs Make it Warmer?

Well, no. When your gear insulates heat, it does so by trapping warm air, preventing it from escaping to the cold environment.

When the barrier is at the maximum capability, adding more means wouldn’t improve it – just like clothes keep you warm to a certain point. 

If you overburden your feet with extra layers, which there is no doubt are not necessary, you will end up with a snug, squeezed feeling and perhaps sweats due to compromised ventilation.

Hiking with two pairs does make sense, although adding more than that would probably be a bad idea which would do more harm than good.

Should I Wear Thick Socks For Hiking?

In general – yes. In opposed to walking in the street or at your workplace, hiking long trails is characterized by continuously rubbing friction against the insole.

When walking with thin socks, your feet are free to slide inside and would probably develop blisters. Thick socks not only provide padding, but they also keep your feet fixated. 

Like I’ve said before – having a foot cover which is too thick may also cause problems – the key here is to find the balance which suits you best.

For that, I suggest that you try a couple of pairs and walk around at home while wearing them; the best way to learn is from experience.

Should I Wear Them When I go to Sleep?

Framkly, I would say yes, although it depends on the condition of your socks. If they are dry and clean (which they are probably not) – sleeping with them in sleeping bags would be fine. 

However, most of the times the pair you’ve been walking with is damp and dirty; in this case, it depends how severe the situation is.

I wouldn’t get in my sleeping bag with socks that are entirely soaked – not only they won’t warm you up, but they might also compromise your sleeping bag ability to insulate. 

This situation is one of the reasons why I recommended that you take at least three pairs when backpacking – you can always switch to the driest one and comfortably go to sleep.

Conclusions

In this article, I’ve tried to show you the pros and cons in wearing two pairs of socks.

You can use two layers when you hike, camp or even in everyday life when the winter finally came. When walking long distances, I recommend that you wear two pairs – that would decrease friction forces and lower the chances for you to develop blisters.

Still, it is important to wear them right, perhaps wearing a thin, synthetic layer first, and a thick, wool layer on the top of it.

You shouldn’t exaggerate though and wear more than two layers – that wouldn’t increase thermal insulation, it would merely get your feet squeezed.

I hope my article pointed you in the right direction and helped you to gather a solid opinion on the matter. If you have any question or points to add from experience – let me know all about them by leaving a comment below!

Recent Content