Are Cotton Socks Warm and Good for Winter Cold Weather? [Advice]

Socks come in an array of materials, but one type, in particular, stands out from the rest: cotton socks. They’re cheap, comfy, and readily available. You probably have a dozen pairs balled up in your sock drawer right now. But what about winter? Are cotton socks warm enough for winter cold weather?

Although cotton socks are soft and comfortable, they are widely considered to be one of the worst options for cold weather. Cotton socks can keep a foot moderately warm, but there are other options that are much better at insulating feet. These are the types of socks that are much better equipped to handle winter cold weather.

In this article let’s take a closer look at the reasons why cotton socks are not warm enough for winter cold weather. Let’s also take a deeper look at the best alternatives to cotton socks for winter.

Are Cotton Socks Warm Enough for Winter?

Unfortunately, cotton socks aren’t good for cold weather. They do an okay job at keeping your feet covered from the cold, but they’re certainly not the warmest fabric to wear. For moderate conditions, cotton socks *might* be okay to wear. But for extreme conditions, there will be better options (show me those options).

Reasons to Avoid Cotton Socks During Winter

Cotton Socks Aren’t Moisture-Wicking

Cotton isn’t a moisture-wicking fabric, making it a poor choice when worn in winter. It absorbs and holds on to moisture, making your feet feel uncomfortably wet.

The moment it absorbs water, it loses all its insulation value. And since wet feet = cold feet, you should never wear cotton socks when engaging in outdoor activities or sleeping at night.

Cotton Socks Are Lightweight

Cotton is made of lightweight material, so it won’t keep you warm during cold weather. It isn’t like wool or cashmere with natural insulation; it’s breathable and thin.

This quality makes cotton socks a good choice for summer, but not in winter.

Cotton Socks Can Make Your Feet Stink 

This point is tied to cotton’s lack of moisture-wicking abilities.

Since cotton retains moisture and heat, cotton socks can make your feet stink.

Cotton socks can cause your feet to sweat more during winter, which encourages bacteria to grow due to trapped moisture.

Do They Make Thick Cotton Socks for Winter?

Cotton socks are mostly made of lightweight material, but you can also find thicker options. Although these socks look cozy and comfortable at first glance, and may even feel super snug and warm when first worn, they still are not as good as other winter options.

Alternatives to Cotton Socks for Winter

Traditional Wool Socks

Wool socks are very warm and a great option for winter cold weather.

Wool has natural insulating and moisture-wicking properties that’ll help you stay warm in wintry weather.

Wool socks are thicker than most socks though, so they shouldn’t be worn inside boots lest you risk circulation issues.

However, they’re great options for keeping your feet all toasty and warm when you’re sleeping or going out for walks in the snow.

Merino Wool Socks

If you’re searching for a thinner, more comfortable wool variation, opt for merino instead.

Merino wool is gentler than regular wool and doesn’t itch as much as the latter.

Whether you’re hitting the trail or lazing around at home, socks made of Merino wool are a godsend—if only for their natural ability to resist odors and wick away sweat. Merino wool is also very warm despite being non-bulky.

Alpaca Wool Socks

Alpaca wool is not only warmer than traditional wool but also softer. This is mostly due to the fact that alpacas have unbelievably soft wool. They produce shearing with much fewer scales, making their wool softer than sheep wool.

On top of that, alpaca wool is less absorbent than sheep’s wool.

Alpaca wool holds only about 8% moisture whereas sheep’s wool holds as much as 30% moisture. For this reason, alpaca wool socks are among the best picks for active individuals, because the last thing you want is wet socks weighing you down during your excursions!

But that’s not all—socks made of alpaca wool are better for people with allergies and sensitive skin.

Sheep wool, including merino wool, contains a waxy substance called lanolin that can trigger sensitivities in some people. This isn’t the case with alpaca wool. Socks made of alpaca wool are hypoallergenic, meaning you can wear them all day to keep you warm!

Thermolite Socks

Thermolite socks are specifically designed for winter comfort and warmth. They’re similar to alpaca wool, except they’re synthetic and light. They’re made of high-quality polyester, so they excel at moisture wicking.

Thermolite socks are what you call “hydrophobic” socks, meaning they resist the penetration of water. Plus, they dry 50% faster than cotton and still look good after several washes. 

Silk Socks

If you’re not a big fan of thick, bulky socks, silk socks are your answer.

They won’t warm you up as fast as the above-mentioned alternatives, but they keep your body temperature in check by providing a natural thermal regulator.

Silk socks seal away the body’s heat and trap it in between silk threads, keeping your feet warm in winter and cold in summer. 

Polyester Socks

Polyester socks are another great option for winter, as they can keep you warm and dry. Like silk socks, they’re good at holding in your natural body heat.

Since polyester is made out of tightly woven threads of plastic, polyester socks keep the cold weather out and trap the warmth your body emits. This means that polyester socks keep your feet as warm as your body.

The main takeaway is although cotton socks are comfortable and cheap, in most circumstances, cotton socks are not warm enough for extreme winter conditions.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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