Socks for technical ice climbing boots


Original Post
Aaron Liebling · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 435

I've read every possible option for socks to use while technical ice climbing (and thus boot fit to go with them). Everything from thick wool mountaineering socks to double socks (one medium weight with liner) to ultra thin ski socks.

If it affects the answer, my usage will be long north faces (not necessarily in brutal cold - but temps appropriate to my boot - Phantom Tech) with approaches and very occasional single pitch climbing.

I'm tempted to go for a relatively technical fit with a thin sock and depend on the boot to provide most of the warmth. Is this realistic? Should the answer change depending on temps?

Any thought appreciated.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 650

Aaron, you are on the right track. I use Kirkland wool hiking socks and honestly prefer them to my ultra-fancy Smartwool PHD Alpinist socks. The boots are insulated, let them do the work. Stay away from socks that are too thick - they will actually make your feet more cold by compressing them.

lukeweiss · · St. Johnsbury, VT · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 30

Smart wool PhD outdoor mountaineering socks were designed with some input from Conrad Anker. I love them.
Also, darn tough full boot cushion are great.
Someday I will splurge on a pair of lorpens.

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 130

I'd always buy the boot that fits and then tailor the socks to make it fit better. A thin sock is fine but if you need to fill up the volume a thicker one won't hurt. My phantom guides can be a little roomy which is great for long approaches and kicking steps, less so for really technical dry tooling (where I have to really cinch them down to lock in my heel). For long approaches and long moderate routes, the most important thing is to make sure that your toes can't hit the end of the boot. If you go too aggressive you'll also risk reducing blood flow and have cold feet. I think the only way to know for sure is to try a lot of things out and figure out what works.

George W · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 8

I vote for the fancy stuff, specifically Darn Tough. I burn through plenty of cheap Kirkland socks everyday, so I know how they handle moisture and cushion. When I want performance with moisture wicking control, a snug fit that doesn't bunch, durability/performance over multiple days, and the right amount of cushion, the Darn Tough Mountaineering socks fit the bill. Sure they're pricey, but I only wear them when it counts and I have no regrets; they are better in every way. Cheaper/thinner socks will gum up quicker with oil because there's less fiber for the oil to distribute. This same effect decreases the moisture wicking ability. So, the thick fancy socks keep their loft and perform.

I do not recommend the Smartwool mountaineering socks because they bunch up and overall don't fit well. I'm recommending the fancy designs like the PhD line, or Darn Tough's high end products.

jgfox · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 5

I personally hate liner socks because they tend to not have any form and move around inside the sock. I'm willing to argue that these days liner socks are obsolete given how much more comfortable wool socks now are. Plus if your feet are toughened up, they won't get destroyed on the approach hike. A good fitting single sock will do way more for your blood circulation then having a liner and insulating sock pair.

I like the PHD mountaineering socks (in both thicknesses) and the thick wool knock offs from REI. For a double boot like the spantik, I use a thinner sock and let the boot do most of the work. For a single boot like the batura, I use a thicker sock because I don't think there is enough insulation on the bottom of the boot like the spantik has. I've also done multiple night trips were I just dry off one pair of socks in my sleeping bag while I sleep and have a second set handy in case I need to do a quick change.

My advice, get a boot that fits correctly with a single thick hiking sock and break it in. For a single boot with an integrated gator, that should keep your feet warm down to 10-15F if you are active. If you lose too much fit over time you can just layer up with snug, not tight, thin socks.

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 10
Aaron Liebling wrote:I'm tempted to go for a relatively technical fit with a thin sock and depend on the boot to provide most of the warmth. Is this realistic?
IMO yes.

I've worn similar super gaiter boots (LS Batura) belaying in subzero (Fahrenheit) temps and I wear the thinnest Smartwool athletic socks (PhD Ultra Light). It was fine for me, can't guarantee how your feet will react.

Now with that said I certainly don't fit my mountaineering boots "technically" like a ski boot or rock shoe. I like room to move my toes around and not beat them up while kicking. Tight toes will cut off circulation and they'll get cold. But in any case I definitely wouldn't size my boots for a huge wool sock.
lukeweiss · · St. Johnsbury, VT · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 30

Seconded. Thick socks and tight fit are a recipe for loss of circulation and frozen toes.

Thomas H · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 0

Most everyone in here is giving you good advice. There is no clear answer, all depends on how the boot fits you. I would also agree with avoiding an overall super thick sock.

Darn Tough Vermont labels their socks based on which parts are padded 'thicker' and which parts are thin.

I use their Boot Sock Cushion because I like the padding on the bottom and heel to help keep my foot locked in but like the thin wool on top because anything thick causes pain in the bridge of my foot.

Also insoles will help tailor your fit even more. Those socks + superfeet green insoles + good lacing and my phantom guides fit pretty well.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 478

A thin wool sock is fine, don't go too far. I tried using just liner socks (smartwool) before and found quite a few hotspots in phantom 6000s and TLT6s (ski touring). A light weight wool sock that's just a hair thicker made those hot spots disappear in each boot.

Jace Mullen · · Oceanside, Ca · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 10

Someone mentioned Lorpen Socks. Holy $$$, batman! Has anyone used them? Worth it?

lukeweiss · · St. Johnsbury, VT · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 30

I read about them on the alpine start last year. Can't afford them.

Emmett Lyman · · Somerville, MA · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 355

I've got a couple pairs of Lorpen wool hikers that I use interchangeably with my Smartwool and other various wool hikers. Can't say I've noticed a difference between any of them. All seem pretty good down to around 5F, and below that I don't climb much anyway. Incidentally I bought the Lorpen from an outdoor shop in Santiago Chile for ~$10 or so... About the same as similar brands. Maybe you're looking at a different model, or maybe they're just pricey in the US.

Dave Bn · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 10
Jace Mullen wrote:Someone mentioned Lorpen Socks. Holy $$$, batman! Has anyone used them? Worth it?
I love my Lorpen expedition socks. Best $50 I ever spent. They are warmer, more comfortable, and result in fewer blisters than any other sock I have ever tried.
Systematic · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 351
Nick Sweeney wrote:Aaron, you are on the right track. I use Kirkland wool hiking socks and honestly prefer them to my ultra-fancy Smartwool PHD Alpinist socks. The boots are insulated, let them do the work. Stay away from socks that are too thick - they will actually make your feet more cold by compressing them.
I've tried a bunch of different socks and combos and can't really tell the difference between my costco $8 for 4 pack hiking socks and the fancy stuff. I have layered 2 of these when it's a bit colder and had no issues.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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