You see that headline for a blog piece from a sock company and I understand how you immediately feel skeptical. You think to yourself, “of course a sock company is going to say it’s ok to wear socks all the time, they want to sell me more socks!” However, that doesn’t intuitively make sense - if you never take your socks off, why would you need to buy more socks?
Regardless of any flawed logic, there are lots of prevailing myths around wearing socks for too long and what that does to your feet. We’re here to dispel some of those popular rumors and tell you the truth about wearing socks all the time. If you’re like me and you love to wear cozy, comfortable socks throughout the year, this information will be important to know because it touches on foot health and hygiene (let’s admit, most of us could use a refresher here).
The Myths and Rumors Debunked!
What do you think would happen if you wore socks all the time? You’d probably think that by wearing socks all the time your feet wouldn’t be able to breathe properly, leading to the buildup of sweat, dirt, and bacteria and creating an environment for fungi to grow and thrive. It’s true that wearing cheap, low-quality socks all the time and never changing them off could result in these issues. However, with just a little attention and effort, the risks to your feet of constant sock wearing are minimal.
Wearing socks all of the time is generally regarded as perfectly healthy if done properly. There are myths that wearing socks 24/7 can lead to fungal growth and result in foul smelling feet. If changed regularly, there should be no health problems associated with wearing fresh socks all day and night.
One of the most common worries of constantly wearing socks that we hear from our customers is the fear of developing athlete’s foot. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, is defined by Harvard Health as a common foot infection caused by fungi called dermatophytes.
Found in many different places indoors and outdoors, dermatophytes are especially common in the warm, moist environments of pools, showers, locker rooms and other sports facilities, where people walk with bare feet. Once dermatophytes contaminate the skin of a foot, the warm, moist environment of sweaty socks and shoes encourages them to grow.
So now we know that the dermatophytes that cause athlete’s foot can thrive in a moist environment, such as sweaty sock that has been worn for a long time. However, according to a Harvard Health article, the fungi and bacteria that make this environment possible are present in many locations (albeit in different quantities), and wearing clean socks regularly (i.e. change your socks often) can cut down on the bacterial load on your feet.
It has even been noted by medical organizations that one of the easiest and best ways to prevent foot fungus buildup and bacterial overgrowth is to wear clean socks whenever you wear shoes. This helps keep your feet dry and wicks away some of the moisture that would otherwise build up in your shoes and lead to a more damp microclimate for the fungi and bacteria to rapidly grow on your feet.
One additional tip to reduce the presence of the dermatophytes that cause athlete’s foot is to be sure you are regularly washing your socks, preferably at high temperatures. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi can survive washing in cooler water.
A study analyzing the presence of fungi and bacteria on socks found that washing socks at 86°F eliminated only half of the fungus present whereas washing at 140°F eliminated all traces of fungus and bacteria. Therefore, washing on higher temperature settings, such as warm and hot, will eliminate considerably more bacteria and fungus buildup from your socks. Just be sure to consult the manufacturer’s recommended care instructions, as repeatedly washing socks in hot water can damage some fabrics.
The General Benefits of Socks
It’s clear that this myth that wearing socks all day makes them inherently dirty and causes fungal infection is simply not true. From the sources above, you can see that while dirty socks CAN lead to these issues, all it takes is regular rotation and washing (on warm or hot) of the socks in your top drawer to keep these risks to a minimal level. Since we know it’s safe to do so, should we actually wear socks all the time during the day?
There are many benefits to wearing socks all day. Socks reduce moisture on the feet especially if they have moisture-wicking fabrics or properties. Socks provide necessary cushioning and support for everyday activities. Socks also act as a barrier against friction between your shoes and your feet. Finally, socks serve as a necessary fashion accessory for many events and occasions.
For more in-depth analysis on these general benefits of wearing socks, we recommend reading our previous blogs and advice columns:
- The Best Socks for Sweaty Feet: The Power of Moisture Wicking Fabric
- Do Arch Support Socks Really Work? What You Need to Know
- 7 Simple Ways to Prevent Your Shoes From Rubbing Your Heels
- Color Coordinating Your Dress Socks, Shoes, and Suit
Wearing Socks All Day (and Night) is Healthy
While there are a myriad of health and style benefits from wearing socks all day, we often don’t think about wearing socks at night. When we get into bed, we either think that we’re warm enough from the blankets, prefer our feet to breathe (hopefully after wearing socks all day), or just like to wiggle our toes. But did you know that sleeping with socks on can actually be beneficial?
There are generally no serious health risks associated with wearing socks to bed. This is a safer way to heat your feet while sleeping as opposed to heating pads, hot water bottles, and rice socks. Wearing feet-warming socks can actually help induce sleep and lead to higher quality sleep.A study conducted by the NIH shows that wearing socks at bedtime is the best way to keep your feet warm and cozy, whether during the cold winter months or when you’re blasting the air conditioner in summer. The study concluded that wearing socks to bed can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep with fewer disturbances than otherwise.
If you want the best all-purpose pair of socks, whether for activity during the day or to keep your feet cozy at night, we recommend the extra cushioned low-cut ankle socks from Tall Order. They have arch support and extra cushioning to keep you comfortable all day and night, and feature breathable moisture-wicking fabrics to keep your feet cool when you need them. They come in men’s sizes 9-20, so no matter how big your feet are, you can feel confident and comfortable wearing these socks all day and night.