As someone in the sock business, I know that terrible feeling all too well - you go to put on your favorite pair of socks and you notice a little hole on the heel or in the toe. You think to yourself, “it’s no big deal, this sock is still wearable.” However, as you carry on with your day, you can feel more of your foot directly touching the inside of your shoes. It starts to become annoying and can even cause itching and pain. When you go to take your socks off at the end of the day, best case you have a sock with a much bigger hole, and worst case you have chafing or blisters on your feet. When I have socks for only a couple weeks before they start to tear and degrade, I know I get really annoyed. This is especially because now I have to spend more money on new socks! But why did they rip in the first place?
Socks develop holes and rip due to the friction created when walking. Walking compresses socks against abrasive surfaces such as the ground, insoles, toenails, and rough spots on feet which lead to gradual degradation. Ultimately, socks rip as a result of improper sizing, overuse, and thin material.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the factors that affect how long socks last, discuss the general expectations for a sock’s total wear time, and give you some tips on how to maximize the time your socks stay intact before they begin to degrade, rip, and tear open holes.
What are the Factors that Impact Sock Durability?
The material from which your socks are made will greatly impact how long they last, how easy or difficult they are to maintain, and how well they stand up to the stresses of different activities in life. While there are exceptions, natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, and silk, are more likely to degrade from general wear and tear. On the other hand (errr...feet), synthetic fibers, such as polyester, olefin, and spandex, are generally engineered to be longer lasting and hold their shape no matter how tense they get from stretching. For more information on choosing the right material for your socks, check out our previous blog on the best sock materials.
Not only does the material choice matter in what determines the durability of a pair of socks, but how those materials are layered together influences the thickness of the fabric. The thickness of the sock plays a big role in its durability. Generally, thicker socks will be longer lasting than thinner ones, as they won’t get stretched out as thin when contouring to your feet. This is especially true if you have wide feet. A thicker sock will also provide more cushioning and shock absorption, leading to less opportunities for tears throughout a sock’s wear time.
With regards to their durability, just as important as the composition and the thickness of your socks is how they fit on your feet. This is especially true if you have XL feet, XXL feet, or even XXXL feet like me. If your socks are too small, you’ll stretch them too thin leaving them exposed to ripping and tearing (not to mention they’ll feel extremely uncomfortable). On the contrary, if they are too big, they are more prone to slide around inside your shoes, leading to degradation and friction.
How well your socks adapt to how you are using your feet during an activity plays a big role in how long your socks last before tearing. The socks you wear in the office shouldn’t be the socks you wear out running, and vice versa. Thinner socks are more apt for lounging, business settings, formal occasions, and other more sedentary settings. A thicker, sturdier pair of socks is better suited for walking, running, sports, and any other activity where you are standing and/or moving around a lot.
How Long are Socks Supposed to Last?
Here at Tall Order, we get asked this question a lot: how long should I expect to have my socks intact before they start to rip and tear? In addition to those attributes above with respect to material, fit, and use, a couple of other factors can influence the durability of your socks
- How often you wear your socks - obviously, socks you wear more often will degrade faster than those you only wear once in a while
- How you care for your socks - when including them with your laundry, the types of detergent and wash/dry cycles you can either prolong or shorten a sock’s useful life. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s care recommendations to maximize the wearability of your socks!
How often socks are worn, how they are cared for, and the material used to make them all influence how long a sock will last. If made of a high quality material and cared for properly, socks should last between 11-12 months on average.
This is backed up by the research we conducted. To get the best idea of how long socks last, we evaluated the average amount of time between our customer’s repeat orders. We analyzed the buying behavior of 70 randomly selected repeat customers and found that the average time socks last is around 11.22 months.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of variables influencing this data. For example, we don't know exactly why they are buying from us again, or how often people wear the socks. It could be that they are purchasing them as a gift, getting more because they enjoy them, or that they actually need a new pair because they have worn their old ones down.
In order to see the long-term data and avoid orders involving gifts, we eliminated anyone who had a repeat purchase within 5 months of their original, and anyone purchasing gift cards.
Five months is typically not enough time to wear down socks, even if they were worn very frequently. If they bought them in this time period, it is more likely that they bought them as a gift, or enjoyed their first pair so much that they wanted a second.
This repeat customer data depicts that our customers don’t typically purchase more socks for 11-12 months after their initial purchase.
How to Prevent Your Socks from Developing Holes and Rips
With all this information on socks tearing and ripping, you’re probably looking for a few tips on how to keep your socks from developing those annoying tears. Well, look no further:
☐ Match Your Sock to Your Activity: as discussed several times on this and our other blogs, not all socks are designed for all occasions. Be sure you’re wearing the socks best designed to handle the activity you’re doing in order to maximize their wear time.
☐ Cut Your Toenails: people often forget their toenails are compressed against the inside of their socks all day. Walking only exacerbates this compression, and longer, sharper, and untended toenails have a better chance of snagging on loose threads on the inside of socks throughout the day. Plus, it’s good hygiene to trim your toenails regularly.
☐ Care For the Bottom of Your Feet: rougher footbeds are more prone to wear down the threads of socks, especially those that are thin. Regular smoothing of your foot pads, such as what you can accomplish with a pumice stone and some lotion, can help prolong the degradation of the bottoms of your socks.
☐ Buy Socks with Extra Cushioning: instead of buying poor-quality single-layer socks that you have to replace more often, look for socks that have extra layers of cushioning. These cushions absorb some of the impact of your feet on your socks, which in turn slows the rate at which the socks degrade. (Are these premium features worth the extra price? Explore our blog on expensive socks to learn more.)
☐ Make Sure Your Socks Actually Fit: picking socks that correctly fit your feet is often overlooked by those who rip their socks more often. So finding the right fit for your feet is of paramount importance to make your socks last. This is especially true if you have XL feet, XXL feet, or XXXL feet and need socks for XL feet, socks for XXL feet, or socks for XXXL feet.
Tired of Ripping Your Socks?
Looking for the highest-quality socks that seem to last a really long time? Tall Order offers socks made of premium fabrics and extra cushioning designed to last. If you’re a really big or tall guy, you’ll want to check out our selection of socks in men’s sizes 16 to 20. Additionally, check out our Extra Cushioned and Low Cut Ankle Socks for the most comfortable and durable socks for any activity, in sizes and prints that fit any man and his personality.