The Design of Thorlos Padded Hiking Socks
Meet David Varsik, THORLO's senior design engineer, who describes the development and testing of Thorlos clinically-tested padded hiking socks, which will take you all the way from the street to the summit.
Design of Thorlos Padded Hiking Socks
THORLO’s Design Matrix
We designed our THORLO’s golf socks based on a five element design matrix. It assures that whether you’re taking a day trip or mountain climbing, your feet will be properly protected.
The matrix includes:
- Shoe construction;
- Foot kinetics – the way your feet are required to move;
- Varied terrains you’ll encounter;
- Climate outside as well as inside your boot; and
- Consumer testing.
Together, these elements ensure Thorlos clinically-tested padded hiking socks will deliver the guaranteed benefits and provide you with all the foot protection you need to enjoy your adventure.
The Shoe & The Last
Hiking shoes and boots vary depending on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. Generally, the more rigorous the hike, the stiffer the shoe or boot material to help protect against injuries. On the other hand, shoes for day hiking tend to be relatively lightweight, low cut and just a bit stiffer than an everyday walking shoe.
We’ve taken all of these into consideration. We have protective padded socks for the street to the trail, the approach and all the way to the summit.
Foot kinetics—where and how the foot strikes the ground—affect where we put our padding, how much we use and the yarns we chose to make the padding. We protect your feet by adding more padding in the ball and heel areas to absorb impact forces from repetitive heel strikes and toe offs, and from shearing forces, which occur when your foot moves around in the shoe or boot.
We’ll use thicker padding to protect your foot when you’re going downhill. That’s when all the force and load moves towards the front of your foot, and your foot presses up against the front of the boot. Our padding will also protect all flexing in your ankle and your heel when going uphill.
There are two climates we consider: the climate outside your shoe or boot, and the climate you create inside your footwear.
We know that people hike in different types of climates—hot, cold, rainy and muggy, and everything in between. All those possibilities are taken into consideration when choosing our yarns and fabric blends for our various padded sock products.
As for the climate inside your shoe or boot, we know you’ll create a good deal of perspiration inside your boot. So Thorlos are designed to wick that moisture away to the outside of your shoe or boot where it can evaporate.
We actually use a variety of fiber blends, as well as our exclusive THORLON fiber, which is a type of acrylic. We primarily use THORLON because it’s really the best all-around fiber to use in the closed environment of a boot or shoe. It wicks moisture, and holds its resilience, so there’s no saturation collapse.
We also use COOLMAX with some of our padded hiking socks, for hiking in warmer weather. But we blend it with THORLON to increase its resiliency. For colder weather, we have wool—THORLON blend to provide warmth, but also to ensure resiliency. Wool on its own absorbs moisture; it doesn’t wick it away. As it absorbs that moisture, the whole structure of the sock collapses. So we never use wool by itself.
We then develop a prototype for testing. For the first prototype, we’ll use a small group of in-house outdoorsman to test the product. Typically, we’ll need to do some tweaking. Eventually, we will move to a large external test group. We will continue to test the product over and over again until we are absolutely sure that it’s going to deliver the protection you need as well as the comfort you want.
Now remember, your hiking boots, Thorlos padded hiking socks, and your feet work together as a system. It’s absolutely critical that you get the right fit. So I encourage you to watch our fitting video.