The choice of socks makes a significant difference in foot comfort. Comfort is related to issues of physical protection of the foot and moisture or sweat distribution. Cotton, synthetic (acrylic) and wool are commonly used in the manufacture of socks. Each of these fibers have different characteristics and will provide variable levels of comfort.
When it is dry, cotton is an excellent fiber. It is soft and absorbes moisture. However when it gets wet, it holds moisture against the skin, compresses and does not wick the moisture away from the skin. It is acceptable for dress socks but it is not a good choice for athletic socks. Although in the past you may have heard about wearing "white cotton athletic socks", there are much better choices today.
With recent increased attention on the importance of athletic activities, synthetic (acrylic) socks became available. Currently there are many manufactures of these types of socks. They generally do not have any cotton fiber. They are thick, provide some level of moisture wicking and are very durable. However there are two significant problems with synthetic fiber socks. With excessive sweating the foot stays clammy and damp. In addition the socks cause the foot to generate excessive odor due to the inability of the sock to wick enough of the sweat from the foot.
The best fiber for socks is the new Merino wool. The soft and comfortable Merino wool keeps the foot warm and dry. It is not itchy like other types of wool fibers and is an excellent choice for warm, cold or wet weather. It evaporates moisture from the foot most efficiently, much more effectively than synthetics. In addition Merino wool is odor-free compared to synthetics. For the purpose of increased strength, the Merino wools socks contain a small percentage of acrylic and Spandex.
Merino wool socks are available at SmartWool® www.smartwool.com and at retails stores such as REI. They are more expensive than other types of socks, but well worth the additional investment. You may also consider the micro-weight Merino wool T-shirts. Once you experience the benefits of Merino wool, you will likely make it your first choice for athletic socks.