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Cotton vs Polyester Socks - Which is better?

Best Sock Material: Polyester vs Cotton Socks

Does sock material matter?

If you’ve ever worn a thin pair of dress socks on a cold day, or a warm pair of wool socks when it’s hot, you quickly realized that the material of your socks matters. When you look at fabric compositions of socks, you’ll notice that they almost always are made from a blend of different materials. You won’t often find 100% cotton socks, because cotton isn’t naturally elastic, so the socks won’t hug your foot or stay up on your calf.

Cotton Slouch Socks

Each material in a pair of socks plays a different purpose. Nylon is great for knitting designs, elastic and lycra make your socks stretchy, but what about cotton vs polyester? When cotton is used as the base material, you get a much different feel than when polyester is the primary material.

There are many different material blends that can be used in socks, but let’s compare two of the most popular base materials: cotton vs polyester.

Warm cotton socks

Are cotton or polyester socks warmer?

Polyester is a less insulating material than cotton. If your goal is to find warm socks, then cotton is the winner. Other materials such as wool and alpaca fleece are even better cold weather options.

Keep in mind that the thickness and tightness of the knit will play an equally important role in how warm a pair of socks feels.

Do cotton or polyester socks last longer?

Polyester is typically a more durable material than cotton for socks. If your goal is to find the longest lasting pair of socks possible, then blends that include polyester may last longer than cotton. 

The type of material is just one factor that determines how long a pair of socks will last. The quality of the material and knitting is also important. A well knit pair of cotton socks with high quality cotton will last longer than a poorly made pair of polyester socks that use the cheapest possible materials. Ultimately, you get what you pay for.

Are cotton or polyester socks better for sweaty feet?

Both cotton and polyester can have benefits for people who have sweaty feet. When you sweat, you want the moisture to evaporate. If it doesn’t it can form bacteria when trapped against the skin, leading to stinky feet.

Since your socks are often in shoes and your sweat can’t evaporate like it can on parts of your body with more airflow, a good pair of socks should wick moisture away from your feet and dry quickly. For this reason, blends that use both cotton AND polyester are great. Cotton is naturally moisture wicking, while polyester allows sweat to evaporate quickly.

What material is best for colorful socks?

When it comes to make fun sock designs, we have lots of different options. 

Polyester and cotton both hold colors very well, though you’ll be able to get the most vibrant colors in polyester blends.

Colorful Cotton Rainbow Socks
Cotton Rainbow Socks from Hippy Feet

In recent years, a process called “dye sublimation” has made printing on polyester fabric more popular. This printing style allows you to get very detailed designs such as putting your face or a pet on a pair of socks. Dye sublimation can create some great quirky designs, but doesn’t have as high-end of a feel as other design styles.

Other options include embroidering logos into socks after they’re made or using a process called “jacquard” to knit designs directly into the sock while they’re being created. Both options are great embellishment styles that can be used on both polyester and cotton socks.

Is polyester or cotton more environmentally friendly?

Many people want to make sure that they’re purchasing products that aren’t harmful to the planet. We frequently share information on our efforts to be more eco-friendly and how this often starts with choosing the right materials. One of the first things to consider here is whether or not the socks are made using renewable, natural materials. 

Sock globe - recycled cotton is more eco-friendly than polyester

As a general rule of thumb, naturally occurring materials are more sustainable. Many synthetics such as polyester and nylon are derived from chemical and petroleum products. The creation process of these materials can be polluting and use non-renewable resources. Once you eventually wear out your socks and dispose of them, these materials usually aren’t biodegradable.” - The Sock Dude 

Conclusion: Cotton vs. Polyester Socks

In the comparison between cotton and polyester socks, we believe cotton based socks are better. Not only does it make a more comfortable pair of socks for most activities, but it’s also better for the planet. 

Our collection of Cotton Socks is knit with soft and breathable blends of recycled cotton, ringspun cotton, and other premium materials your feet will love. If you prefer wool socks for hiking, head over to our Wool Sock Collection for merino wool and alpaca fleece blends.
Next article Guide to Groomsmen Socks

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