Acrylic vs. Wool vs. Synthetic Socks [How to Choose]

Acrylic vs. Wool vs. Synthetic Socks How to Choose

It can be difficult to find the right pair of socks for the right occasion. If you look online, there seems like there is a sock for every type of activity out there. To help spare you the headache on your next sock shopping trip, we’ve compiled a guide so you can easily navigate between acrylic, wool, and synthetic socks. 

What is the difference between acrylic, wool, and synthetic socks? Acrylic socks are known for their comfort and quick dry time. Wool socks provide cushion and are very absorbent. Synthetic blend socks are usually a mix of different materials to offer specialized comfort and fit.  

Of course, there is still a lot to consider when choosing the perfect pair. What’s best for hiking might not necessarily be what’s best for everyday wear. Let’s break down all the specifics. Your feet will thank you for this guide. 

Sock Material: Choosing Between Acrylic, Wool, & Synthetic

Choosing Between Acrylic, Wool, & Synthetic

Being able to identify different sock materials accurately is the first step in choosing the proper pair of socks for your needs. 


acrylic sock attributes

Acrylic fibers are lightweight synthetic fibers made from polymer. One thing acrylic is known for, is being able to mimic other fibers. Because of this, acrylic is mostly found in clothes due to its warmth and durability.

Although acrylic was developed in the early 1940s by the DuPont company, it wasn’t mass-produced until the late 1950s. Today you can find acrylic fibers in clothing such as sweaters, jacket linings, furniture fabrics, and of course socks.  

Acrylic in Socks

Compared to cotton, acrylic is three times more absorbent according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM)


  • Moisture-wicking capabilities. 
  • Inexpensive
  • Breathable.
  • Hold their shape in the wash. 
  • Hold color better than other fibers. 


  • Loses insulation when they become wet.
  • Not as comfortable.
  • Less comfortable in hotter conditions. 
  • Human-made, making it not eco-friendly.

When to Wear Acrylic Socks

Because acrylic can mimic wool, they make great versatile socks and can be used for all sorts of activities. The AAPSM recommends the use of acrylic socks for golf, tennis, hiking, and outdoor activities in both warm and cool weather. 

Acrylic socks are also popular with runners because of their comfort and ability to keep feet dry. 

Three Top Picks for Acrylic Socks:

1. Thorlos Jmx Max Cushion Running Ankle Socks (AD)


If you’re looking for a great inexpensive running sock, this might be your best bet. Designed specifically for runners in mind, these socks have extra padding in the ball and heel, providing maximum comfort. 

Some of the best features are:

  • Helps protect your feet against blistering
  • Heavyweight padding in the ball and heel provides shock absorption
  • Extra padding to protect your Achilles tendon
  • Made with no rub toe seams
  • Lightweight padding that provides better arch support
  • Made in the USA
  • Created with THOR·LON® throughout the body of the sock which wicks moisture, keeping your feet drier

2. World’s Softest Men’s / Women’s Sensitive Fit Comfort Feet Crew Socks (AD)


These unisex socks have plenty of great reviews to back up the “world’s softest” title. Accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association, these socks were designed with soft seam technology to reduce rubbing and irritation. 

Features of this sock include:

  • Non-binding Soft Knit top adds 40% more cross stretch for a comfortable fit 
  • Extra padding in the heel fore more durability 
  • Fits calves up tDuro 18 inches in size
  • Sole is created with thick terry for ultra comfort with each step
  • Moisture wicking technology keeps feet dry and blister free

3. Dickies Men’s 2 Pack High Bulk Acrylic Thermal Boot Socks (AD)


If you need a great cold-weather sock, this might be the pair for you. These socks are a great alternative to wool and are perfect for keeping your feet warm all winter long. These socks are:

  • Heavy acrylic fibers provide extra cushion and support 
  • Machine washable
  • Designed with “premium, moisture control yarns to provide superior warmth and comfort”
  • Inexpensive wool alternative 
  • Reinforced heel and toe for extra comfort and durability


wool sock attributes

Wool is a fiber made from sheep and sometimes other animals. According to Wikipedia, “Wool consists of protein together with a small percentage of lipids.”

Wool has been used in fabrics for thousands of years. Some of the earliest wool garments date back to 9000 BC. 

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that wool became machine washable. This type of wool is made by dipping the wool fibers in the polymer which prevents garment shrinkage. 

Wool in Socks

In today’s world, most wool socks are made from merino wool. Merino wool does not itch and is thinner than regular wool. 

Merino wool comes from the Merino Sheep, which originates from Spain. These sheep can also be found in Australia and New Zealand. 


  • One of the most comfortable materials for socks.
  • Remains perfectly insulated in both cold and warm temperatures.  
  • Very absorbent, keeping your feet dry. 
  • Naturally absorbent
  • Better odor control
  • All-natural option.


  • Expensive
  • Do not dry as fast quickly. 
  • If low quality, socks may be itchy.

When to Wear Wool Socks

According to Business Insider, “Wool can hold a third of its weight in moisture before it even starts to feel ‘wet.’” This makes wool socks perfect for the winter keeping feet dry in the snow. 

Not only is wool super absorbent, but it also has the capability of staying warm even when wet. This makes it perfect for sweaty feet. 

Wool also has natural anti-bacterial properties, which makes it odor resistant. Another reason why wool is a fan favorite for those with sweaty feet. 

The AAPSM recommends the use of wool socks for all cold outdoor activities. 

Not only are wool socks great in the winter, but they also provide the perfect insulation year-round. This makes it a popular choice with hikers. 

Top 3 Picks for Wool Socks:

FUN TOES Men’s Thermal Insulated Heavy Duty Premium Merino Wool Crew Socks 4 Pairs (AD)


If you’re looking for a great outdoor sock, this versatile option is great for all activities. These merino wool socks are an inexpensive option and come highly rated. They are:

  • Fully cushioned arch support
  • Made with premium merino wool
  • Designed to keep your feet warm on the coldest of days
  • Perfect for tough outdoor activities
  • Anti-itch
  • Created with anti-odor technology to keep your feet smelling clean

Enerwear – Coolmax 4 Pack Women’s Merino Wool Outdoor Hiking Trail Crew Sock (AD)


Who said merino wool couldn’t be stylish? These socks are guaranteed to keep your feet looking cute and warm all winter long. 

We love these socks because they are:

  • Designed with extreme cold weather in mind
  • Terry-loop cushioning throughout the entire foot
  • Perfect for all outdoor activities
  • Available in several styles / colors
  • Made with breathable mesh for ideal arch support
  • Reinforced heel and toe for extra durability

Merino Wool Hiking & Walking Socks for Men, Women & Kids, Trekking, Outdoor, Cushioned, Breathable 3 Pack (AD)


If you need the perfect hiking sock, look no further. These socks were made specifically with hiking in mind and come highly recommended by a mountaineer. 

These socks are exceptional because they are:

  • Extra cushion and padding throughout the sock for ultimate comfort
  • Made with natural insulation and cooling properties, this sock can be worn all year long
  • Designed in Denmark and made in Europe
  • Developed with the help of Rasmus Kraugh, the first Danish man to climb Mt. Everest without the use of oxygen
  • Made with ventilation mesh throughout the sock to keep sweat out


synthetic sock attributes

Synthetic fibers are man-made fibers that are created through the process of chemical synthesis. The most popular synthetic fibers are rayon, nylon, and polyester. 

The first synthetic fibers were created back in the 1880s by an English chemist, Joseph Swan. According to Wikipedia, “His fiber was drawn from a cellulose liquid, formed by chemically modifying the fiber contained in tree bark.”

Nylon became the first fully synthetic fiber after it was produced by the DuPont company in the 1930s. Prior to that, synthetic fibers were derived from wood, making them artificial but not entirely synthetic. 

Polyester came not long after the creation of nylon. 

Synthetic Fibers in Socks 

Although we previously mentioned that acrylic socks fall under the synthetic umbrella, acrylic is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different types of synthetic socks out there. Synthetic socks are often a blend of different human-made materials such as nylon and Lycra. 


  • Great at keeping feet dry while maintaining a snug fit. 
  • Better arch and ankle support. 
  • Cheaper than wool socks.


  • Does not do a great job of keeping moisture out. 
  • Will not keep your feet as warm as other options..

When to Wear Synthetic Socks

Synthetic Socks are another versatile athletic sock. Like acrylic socks, you can wear synthetic socks for most activities. 

Because of their ability to hold shape and keep moisture out, synthetic socks are best worn for activities taking place in wet weather. 

The AAPSM recommends synthetic socks for running, cycling, outdoor activities of both warm and cold temperatures, and therapeutic hosiery (i.e. diabetes and compression socks).

Compression Socks

Medical professionals recommend compression socks for a variety of reasons. They work by applying gentle pressure to your legs, which then promotes blood flow circulation from your legs to your heart. Typically, they fit super snug against your feet and legs. 

Diabetes and the Use of Compression Socks

Compression socks may help combat the symptoms of diabetes. They work best for those suffering from poor blood flow circulation. 

Diabetes can affect the feet by causing the veins in your legs not to function properly. This can cause intense swelling in the feet and legs. 

Compression socks can also help those with diabetes by preventing blood clots. If left untreated, blood clots can cause heart attacks.

Those with diabetes are also more susceptible to developing diabetic foot ulcers. This can reduce your sense of feeling in your legs and toes, making any cut or injury less noticeable and more life-threatening if left untreated. 

If you are pregnant and have gestational diabetes, compression socks might also be a good option for you. 

Diabetic Socks vs. Compression Socks

Although the two share similarities, diabetic socks are not the same as compression socks. In addition to circulating the blood flow through compression, diabetic socks also have moisture-wicking capabilities to reduce the risk of foot injuries. 

In addition to keeping the moisture out, diabetic socks are also anti-microbial to prevent the spread of infections and fungus. It is also recommended that people with diabetes wear socks with white soles to help detect an open wound. 

Top 3 Picks for Synthetic Socks:

Hanes Men’s Comfortblend Max Cushion 6-Pack Black Low Cut Socks, Shoe Size: 6-12 (AD)


If you’re searching for a great everyday sock, this might be your best bet. An inexpensive option, these polyester socks are perfect for all-around wear.

  • Polyester and spandex blend, providing maximum comfort
  • Machine washable
  • Made with “Fresh iq advanced odor protection technology (that) attacks odor-causing bacteria to help you feel fresh all day”
  • Very inexpensive
  • Moisture wicking yarns keep your feet dry all day long

APTYID Men’s Performance Ankle Athletic Running Socks (6 Pack) (AD)


Looking for a great running sock? These socks are soft and supportive, providing ultimate comfort when running.

  • Lightweight 
  • Padded heel tab for extra blister resistance
  • Reinforced heel and toe for extra durability
  • Not too thick or thin, perfect for everyday wear
  • Breathable
  • Ribbed band in arch to provide extra support

Facool Women’s Moisture Wicking Athletic Cushion Hiking Camping Running Walking Ankle Socks 3/6 Pairs (AD)


This synthetic blend option claims to be the one-stop-shop for all athletic activities. They also come in a variety of fun colors because who says socks need to be boring?

  • Made with dry-fit synthetic material to keep feet dry and cool
  • Seamless toe to prevent chafing 
  • Mesh ventilation panels for extra breathability 
  • Extra deep heel pocket to prevent slipping
  • Available in multiple colors

Sock Styles

styles of socks

Acrylic, wool, and synthetic socks all come in a variety of styles. To help you choose the perfect fit, I’ve compiled a quick list of all the styles you may run into. 

Thigh High Socks

Thigh-high socks fit over the knee and right in the middle of the thigh. This style is popular among women and tends to give off a youthful and fashionable look. This style is most popular with boots. It is typically worn in warmer weather with shorter-fitting shorts, skirts, and dresses.

Over the Knee Socks

This style of sock fits right about the knee and below the middle of the thigh. Over-the-knee socks are typically worn with boots. Like thigh-high socks, over-the-knee socks are most popular with women.  It is also known as a warmer weather sock.

Knee High Socks

Knee-high socks are another style of socks that are popular among women. This style sock sits right at the knee. Just like over thigh high and over the knee socks, knee-high socks are usually worn with tall boots. Knee-high socks are worn at any time of the year.

Mid-Calf Socks

Mid-Calf socks are most popular with men and are more commonly known as trouser socks. This style sock sits right at the middle of the calf. Trouser socks tend to give off a more formal look and can be worn at any time of the year.

Crew Socks

Crew socks rest right below the middle of the calf. Crew socks are popular with all genders. This style of socks is best worn with hiking boots. Crew socks are very versatile, they go with most styles and can be worn at any time of the year.

Ankle Socks

Ankle socks are most commonly worn for all athletic activities. These socks sit right above the ankle. Ankle socks are great for booties and loafers. This style of sock is popular with all genders and can be worn at any time of the year.

No-Show Socks

Just as the name implies, no-show socks are made to appear invisible while wearing shoes. No-show socks rest just below the ankle. This style is most popular with women and is commonly worn with ballet flats and sneakers. No-Show socks are best for warmer weather.

Toe Socks

Toe socks are like gloves for your feet except there are holes for your toes instead of holes for your fingers. Surprisingly there are a lot of benefits to wearing toe socks. 

Wearing toe socks reduces the rubbing of your toes while walking. This minimizes your risk of blisters.

 By wearing toe socks, it allows your weight to be distributed evenly. This can be useful in athletic activities.

Other Sock Materials

We’ve covered three of the most popular options when it comes to sock materials, but there are still plenty more to discover. Other sock materials include:

  • Bamboo
  • Cashmere
  • Cotton
  • Fleece
  • Ingeo
  • Polyester
  • CoolMax
  • Silk

Why Do We Wear Socks? The History of the Sock. 

ancient socks

It is uncertain when humans started wearing socks. The wearing of socks dates all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. From there we know the Romans were also found wearing socks with their scandals. According to Wikipedia, the Ancient Greeks also made socks called “piloi” out of matted animal hair.

Socks have come a long way since the Ancient Egyptians wore them (article). A major sock breakthrough came about in 1938 when nylon was developed. Before then synthetic blend socks didn’t exist. The only socks were made from silk cotton or wool. 

In Conclusion

Wearing socks has several health benefits. Ultimately socks provide insulation to help keep our feet dry and warm. This reduces our risk of major infections in the feet. 

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