Tomorrow at this time it will be spring here in Wisconsin. For me, the warmer weather means I see more pictures of baseball players wearing high socks, and what I'm hoping to do with this is start a conversation about hosiery fit and how it plays a role in foot health, comfort, and overall confidence. High socks are a hosiery product that stops just below the crease of the knee when properly fitted. Socks that rise above the top of the calf can bite into the back of a knee creating discomfort for the wearer, and possibly interfering with the circulatory patterns if the band is exceptionally tight. High socks are a look that works best on what I would call the average calf. Bulky calves and skinny lower legs lack the proper circumference ratios to make this look as appealing as it is on players whose calves are within the bell curve. This is not statistical analysis by any stretch of the imagination, but this is where comfort and confidence can be discussed. Tight socks that stretch across a larger calf and loose socks that fail to hug a wearer's leg will not be as comfortable as socks that fit, and confidence is diminished when people realize that what they are wearing does not fit. Hosiery fit is an asethetic experience. There's a visual component as well as the feeling someone gets from walking out to the mound or up to the plate wearing a uniform that fits well from head to toe.
One of the cool things about my job is that I meet people whose passion is hosiery. A friend of mine who lives up in Minnesota provides fire retardant compression hose to NASCAR. He also works with ten NFL teams, and physicians at Mayo Clinic who prescribe compression products to their patients. When I had a chance to speak with a gentleman at Thorlos I was able to learn how a sport specific sock will take the wearer's foot motions and movements into consideration. As far as I know, most high sock wearers are donning regular baseball socks, possibly with a thin sanitary sock beneath their pair. The sanitary sock was more important back in the days when dyes from hosiery could enter a fresh or existing wound and create undesirable complications. A sanitary sock can hold a bandage in place and prevent a dye transfer from products to skin which is the largest organ we as humans possess. Ill fitting socks of any height can cause a variety of problems for the wearer. Socks that are too short deny toes room to extend, they may also not fit a heel well. Bunchy wet socks create an ideal environment for blister eruption while providing an favorable climate for micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that thrive in locker room conditions.
Socks that are too long can compromise shoe fit and, paradoxically, so can socks that are too short. High socks fit when there is plenty of wiggle room in the toe upon standing. The toe part fills when the wearer stands on tiptoe, or does something like start walking, running, or jumping. My favorite socks have reinforced and well defined heels for their wearer. Each of us has fat pads beneath their feet. These provide us with cushioning when we encounter surfaces such as concrete, and the seemingly rock hard sun baked infield dirt that many a ballplayer stands upon. Socks with built in cushioning are going to provide more protection from these types of conditions, however, if your foot is exceptionally tall, or very wide, you may find that the additional thickness prevents your external footwear from fitting well. Several months ago I saw an Instagram post of Clayton Kershaw wearing an old pair of sneakers. I noticed a hole in at least one of of his shoes, and I also observed that his feet seem to be tall, and I would guess they are also on the wider side. Socks take up room inside of a shoe, and the more foot volume you start with, generally speaking, the thinner you're going to want your socks to be.
I don't feel as if this discussion would be complete without mentioning horizontally striped hosiery. The ability to wear stripes well depends not only on calf circumference, but also on lower leg length. Stripes ought to encircle the fullest part of the wearer's calf and retain full color throughout each band. This is where the short, stocky, thin, and lanky are likely to run into more trouble than their more standard sized counterparts. This is a purely personal preference for me, but it also brings up a dilemma each team, player, and coach faces. On the one hand, a team that wears the same uniform embraces sartorial solidarity. On the other hand, if a player or two would look better garbed in another sock, is that serving the team as well as the different sock selection would? Long pants take care of that, but there are players who look better, and prefer high socks. The foot portion of the sock is covered, but the fit is no less important there. It behooves everyone to select cleats that fit and flatter them as the visual can be broken by a slick pair of socks paired with cleats that do not fit. Some of these subtleties may escape most eyes, but if you watch a batter, pitcher, or fielder, you can pick up on nuances that indicate a poor fit.
Few articles of clothing are put through what socks are. For a wearer, socks are a critical component of foot health; providing protection, moisture management, comfort, and thermoregulation. On average, your foot is about twenty degrees hotter inside of a shoe than outside of it. Now pretend that you're in Arizona during July. You're losing fluids just standing there and not getting the moisture you would if you were in Florida. Too much moisture is just as bad as too little. Good socks will evacuate moisture. They will wick sweat away from your foot and allow it into your shoe which should have adequate ventilation or your feet will feel like they're cooking inside of cleats. A healthy foot is neither overly dry or too wet. Toes are not pinched or crunched, skin is intact. There are no blisters, lesions, callusing, corns, or warts. Nails are smooth, of normal thickness and color, and trimmed to an optimal length. Nails should extend to the end of the toe, but not beyond. Many cut nails too short while others permit them to grow too long. Another thing I see is people trimming nails too short on the sides. Some people think that this contributes to ingrown nails, however in my experience, it is almost always a matter of footwear that is too short, too narrow, not tall (deep) enough, or some combination of these factors, and that can be exacerbated by nails that are improperly trimmed.
It's no easy matter to trim your own nails the proper length so get yourself in for a routine pedicure and have a professional do this for you. Depending on how quickly your nails grow you may require this service more or less frequently than others. As your nails grow you can file them down periodically, stopping in to get another pedicure on an as needed basis. Diabetics should not be trimming their own nails, and if it was up to me, nobody else would do their own either. The luxury of sitting and soaking your hard working dogs is foregone by too many in today's hustle and bustle world. The other thing a pedicure does is help people become aware of their feet. Callusing, corns, and other oddities are not signs of properly fitted footwear, and can indicate improper fit in certain areas that could possibly be eliminated. Hammered toes are no treat, I've seen them developing in children, and once that joint becomes rigid, there's really nothing that can be done to restore natural movement. Pulling socks too tightly can force toes to curl, especially when paired with shoes that are too short, and sadly, many parents are reluctant to invest in professionally selected, properly fitted footwear for their growing athlete.
Professionally speaking, your male athlete gets better footwear than a female counterpart although there is some degree of flexibility there. When I watch grade school basketball the boys are wearing more expensive and better fitting shoes than the girls, but the girls playing basketball are way ahead of the cheerleaders who are standing and jumping. There aren't a lot of things you can do athletically that don't involve your feet. Even seated you are using your feet to balance and stabilize you. Running, lunging, diving, stopping, pivoting, reaching to touch a base, these are things that you want to be able to do without pain. High socks can look great, but if your shins are killing you because of shin splints, or your turf toe is hobbling you, you can't be the player you are without these ailments. Growing children's feet should be measured every six months at a minimum, more frequently if needed, and every time you walk into a shoe store regardless if you were there half an hour earlier or the day before. Avoid passing up an opportunity to have your feet measured by a professional who knows how. This process should be a part of their routine. It gives them a chance to give you the best possible service, and whether you're a fan of high socks, or not, few things are as uncool as disrespecting the time and expertise of another.
To conclude; high socks, sometimes referred to as over the calf socks in the hosiery world, need to fit well to provide an optimal wearing experience. Moisture wicking socks will help keep feet cool, or warm, dry, but not too dry, and give an athlete a competitive edge that his opponent with poorly fitted footwear lacks. They are a personal preference, a style choice, and can be an attractive alternative to long pants. Some high socks are padded for extra comfort. This level of cushioning may or may not work for you. Socks should be chosen before selecting shoes. They should have room in the toe area, fit snugly around the midfoot, and the wearer's heel should fit within the confines of the manufacturer's knitting. They should not cut into the back of the wearer's knee, bunch, sag, or be so tight that the color is stretched across skin. Socks protect shoes from feet and feet from shoes. Properly trimmed toenails will help insure that socks fit well and nails do not snag on sock fibers. Much more could, and has, been written about hosiery, but as I said when I started this post, I wanted to generate some discussions on the merits and possible disadvantages of high socks. Hopefully you have learned something, been entertained, or otherwise benefited from reading this. I had fun writing it, and look forward to watching many more high socks in the very near future.