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Sweaty Socks Made From 100 Percent Cotton Most Likely to Cause Blisters, Study Finds

Associated Press 22 February 2006

Jeff Douglas

Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Sweaty socks made from 100 percent cotton are the worst when it comes to causing nagging blisters, according to research conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

A study by biological engineering students released Tuesday tested 10 popular brands of athletic socks and separated the good from the bad with a device that measured moisture and friction, which causes blisters.

But physicians say there's no reason to get your cotton socks in a bunch, unless your feet are regularly active and you are prone to blisters.

The findings showed that a sock's material matters most, not brand or price, said John Viator, the assistant professor who advised the research students.

All-cotton socks are most likely to cause blisters on sweaty feet, according to research data, while nylon socks performed the best. Socks that were a cotton-synthetic blend scored somewhere between the two.

The study is useful not just for athletes, but for diabetics with circulation problems and people who wear prosthetics, Viator said.

"The uniqueness of this study is they took a wide variety of socks and examined different levels of moisture," Viator said.

Similar studies have examined friction and footwear, Viator said, but the University of Missouri study took previous research a step further.

Students developed a device that used a motor to rub a piece of Plexiglas holding the sock against a platform, then calculated the "coefficient of friction," or amount of friction it produced.

The measuring was done in a humidity chamber that could adjust the amount of moisture or sweat exposed on the socks.

In the coming weeks, Markus Smiley and fellow biological engineering students plan to take the research to its final and possibly most unpleasant step.

They'll measure the sweat on different socks worn by intramural basketball players after an hour of activity to determine the amount of moisture an average foot produces.

"It seems disgusting and I'm not too excited about it," Smiley said. "But it's going to let us know how significant our data for moisture is compared to real life."