How Do I Prevent Holes in my Alpaca Socks?

How Do I Prevent Holes in my Alpaca Socks?

Posted by Kim Brooks on 1st Feb 2021

We have been asked to address some common questions. In this series we will share reader questions with you and answers designed to keep you informed and able to make the choices that fit your lifestyle the best.

Why are my socks getting holes?

You can prevent your socks from getting holes by purchasing quality natural fiber (we recommend alpaca fiber socks, of course!), trimming your toenails, and practicing good foot maintenance. Watch your step patterns and make sure you have properly fitting shoes. Do not over-wash your alpaca socks, and be sure to wash, dry and fold them properly. Could holes be caused by manufacturing defects? Finding out why your alpaca, cotton, or wool socks are getting holes is the easiest way of combating the issue. For more information on the 5 easy steps to combat holes in any type of sock, read on....

Oh, the feeling of fresh new alpaca socks! For a little while, you're walking on clouds of cushy alpaca softness, and then one day, you may notice that your new favorite socks aren't so perfect anymore - there is a hole at the toes, on the sole, or a threadbare heel.

At some point, virtually everyone has gone to put on their favorite pair of socks, alpaca or otherwise, only to find that they're wearing a sock that resembles Swiss cheese. It seemingly happens in an instant. Next comes that sinking feeling that it's time to buy socks all over again.

Holes in socks are a common problem and while rare, can also occur with alpaca socks. People often blame the socks, "their cheap!" or "they are defective" when the socks have little or nothing to do with the problem.

So why do some socks get holes in them? What can you do to elevate the holes, or at least prolong their lifespan?

Here are some of the most common reasons all types of socks wear out and what can be done to prevent holes from starting in the first place.

Foot care - Grooming

Long toenails, when rubbed up against the inside of a shoe, can literally cut the fibers causing a hole. Cut your nails down to the top of your nail bed so you can see the tip of your toe. If your toenail extended past your toe, this is a sure-fire way to end up with holes. Long toenails can also snag the inside of your socks when you are putting your socks on, which can lead to the breakage of the yarn.

Rough skin and callused patches on the feet can snag a sock and compromise the knit structure, causing breakage, which then deteriorates further into a hole. Keeping rough patches minimized by using a pumice stone or even chemicals to remove thick calluses will not only keep your socks in better shape, but your feet will feel better too.

The good news is with regular wear of alpaca socks, you will see less callus build-up and smoother feet. Alpaca reduces the friction that regularly occurs against the skin with merino wool, synthetics, and cotton socks, minimizing and sometimes even eliminating calluses.

Pivot Points & Step Patterns

Would you take a jackhammer to your socks and not expect to have a hole develop? Think about it for a second... Even if your body weight is only 100 lbs., every step you take, the whole weight of your body comes slamming down on one little area. If you strive for 10,000 steps per day, that equals 500,00 pounds of pressure on a small area in one single day. (100 lbs. X 10,000 steps divided by two because you have two feet.) That alone is a lot of pressure for a sock to bare.

If you have holes in the flat of the sock; at the heel, base of the big toe, or even on the bottom of your big toe, these holes are caused by a pivot pressure point - where one part of the body remains in constant contact with a certain spot on the ground.

These types of holes on the bottom of your socks are caused by repetitive stress wear. Standing and pivoting on a toe to get in and out of a chair, getting into your car, moving between the sink and the refrigerator or stove in the kitchen - that sort of thing. Pay attention to the things that you do during the day and the way that you move when you do them, and you will find that you've got a lot of pivots in your daily routine.

Standard pivot points, also known as pressure points, should be the ball of the foot, but some people have developed these points of contact at their heel, toe, or at the sesamoid bone (the chubby part of the foot under the big toe). Not only are you putting a ton, literally, of weight on one small point, but you are also turning in the process, grinding that small area and breaking the fibers. Like previously mentioned above the fibers break, which then deteriorates further into a hole. Take a look at the wear points inside your shoes. They will tell you a lot, and if they match with the same areas that your sock holes are in- viola!

These repetitive motion spots are harder to combat as our gait develops over time quite subconsciously. Try making an effort to be mindful while walking and pivoting on the ball of your foot so that your weight is moving towards the front. The pressure will be relieved off your hard heel and evenly onto the softer flesh of your toes and the ball of your foot, which is a wider area.

Conversely, you might walk on your toes, causing more pressure to be placed there. Try to be conscious of using your whole foot to carry your weight. It might feel funny at first, but in a short time, you can make great strides.

Perhaps you shuffle your feet, lifting your foot up just enough to move while brushing the sole of the foot against the floor. This causes shoes to shift and creates wear patterns on the rear of the foot, not on the heel but at an angle on the side of the foot. If you see tiny pills on your socks, this can be one of the causes.

Flat feet? Fallen arches? You will wear through socks faster than most.

Don't turn a blind eye to changes in your feet that occur over time. As people age, their feet change.

OK, so you're probably not going to change how you walk. What then?

Consider soft Felted Alpaca Insoles. We do offer cut-to-size insoles that will cushion your steps. This barrier will not only insulate, comfort, and protect your feet, but your socks too. If you use orthotics, these insoles can be placed over them, eliminating the rough edges from rubbing against feet and socks too. (Just make sure your shoes allow for the added layers. Read more under Properly Fitting Shoes and Socks.)

There are loads of good reasons for alpaca fiber insoles, the least of which is sock protection, and they can end up saving you money in the long run.

If you have threadbare patches at the Achilles tendon area (above the heel and between the opening of your shoes) or are getting pills on your socks there, it is because your shoes are too large. Your foot is not held properly in place, and your foot is lifting, causing repeated rubbing. This can also happen if your shoes are too wide or too large in the toe box. When feet move around with each step, it wears out socks much faster.

Too tight of shoes will reduce circulation and blood flow, making feet cold, while non-breathable shoes will restrict moisture evaporation and keep feet damp. Making sure you have the proper shoe with the proper fit will greatly improve your comfort and the life of your socks.

If your socks are too big or too tight, this can also impact their life span. Socks should expand to cover your feet. If you have excess material or the socks are so tight that you can see your skin through the knit, size up or down accordingly. Too much friction or torsion will not only cause wear but can rub painful blisters.

Not wearing shoes

Did you know walking in socks, with no shoes on, wears holes in them?

The best-case scenario is that your carpet is wool, in which case socks and carpet have comparable levels of abrasiveness and durability. The friction caused by walking in stocking feet causes each to wear each other away. However, you will notice that your socks wear through much faster and more apparent than your carpet. Worst-case scenario, your carpet is nylon, in which case it's much more abrasive than wool, and the carpet is wearing the socks away while being mostly unaffected.

Hardwood, concrete, or tile floors? Do you have laminate flooring? Some laminate floors have an aluminum oxide finish that is reportedly very hard on socks. Again these very hard surfaces afford no cushion, crushing the fibers with hundreds of pounds every time you travel from one room to another. Running outside to the porch or walkway, which is generally a rougher surface for improved traction, can cause tiny snags and even tear the threads, which leads to breakage and holes sooner than later.

This is perhaps the easiest fix. By investing in some slippers or house shoes, your socks will live to a ripe old age. Try some alpaca slippers or even cork soled Birkenstocks or clogs. Any house shoe will aid in the longevity of your socks and especially your treasured alpaca socks.

Over-washing and improper folding

Sock care has a lot to do with how long your socks last. With alpaca socks, it is best to wear them at least four times or more between laundering. It sounds crazy, but because of alpaca's natural composition, they don't hold moisture or odor and stay clean for longer. Laying them flat overnight allows any moisture that has settled between the microscopic fibers to evaporate, and they will be good as new the next and the next and the next time you wear them. This is just one of the reasons alpaca socks are a favorite among hikers and mountain climbers who carry limited supplies with them on their excursions.

Wash your alpaca socks on cold; it's fine. They don't need heat or heavy agitation to get them clean because the dirt stays on the surface. Alpaca socks are naturally anti-microbial, so you don't have to use hot water to kill bacteria. Use a gentle soap and only a dab of fabric softener, and be sure to never use chlorine bleach.

Watch what you wash them with. While alpaca is the strongest natural fiber, and with the reinforcement of nylon microfibers stronger still, it may sound indestructible, however, heavy buttons or zippers can still smash up against your alpaca socks in the wash, damaging the fibers. Some people find using a lingerie bag to be helpful, while others just do a sock only load.

Laying your alpaca socks flat to dry keeps the fibers from bending, whereas hanging creates a fold that can, in time, can break the fibers. Using a clothes dryer is not only hard on socks, but allows the air draw to pull tiny fibers out of the yarn and into your lint filter, reducing your lovely socks' fluffy texture and thickness, while drying out the elastic. Because alpaca socks hold such a small amount of moisture within the strands, they dry quick, in most cases overnight laying on top, instead of inside the dryer. 

Once dry, be sure to pair them up and interlock them at the cuff. Folding them in half or in thirds repeatedly, can cause breakage as well.

Place lavender sachets or cedar planks in your sock drawer to ensure any wool hungry pests are deterred.

Manufacturing defects

With the technology of today, most holes are not caused by manufacturing defects. When you put your socks on for the first time, inspect for any holes. Our alpaca socks are knit on circular machines, and the threads are viewed robotically to ensure a consistent thickness. If the thread breaks or is too thin, the knitting process stops. We take precautions to ensure that holes or thin spots never happen by tracking every inch, of every thread.

Some socks contain floating threads, which provide colorful shapes and patterns in many colors. These threads are inserted during the knitting process; however, the base tube of the sock is still circular and unbroken. If these floating threads come out, the socks will still remain intact and not develop a hole. However, you should never try to pull them out.

If you find any manufacturing defect, please alert us right away. We want to ensure that your socks will be long lasting bundles of joy that provide you comfort and joy.

So how long should your alpaca socks last? It depends heavily on how they are being used. The normal lifespan is between six months to a year. Remember, with some simple lifestyle changes; your hole filled socks can become a thing of the past.

May 9, 2022

Today we received the following note and fantastic sock suggestions! 

Your replies and blog are surprisingly helpful – thanks.

Let me give back by saying that even after a hole is beyond repair, an alpaca sock still has some use.

I cut off and discard the foot part and keep the ankle part. 

I use that for:

  • Keeping snow out of my shoes (like gaiters).
  • Ankle warmers
  • Wrist warmers
  • Slip over a cold can of soda with a straw out the top.
  • Wrist rests when I am typing

Hope this helps,

Mike M. 

- Thanks Mike :-)