girlnextdoortn

Wool Allergy or sensitivity

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girlnextdoortn

Has anyone developed a wool allergy or sensitivity from wearing wool sock while backpacking?

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shotgunpapa

No not from socks but i do have trouble with wool pants and shirts

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S Katz

If you look at magnified wool fibers you'll see the source of most peoples wool sensitivity. The sharp scaly fibers merely dig into and irritate the skin.

Although wool is well advertised and currently popular.... other specialty materials can also perform very well.

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Aaron

So far so good with (Merino) wool socks here. :) (I always hike in socks from Darn Tough which work great)

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S Katz

Merino’s is exceptionally soft and lightweight. Pretty nice stuff... for socks.

I owned some far lesser quality wool socks issued to me when I was in the Army... that lasted for decades.

Edited by S Katz

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toejam

Seems like maybe I've had minor irritation on an ankle, but very isolated cases. I always wear wool socks hiking becasue of durability, moisture management, and warmth. Good brands don't seem to bother people. 

I've also gotta say I feel like wool t-shirts changed my life. I've got a bunch of long & short sleeve t-shirts & leggings, and they are really comfortable - warm in cool weather, cool in warm weather, and never stink.

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girlnextdoortn

Ok so this is what I've got going on and my thought process behind it. Sorry for the delay in responding I've been hiking most of this past week.

A couple of months ago I'm out on a little day hike. It wasn't overly hot that day and my feet felt fine. So I didn't change socks mid-day like I normally do. So I get back to my car and I'm taking off my boots to discover this rash at my sock line down both of my feet. It's red, raised up, and pissed off. So a few days of itching it turns brown then all the skin peels off. At this point I'm thinking ok I've over done the laundry detergent. So same detergent no rash any where on my body.

So skip ahead and many miles later I'm still having the same problem. I go to work and order latex exam gloves to wear. I'm in dentistry so I'm thinking ok this is an allergy to latex/spandex. So I'm wearing latex gloves for extended periods of time. Nothing. I'm looking at all my hiking clothes most have spandex. No rash from any of my undergarments, socks, work out clothes.

So here I am hiking in every brand of merino wool sock I own. Every brand it's the same thing. Smart wool, Fits, Darn Tough. So I get a pair of liners same thing but less of a reaction. So I'm off to my local outfitters to buy a pair of cool max or full synthetic sock. Same reaction. So at this point I'm thinking ok is it my boots. Completely broken in boots never have I had a blister from these boots. So I'm out wearing a pair of low top hikers same thing. Basically if I wear Chacos I don't get a rash. It's just not possible for me to wear Chacos every time I hike. Yeah I've been 18 miles in a day on a pair but I felt it.

So I get online to fine a wool alcohols allergy.  I go to see my dermatologist and he's looking at me scratching his head because he has never seen anything like it and I'm still waiting to see what 9 hoops to jump to get a wool alcohols allergy testing done.  He gives me some steroid cream that heels it up in a day.

Now I've not worn a pair of straight cotton socks for obvious reasons. I've seen to many people with nasty blisters. 


Ok people what am I missing? What could be causing the rash?

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S Katz


1.  Wool has had a huge global glut in the market. Many nations governments have invested to preserve their wool industries. Hence the sustainability and other often extremely exaggerated attributes contributed to wool are... just not true.  Wool fabric is merely made of yards made from the wool (fur?) of sheep... and has NO magical qualities. No fabric is both cool in summer and warm in winter (that would be magical).   

2.  Cotton (like wool) has been used and benefitted mankind... since before written history.

3.  Wool does NOT prevent blisters, and cotton does NOT cause blisters.... nor does any other fabric. Blisters are caused by friction. The friction is usually a result of poor fit.

1 hour ago, girlnextdoortn said:

So I get back to my car and I'm taking off my boots to discover this rash ........
Ok people what am I missing? What could be causing the rash?

Your boots.

Mold, mildew, all sorts of yuckies can grow in boots. Remove the laces, spray the inside wet with disinfectant and let air/sun dry... pulled as far open as you can. If the boots have inserts wash them.

Edited by S Katz

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girlnextdoortn

I spray my boots on a regular bases. I also spray my pack. This isn't my first rodeo. 

One of the pairs of low top hiker I've worn this year a brand new pair of shoes. Same thing the rash from my sock line down. I had the rash above the top of my low top hiker. 

As a general rule of thumb cotton socks are more likely to cause a friction blister. They saturate quickly and are slow to dry. The perfect storm in your boot. 

Wool socks wick moisture away from your skin which is less likely to cause a friction blister. Which is why most name brand outdoor sports store don't sell cotton socks. 

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S Katz
8 hours ago, girlnextdoortn said:

As a general rule of thumb cotton socks are more likely to cause a friction blister. They saturate quickly and are slow to dry. The perfect storm in your boot. 

Wool socks wick moisture away from your skin which is less likely to cause a friction blister. Which is why most name brand outdoor sports store don't sell cotton socks. 

Fabric and garment technology actually uses science... with testing and detailed studies. In my decades of experience in the industry.... I've never seen these studies/knowledge you reference here. Although... I am admittedly.... well aware of the pop culture opinion of wool.

Actually... I would suggest even just a little thought would prove you wrong. If you want something to wick... wicks have historically been made from cotton... because cotton naturally wicks. The capillary action of cotton has been well known for millinea. That is why towels are made of cotton. The exceptional capillary action (AKA wicking) of cotton is excellent for drying off.

The fibers of wool.... have evolved (or were created by God... take your pick). To provide a protective layer for sheep. The lanolin rich wool acts like a rain-proof tarp. And the tightly kinked wool fibers stagnate both air and moisture, even once collected cleaned and woven. This makes wool an excellent  insulator even when wet. But wool clothing does not effectively wick. When hiking with wool socks it is generally a good idea to carry and 2nd pair that can air dry and be rotated.

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