Until I met Andrew, the man who would eventually become my husband, I was blissfully unaware that there were socks designed for specific activities. I purchased my socks in bulk and in solid colors that eliminated the need to make sure I had on a matching pair.
When I started dating Andrew, we spent weekends hiking along the shady trails near our home. I used to call this activity ‘taking a walk’ and it didn’t require specialized equipment. Andrew suggested that my feet would feel better if I were wearing a pair of socks with extra cushioning, and I agreed while we were limping to the car after a five-mile hike over terrain so scattered with sharp rocks and tree roots it resembled a trek through Mordor.
I didn’t realize that there were special socks for hiking, but a trip to REI (Recreational Equipment Insanity) set me straight on that right away. While I puzzled over the price tag on a pair woven from tan and green striped wool, Andrew handed me a flimsy bit of white cloth I held up and realized was actually a pair of socks.
“You should get liners. They’ll help to prevent blisters,” he said.
“You’re telling me my socks need socks?”
I left the store without purchasing anything when Andrew mentioned that REI had an outlet and if I weren’t picky on style, I could find suitable socks at a discount online. I ordered one set in a lovely shade of hot pink, just shy of rose and a little darker than blush, and I figured the color must be what landed them on the clearance section. Surely hiking socks would tend toward more solid, understated colors, like beige or olive green. I imagined that in a pinch I could take them off and use them as an emergency signal since the color could be seen by passing planes.
When the socks arrived, I opened the package to discover they came with instructions in five different languages and a 30 day no risk trial. They were made from a material called Thorlon, which sounded like a character from a fantasy novel.
“By the shield of Thorlon I command you!” I told Andrew.
The packaging described how this material magically prevented blisters. No liners required. A disclaimer on the tag mentioned the socks should not be ironed or dry-cleaned. While I pondered the type of person who would iron their socks and wondered just how this could be accomplished, I was relieved to notice the instructions included illustrations, captioned in English, of how the socks were fitted and cushioned. I worried I would have to learn German to get dressed for hiking.
The colorful tag also mentioned the socks protected against shock, impact, and shear. For a moment I thought I had mistakenly ordered a parachute. I reassured myself by trying them on and walking around my apartment. Although they seemed to have a nice amount of cushioning I didn’t think I would jump out of an airplane wearing them.
I wore the socks the next evening to walk down to the local library with Andrew to return some books. It was a chilly evening, so I put on the bright pink socks with a pair of matronly sandals that had elastic bands at the back, to hold them on my feet.
“My feet are cold,” I explained as I put on the socks and slipped into my sandals.
“Those socks should help.”
“If we get separated, just look for the pink glow,” I told him.
We made our way to and from the library, and Andrew not only walked beside me he carried my books and held my hand for most of the trip. It was dark out, which made it difficult for anyone to spot us I suppose, but the Thorlon material seemed to reflect the streetlights in a rosy glow around my feet. It occurred to me the packaging for these socks ought to include the disclaimer you shouldn’t judge someone until you had walked a mile in their socks. And while they are often found together, a warm heart doesn’t have to be accompanied by cold feet.