Rehabilitating the human foot – part 2 socks

It is an accepted fact that warm feet and a cool head are necessary for good health.

Alfred Vogel. Swiss naturopath

Nothing much has changed since 1889 when Thomas Ellis, the Consulting Surgeon to the General Infirmary in Gloucester, England published THE HUMAN FOOT, its Form and Structure Functions and Clothing with the warning that “few persons at all realize the amount of injury traceable to socks and stockings”.

“The ordinary median-pointed or even-sided sock is productive, directly and indirectly, of much of the evil put down to the charge of boots, and should be discarded by all who wish to use their feet as feet. The separate stall for the great toe is always desirable, but for those who, happily, have no distortion and full use of the great toe, a sock with a straight inside line will suffice. The three forms are shown in figs. 42, 43, 44.


The separate stall for the great toe is an element of great importance, but, as regards function, there is no advantage in a separate stall for each of the smaller toes; they all move together and do very well in one casing. Under some conditions of unhealthy skin it is of decided benefit, but only then.

On the material of which the sock is composed the comfort and the healthiness of the skin much depends. It is important that it should be of wool, not of a character liable to mat together; that it should be porous, readily absorbing perspiration and readily allowing it to evaporate. Cotton does not readily absorb moisture at all, but once wet it remains clammy, and is a long time drying. As a material for clothing a foot pent up in a boot it is most unsuitable.”

Expanding on our previous post Rehabilitating the Human Foot – part 1, BTR recommends that socks should be:

  • TABI or single-stall shaped with a snug fit around the instep and heel but with no constriction around the toes for a GOOD/NATURAL foot.
  • made from a natural wool blend e.g. merino wool

Toe socks can be useful to separate the toes when a skin infection is present but the wearer should be aware of the sensory tradeoff with the resulting decreased postural control (the act of maintaining, achieving or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity).


T.S. Ellis (1889) THE HUMAN FOOT; Its Form and Structure, Functions and Clothing. Churchill

Junji Shinohara, Phillip Gribble (2011) FIVE-TOED SOCKS DECREASE STATIC POSTURAL CONTROL AMONG HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS AS MEASURED WITH TIME-TO-BOUNDARY ANALYSIS. Athletic Training Research Laboratory, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA