Wool knocks your socks off

University of Otago researchers (from left) Associate Prof Cheryl Wilson, Linda Dunn, Rebecca Van Amber and Prof Raechel Laing. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.The ''elusive'' goal of helping to create the ''perfect sock'' is serious business for a group of University of Otago researchers.

The team is investigating how different fibres used in socks affect skin health, the research being funded by the New Zealand wool industry and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Department of applied sciences head Prof Raechel Laing, who worked on the research, said initial results showed wool was the kindest fabric on the skin.

The wool industry could use the results to help sell socks to growing numbers of ''worried well'', who were increasingly concerned about where products came from and how they might affect their health.

''The wool industry are interested in research which allows them to confidently make claims about the performance of their products.''

The research involved testing the effect of three different fabrics - cotton, acrylic and wool - on 16 Dunedin men who participated in the study.

The researchers measured the health of the skin by testing pH levels, water content and water loss from the skin.

To make sure the results were not skewed, each subject had to wear the same type of shoe - made by Dunedin company McKinlays.

Overall, wool came out on top, which came as a ''relief'' to the researchers.

Associate Prof Cheryl Wilson said being funded by the wool industry had no impact on the outcome.

''No-one had any idea what the outcome would be.''

The socks, made by NZ Socks in Ashburton, were coded so the researchers could be sure of the fabric and clearly marked for the left or right foot.

Prof Laing said this was not the only research members of the group had worked on aimed at finding the ideal sock.

''The perfect sock is elusive,'' she said.

Other research, led by Rebecca Van Amber, focused on how the properties of different fabrics could affect friction levels and potentially affect the likelihood of developing blisters.

That research, published in the Textile Research Journal, found that fabrics composed of fine wool created the least friction and acrylic the highest.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz


Dont know what textile this was, it was a colour. Possum/merino blend is good. You need to skin an Australian marsupial and shear Spanish sheep.

Itchy wool

What was the second best option?  Wool - expensive or cheap - drives me crazy with iching.

The've been extinct for many years

I tried to buy one in the early 90's and couldn't obtain one anywhere.

For the record, you can keep your woollen undergarments. I can't wear any next to my skin as it irritates the hell out of me. 

What about the waivers?

Or Weavers, as you might call them, thermal person. With yon synthetic fibre, the bottom fell out of the Harris Tweed market. I'd be raither wool than Du Pont™.

Extinction of the Darning Mushroom

I applaud Albert Square's plea to prevent extinction of the Darning Mushroom: "A man wants woollen sox with nae synthetic fibre. " >>Link<<.  The introduction of hard-wearing synthetic fibres mixed with wool endangered their survival by reducing  to a few isolated pockets of home knitting the environment to which they were superbly adapted: heel and toe holes in the common or domestic Sock.

Opinion from Outer Hebrides

Wool. That's the answer. Wool is from sheep, ken. A man wants woollen sox with nae synthetic fibre. Not 60% wool, all wool.