Socks: How Long They Last & When to Buy New Ones

It’s a perpetual mystery why some guys wear socks with holes. In fact, some males are seen wearing rather more hole than sock... 

This is one of those timeless questions that baffle the internet, leaving embarrassed significant others (especially women) shaking their heads. 

Why would anyone wear shamefully patchy and holey socks? It’s strange indeed, since socks are affordable and now available in such a plethora of colors and fabrics that there’s no excuse. 

Today, you can make it about orange and gray polka-dot socks.  

Tomorrow or next week, why not mix things up a little with some snazzy, yellow-striped ones? You see, variety is the spice of life--and also of the sock drawer. Some people even love mixing up pairs--wear one of each favorite! 

So no--there’s no excuse for tired-looking toes. Gone are the days when women sat around by candlelight, faithfully darning their men’s worn-out socks because such undergarments were hard to come by. Now, look on a great sock site and you can see all manner of fabrics, colors and designs.

Regardless, plenty of guys engage in questionable love affairs with sorry socks long past their prime, asserting ‘sentimental reasons’ for keeping them. Some hate to throw anything out, others get lazy, and then--of course--there are the ‘lucky socks’ (to match their lucky underpants) and unmatched socks where one that hopped off someplace might one day put in an appearance again. 

Well, you need to let go. Once a sock has a hole in it, or when it wears a crusty patch, has pulled threads, a baggy heel, looks all washed out or discolored or is the style your grandpa used to wear in his teens, it is no longer acceptable to put that thing on.

Old socks simply have to be told to take a hike; if you know someone who’s reluctant to let go, give them some toasty, on-trend, stylish socks for their next birthday, and say it with...socks. 

To ease the pain of loss, however, we’ve put together some handy tips to help you get the low-down on everything to do with socks. Here, we will look at how long you can expect socks to last, how to spot the signs they’ve passed away, things to do with old socks, and how to make favorite pairs last longer.  

How Long Can I Expect Socks to Last?

The short answer to the question is, well, it depends. There are many different types of socks and they vary in quality and durability. Choose what appears to be a high-end pair like these classic black ones made of 30% high-grade cotton, 15% polyamide and 5% Spandex for stretchiness, and you’re likely to have them for longer. 

It also matters how you wear your socks and how often, as well as the care you give to them in between wears. Here are some of the factors that determine how long your socks last: 

Price. They say, “you get what you pay for”, and this is absolutely as true with socks as anything else. If you spring for the cheap socks, fine, but just know that they will wear out much faster, develop holes, and lose their elasticity much quicker than pricier, high-quality socks. The packaging and presentation of the socks gives much away. Go for socks that are individually wrapped or boxed, and these will usually be a higher specification. 

It may seem like a bargain to only pay a few bucks for three pairs of socks, but paying a few bucks a couple of times of a year can end up costing you more than spending on socks that last. And talking of things that last, buying new also does not mean you have to go for modern designs. High-end, snazzy sock companies still also specialize in those old favorite patterns such as traditional Argyle--also in muted, old-school colors if you prefer--at a price point and manufacturing quality that mean they endure.   

Fit. Wearing ill-fitting socks decreases their life. Whether they are too big or too small, or the right fit but poor on elastication, if they don’t stay in situ, it’s a problem; slippery, sliding socks will bunch and gather under the heel and travel about the shoe, making you extremely uncomfortable and possibly leading to falls. 

Seek out socks with Spandex or elastane for extra cling. See how this pair has the Spandex as well as a nice, high-ribbed top? These won’t be falling down anytime soon.   

If you wear socks that are too small, your feet will push against the material which will quickly lead to holes. Socks too big? They will gather up and cause friction--and your socks will be holey before you know it.  

Washing. If you have delicate socks, such as dress socks for a special occasion, you ought to hand-wash and line-dry them. Having your socks tumble around a washing machine, rubbing against abrasive clothes and getting snagged in the mechanism can cause wear and tear or ripping. 

The gentler you are when washing your socks, the longer they will last. You should also heed the laundry instructions and be sure not to cook your best socks on a hot wash; these days, if you’re not wearing them down the coal mine or hauling in fish on a trawler all day, the cool wash is enough, with a quality gentle detergent.  

Activity. What you do in your socks goes a long way to determining a pair’s lifespan. Wear socks around the house with no shoes, and surfaces such as carpet or rough wood floors can cause damage to socks and shorten their life. Also, the socks you wear for a strenuous activity such as running or playing sports will suffer more damage than those you just wear to work.

Check out specialist sock sites and see if they organize their socks according to activity or age group. Many do. See how the socks in this section, for example are best suited to adults; this will take into account typical adults’ wear patterns and ensure they’re a good match. 

You don’t wear your best suit to clean the car, and there really are socks for every occasion. Some are made more for comfort, some for aesthetics and occasions, and some for harder wear. 

While no one knows exactly how long any socks will last, avoid some of the pitfalls above and you will be able to keep your socks nice for a long time. 

So, if you treat yourself to a special, well-made pair of socks, like the kind you would get for a groomsman’s gift, and if you take care of them well and only wear them on special occasions, they should last you for years. 

Should I Throw My Socks Away?

Because there is no set time frame in which you should get rid of your socks, look for signs that throwing them away is the best option. There are a few things to look for that suggest it’s time to let go of your sock buddies. 

Holes. This should be obvious but sometimes, it is not. A big hole that your toe pops out of might seem a no-brainer, but even holes in the heel or closer to the tops of your socks can lead to blisters or calluses. Holes into which your toes can slip and get caught up are very uncomfortable and can cause toenail distortion. Tell those holey horrors to hop off...

Stretched elastic. If the elastic on the top of your socks no longer holds them up, it is time to ditch that pair. If you're forever pulling up your socks---or you notice one leg feels colder than the other, treat yourself to superior-ribbed-top socks; the Spandex in many socks will be especially present at the sock cuff. 

Just like holes, droopy socks can be embarrassing but also lead to bunching and friction which can hurt your feet. In addition, droopy, saggy socks cause trip hazards, especially when coming downstairs. No old favorite pair of socks is worth breaking a limb. Sack the stretched and saggy socks. 

Threadbare sections. If you can see through the socks right to your foot, it is time to toss them in the trash. Instead of staring at your bald little pink toes, just buy some super pink socks. Job done. Everyone’s happy--especially your feet.   

Threadbare sections are also a hazard. Thin patches cause abrasions to soft areas of the feet and contribute toward skin irritation, slips and trips. Plus, thin socks let the inner soles of your shoes stick to your feet, and that’s unhealthy since the accruing moisture of the foot is not being wicked away.  

Fading, stains, and discoloring. If your socks that were once vibrant colors are now pale and faded, it’s time to buy some brilliant green or majestic purple ones.

It’s farewell to the faded… and ‘so long’ to the shamefully stained.   

So, What Can I Do with Old Socks?

If your socks are stained, holey, stretched, mismatched or just plain done, it is definitely time to get them out of your sock rotation plan. This doesn’t mean that you have to toss the sock in the trash, though. 

In a time where almost everyone can stand to be a little more eco-friendly, repurposing socks is a great way to extend the life of those ancient socks to bring in new ones without even feeling blue:

  • Dusting – Put old socks on your hands and use them to dust is a great technique that gives you more control than a towel or dusting rod. 
  • Car Care – Just like dusting inside, using old socks to clean or polish the outside of your car is a great way to protect both your hands and your paint job. 
  • Homemade stress ball – Put playdough in a sandwich bag and then put both in a sock and tie the top. This is great to do with an old patterned sock because it looks cool too. 
  • Ice pack holders – If someone in your house gets injured, put the ice pack in a sock so it doesn’t sting resting on their skin. 
  • Moving – Protect small valuables when you are moving by wrapping them in old socks. 
  • Painting. Throw a pair of old socks over your shoes during a painting project so you don’t get dripped on and ruin a good pair of kicks. 
  • Bottle Sleeves. For bottles that get slippery or sticky, slip them in an old sock. 
  • Protect Sporting Equipment. Slip old socks over your golf clubs or store golf or tennis balls in them to keep everything protected. 
  • Keep games together. If you have ever opened an old board game, excited to play, only to find some of the pieces missing, you know how frustrating that is. Keep all the pieces together by putting them all in an old sock inside the box. 
  • Sock Puppets. Lastly, this is an “oldie but a goodie”. If you have kids, what is more fun than gluing some buttons and pipe cleaners on old socks and putting on a puppet show? 

How Can I Make Socks Last Longer?

Before your new sock friends end up as rags or in sock-puppet land, you can do a few things to prolong their life. Avoiding the issues mentioned above (that kill off your socks), but also follow these guidelines:

Wash them cold. Washing socks in hot water damages them. If you have a great pair of striped socks or colored ones, hot water will make the colors bleed. 

Hot water can also fade colors and shrink materials. Many people think that you need hot water to wash socks but this is not so unless they’re for hard wear or sports. Buy quality pairs that let the foot breathe, and rotate them often--plus, as we mentioned earlier, there are some great and gentle detergents about these days. 

Avoid bleach and harsh chemicals. Even with white socks, bleach is not the answer. Using a harsh chemical detergent, stain remover or bleach will hurt the delicate fabric of your special socks and lead the elastic to go or holes to develop quicker. Some bleach-based products will actually disintegrate fabrics right away. The gentler you can be – with the cleaning products you use, wash cycles, and water temperatures – the better it is for the long-term health of socks. 

Don’t iron or tumble dry your socks. Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “What? People don’t iron socks!” Unfortunately, you are wrong. People do iron socks and this is not good. If you feel you need ultra-pressed socks, try putting them between two heavy books overnight. This especially applies to special occasion socks such as Valentine’s socks since they will frequently integrate more color or finer fabrics that cannot take rough handling. 

The same applies with tumble drying. Don’t apply this slow form of torture to your socks. Pat them dry inside an old towel, then lie them flat somewhere warm to air dry. 

Cut your toenails. One more tip for extending the life of your socks is to make sure your toenails are nicely clipped and your feet smooth and soft. Almost nothing will cut through a beautiful new sock and create an ugly hole faster than a sharp toenail aided and abetted by neglected, rough feet. When you keep your toes soft and well-manicured, that will help them last longer. 


As you can see, it is not that hard to keep your socks nice and give them a long and productive life. By learning healthy sock drawer habits, your sock game will be much better off.  

This means that there should be no more excuses, guys, to be wearing holey or otherwise gnarly socks. Now, everyone will look up to you--well, down at your feet--to see your latest socks. You’ll now even know what to buy for the guys and gals at work, after they’ve admired your latest toe treats. 

So, keep your sock drawer up-to-date and don’t go showing off a shabby sock status. 

Be proud of your socks and take good care of them, so they can give love to your feet.

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