updated 2/23/2006 7:09:22 AM ET 2006-02-23T12:09:22

Sweaty socks made from 100 percent cotton are the worst when it comes to causing nagging blisters, a study found.

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But doctors say there’s no reason to get your cotton socks in a bunch, unless your feet are regularly active and you are prone to blisters. The study results are mostly useful to athletes, diabetics with circulation problems and people who wear prosthetics.

Biological engineering students at the University of Missouri-Columbia tested 10 popular brands of athletic socks and separated the good from the bad with a device that measured moisture and friction, which causes blisters.

All-cotton socks are most likely to cause blisters on sweaty feet, according to research data, while nylon socks performed the best. Socks that were a cotton-synthetic blend scored somewhere between the two.

“The uniqueness of this study is they took a wide variety of socks and examined different levels of moisture,” said John Viator, the assistant professor who advised the researchers.

The findings showed that the sock’s material matters most, not brand or price, he said.

In the coming weeks, Markus Smiley and his student colleagues plan to take the research to its final and possibly most unpleasant step.

They’ll measure the sweat on different socks worn by intramural basketball players after an hour of activity to determine the amount of moisture an average foot produces.

“It seems disgusting and I’m not too excited about it,” Smiley said. “But it’s going to let us know how significant our data for moisture is compared to real life.”

The study was sponsored by Tamarack Habilitation Technologies, Inc. in Blaine, Minn., which specializes in parts for orthotics and prosthetics. It was released Tuesday.

A survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that 29 percent of people buy socks made for specific activities such as running, hiking or skiing.

“Being aware of the sock’s material is something that we typically tell patients to do,” said Dr. Jim Christina, a podiatrist and spokesman for the APMA.

Christina said diabetics often have trouble detecting foot blisters because poor circulation dulls the awareness of problems.

“Really, it depends, if you’re not on your feet all day, cotton socks are fine,” he said. “But it’s those special instances that you want to pay more attention to what you wear.”

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