Best Merino Wool Socks

I love walking, not walking to the bus stop or around the shops, but walking in the countryside or the forest, or the hills, mountains or even the desert. I have walked in all these places. It’s just great to be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells, just as much as the journey and sense of achievement in knowing you reached your destination, your goal and probably burned some calories on the way. When your walking your feet do most if not all of the work, and I’m sure you have a great pair of walking boots or walking shoes for the environment you are going to walk in. Your boots or shoes should keep your feet dry in wet conditions, warm in cold conditions and cool in hot conditions, but you need socks.

Socks protect your feet from chaffing on the shoe or boot, they help prevent blisters, and nothing ruins a walk than the pain of a blister on your heel or little toe. Your socks need to help keep your feet warm, or cool, they need to deal with moisture from your sweat. If your feet sweat and your socks don’t help to move that moisture away from your skin, you can develop blister, chaffing, bacterial and fugal growth (smelly feet and athletes foot) and if you are walking in the cold, sweaty wet feet will feel colder quicker.

Our Top Choices
Smartwool PhD Mountaineer
  • Smartwool PhD Mountaineer
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 20-30 mmHg graduated compression
  • Price: See Here
Smartwool Light Pattern Mid
  • Smartwool Light Pattern Mid
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Quick drying and odor resistant
  • Price: See Here
Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC
  • Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Half cushioned graduated compression
  • Price: See Here

Good socks are necessary, and Merino wool is possibly the the best material for good quality socks, and definitely the best natural, renewable, biodegradable, earth friendly, organic and a product harvested from an animal that lives a free range care free existence, and doesn’t die in giving you its wool, although might feel slightly embarrassed just after being shorn if the cartoons are anything to go by. So if you want a good hiking or walking sock, kick off your shoes, sit back, and put your socked feet up and enjoy the best Merino socks guide.

 

6 Best Merino Wool Socks

 

Smartwool PhD Mountaineer

A lot of thought was put into making these socks. The socks each have a two elastic fitting to keep them in place regardless of the activities you place then through. Their is nothing worse than your sock bunching up under your foot, requiring you to remove your boot or shoe to adjust your sock. The ankle area has increased flexibility whilst holding the sock in place.
Expand to see more
The heel and toe areas have been protected and offer more comfort in the areas of your foot that work the most. The toe of the sock is virtually seamless, so less chance of the seam causing blisters on the tops of your toes. These are a tall sock and designed to go over the calf and to just below the knee, with graduated compression to help in activity recovery. The front of the sock, or the area over the top of the foot or dorsal, has a ventilation mesh to optimize air circulation and allow moisture vapour to vent.

Merino wool content: 50%Merino wool
Other materials: 43% Nylon and 7% Elastane
Arch Support: Yes
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: No
Pros

High Merino wool content

Dorsal venting mesh and seamless toe

Quick drying and odor resistant

Cons

No lace guard so expect wear in this area

Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC

The Hike+ are a high mileage sock, designed for hiking long distances or other extended wear and difficult trails. The sock has been designed to to keep the feet warm and dry, allowing breathability and warmth. They do this by improving circulation with a graduated compression over the whole calf, designed to increase circulation and improve recovery and performance.
Expand to see more
The body of the sock is flexible because of the mix of Merino wool, Nylon and Lycra. The front of the sock, that is over the dorsal part of the foot has a venting mesh, but no extra arch support. The heel and toe areas have been cushioned to help prevent tired feet after a long day on the trail and the toe is seamless helping to prevent blisters. The graduated compression is good, feeling comfortable and not too tight.

Merino wool content: 49% Merino wool
Other materials: 44% Nylon, 7% Lycra
Arch Support: No
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: no
Pros

Seamless toe and dorsal ventilation allows exceptional comfort & breathability

A good amount of cushioning helps with impact protection

Quick drying properties make these great for multiple climates and environments

Cons

Fairly high nylon content

Smartwool PhD Outdoor light

This is a great sock for day hikes, but still with enough comfort if you decide to walk all day over some seriously punishing terrain. As with the other socks from the Smartwool PhD range the sock features the two elastic to keep the sock in place no matter how active you get.
Expand to see more
This sock will definitely not end up gathered under the arch of your foot. The height of the sock is mid calf length is perfect for walking shoes and ankle walking boots. The toe of the sock is virtually seamless eliminating the possibility of blisters on the tops of your toes. The front of the sock, or the area over the top of the foot or dorsal, has a ventilation mesh to optimise air circulation and allow moisture vapour to vent. The underside of the socks have been cushioned with extra fabric making the socks perfect for varied terrains, whether dirt, rock or even road walking.

Merino wool content: 57%Merino wool
Other materials: 40% Nylon and 3% Elastane
Arch Support: Yes
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: No
Pros

Exceptional function & durability

Quick drying

Well vented dorsal portion allows decent breathability when wearing hiking boots

Cons

These might be a bit too warm for hotter climates

Bridgedale MerinoFusion Trekker

Bridgedale MerinoFusion Trekker
Bridgedale have been making socks for over 100 years, so you would expect them to know something about what makes a good sock. The Trekker is a sock not just for the trail and hiking but an everyday sock, a sock that you can wear with your walking boots or your everyday shoes. The socks have a low Merino wool content and a high COOLMAX polyester, which will enable breathability.
Expand to see more
Merino wool content: 27% Merino wool
Other materials: 50% COOLMAX Polyester, 22% Nylon, 1% Lycra
Colours available: Blue and Grey
Arch Support: No
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: No
Pros

These are thicker, so they work well for those colder outings.

Coolmax construction offers good breathability

Quickdrying, odor resistant properties

Cons

Not really ideal for warm weather

Limited cushioning

Patagonia Lightweight Crew

Patagonia Lightweight Crew
These are very nice lightweight socks and great for almost any outdoor activity. Designed with trail walking and hiking in mind and to last a long time these are good value. The merino wool content is high increasing the breathability of the socks. The socks are a mid calf length enabling them to be comfortable with walking shoe and boots. The interior of the sock have a soft terry loop foot bed, this provides a comfortable and luxurious feeling as well as cushioning your foot from a punishing trail.
Expand to see more
The arch of the foot is meshed and braced, enabling air venting to help maintain airflow and moisture venting, and holding the sock in place so that it does bunch up under the arch of the foot. The toe of the sock uses a looped lintoe, which means it has the smallest and flattest seam possible, reducing the possibility of blisters.

Merino wool content: 52% Merino wool
Other materials: 47% Nylon, 1% Spandex
Arch Support: Yes
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: Yes
Pros

For lightweight socks, these actually offer pretty good cushioning

Durable construction

The breathability is quite good, with a decent amount of dorsal venting and odor resistant properties

Quick drying

Cons

Probably too thin for winter

A bit expensive

J.B Field’s Super wool GX

J.B Field’s Super wool GX
This all season Merino wool hiking sock is excellent value for money. The Sock has an incredibly high Merino wool content enabling the sock to be both breathable and moisture wicking if your feet get just too hot. The low Nylon content helps to keep the socks shape but doesn’t imped the the many benefits of Merino wool. The high Spandex content keeps the sock in the perfect position on your foot.
Expand to see more
The heel and toe area have extra cushioning and reinforcement for overall sock longevity. The inside of the sock is 100% soft long-staple Merino wool, There is a medium-density terry cushioning on the sole, a low density on the leg, and a high density protective cushioning on the back just above the heel. The arch area is held in place with spandex so that the sock will not bunch up under the arch of your foot. The arch area is also vented to enable even more breathability and moisture venting. The front of the sock has a lace guard or an area of extra protection to help reduce wear of the sock from the lace area of boots and shoes. Available in six colours so I am sure you will find a colour you like.

Merino wool content: 74% Merino wool
Other materials: 20% Nylon, 6% spandex
Arch Support: Yes
Reinforced heel and toe: Yes
Lace Guard: Yes
Pros

Very High Merino wool content

Mesh dorsal venting allows decent airflow

Seamless toe

Quick drying & odor resistant

Cons

They seem a bit loose fitting


 

About Merino wool

Merino wool come from the Merino or Jackson sheep. The Merino sheep originated in Spain and is one of the worlds most ancient breeds of sheep, and also possibly one of the toughest, due to the animals adaptability to different climates and landscapes, and being an excellent forager. There are several strains of Merino sheep, some produce excellent wool for clothing and especially clothing worn next to the skin, however some are bread for meat and then wool is not suitable for clothing.

Australia and New Zealand are the worlds largest producers of Merino wool, and with the vast open areas available in both countries, the sheep are able to be truly free range and carefree, to wander is vast flocks foraging from a multitude of plants and grasses. Once a year having their fleece shewn. Wool is a renewable resource, and biodegradable, it will decompose in a couple of years if buried in the soil where as man-made fibres tend to take hundreds if not thousands of years to decompose.

The wool of the Merino sheep is not the scratchy itchy wool of the Christmas pullover your Grandmother knitted for you, Merino wool is soft. It is the thickness of the wools fibres which make it feel itchy, Merino wool has a much smaller diameter than other wools, this enables the fibres to be more flexible and bend easier, thicker fibres of other wools are less able to bend and flex and this makes the ends of the fibres prick the skin, and although the fibres are never going to penetrate the skin the bodies natural reaction to this is to make you feel an itch. Merino wool fibres being so much thinner in diameter means that they don’t prick the skin and therefore your body doesn’t have the adverse itch reaction.  

Think about a sheep for a moment, it lives in the mountains of New Zealand, in spring the sheep will shorn in preparation for the hot summer months. Throughout the summer the sheep is exposed to temperatures around 35oC (95oF), wearing a wool coat. Does the poor animal overheat? No, guess what his wool is naturally breathable, letting him perspire and evaporate sweat to maintain his body temperature, does he get sunburnt? No wool has a natural UV filter, filtering UV better than cotton and silk and many manufactured fabrics. As the months pass the summer turns to winter and the weather gets colder as the sheep grows a thick woollen fleece. The mountainous regions of New Zealand where these sheep are farmed temperatures drop to -20oC (-4oF). Does the sheep need to be herded into barns and building to be saved from the extreme cold? No, the woollen fleece is more than enough to keep her nice and cozy, she is even protected from the rain and snow because the fleece doesn’t readily absorb water. Is it any wonder this natural fabric is know as a super fabric. If it can keep a sheep cool and warm surely it can do it for us?

 

But your reading this because you want to know about socks. Your feet are going to be in a pair of socks and stuffed into shoes or boots. Then you are going to walk, run, jump or climb. You want your feet warm in the cold and cool in the heat, and in both cases you want your feet dry. Hopefully your shoes or boots will keep your feet dry from the outside environment, but sweat is how your feet may become wet from inside your shoe. This is not good as it can promote blisters, bacterial and fungal growth and other uncomfortable conditions. As you all know, you need a fabric that is breathable, a fabric that is able to transport moisture in the vapour state away from your skin.

With Merino wool as your feet heat up, the moisture vapour will be absorbed into the wool and released to the outside of the fabric. But what happens if you sweat quicker than than wool can move the moisture vapour. At this point the wool will move the liquid mechanically the same as synthetic fabrics do. This ability to wick moisture is apparent in wool and synthetics, however only wool has the ability to do this when the moisture is in a vapour state. An interesting fact is that merino wool can retain up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch, most other fabrics will feel wet to the touch when they have only absorbed 7% of there weight in moisture.

So we have keeping your feet dry, but what about keeping them warm or cool? Wool has the natural ability to trap dead air, air is the secret to all insulators, the more air you can trap the better the insulator, even when wet the wools ability to move the moisture away from the skin enables excellent heat insulation. And because wool is a breathable fabric it will help to keep you cool, however don’t expect wear a thick heavy wool sock and have cool feet if you are walking in the desert. And if you suffer from smelly feet, wool socks will help. The odour of smelly feet is caused by bacteria, bacteria need a moist and warm environment to grow and live, well we have already covered that wool is excellent and removing moisture, so the bacteria can not increase enough in number to cause the odour. Wool also offers a natural sun protection, the wool absorbs the UV radiation that damages skin and merino wool has a SPF 40+, but obviously the weave density is also  is also important and can effect this.

 

What to look for in a good Merino wool sock

Choosing a good merino wool sock is a personal thing. And as will all items of clothing personal style and colour preferences are individual and important. Many come in various colours and other come in simple blacks and greys.

Wool content: This is important, many socks will state they are Merino wool sock and they are, but the amount of Merino wool is less than 50%. They technically are still Merino wool socks, but the benefits of the wool will be reduced if the content is less. However if you need a sock which gives you good compression on the calf. A sock for circulation then is it difficult if not impossible to do this with a high Merino wool content. Although Merino wool is very flexible and strong it does not have the elasticity of Nylon or Polyester, and the compression needed for a good compression sock will mean that over 55% Merino wool content is not possible.

 

Other features to look for

Dorsal mesh vents, for me are an absolute must. I have hot sweaty feet, and I know how much more comfortable my feet are with these type of socks. You like me might think that how can this possibly make a difference when your socked foot is inside a boot, but it does. If you suffer from hot sweaty feet look for these types.

Arch support or elasticated arches again are a must for me. Other socks often have a habit of bunching up under the arch of my foot, especially if I have been walking up and down hills, although this has never cause an injury or blisters to my feet it is uncomfortable and annoying, thus needing to remove my shoe or boot and adjust my sock.

Personally I don’t like full length sock and prefer mid calf length with boots and ankle height with shoes, but I am sure there are thousands of people who love full length socks. But seamless toes are a must, even with the moisture venting and moisture wicking properties of Merino wool a seam rubbing back and forth across the tops of your toes will cause nasty blisters. Blisters are difficult to deal with on the trail and if you are planing to walk for more than a day, starting day two with raw blisters is soul destroying to even the toughest outdoors people.

Thick sock if they do become wet will take longer to dry, but High content Merino wool socks although generally thick dry relatively quick. Ideally don’t get them wet in the first place.

Extra cushion on the heal and toe area is nice, but it will make the sock thicker. If you are buying socks for hiking and the store will let you try the socks on and put your boots on, socks with a large cushion will also make your boots feel smaller and may even lead to sore feet after a days walking.

That’s about it. Just time for a sock joke. As the Hat said to the Sock “I’ll go on ahead, you go on foot”