Best Hiking Socks Reviewed
Hiking is demanding on your feet, so hiking socks need to raise the comfort bar. Your socks are your best defense against blisters; sweaty, itchy feet; frozen toes; and can make a big difference in how well your hiking shoes perform.
We’ve tested merino-synthetic blends as well as 100% synthetic blend hiking socks, and we break down the benefits and detractors of each material (including cotton, silk, and bamboo) at the end of the review. To choose the best hiking socks of 2017, we looked at comfort, warmth, durability, drying speed, breathability, and wicking (drawing moisture away from your foot).
- Falke TK 2
- Exceptional moisture control
- SmartWool PhD
- Stays put with 4 Degree elite fit system
- Icebreaker Multisport
- Ultralight cushioning for multisport use
10 Best hiking socks pairs
In Europe, Falke is well known for producing a great product that screams quality in design. The overall fit didn’t seem to be tight like a compression sock, but they weren’t loose and saggy to the point where they will keep falling down around your ankle either. They fit just right and stay that way.
With features such as anatomical cushioning, left and right foot specific fit, and climate control properties that allow this pair to be used for just about any outdoor activity that you may be involved in, these are a sure winner. Though more popular in Europe, the TK 2 is starting to make a name for itself everywhere else as well.
These merino wool blend socks did an awesome of a job of keeping our feet warm in cold weather, even when they got wet. The weave is tight and holds in body heat well. This is not a high sock, so it stops under the calf. Still, it does well even with many higher boots We found it was able to retain a decent amount of warmth down into the 30s. It’s not quite as warm as the Smartwool PhD, but was a very close second. These really aren’t intended for extremely cold weather, or even long winter hikes, but it is hard to tell. They perform great in most climates. However, you might want to double up with a liner for the frostier conditions.
These dry out pretty quickly. Not as fast as some of the thinner socks, but still quickly. If you take them off and give them a good ring, that definitely helps to speed it up. The cushioned portions of the TK 2 tend to take a bit more time to dry, obviously, but we didn’t think it was too bad.
Falke makes great products. They offer socks for just about any outdoor use, including running. Having owned a few pair, I can tell you that these are certainly built to last, and will do just fine with whatever you get into involving the great outdoors. The ribbed ankle doesn’t seem to stretch out too much, becoming deformed and falling down, causing them to bunch up. They stay right where you want them to. The cushioning might help a little with this, but the heels and ball of the foot areas don’t seem to wear away very quickly either.
Breathability and wicking
Climate control is on the real strengths of the TK 2. They offer exceptional moisture wicking properties, which is always a great thing, especially on those hikes of a longer duration. They also breathe quite well. Paired with footwear that offers good breathability, you will have a great setup for a long and comfortable hike.
- Merino wool blend
- Anatomical padding
- Excellent moisture control
- Great thermal insulation
- Each sock fit for specifically for left and right foot
- Exceptional durability
- A bit expensive
SmartWool PhD Medium Outdoor Crew
The Lightweight model provides ample underfoot cushioning for all sorts of day-hiking, trail running, cycling and other demanding athletic activities while retaining a really beautiful mix of thin, breathable material everywhere else. The Lightweight model breathes really well underfoot, possibly thanks to all that extra support that keeps the sock close so there’s no bunching and very little air is staying trapped.
The Medium Cushioning Outdoor Crew is where it’s at for multiple-day hikes and backpacking, with even more underfoot cushioning and much more warmth.
One common detractor with Merino thermals is that they don’t last forever: after a few years of wearing your favorite thermals day in day out, they tend to develop tiny holes and runs around areas of high abrasion (say around where they meet your belt-line, or on your shoulder blades). Merino socks are no exception, though we think it’s well worth the extra performance you get from merino. In 2016, SmartWool smashed it out of the park by introducing their Indestructawool technology. As a result, the heel and toe of the SmartWool PhD seem to be a little more durable.
Luxury! These were the warmest and most comfortable sock we tried in the medium weight hiking sock category (the Icebreaker Multisport Mini was really comfortable and light, but they’re apples and oranges). Even warmer than the Darn Toughs.
Not bad, not great. Quick drying speed compared to department store sports socks, unimpressive drying speed compared to the other superbly designed and tested hiking socks on this list.
With the SmartWool PhD Midweight, you’re looking at the great durability of the shape and fabric, and continued performance in all the other key areas. Just not quite as durable as the Darn Tough range, whose lifetime guarantee is hard to beat. All SmartWool PhD hiking socks come with a two-year satisfaction guarantee.
Breathability and wicking
The warmest and cushiest sock we tested, and understandably not the most breathable, though they came pretty close. Very good wicking ability. The Lightweight version of SmartWool’s PhD hiking sock range is a much better model for breathability, combining ample cushioning below the foot but minimal thickness everywhere else.
- Incredible fit for active use
- Great durability
- The warmest sock we tried out
- Ample cushioning
- Wicks well
- Comes with a no-itch guarantee
- Not quite as breathable as we’d like
- They hold their shape really well, but the material still isn’t quite as durable as the Darn Tough blend
Icebreaker Multisport Cushion Mini Light
You’d be forgiven for thinking that wool garments are warm, and have no place in technical clothing for hot conditions. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that woolen socks would be itchier than a cotton-synthetic blend, not less. Icebreaker’s range is wide and each item is engineered from a specific wool-weight to meet different conditions: I can tell you from experience that their lightweight merino shirts and underwear are as cool in Californian summer as their mid-weight layers are in a Norwegian winter.
Breathability and wicking
Merino Wool is an amazing material, and Icebreaker does it better than anyone else. Many of Icebreakers more technical models, like the Multisport Cushion Lite, incorporate 5-39% synthetic materials, combining the superior breathability, wicking power and odour-resistance of Merino with greater durability and less weight.
Merino is naturally more odor and bacteria resistant than even the most advanced synthetic fabric. These socks will wick sweat away from your feet all day long, stay dry and stink significantly less than other socks. This same quality is going to keep your boots drier and less smelly too. Over time, this means the life of your boot’s inner materials is extended.
Icebreaker’s Multisport Light socks are engineered with 35% Nylon and 2% LYCRA® to make them extra durable, especially around the heel, toe, and instep.
Excellent. At just over 60% wool, this sock isn’t too heavy to dry fairly fast.
- Natural, soft, breathable merino wool
- Just enough cushioning under the foot and arch while still wonderfully lightweight
- Can be worn as a ‘liner’ under a more cushioned, insulating winter hiking sock
- Ethical: Icebreaker can tell you exactly where in New Zealand the wool in your socks came from.
- Low rise ‘Mini’ socks might not give enough coverage for higher hiking boots. You can go for the Hike+ Light Crew instead.
- A bit expensive
Icebreaker Hike Lite Liner
Silky smooth. Counter-intuitively, wearing a liner can actually reduce hot spots, spreading the warmth in your boot out better and preventing rub areas from focusing all the heat.
Whoosh! They weigh two and a half ounces, and barely hold water. They didn’t win our speed test, though, because they’re liners and we felt it would be cheating.
Not much! That’s not what they’re there for. Having said that, the heel and toe are pretty sound, the weave is tight, and I’d say these will outperform your average cotton department store sock.
Breathability and wicking
Made of 60% merino wool, 38% Nylon and 2% LYCRA, these socks do a great job of transferring moisture and breathing, and feel positively airy when worn around the house.
- High-performance warmth and comfort from one of the world’s best merino thermal brands
- Do not retain the moisture
- Quite durable for liners
- Not meant to be worn on their own
Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
Made of propylene, nylon, and acrylic, the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro does a lovely job of keeping your foot warm and cozy in the majority of conditions. It insulates well and provides decent cushioning, though we think it could have more of that over the key parts of your foot that are really pounding the pavement. This sock has a lower percentage of LYCRA than any of the others reviewed for this list, and as a consequence, both the weave and the overall shape of the sock are looser. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and it makes pairing this sock with a liner easy.
Being 100% synthetic, this sock dried pretty fast. It’s got a lot more bulk to it than the Injini NuWool Crew, though, so still ranked third on our list for drying time.
Ridiculous. You can hike 50 miles in these socks and not be able to tell. They don’t look fancy, they’re not supremely comfortable straight out of the box and they’re looser than we’d like, but they will keep trekking, and trekking and trekking.
Breathability and wicking
They may not look it, but the Wigwams were really breathable! They are 100% synthetic, unlike any other pair of hiking socks on this list. We expected them to, therefore, be the least breathable, but they weren’t. It might be down to the fact that the weave in these socks is quite open and loose. They really on bulk and an overall effect of layers and air in the weave to warm you up, not a tight weave of the fibers.
The Wigwams to a great job of both breathing and wicking in hot weather, but watch out when the mercury drops – once it’s cold, they don’t wick anywhere near as well as merino. They also don’t keep you warm as well when they get wet. But for the price point, we were pleasantly surprised by the breathability of these socks.
- Outstandingly durable
- Low cost
- Decent breathability
- Warm and cozy
- Quick to dry
- Room for a liner
- Little support, can bunch a little in the toe
- Loose enough to fall down your leg
Injinji Midweight Crew NuWool
The Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool was quite warm, but not really satisfying for the price point. The five-finger design is a novel experience and lovely if that’s what you are used to, but can become a little stifling after a long hike.
The Injinji NuWool may be the fastest drying thick hiking sock out there. It was definitely the best of the bunch this time round.
Not as impressive as other hiking socks in this testing round. The soles have a tendency to generate fluff, suggesting that this fabric might start to wear through faster than we’d like.
Breathability and wicking
These offered good breathability thanks to the airflow panels around the top of the foot.
- Five-fingers give your toes wiggle room (and make these suitable to pair with five-finger hiking shoes)
- Outstanding breathability
- Warm and cozy
- Look great
- Not as durable as other socks on this list
- Toes can get clammy in sweaty conditions
DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool All Weather Performance Socks
Comfort par excellence, no itching and freedom from scratchiness.
In the cold winter you get a feeling of warm and comfortable and in summer months you get fresh and cool.
You will find built in cushion exactly where you want it and a great moisture control performance.
Offered in an appealing choice of three colors. These all year round socks are a great choice to add to your gear.
The warmth and comfort are guaranteed through a subtle blending of Merino wool at 33%, acrylic at 33% and for the needed sock stretch factor elastane at 1%.
These socks mold comfortably to the foot and work for you in all weather conditions.
You get toe to heel padding with good shock absorbent characteristics.
Dry out time is ultra fast due to the use of comfortable synthetic fibers which do not hold and absorb moisture.
Moisture sits on the surface of synthetic fibers, so evaporation quickly takes moisture away.
In past times cotton socks were much favored for comfort and durability. The synthetic combination of purpose designed fibers in these socks have taken the concept of durability forward.
These socks have a high durability level and will be a long time part of your hiking or casual wear kit.
Breathability and Wicking
From toe through to to heel you have designed in ventilation areas which ensure breath-ability.
In these socks your feet can flex and breath regardless how you use them.
Use them for trekking, hiking, other out door activities or just for everyday wear, these socks give you comfort, quality, breath-ability, wick factor and style.
Wicking comes from the synthetic qualities of the blended materials, these synthetic fibers are created to wick moisture away from your feet through evaporation.
Do not hot iron these socks because they are constructed from synthetics and it is best to wash them in warm water. This way you will prolong the durability of these socks.
You get a nice choice of three appealing colors, the price is nice enough to buy all three pairs.
Quick dry synthetic material
Nice stretch factor
Built in cushion tech
Built in ventilation tech
More choice of colors please
Kirkland Signature Outdoor Trail Sock
You get a blend of spandex, merino wool, polyester and nylon, we are talking high durability and comfort designed into a sock.
Check out this review and see why you will want these socks
For warmth these socks are built with a blend of the right materials.
The socks come with cushioning built throughout the whole sock, reinforced from toe to heel for protection, warmth and comfort.
Wear these in any season, the fabrics used in the construction of the socks give you cool feeling feet in summery conditions and warm feet in chilly environments.
Ultra fast drying speed, if you hit wet conditions these socks will allow dry out evaporation quickly, if your on the move on a long hike take a spare pair to change over socks and let the first pair dry out.
When we look at the combination of four well known durable materials we can see that these socks are durable and hard wearing, absolutely designed for the rigors of hiking in all weather conditions.
Breathability and Wicking.
In the base of the sock we see fiber built in with strong capable moisture management characteristics. This sock tech design ensures that moisture is wicked away from the foot to give comfort and protection from blisters or wet abrasion. The blend of durable synthetic fibers with wool allow a consistent breath-ability for the sock in all weather conditions.
You get a pack of four durable comfortable hiking socks at a nice fair price.
A pack of four socks
Good moisture control
Built in cushion
Comfort and protection
No cons, these socks meet the criteria for which they are designed
FITS Medium Hiker Crew Socks
As with good quality hiking socks we see the durable warmth giving blend of Spandex.
These socks are a known popular and trusted hiking item which always comes up with what hikers want.
Check out our review these could be for you.
Crew length socks for warmth and protection.
Warmth in the winter and cool comfort in warmer environments, the combination is good. The socks work well for protecting the foot against friction and blisters.
The warmth factor is achieved through smart sock tech in the form of a clever weave of synthetics giving durability, stretch and foot hug with merino wool to ensure comfort.
Drying speed is good because the wool content is well balanced with synthetics so moisture can wick away and the sock will dry out quickly.
This sock brand know all about designing durability in hiking socks and they continue to deliver high quality durable hiking socks.
These socks work in challenging hiking conditions and stay durable, great all round sock cushion factor and nicely lightweight, the socks performance stands up to all durability needs.
Affordable and good comfort, protection combined with durability.
All round cushioning.
Nice breathability and wick factor in context
Would be nice to see the socks offered in packs.
Darn Tough Men's Hiker 1/4 Cushion Sock
Whatever the conditions thrown at you while out hiking in various challenging terrains, these socks will prove their own worth.
Well made hiking socks with a life time real guarantee, it does not come much better than that. You get a choice of three colors for these high performing durable socks.
Read more from us and see if our review wins you over to these socks.
Hike in the most challenging climates and you will be confident for foot warmth.
The sole of the sock is fully cushioned but that does not mean bulk or material bunching up to cause discomfort.
For warmth and durability we see a difference to other hiking socks, the combination of materials are different and very functional, you get:
This combination will give a hiker great foot warmth and nice comfort, whatever the hiking conditions, comfort with warmth are certain.
The smart blend of tightly woven materials ensure a fair level of protection against moisture which in turn means drying out speed is good. As with many quality hiking socks, the blend of synthetic fibers ensure fast dry out time.
You get durability through the sock tech comprising a combination of synthetic tech fibers blended together with merino wool.
This combination give a robust tough durable factor for hiking socks while keeping true to comfort and durability.
Breathability and Wicking
Synthetics are known to promote a good wick factor while keeping a level of healthy breath-ability.
Merino wool is strong on antimicrobial characteristics so odor is not a problem during long hikes and bacteria cannot get a breeding foothold, all you get from these socks is nice breath-ability combined with good functional wicking capability.
The price is balanced and in return you get a solid peice to add to your hiking gear.
Anti bacterial and anti odor
Nice wick factor
Comfort and durability.
No notable cons reported
For more on hiking footwear, check out our review of the year’s best hiking boots.
The Criteria We Followed When Searching For The Best
What level of cushion do you need?
Most people who hike or backpack cold weather are familiar with glove liners. It’s amazing how much extra warmth you get out of your gloves when you add a wafer-thin, weighs-as-much-as-a-penny 100% merino glove liner. In my experience, expensive glove liners under an affordable pair of unfussy gloves keep my hands just as warm as a single pair of gloves that cost in excess of $100.
The same logic is true of sock liners. They’re simple in construction: thin and uniform, without any cushioning. There’s a bit of compression, but no patches of extra thickness, reinforced sections or elasticated support panels. Because of this, they’re pretty cheap, even the ones made of the highest-quality materials by the best designers. Yet adding one of these liners to an average pair of hiking socks makes a world of difference, increasing the performance (and therefore the value) of the sock.
You can wear liners by themselves in a pinch, on a warm day, but be aware that you’ll wear out the heel in no time.
Best for easy treks and summer weather, ultra-lightweight hiking socks are basically sports socks like any other: they stress airflow and moisture-wicking over warmth or the ability to perform well in cold, wet weather. Ultra-lightweight socks tend to be cushioned only under the sole, leaving the rest of the foot covered by a thin breathable material. Slightly more sock than a liner.
Lightweight socks are a little warmer and more cushioned than ultra-lightweights and suitable for multiple day hikes on a decent terrain in nice weather. They’re often nicely fitted and supportive feeling though, even without thick fibers or dense weaves all over. Can be worn with or without a liner.
Midweight hiking socks offer more warmth, and are ideal for extended hiking in three or four seasons, depending on where you’re traveling to. They usually have some extra cushioning thickness around the top of the foot and the ankle as well as underfoot. They should have durable, reinforced heels and toes, but, worn by themselves. aren’t so bulky as to push your hiking boot size up a level.
Mountaineering socks or full-cushion socks are the thickest, warmest, most protective socks you can get. They are made for extended trips, rough trails, and alpine or arctic conditions. In anything milder, they are hot and heavy and you will regret carrying them around in your pack after you realize it’s way too hot to wear them. Usually tall enough to sit over the calf or under the knee, and thick enough to deflect lots of trail debris and blackberry snags.
What conditions are you hiking in?
Some materials perform relatively well under the majority of conditions, only to let you down when you needed them most. As long as you know the rules, you can still choose hiking socks made from any material, and save yourself from being caught by surprise in contrary conditions.
Woolen socks keep you warm almost as well when they’re wet. This wonderful naturally occurring property of wool has been keeping sheep alive in the most miserable conditions on earth for millennia, and it will keep your toes warm too. Or at least warm enough. The more synthetic a sock is, the less well they function when wet.
Layers and Liners
Pairing a durable synthetic cushioning ‘outer’ sock with a luxurious, wafer-thin merino liner can be a great way to enjoy the best of both.
Layering your socks can also prevent blistering, i.e. two lightweight socks prevent blistering better than one thick sock that weighs as much as both put together. This is because the layers of sock rub against the shoe and each other, and rarely your feet. If you’re breaking in new hiking boots or expecting a particularly slippery hike, consider using a liner or layering lightweight socks. There’s no rule that says you can’t layer with an ultra-lightweight sock instead of a cushion-less liner.
If you’re really pushed for space in your pack, liners are your friend: take seven pairs of liners and two pairs of thick socks instead of seven pairs of thick.
What material suits you best?
You’ll probably experiment for a few years with different blends before you’re confidently picking the right socks for every hike with no regrets. In the meantime, it’s great to travel with options and layer/swap out as needed. You’ll get to know what performs better in your conditions, and which materials your feet like to have on them.
A very popular choice for hiking socks, wool provides fantastic all-round performance in terms of comfort, warmth, breathability, moisture wicking, and durability, with the added advantages of being anti-microbial and odor resistant. Can be heavier than synthetics, and take a little longer to dry.
Many people remember wool as itchy, but new Merino blends are incredibly soft and wearable. Some brands even offer an itch-free guarantee. Icebreaker has been making merino underwear for over a decade now, so it must be ok!
Although 100% merino thermals can be found, pure merino isn’t quite as durable or as stretchy as 90% wool blends. As a result, most high-performance hiking socks incorporate 30-50% synthetic to increase elasticity and durability.
Dries fast, weighs less than wool, and is cheaper to produce. Synthetic blends made from propylene, nylon, and acrylic do a good enough job of mimicking wool or cotton, with the advantage of being longer-lasting.
Silky smooth and naturally insulating, bamboo is lightweight and comfy. Blended with synthetics or cotton, it makes hiking socks feel softer and better fitting. A fast-growing, lower-resource-intensive renewable resource. Bamboo-blend hiking socks are a good choice for vegans looking for extra comfort but wanting to keep clear of silk and wool blends.
Not recommended for hiking socks, cotton tends to absorb sweat instead of wick it away, and gives no insulation whatsoever when wet (have you ever tried to grab a hot oven tray with a wet kitchen towel?). Cotton takes ages to dry, and due to a combination of all these factors, cotton socks can cause blisters if worn when hiking.
Exceedingly comfortable and lightweight, silk socks are superb at wicking away sweat. Silk is often used in high-end sleeping bag liners to trap extra warmth without the sweatiness that contact with synthetics can induce, and silk does just as well in sock liners. Not durable enough to feature in ‘outer’ socks very often.
Hiking socks come in a really wide variety of sizes as well as thicknesses. Generally, the more expensive the sock and the more dialed-in the fit, the more sizing options the company will give you. Sock sizings are usually done in ranges (Eg. 11-14). If you are at one end of a range and your feet are a little broad or a little narrow, go up or down to the next size to ensure a better fit. Remember that your feet swell, and you want to accommodate that. Socks that are too small might dig into your calves or cramp your toes, and also don’t give you any room for liners.
TIP: Try before you buy
Icebreaker concept stores have all their most popular hiking sock styles on hand to give you a first-hand (or first-foot) experience of what levels of comfort and cushioning you can expect from each model.
You may have to (and want to) wear a sock liner, meaning you can’t feel how silky smooth the sock does or doesn’t feel against your skin, but you do get a sense of how much compression you’ll get, how much underfoot cushioning, how snugly the end sits on your toes, how high the sock comes up your leg and how well it sits on your calf. Obviously, it will be a fraction looser without the liner, but remember that feet do tend to swell up within a couple of hours of activity.
TIP: for drying (clean) wet socks
Lay the socks over half of your towel, fold the other half of the towel over the top, fold this in half again or roll up (depending on the size of your towel – you basically want to make sure the socks won’t slip around in there) and then “wring out” the towel. Lay your towel flat again, open it up, and voila! Your socks are 75% drier. Do this before you hang them up to dry, and it will speed up the process magnificently. Wring the socks inside the towel is so much better than wringing them out with your hands because a) you avoid stretching and stressing the fibers and weave of the socks, which become vulnerable to over-stretching and snapping when wet, and b) water transfers under pressure to the towel via pressure much more effectively than it transfers via gravity to the floor.
Q: Why do hiking socks have spandex?
A: The reason is because spandex when blended with other materials allows a nice level of strecth factor to give your foot flexibility while wearing the sock. Another bonus is that spandex is synthetic so it helps wick factor because it will not absorb moisture.
Q: I’m thinking of buying all wool hiking socks, is that a good idea?
A: Wool is very comfortable in the right context, wool can be durable in the right context. Wool has a long history of being used for challenging boot wear hiking, running, climbing. Wool works really well in hiking socks when it is blended with the right combination of synthetic fibers. It’s about a matter of experimentation and personal choice, try out the wool socks and see if you are satisfied.
Q: I have a great pair of hiking socks, they really perform well but huge odor problems, what can I do?
A: Clearly your encountering either sweaty feet or wet hiking conditions, you need a pair of socks with anti bacterial functions. Try a pair of Darn Tough Mens Hiker socks, I think the result will solve your situation.
Q: I have recently started hiking and I get a lot of rub and friction from it and blisters on the soles of my feet. Advice please.
A: The answer to this is quick, choose a pair of hiking shoes with designed in cushion tech for the soles of the sock.
Q: Why the blistering between my toes when I go for a long hike?
A: It sounds like you are experiencing moisture build up between your toes. I suggest you try a pair of hiking socks which offer separate toe compartment. These will keep your toes separated and the sock material between your toes will wick away moisture from the skin.
Q: For long hikes a friend recently suggested I take along a back up pair of socks, is this sound advice?
A: The advice is very sound for long distance hiking, you can never fully predict what weather conditions you will encounter. If your feet get very wet no matter how protective the sock, you can change socks and avoid discomfort, potential foot rashes and blistering due to friction from a wet sock. Nowadays, hiking socks dry out very quickly, the wet socks can be carried and they will dry out and become your back up socks again.
We scoured far and wide to research reliable sources so that we can review the best hiking socks for you. We narrowed our focus to a set of reliable sources.
- socksaddict.com Hiking Socks Range 2017
- switchbacktravel.com Best Hiking Socks Article. Switchback Travel Staff 2017
- bestconsumerreviews.com Hiking Sock Reviews. 2017
- coolofthewild.com Gear Best Hiking Socks. Review 2017