Best Hiking Socks Reviewed
The first part of your body to touch the ground in the morning and the last to go to bed. We use our feet for everything and sometimes forget to give them the TLC that they deserve. Hiking is strenuous on the whole body, but even more so on your feet. So many times we get distracted by the selection of hiking boots and forget to put thought into the socks. It is a terrible idea to invest in a pair of hiking shoes and not socks. Both are important and rely on each other for optimal performance. Socks are your best defense against blisters, sweat, temperature, and bacteria.
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 2018, we looked at comfort, warmth, durability, drying speed, breathability, and wicking.
10 Best hiking socks
Darn Tough Vermont Men's Merino Wool
With a true seamless construction, you will have no problem with chafing or cinching in any areas. These sock's smooth build will have you feeling absolutely comfortable in your hiking boots. No matter the temperature outside, the merino wool will keep your feet warm.
These socks will easily dry overnight and are tough enough that you don't need to worry about damaging them when you ring them out after washing. We suggest having two pairs so that you can always have one clean, dry pair every day.
Darn Tough is known for durability. It isn't even necessary to mention the lifetime guarantee of the socks because you will never need it. Give them a try and hit the trails in comfort and strength.
Breathability and Wicking
Merino wool is synonymous with breathability and wicking. This magic fabric doesn't suffocate your feet and absorbs any drip of moisture insanely quickly. The merino wool also serves as a natural antimicrobial agent and works as an antibacterial agent to take care of any sweat bacteria.
SmartWool PhD Medium Outdoor Crew
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. With three different levels of cushioning, you can find your perfect match.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Organic Merino Wool Compressive Arch Support Snug overall compression Padding for toe & heels Anti-Slip Wick-ability Anti-Odor Protective/Comfortable/Durable Not a calf length version yet
Rockay Anti-Blster, Compression Arch
When you go hiking, choose a sock which is designed to support and work with your choice of hiking shoe/boot.
Next time your foot hits the hiking trail be sure that this sock is on your foot and lining your hiking boot/shoe. While you hike to enjoy the comforting protection given by the best Organic Merino Wool.
Foot arch support is notably good through targetted compression, more gentle compression hugs the rest of the foot for subtle support. The toe and heel areas are innovatively padded to ensure more support blended with comfort. This is a sock feature which is a must for hikers. The socks are highly attractive and offered in an impressive range of colors.
Made up of Organic Wool, Polyamide, and Elastane, nothing can keep these socks wet for long. This concoction of materials will dry in no time.
While hiking you will need to be sure the material construction of your chosen socks is durable. Organic Merino Wool is very durable and sits at the top for best comfort, quality, and durability.
Breathability and Wicking
Merino wool ensures a level of breathability and wick which ensures a hiker has cool feet when the weather heats up and a warm feeling when the weather turns chilly. This high-quality wool also works against the build-up of unpleasant odors.
Organic Merino Wool
Compressive Arch Support
Snug overall compression
Padding for toe & heels
Not a calf length version yet
Antibacterial None Slip Cushioned Three quality types of materials giving comfort, protection, high performance, durability Durable Price is higher than less innovative socks
Darn Tough Men's Hiker Micro Crew
The sock knit is Merino Wool fine-gauge, this means winter protection/warmth and summer protection/coolness, it does not get better than a sock for all seasons and the built-in antimicrobial system protects your feet. For performance, you get cushioned socks which have the anti-slip capability which means they won't slip nor bunch up, and you won't feel uncomfortable or experience blistering due to sock slip.
Use these socks day after day. After a long hike, you can easily wash these socks and they will be ready for the next adventure tomorrow.
The durability, comfort and ongoing performance are a result of using merino wool at 61 percent, lycra-spandex for just the needed stretch at 3 percent and hard wearing nylon at 36 percent.
Breathability and Wicking
For more performance and comfort, the socks are made with a fine weave of Merino-wool which comes with natural antibacterial and antimicrobial protection, wicking power, all the while allowing your feet to breath.
Three quality types of materials giving comfort, protection, high performance, durability
Price is higher than less innovative socks
Pricy to some Sizes run small
Darn Tough Women's Hiker Micro Crew
A merino wool base makes these women's socks, both antimicrobial and antibacterial naturally. With the fine-gauge knitting that makes these socks extremely comfortable, you will forget that they are on your feet.
Many reviewers have reported that even if these socks got wet during a hike, they were already dry by the time they got home. Made of 67% Merino Wool, these socks will always be dry and ready to go with you on your next adventure.
With high-density knitting of Merino Wool, Nylon and Spandex, these socks are incredibly durable. As if that wasn't enough, the company also supplies a lifetime guarantee.
Breathability and Wicking
Wool is a magical component is wicking away sweat. It absorbs the wetness without wetting your foot. It has been proven that these socks can be worn on multiple hikes while staying dry and odorless.
Pricy to some
Sizes run small
Injinji 2.0 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 around.
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.
Good breathability Quick-dry synthetic material Nice stretch factor Built-in ventilation Comfortable Price Lack of color choices
Danish Endurance Merino Wool All Weather Performance
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 purposely 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 to heel, Danish Endurance has designed sock 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 outdoor 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.
Quick-dry synthetic material
Nice stretch factor
Lack of color choices
Waterproof Lightweight Durable Fun prints Can be too thick for some shoes
Randy Sun Unisex Waterproof & Breathable Hiking Socks
These socks are master multi-taskers. They are 100% waterproof, breathable, sweat-wicking, and they are also antibacterial. You may ask what can't these socks do? Well, in short, you can definitely rest assured when you are wearing these socks on a long hike that your feet are being taken care of in the best possible way. The sole of these socks also provides superb cushioning to keep your feet soothed and comfortable throughout the hike.
Made of 74% waterproof nylon, these socks have an incredible drying speed. After washing, the socks will only require about one-hour air drying time until you're ready to wear them again.
Made from strong materials, they can be machine or hand washed, but just ensure that you follow the care instructions. These socks will stay with you for a very long time
Breathability and Wicking
With an inner layer of coolmax, lyrca, and elastane your feet may be breathing better than you at the end of an uphill hike. These anti-odor fabrics keep your feet cool and dry all day long.
Can be too thick for some shoes
All round cushioning. Nice breathability and wick factor in context Warm Comfortable Durable Would be nice to see the socks offered in packs
FITS Medium Hiker Crew Socks
Crew length socks provide warmth and protection. Warmth in the winter and cool comfort in warmer environments, this combination is outstanding.
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. The socks also work well for protecting the foot against friction and blisters.
The drying speed of these socks is very quick because the wool content is well balanced with synthetics, so moisture can wick away easily and the sock will dry out quickly.
This sock brand knows all about designing durable hiking socks and they continue to deliver high-quality products time and time again.
These socks work well in challenging hiking conditions and show a balance of cushion and durability while still being lightweight.
Breathability and Wicking
With a specific and well thought out blend of fabrics, your feet will stay clean and dry in these socks.
All round cushioning.
Nice breathability and wick factor in context
Would be nice to see the socks offered in packs
Anti bacterial and anti odor Great cushion. Nice wick factor Breathability Comfort and durability. Sizes run small
Darn Tough Men's Hiker 1/4 Cushion Sock
Hike with confidence in the most challenging of climates without worries.
The sole of the sock is fully cushioned without adding bulkiness or extra material bunching up causing discomfort. For warmth, we see a difference here to other hiking socks, the combination of materials are different and very functional, you get: Merino wool, Lycra, Spandex, and Polyester. 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 ensures a fair level of protection against moisture which in turn means drying speed is good. As with many quality hiking socks, the blend of synthetic fibers ensures a fast drying time.
You get durability through the combination of synthetic fibers blended with merino wool. This combination gives durability to the 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 has antimicrobial characteristics so odor is not a problem during long hikes, and bacteria cannot get a breeding foothold.
Anti bacterial and anti odor
Nice wick factor
Comfort and durability.
Sizes run small
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 Socks
Level of cushion needed
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.
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 of 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.
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.
Tips to keep you on track
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.
Clean wet socks before you dry them
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 that spandex when blended with other materials allows a nice level of the stretch 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 antibacterial 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