While most hikers spend no small amount of time and effort looking for the perfect boots, many tend to forget the importance of the socks underneath. Even the most expensive, top-of-the-line hiking boots can’t protect your feet from the elements without a little bit of help.
The socks that you wear can make a huge difference in the quality of your hike. With the right socks on, you can keep your feet cool, comfortable, and free of blisters no matter what trail you’re trekking. Here, we’re going to go over how to choose the right pair of hiking socks to suit your needs, and some of the best styles available today.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Choice: Alvada 80% Merino Wool Hiking Socks
- Best Premium Product: PEOPLE SOCKS Men’s and Women’s Merino Wool Crew Socks
- Best Value Product: Pembrook All Season Crew Boot Socks
Why Wear Hiking Socks?
Without a good pair of hiking socks, walking long distances or over rough terrain can be an uncomfortable affair. Most shoes aren’t designed to help cushion and dry your feet in the same way that socks do. What’s more, wearing socks can help you to keep your expensive hiking boots in top condition for much longer. The insole won’t wear down as quickly, and you won’t have to worry as much about mildew and odor.
Hiking socks are your first line of defense against common issues such as sweat, blisters, and friction burns. They’re designed to be much more effective than regular socks at wicking sweat and regulating temperature. They also help to cushion the feet at pressure points around the ball, heel, and ankle of your foot.
When to Wear Hiking Socks
It’s important to remember that not all hiking socks are created equal. You can find different styles designed to function best in different climates and on different terrains. Thick hiking socks, for example, is best for cold weather and tough trails. On the other hand, a thin, lightweight sock is often a better choice for warm weather hiking. Some socks are designed to function well in all climates, helping to trap heat in the cold and encourage evaporative cooling in the heat.
Regardless of the weather, you should wear medium to heavyweight socks during long or arduous hikes. These styles help to cushion your feet better than lightweight socks, thanks to thicker padding. This can help you to avoid blisters on an all-day hike. It’s important to remember to keep your feet dry, however, or you may find your socks doing more harm than good.
You don’t necessarily have to reserve hiking socks for when you’re out trekking through the wilderness. Hiking socks can work just as well to keep your feet cool, dry, and comfortable at work, at home, or simply out and about on the town. Any time that you know you’re going to be on your feet or out in the cold for a prolonged period, it’s often a good idea to switch out your regular socks for a pair of high-quality hiking socks.
What to Look for in Hiking Socks
There are countless options to choose from when it comes to hiking socks. Each of us is different, and they type of sock that’s right for you can depend on a variety of factors such as your hiking habits, where you walk, the type of boot that you like to wear, and more. However, there are some important things that everybody should be sure to keep in mind when looking for a new pair of hiking socks.
Typically, wool is the fabric of choice when it comes to hiking socks. It’s a natural fiber that can help to regulate the temperature in just about any climate. Wool insulates your feet when it’s cold out, and when it’s warm, the fabric wicks sweat to the surface to promote quick and efficient evaporative cooling. Wool is also thick and soft, helping to cushion your feet, while its antimicrobial properties make it resistant to odors.
Merino wool is one of the most popular fabrics used in high-quality hiking socks. This is a type of wool that comes from a single sheep breed raised predominantly in New Zealand that tends to be softer, shinier, and more breathable than other types of wools. Most people find Merino wool socks to be less scratchy and more comfortable than other types of wool fibers.
However, with advancements in synthetic fibers, more and more hiking socks are starting to feature wool blends that are both cheaper and more effective than pure wool. When combined with a synthetic fiber, wool can be even more comfortable, warm, and durable for the wearer. Some of the most commonly used synthetic materials include:
- Polyester: This synthetic is ideal for temperature control. It helps to insulate heat and wick away moisture.
- Nylon: Nylon is primarily used to help improve a sock’s durability, but also allows the fabric to dry more quickly.
- Spandex: Spandex is a relatively recent innovation, only hitting markets in the later 1950s. These days, however, it’s become a staple in many styles, including hiking socks. Its elasticity allows socks to hold their shape while still being stretchy.
- Silk: Socks use both artificial and natural silk thanks to their insulation properties. Though comfortable and lightweight, it’s still able to wick away moisture effectively and is a common material in high-quality, lightweight hiking socks.
It’s best to avoid cotton when it comes to hiking socks. While cotton might be an ideal material for regular socks, thanks to its stretchy, breathable nature, it’s not an ideal material for long hikes. It’s highly absorbent but doesn’t wick away moisture, quickly drenching your feet in sweat. Cotton also offers little in the way of insulation. What’s more, it’s prone to bunching up and moving around, which can lead to blisters and friction burns.
Hiking socks come in a variety of different weights to suit your unique needs. The weight of socks that you choose can depend on anything from the type of hiking boot you wear to the areas where you prefer to hike. There are three main categories, including:
- Lightweight: These socks are thin and provide minimal cushioning. Instead, they focus on moisture-wicking. They’re best for casual hiking and warm weather.
- Midweight: These socks offer slightly more padding on the heel and the ball of the foot while still wicking away moisture.
- Heavyweight: Extra padding makes these socks ideal for cold weather and rugged terrain. The extra weight can also help your foot to fit more snugly inside your boot to prevent slipping around.
The weight of a sock is closely tied to the amount of cushioning it has. Cushioning can help to trap warmth, helping to protect you from the worst of the elements, even on tough hiking trips. Heavyweight socks tend to have more cushioning than other weights, though you can find light and midweight varieties that offer extra padding in problem areas.
The right amount of cushioning around the balls of your feet, your heels, and your ankles can also help to protect you from injury during high-impact hiking. When backpacking, cushioning helps to absorb the impact of extra weight on your joints with each step that you take. Mountaineers find that highly cushioned socks keep their feet in place and prevent excess movement within the shoe.
If you have problems with blisters, the height of your socks can have a significant impact on your suffering. One of the main functions of socks is to protect our upper feet and ankles from abrasions, friction burns, and blisters. It’s important to look for socks that are above the height of the lip of your shoe. There are four common styles of hiking socks that differ in height:
- No-Show Socks: While these types of socks are fashionable these days, the style isn’t always ideal for hiking. No-show socks don’t protect your ankle from abrasion and work best with low-cut hiking shoes and on safe, easy trails.
- Ankle-Height: This type of sock is higher than no-show varieties, offering a little bit more protection while keeping fashion in mind. They usually cover up to the ankle bone and are best for low-cut or mid-rise hiking boots.
- Crew-Cut: Of all hiking socks, crew socks tend to be most popular. They rise a few inches above your ankle bone, helping to protect skin in the area no matter where your boots sit.
- Knee-High: Not many people wear knee-high hiking socks, but they can come in handy on rugged terrain. Socks that reach the knee give plenty of protection against both your boots and your environment. They can keep you warm, protect you from scratches, and knee-high compression socks can even help to prevent swelling and aching during hikes.
Our Favorite Hiking Socks
These midweight socks are a good choice for just about any weather condition, from cold and rainy to the warm summer months. They’re made of 80% Merino wool, allowing them to both trap heat and wick away moisture as needed.
In addition to high-quality Merino wool, these socks also feature 15% polyester, 4% nylon, and 1% spandex. This blend creates a durable yet stretchable sock that will fit snugly over just about any foot. You won’t have to worry about readjusting your socks as you move to protect your feet and ankles. The blend is also itch-free, unlike many other wool-based fabrics, giving you all-day comfort even in warm weather.
The Alvada Hiking Sock offers plenty of support as you hike, with thick cushioning around the footbed. This gives you more comfort on rugged or uphill terrain, and can even help to redirect poor pronation as you move.
Thanks to the unique padding, these socks are easy to care for with a simple wash. The nylon blend is itch-free and machine-washable, allowing you to wear the material for days at a time without worry. It also doesn’t lose shape over time, giving you a close fit for months to years. You don’t have to worry about rubbing or bunching, which could lead to blisters.
It’s best to use cold suds when washing these socks, as warm water may shrink the material. They’re easy to care for, allowing you to soak in the washer and finish in the dryer. The cuff of the socks is designed to hold it up and prevent pulling or bunching within the shoe.
- 80% Merino wool
- A durable poly blend composition
- Thick, secure cushioning
- Easy to clean
- Crew-cut design
- Limited sizing options
- Might be oversized
- Lose elasticity quickly
These crew socks are ideal for cold temperatures and rugged terrain. They’re designed for tough trails and frigid temperatures, and offer extra padding to give you a more comfortable hike. These socks are thick, warm, and offer cushioning along the entire length of the foot.
These socks are specially designed for mountaineering, climbing, backpacking, and trekking over ice. It’s made to keep your feet warm and dry with extra-heavy cushioning. A Smartwool system also ensures that your ankles and arches are braced, helping to prevent blisters and burns as you walk.
The design offers thick padding along the sole with a starkly different color than the rest of the sock. This makes it easier to keep track of how your feet are doing, especially when it comes to activities such as hiking.
The Smartwool sock is made of a 74% Merino wool blend, with 25% nylon for durability and 1% elastane for a close fit. The socks mold to the shape of your feet from day one, helping to prevent blisters and burns. These socks also offer a close fit regardless of the type of hiking boot that you wear.
This mountaineering sock offers a crew style, helping to protect your ankles and calves from excess wear. These socks reach midway to the calf, ensuring that your feet and ankles stay safe and comfortable as you walk.
The toes of these socks are flat, making it comfortable with just about any shoe. It can fit into both pointed and rounded designs depending on your particular preferences. These socks are also machine washable and can be safely tumble-dried on low.
- Warm, thick padding
- Nylon and elastane give durability
- Crew style protects feet
- Ergonomic toes
- Machine washable
- Not ideal for warm weather
- Inflexible design
This hiking sock is specially designed for the avid hiker, developed with the help of Danish mountaineer Rasmus Krag. He was the first Dane to climb Mount Everest without using supplemental oxygen, completing his mission in the spring of 2019. The socks are developed and tested to the highest standards to ensure that they hold up to the regular wear and tear of a hiking venture.
These socks are made of Merino wool, giving you a comfortable, dry, and close fit regardless of climate. They trap heat when needed and wick away moisture easily, making them a good choice for both warm and cold weather hiking.
Ventilation mesh along the upper side of the socks, the ankle, and the toes help to prevent moisture buildup and keep your feet feeling cool. The rest of the sock is made of breathable material to wick away sweat and prevent friction and blisters due to moisture.
Cushioning and padding around the toes and heel help to prevent friction burns and keep your socks in place as you wear them. The cushioning also helps to absorb shock, giving you a more even and comfortable stride during your hike.
These socks come in a wide range of sizes, including child sizing, options for women, and choices for men. You can find the Danish Endurance Merino Hiking Sock in sizes ranging from a kid’s size 3 to a Men’s size 16. There are also a variety of colors to choose from, including brown, red, green, and gray.
- Made of high-quality Merino wool
- Ventilation mesh sections
- Used by athletes
- Shock-absorbing cushioning
- A variety of sizes and color options
- Difficult to wash
- Little elasticity
PEOPLE SOCKS is a fairly recent brand, making a name for themselves in 2012 as a manufacturer of affordable Merino socks. Their products are manufactured and sold within the U.S. and offer some of the highest quality of any hiking socks around.
Made of almost three-quarters Merino wool, these socks are designed to help keep your feet warm and cozy. They’re also comprised of 21% nylon and 7% polyester, making them as durable as they are warm. They come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, navy, and charcoal gray.
A small percentage of Spandex is used to give these socks a tight, comfortable fit. They’re designed to stay in place so that you don’t risk bruises or burns as you walk along your favorite trails. These socks can fit both men and women, ranging from a size small up to a Men’s 12.
A crew style keeps both your feet and your ankles protected. The socks rise to calf height and offer ergonomic cushioning around the footbed to keep you comfortable without adding too much weight. Both the cuff and the leg of the sock are designed to help cool and wick away fabric, making this sock ideal for both cold and warm weather hiking.
These socks require special care to keep their shape and keep your feet feeling toasty. You should machine wash cold and avoid putting the socks in the dryer, as high heat can end up shrinking wool blends. It’s best to wash cold and air dry to keep these socks looking their best.
- Made of a high-quality Merino/Nylon/Poly blend
- Includes Spandex for a tight fit
- Lightweight yet padded
- Offers a comfortable crew style
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Thin fabric
- Wears quickly
- Requires careful care
These crew-length socks reach above the height of most hiking boots, helping to protect your feet from burns and blisters while also insulating everything below the ankle. They’re made of 75% Merino wool, giving you a light yet breathable fabric. The Merino wool blend also helps to prevent odors.
When it comes to durability, 15% nylon and 10% elastic allows for a tight fit without allowing for bunching. These socks offer a comfortable fit for just about any foot, and thanks to the Merino wool blend, they don’t encourage itching.
A reinforced heel area helps to keep your ankle safe and comfortable, cushioning your foot while directing your step in the right direction. The MERIWOOL Hiking Sock also offers arch support along with padding along the interior of the sole, protecting your feet against stress and blisters.
These socks are designed for easy cleaning after a long hike. While wearing the pair, they offer both breathability and insulation as needed. Not only does this help to prevent issues such as odor and mildew, but it also makes the socks easier to wash. You can clean MERIWOOL socks on cold settings in your washer after an expedition. They’re also safe to tumble dry on a low heat setting.
If you’re not pleased with MERIWOOL socks, the company offers a money-back guarantee. Customers can return or exchange the product within 90 days, along with proof of purchase if it doesn’t live up to the given standards.
- Protects the heel, ankle, and ball of the foot
- Cushioned and insulated
- Breathable in warm weather
- Resistant to odor and mildew
- Money-back guarantee
- Thin fabric is prone to holes
- Itchier than other Merino products
These heavyweight hiking socks are designed to withstand extreme settings. They’re thick enough to protect your feet from cold weather while also wicking away moisture. These socks are also made from 80% Merino wool, making them ideal for any time of the year.
The footbed of the socks is highly cushioned, with a reinforced heel and arch support. Brushed fleece lining helps to keep the fabric in place, preventing blisters and burns. The toe and heel of the sock are both reinforced, while padded arch support ensures durability and comfortability.
Thanks to a Merino wool blend, these socks are great at wicking away moisture, such as sweat. They’re also resistant to odors, mold, mildew, and more. The DG Hill Thermal Sock is not only designed to keep you comfortable while hiking, but also at home, during work, out hunting, or any other number of situations.
These socks come in a variety of sizes to suit just about any foot. You can find them in children’s sizing options or in multiple sizes for both men and women. No matter what shape or size your feet might be, these socks offer a snug and safe fit.
Thanks to the superior padding, these midweight socks are able to protect your feet while also keeping them warm. They’re ideal for rugged heights and cold climates, with plenty of insulation to help you face chilly temperatures. The DG Hill Thermal Sock comes in a variety of neutral color options, including white, gray, and brown.
- Heavyweight and comfortable
- Cushioned footbed
- Padded arch support
- Merino wool blend
- Variety of colors
- Strong smell
- Fabric isn’t breathable
As a crew sock, the Thorlos is designed to hold its shape without help. A riveted cuff ensures that the sock stays up along your ankle while also protecting you from friction burns. The sock also boasts innovative padding that protects the Achilles tendon as well as the top and sole of the foot.
This sock is primarily made of synthetic material, allowing it to keep its shape as you wear it. The material is around 82% acrylic, while 13% nylon and 3% elastic. This helps to keep the Thorlos sock upright, even when under stress.
Padding on the top of the foot and extended over the toe helps to keep you comfortable as you move. It works to mimic the natural cushioning around the balls and heels of your feet, helping to absorb excess pressure and keep you feeling comfortable for the duration of your hike. While the sock may be thin, heel to toe padding ensures that you’ll reduce your risk of blisters and burns.
The Thorlos has unique sizing options that many other socks don’t offer, from chidrens’ sizing options to a narrow women’s fit. Each size is designed to offer padding in the best areas possible to help absorb shock. This design can help to reduce pain and pressure in the feet, heels, knees, and even your lower back.
There are multiple colors and designs to choose from, depending on your preferences. You can opt for a neutral sock color such as black, white, or khaki, or you can choose a more vibrant color such as red or pink.
If you have a problem with your sock, Thorlos is always on hand to help. You can call their helpline at any time to resolve issues that may arise with your newest pair of hiking socks.
- Ankle-high crew cut
- Wool-poly blend
- Padding for added comfort
- Unique sizing options
- Superior customer service
- Lumpy fabric
- Overly tight bands
Unlike other hiking socks, these compression socks actively work to reduce pain and swelling in your legs. These socks are ideal for those looking for a healthy hike, helping to improve blood flow while lowering your chances of developing a blood clot. They’re knee-high and boast a padded calf.
The MudGear Trail Compression sock is made of synthetic fiber blend that lends both flexibility and durability. Over 60% of the material is nylon, while around 30% is polyester and 10% is Spandex. The socks offer a lifetime warranty that guarantees customer satisfaction.
This sock is designed to perform under pressure. Men and women across the world rely on MudGear Socks to compete in sports such as the Spartan Race or the Tough Mudder. MudGear socks are also designed to perform when hiking, racing, climbing, or any other number of activities.
The MudGear Sock isn’t just designed to promote blood flow. It’s also built for comfort, helping to keep your legs cool in summer months and warm in the winter months. With knee-high padding, this sock helps to wick away sweat while keeping your calf muscles active. They also help to prevent blisters, allowing you to walk long distances without an issue.
This sock is similar to medical-grade clothing worn by nurses, doctors, and hospital support staff. It can help to reduce muscle fatigue thanks to Performance grade rated fabric. Not only does it promote healthy standing habits, but it also reduces muscle fatigue over time.
- Attractive design
- Helps to reduce pain and swelling
- Ideal for sporting events
- Medical-grade quality
- Wear quickly
- Prone to holes
These socks come in a variety of colors, including navy, gray, and black. They feature an attractive crew style that both protects and highlight the ankle. The toes and insole are also reinforced, offering both insulation and cushioning when needed.
This is a relatively lightweight sock, making it an ideal choice for warm weather hiking. Each is made of a synthetic blend that boasts cotton, elastic, and other fibers. Poly blends such as this offer more strength, durability, and longevity than wool alone.
Thanks to a synthetic blend, these socks are ideal for both warm and cold climates. They can trap heat while at the same time allowing for evaporative cooling. The synthetic yarn used in these socks is also antimicrobial and resistant to odors.
You can find these socks in a variety of sizing options. Men can find them in sizes 5 through 12, while women can find the socks in sizes 6 through 13.
Pembrook offers a guarantee on their socks, ensuring that they’ll be snug and comfortable for years to come. Since the company’s inception in 1976, they’ve provided comfortable, affordable, and effective outdoor gear to whoever might need it.
- Variety of color options
- Attractive crew cut
- Durable synthetic blend
- Pembrook Guarantee
- Thin material
- Tight fit
These hiking socks are both comfortable and fashionable, offering a choice of eight different color combinations. Each sock style combines gray or black with vibrant hues for a striking look. The bright colors also make you more visible when hiking in low light or along unlit trails, helping to prevent accidents.
The Cloudline Medium Cushion Hiking Sock is made of the softest Merino wool available on the market, offering a snug fit for both men and women. They’re made to be medium weight, with cushioning that supports both warm weather hiking and cooler climates.
This sock is made of over 60% Merino wool but blends Nylon and Spandex to improve both elasticity and durability. The knit is an ultra-fine 22.5-micron pattern, helping to insulate your foot and provide cushioning. The design also offers long-lasting softness and durability, as well as anti-odor and antimicrobial properties.
Light to medium cushioning makes these socks a good choice for just about any hike. It’s light enough for comfort, yet heavy enough to offer support when you need it. The CloudLine Medium Cushion Sock is also tried and tested on the rugged terrain of the Pacific Northwest.
These socks offer a lifetime guarantee, ensuring that you get your money’s worth from each pair. They are also machine washable and resistant to wrinkles. With proper care, these socks can last a lifetime. It’s important to remember to wash and dry the socks as gentle as possible, as wool is susceptible to warping.
- A variety of fashionable designs
- Made of a soft and supple Merino wool blend
- Ultra-fine knit
- Anti-odor and antimicrobial
- Lifetime guarantee
- Poor wicking
- Loose fit
If you’re looking for a lightweight sock, this style offers cushioning without any additional weight. These socks are designed to help keep your feet feeling light, regardless of the hiking conditions. They boast a crew cut, keeping the balls of your feet and the joints around your ankle feeling flexible.
Smartwool Wow Technology gives you a reinforced sole and stronger shoe sides to enhance both comfort and durability. A flat-knit toe seam helps to keep the sock in place as you move. This sock also features an elasticized arch brace that offers both comfort and support.
The Smartwool Hike Light Crew is made of 73% Merino wool, making it soft and supple while also holding its shape. It also contains both Nylon and elastic, giving the sock durability that cotton garments can’t offer.
The cuff of the sock extends up above the ankle, making it an ideal choice for most hiking boots. The tongue and heel of the shoe won’t have as much contact with your skin, helping to prevent burns and blisters.
- Lightweight yet cushioned
- Both comfortable and durable
- Flat-knit toe seam
- 75% Merino wool
- Made of a durable poly blend
- No arch support
- May offer a tight fit
The Darn Tough Vermont Full Cushion Sock is made of over 60% Merino wool, making it soft, comfortable, and supportive. The fine gauge of the Merino wool makes the socks fast-drying as well as breathable, making it ideal for warm weather hiking. It’s also able to provide insulation during the colder months thanks to its thick, insulated design.
Merino wool also makes these socks naturally antimicrobial and odor resistant, meaning that you won’t have to worry about frequent washing on long trips. That makes these socks ideal for longer hiking trips where you won’t necessarily have access to washing materials. Instead, you can hang them out to dry overnight and wear them again the next day without having to worry about mold, mildew, or other smells.
The Darn Tough Full Cushion Sock isn’t just made of Merino wool. It also blends in nylon and a small amount of Lycra Spandex to ensure a snug, even fit that won’t slip or bunch as you walk. As a blend, the material also holds up better to regular wear and tear without forming holes.
You can find this sock in a variety of sizing options to suit any foot. Sizing options range from small to large, and there are six color combinations to choose from, including subtle whites and grays along with more vibrant purple, blue, and green accents.
The Darn Tough Full Cushion Sock boasts a crew design, placing the leg of the sock above the lip of your shoe. This helps to protect your ankle from friction burns and blisters as you walk. The cuffs are also thick and textured, keeping both your feet in place while providing extra cushioning around the ankles.
- Made of a comfortable yet durable Merino/Nylon/Spandex blend
- Resistant to mold, bacteria, and other odors
- A variety of size and color options
- A crew design protects your ankles
- Cushioning doesn’t support long or tough hikes
- Runs tight
Hiking can take a toll on your feet, no matter what type of boot you wear. The best way to protect yourself from the elements is with a pair of high-quality hiking socks. Our favorite hiking socks are the Alvada 80% Merino Wool Hiking Socks, thanks to their lightweight composition and heavy cushioning.
For those looking to spend a little bit more, the best premium product is the PEOPLE SOCKS Men’s and Women’s Merino Wool Crew Socks. Made of a Merino blend, these socks are warm and cozy while also offering extreme durability.
If you’re on a budget, our best value product is the Pembrook All Season Crew Boot Sock. This sock can help to protect your feet from harm during a long hike without a hefty price tag. Regardless of which option you choose, a good sock can always help to improve your hiking game.