It’s beginning to look a lot like… ice, snow, and bitter cold. As the weather turns colder, your feet are often the first parts of your body to feel the shift. When you pull out your scarves and gloves, don’t forget protection for your feet!
Have you noticed how quickly your feet get cold when you’re outside? Your toes are one of the first parts of your body to be affected by frostbite, so keeping your them toasty warm isn’t just a matter of comfort, it’s a safety issue.
Your feet help maintain the temperature of your whole body. You’ll actually stay warm longer if your feet are kept cozy. That means choosing the right pair of thermal socks could be the most important thing you do before facing the cold.
How do you even begin to choose the best socks when there are thousands of options? Thankfully, we’ve done a lot of research for you. From why you need them to how to pick them, this guide will help you decide on the best thermal socks to keep your feet warm and comfortable no matter how cold it gets.
While every product on our list deserves consideration, we’ve narrowed the field further for those of you hoping to cut to the chase.
Our Top Picks
- The Best Overall: Heat Holders Thermal Socks
- The Best High-End Choice: Under Armour Adult Coldgear Boot Socks
- The Best Value: Debra Weitzner Thermal Socks for Extreme Temperatures
What Are Thermal Socks?
Thermal socks differ from your regular cotton socks because they are made of thicker materials that cushion the feet. The materials used for thermal socks are meant to keep heat in while preventing loss of moisture due to sweat.
Why Do You Need Thermal Socks?
While some people elect to wear thermal socks at home, their primary purpose is protection against the extreme cold. Participating in activities outside during cold weather leaves you susceptible to cold-related injuries, like frostbite and hypothermia.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite means that your body tissue is frozen from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. It usually affects the fingers, toes, tip of the nose, or ear lobes first and is marked by the skin turning pale or white. In severe cases, people have developed tissue necrosis that led to a loss of extremities and even death.
What is Hypothermia?
The average human body temperature ranges from 97° Fahrenheit (F) to 99° F. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95° F. Basically, your body loses heat faster than it produces heat, which ultimately leads to organs shutting down.
At What Temperatures Do Frostbite and Hypothermia Occur?
It is a little bit trickier than giving a specific temperature because you need to consider other factors. Wind chill can make it feel colder and lead to cold-related injury sooner. The National Weather Service has created windchill charts and calculators to show when frostbite can set in.
When Should You Use Thermal Socks?
Are you hoping to keep your toes toasty warm in the winter months? Whether you’re planning to hit the slopes, take a hike, or curl up with a good book, you’ll want the proper thermal socks for your purposes. What works for skiing may leave you slipping and sliding around your house, so the first step is to determine how you hope to use your socks.
Around the House
If you are looking to keep your feet warmer at home, you may opt for a lighter weight thermal sock with slip-resistant pads on the bottom. You’ll probably want to avoid the thickest socks because they’ll make your feet sweaty and hot.
Skiers and Snowboarders
Avid skiers and snowboarders will probably seek a thicker sock with good padding and support. Some thermal socks have built-in shin and sole padding to offset some of the high-friction areas of your legs and feet.
Hikers and Mountaineers
Hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers who put a lot of pressure on the balls and heels of their feet will likely choose the thickest thermal socks. There are options with extra padding in the areas of greatest wear to help with comfort in more rugged and difficult terrains.
Hockey and Other Ice Sports
Spending time on an ice rink, it makes sense to have good thermal socks between your feet and your skates. Since you’ll be active, you’ll probably lean toward a pair with sweat-wicking abilities to protect your skin.
Whether your job requires you to brave the cold or you have to shovel out your driveway after a storm, good thermal socks are a must. Choosing socks with extra padding and blister-reducing technology may be a good idea.
Though there’s not necessarily a special thermal sock design for fishing, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider warmth and comfort, especially if you’re out on the ice. Even if you’re protected from wind, extreme cold can chill you quickly if you’re unprepared.
What Materials are Used to Make Thermal Socks?
Traditionally, thermal socks are made of wool, but that’s no longer the case. Depending on how you plan to use your thermal socks, you’ll have plenty of choices of materials, fits, and extra elements for added comfort and function.
Wool and Merino Wool
Wool makes some of the warmest clothing because of its ability to retain heat. The fibers are closely knit to give wool more bulk than other textiles. Wool also helps manage the moisture around your foot. It’s capable of repelling water from the outside while absorbing and expelling moisture from your skin. It also happens to be static resistant!
Merino wool is a specific type of wool that is thinner, softer, and more flexible. It doesn’t irritate the skin as much and has become increasingly popular for cold-weather clothing. An added benefit of merino wool socks is that they can be comfortable in cooler conditions because of the sweat-wicking properties.
One of the biggest selling points for wool is that you can wear it several times between washes. However, it has to be hand-washed with very little soap and then air-dried. It also takes longer to dry than other materials.
Materials are often combined to improve the comfort and efficiency of an item because different materials provide various benefits. For example, nylon helps a sock hold shape, fit snugly, and even provide support. Some specific acrylic materials provide the moisture-wicking that wool has naturally.
Socks made of synthetic materials can often be machine-washed, but not always, so it’s essential to read the care instructions. They tend to be cheaper, but not as durable as wool and merino wool.
How to Find the Proper Fit
In most cases, your socks need to do more than keep your feet warm. You’re not likely to spend a day on the slopes in socks that chafe your feet, right? Just as casual socks come in a variety of styles, thermal socks have options.
As mentioned before, ski and snowboarding thermal socks may have extra padding in the shin to help with friction. Different thermal socks may have extra padding in the ball, heel, or top of the foot. There will be different levels of padding, so be aware of what your needs are.
A shorter sock, like a footie cut, is not going to be much help with tall boots. Make sure you’re selecting a sock that protects against friction from the top of your shoes or boots. Remember, they’re not just protecting you from the elements!
Each manufacturer uses their size chart for socks, so you’ll want to check that before committing to a specific sock. If the toe and heel are not in the correct locations, you could end up with blisters or insufficient coverage.
Other Considerations When Shopping for Thermal Socks
Aside from material and fit, there are a few other points to address when you’re looking to purchase thermal socks.
What in the world is a TOG rating? If you’re a parent of a young child, you may have heard the term concerning baby and toddler sleepwear. It also happens to be applied to thermal gear, including socks, long underwear, and sleeping bags.
A common unit of measurement in the UK and Europe, a TOG rating is the Thermal Overall Grade. It refers to the amount of heat retained by a piece of fabric. It is based on the results of a specific scientific test on the fabrics. The higher the TOG rating, the more warmth the piece of clothing retains.
For this list, we did not include TOG ratings because they are often assigned as a result of independent laboratory testing and are not available for every product. However, there’s a strong likelihood that you will see the term (and associated number) for some of the products.
Who knew you could accessorize socks? It’s true. You can actually combine specialized socks with your thermal socks to protect your feet. If you are particularly susceptible to certain conditions, like excessive sweating or blisters, these specialty socks could provide some additional support and protection.
- Liner socks are meant to pull moisture away from the feet and push it into the outer sock where it can evaporate. They are made from synthetic materials and can be cleaned more quickly than regular socks.
- Waterproof socks are an excellent option if you’re heading into wet conditions. Keeping your feet dry is critical, so you can wear them over your thermal socks to keep your feet dry as well as warm.
- Toe socks are seamless and made from synthetic materials with the sole purpose of preventing blisters between your toes.
The Best Thermal Socks
Whew! That’s a lot of information to absorb and apply to sock shopping. Thankfully, we’ve done a lot of legwork for you and narrowed the massive field of thermal socks to a select few. Based on extensive research, including product pages, company pages, and reviews across multiple sites, this list details the best thermal socks you can buy and what sets them apart.
If you’re not sold and looking to make a more in-depth comparison, read on to choose for yourself. You’ll find a breakdown of special features, care instructions, and even a quick pro and con list for each product.
Heat Holders are popular on an international level and known for being the warmest thermal socks in the world. The company is known for quality, comfort, and style, making them a universal choice.
They create this sock using an advanced insulated yarn and brushed long loop thermal pile to keep your feet warm but not sweaty. Heat Holders offer three different levels of thickness that provide varying degrees of warmth.
- The Original socks are 7X warmer than regular cotton socks and perfect for outdoor activities in cold climates.
- Lite socks are 4X warmer and ideal for around the house wear or shorter periods outside.
- The Ultra Lite socks are 3X warmer and thin enough to wear with most shoes.
Beyond the varying thicknesses, Heat Holders are available in several sizes, colors, and patterns. There are even styles available for kids that include favorite characters. Many people comment on the soft, fluffy feel and compare it to wearing cashmere on their feet.
Heat Holders use a synthetic blend that is mostly acrylic but also includes a Japanese thermal yarn for extra heat retention.
Machine wash in warm water and line dry to prevent shrinkage.
- They look attractive and feel soft.
- Breathable and insulated due to patented technology
- They fit snug, but not too tight, so they are an excellent choice for people with poor circulation.
- Some reviewers say they aren’t good for smaller feet because the heel won’t fit properly.
- The original style may be too thick for some shoes.
The epitome of neutrality, Alvada thermal crew socks are focused on function. They’re soft enough to be comfortable but durable and warm enough to protect your feet on a cold-weather hike.
Alvada socks are designed to provide support and warmth in even the most rugged terrains. They are made from an itch-free material and have extra cushion along the footbed for added comfort and to reduce fatigue. Further, the socks are designed to stay up, so you don’t have to keep stopping to pull the cuff up your calf.
These socks are 80% merino wool paired with a synthetic blend.
Turn your socks inside out to machine wash on cold. Air dry to prevent shrinkage.
- They are noted to be comfortable and cozy in most situations.
- There are sizing options for men and women.
- Many reviewers note they are versatile and thin enough to be worn with sneakers but heavy enough to keep you warm in boots.
- Noted to dry fast after washing.
- Some reviewers note they don’t work well as slippers because they wear out quickly if worn around the house.
- They only come in one color (charcoal gray) and one style choice.
One of the best deals on the list, this company knows how to deal because they sell their socks in packs of six or twelve. This is a company that boasts about durability and warmth above all else.
They may not be flashy, but they fit snugly without being constrictive and have the added benefit of being odor resistant. Moisture-wicking material prevents your feet from getting too sweaty. There’s also extra padding and reinforced areas to help retain shape and provide support.
Debra Weitzner socks are made from a synthetic blend that is 91% acrylic.
Machine wash with dark colors and air dry to keep them from shrinking.
- They are noted to be comfortable and warm with moisture-wicking ability.
- One of the more affordable items on the list, a six-pack is about the same price as two-packs of other brands.
- The company notes these are heavy-duty enough to wear and wash frequently.
- These socks are noted to be a good option for people with poor circulation because they fit snugly but don’t constrict.
- Not many color choices for variety.
- They are bulky, so they won’t work for snug footwear.
- Though rarely mentioned, some reviewers noted durability issues indicating they did not hold up for more than a few months.
Under Armour is known for their quality athletic gear, and these Coldgear Boot Socks live up to the hype. They seem ideal for active adults looking for comfort and functionality.
Part of their Coldgear line, these socks were constructed to be breathable, comfortable, and sweat-wicking, but also warm enough to hold up in colder conditions. These socks have a basic design with a focus on function, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like how they look. You’ll even find the Under Armour logo on the calf of the sock.
The socks hit just below mid-calf, making them an excellent choice for sneakers, work boots, and hiking boots. Designed with extra cushion and arch support, they’ll keep you comfortable all day long and reduce foot fatigue.
Under Armour uses a synthetic blend that is 66% polyester, 17% nylon, 15% wool, and 2% spandex.
Machine wash the socks in warm water. Dry at normal to low heat.
- Neutral colors and unisex design makes them an option for men and women.
- Several reviewers note they are great for work boots and hiking because they keep your feet warm, dry, and cushioned.
- They are thick enough to keep your foot warm, but thin enough to wear with sneakers.
- Since they use an anti-odor technology, you don’t have to worry about stinky socks!
- It’s a high-end item with a price tag to match.
- There are limited color options and only one style.
Designed for protection during cold-weather activities like hiking and skiing, these are noted to be comfortable enough to wear at home. They are tri-layered to hold in heat, absorb extra moisture, and prevent blisters.
The calf-high cuff is elasticized to keep them from falling during activity, and fleece lining provides additional softness and warmth. Not only are the socks made with anti-odor technology, but they also use an environmentally friendly and non-allergenic fine yarn.
FitFort uses a synthetic blend, including special yarn. The company also states that no toxic chemicals are used in the production process.
These socks are machine washable, but you should air dry them to prevent shrinkage.
- Reviewers state they are comfortable and warm in various cold weather conditions but comfortable for wearing them around the house
- They are noted to be extra soft because of the fleece lining.
- Thick enough to be warm, but not so bulky that they take up too much room in shoes
- They only come in black.
- There are only two size options, 9-11 for women or 10-13 for men.
Polar Extreme socks popped up on almost every list with favorable reviews, and they seem to be a solid, middle-of-the-road thermal sock. Though they’re aren’t unisex, there are size and pattern selections for men, women, and children. Other than some funky patterns, there’s nothing especially flashy about these socks.
The cuffs have an elastic grip to keep them up throughout the day, no matter how active you are. They are moisture-wicking and made to hold their shape, so they don’t bunch up or stretch too much.
Polar Extreme socks are a synthetic blend that is almost entirely acrylic.
You can machine wash them on cold and tumble dry on low heat.
- There is a wide variety of color and size options.
- They have a soft brushed lining to keep you warm and itch-free.
- Since they are medium thickness, they’re a versatile choice for slippers, lightweight shoes, and even work boots.
- They probably won’t hold up in extreme cold because they are on the thinner side.
- Some reviewers reported their feet sweated too much and questioned the breathability of the socks.
- There were several comments about the durability of the socks with weak spots on the soles of the socks.
The Carhartt brand is well-known for quality products, and these socks are no exception. They take advantage of Nanoglide™ technology to limit friction and keep excess moisture from the skin.
The crew-cut style is calf height, making them a perfect choice for wearing with boots. Self-adjusting cuffs and deep heel pockets add comfort and prevent the socks from falling or bunching. Factor in the reinforced toe and heel, and you’ve got a comfortable, fitted sock that will keep feet warm.
Extra benefits of the Carhartt socks are the specific material blend that improves thermal regulation and makes them resistant to odor-causing bacteria.
Carhartt uses a synthetic blend that is primarily polyester and acrylic.
You can wash your socks in a machine on cold, then tumble dry on low heat.
- Reviewers note that they fit well and help prevent blisters.
- A good price point for thermal socks.
- Less bulky than other options.
- They only have men’s sizes, no options for women.
- These socks may not be warm enough for more extreme weather conditions.
These socks are a great pick for women seeking a warmer sock for lounging at home, running errands, or enjoying walking tours in cool weather. Columbia is known for quality clothing, especially for the active and outdoorsy among us.
The Fair Isle Thermal socks come in a variety of colors and patterns. From the brushed fleece interior to the self-adjusting cuff, Columbia delivers a comfortable, attractive sock that won’t fall or bunch up in your shoe.
Columbia used a synthetic blend that is primarily acrylic.
These socks can be machine washed and tumbled dry on low.
- Reviewers state they are comfortable and appealing with a variety of colors and patterns.
- Available in a two-pack (one solid/heathered sock and one patterned/geometric design) at an appealing price point.
- The Columbia branding is visible on the outside cuff.
- Designed for women only.
- They are probably not warm enough for some outdoor activities.
These thermal socks by Hissox are one of the few unisex styles on our list. They’re marketed as warmer than cotton, softer than wool, but with the benefits of both.
Thick, comfy, and made to handle the bitter cold, these thermal socks may be an excellent choice for outdoor sports because of the extra padding. The reinforced heel provides extra durability, and the toe seam has a low profile for greater comfort.
When it comes to color options, it’s hard to be these thermal socks. With more than thirty color choices, including solids and stripes, there’s sure to be a pair for everybody.
Hissox uses a synthetic blend that is 91% acrylic.
Machine wash on cold with like colors and tumble dry on low.
- Made of moisture-wicking fabric that’s tightly knit enough to retain heat.
- These are unisex socks with a variety of color and pattern choices.
- Most reviewers note how soft and comfortable these socks are.
- One of the pricier options on the list.
- They run a little big, especially if you are at the lower end of the size range.
Dickie’s brand is synonymous with durable work gear. They know how to make clothes that withstand almost anything you can throw at them, and these socks are no different.
These socks come up to the mid-calf and are made to stay put. Moisture-wicking material keeps your feet dry, and they’re thick enough to provide warmth. They also have extra cushion along the underside of the foot. The heel and toe are reinforced with adding support to keep you comfortable all day.
The material for this sock is a synthetic blend – 84% acrylic, 13% nylon, and 3% spandex.
These socks are machine washable and can be tumbled dry on medium to low heat.
- Reviewers report they hold their shape and don’t fall throughout the day.
- Solid pricing for a two-pack of socks.
- Many commenters appreciated the durability and comfort.
- Designed for men, so they may not fit women as well, even in the smaller sizes.
- They have limited color/design options that may not appeal to everyone.
Sunew is known for their eco-friendly bamboo socks, but now they’ve created a unisex thermal sock with enough versatility to appease almost anybody. They’ve taken the cold weather concept seriously with fun winter-themed designs and fun plaid designs.
Even though these socks are thick and warm, they’re breathable and stretchy enough to move with you. The mid-calf design will work with any boots, and they won’t fall while you’re out hiking, fishing, ice skating, or skiing.
The extra fuzzy interior is just one thing that will have you reaching for these socks. They’re thick with extra padding in all the right places. Since these are true unisex socks, you’ll need to check the size chart to choose the best option for your shoe size.
Sunew chose a synthetic blend that is 91% acrylic, 8% polyester, and 1% spandex.
Turn the socks inside out to machine wash on cold, then tumble dry at low heat.
- Reviewers commented on how fuzzy and soft they are on the inside.
- Unique design options and a variety of color choices allow you to match almost any outfit.
- Several areas of the sock have extra cushion, and the inside is extra fuzzy.
- Some reviewers didn’t feel they withstood the extreme cold as well as they should.
- There were a handful of comments about durability with the elasticity breaking down after a few months of wear.
Smartwool has made a name in warm, merino-wool blend socks. They are on the higher end of the price range and tend to provide a premium quality product. Other products in their catalog may have more color and style choices, but the heavy performance socks are only available in one color.
This particular style has extra padding and cushion along the sole to keep you warm and comfortable during cold-weather activity. Though Smartwool lists the color as charcoal, these socks are a three-tone giving them a chic appearance. The reinforced heel and toe improve durability and provide extra padding.
These socks are 71% merino wool, and the rest is a synthetic blend.
Turn your socks inside out to machine wash in warm water. Since they were pre-shrunk, you can tumble dry them at low heat.
- Reviewers state they are comfortable and appealing with a variety of colors and patterns.
- Very neutral, unisex coloring and design.
- A quality brand with a quality product.
- Smartwool is one of the pricier products on the list.
- They are more of a middle-of-the-road sock when it comes to warmth.
DG Hill is a relatively unknown company with a lot of clothing products on the market. It appears they focused on cold-weather activities, especially hiking. They put thought in the color, texture, and functionality when creating a unisex sock for one of the more extensive size ranges on the market. This sock is available in sizes that will fit older kids and adults.
Primarily made from merino wool, these thermals have a brushed fleece interior and extra cushion along the sole. They also boast arch support and a reinforced heel and toe to decrease fatigue and keep you moving longer. Plus, the merino wool has natural antibacterial and sweat-wicking properties.
The socks are a blend of 80% merino wool, 17% nylon, 2% spandex, and 1% elastic.
You can machine wash them on cold with like colors and tumble dry.
- They come in neutral colors, making them truly unisex.
- The range of sizing opens up to more people, including older kids and women with smaller feet.
- Pricing is good for a three-pack of socks.
- There are some complaints about them smelling bad out of the package.
- Some reviewers report poor durability with the material breaking down after a few wears.
Made in the United States, Wigwam’s heavyweight socks were designed to endure temperatures below 40° Fahrenheit. Even better, the company is based in Wisconsin, where they know cold weather.
This is a basic sock without all of the bells and whistles that some of the other products have. The design is simple, but that doesn’t mean it won’t perform. Instead of focusing on particular areas for extra padding, Wigwam’s socks are fully padded. The wool acts as insulation while the nylon gives you stretch and durability.
Despite being marketed as men’s socks, the sizing options make them seem more unisex. The medium size is noted to fit a men’s size 5, which is a women’s 7, so keep that in mind when shopping. You could also consider these unisex because of the neutral, solid color options.
These socks are a combination of 51% stretch nylon and 49% wool.
Despite being almost half wool, these socks are machine washable.
- Several reviewers comment on the ability of these socks to withstand the cold in a variety of circumstances.
- The benefits of wool and the comfort of a synthetic, plus the ability to machine wash them is fantastic.
- They come with a lifetime guarantee.
- If you’re looking for cool, chic designs, these are not the socks for you.
- Some reviewers felt they weren’t as durable as other brands for long-term, regular use.
The Final Word on the Best Thermal Socks
After a lot of research and debate, we managed to narrow the list to three top contenders. We were surprised at how the results shook out, especially since none of the wool blend socks claimed a top spot.
Heat Holders Thermal Socks seem to have it all. They’re affordable, functional, and can accommodate almost any situation. With three versions to choose from, you can select the level of warmth you need based on what you’ll be doing.
No, these socks aren’t wool, but they are comfy, cozy, and durable. They even come in a variety of color and style options, including a selection for the kids. The whole family can be prepared for anything from a day on the slopes to a backwoods hike, to curling up by the fireplace for a game night.
Best High-End Choice
Under Armour created a performance thermal sock that lives up to the brand’s reputation. At first glance, there’s nothing flashy about the simple monochromatic grays, but look closer, and they’re impressive. Of course, they also come with a price tag to match the premium design.
The Adult Coldgear Boot Socks were designed with the active adult in mind form the arch support to the anti-odor technology. If you’re looking for a product that’s as much about brand name and recognition as it is about function, Under Armour provides the premium product on the list.
Let’s talk about value. If you want the most for your money without sacrificing warmth and function, Debra Weitzner’s Thermal Socks may be the best choice for you. Sold in packs of six or twelve, this new company provides a warm, durable, and comfortable thermal sock for a fair price.
They may not have all the colors and special padding like some other brands, but they are a solid contender with excellent reviews. Unless you’re spending serious amounts of time in the bitter cold, you’ll probably be pleased with the value and performance of these socks.
Trading in your sandals for thick socks is an inevitability in colder climates. This guide should have you feeling prepared to transition smoothly to cozy thermal socks.