When you’re hiking, foot care is crucial. Hiking for miles in socks that are not protective, uncomfortable, and wet, can lead to a variety of foot problems. Wearing the best hiking socks can protect your feet from the elements, keeping them warm, dry, and healthy. But the type of socks you wear should heavily depend on weather conditions, where you hike, and the time of year. If you’re new to hiking and totally lost when it comes to choosing the right types of socks for your hiking adventures, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will show you exactly what you need to look for when you’re shopping for hiking socks, which socks provide the type of protection you need, and what type you need to wear based on each hiking outing. I’ve also tried out several of the leading pairs, narrowing it down to eight that provide the type of protection you need for a short day hike, traveling through the backcountry, or winter wear. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each pair, their top features, and how they rated.
Hiking Socks Comparison Chart
Best Overall-DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool Hiking Socks
This three-pair pack of merino wool socks are designed to keep your feet comfortable and dry, featuring natural thermo regulation. The socks are also equipped with mesh panels that are designed to improve airflow, while the wool wicks moisture away from the skin to keep them dry and prevent irritation. The padding and cushioning will minimize aching feet, hot spots, and blisters. Because the socks are made out of wool, they don’t require frequent washing like traditional socks, so this three-pack is perfect for longer hiking trips.
- Mesh panels improve airflow
- High-quality merino wool
- Padding designed to prevent blisters
- Includes three pairs
- Very thin padding on the bottom of the socks
These unisex wool socks have what it takes to provide the necessary breathability, moisture wicking ability, and much-needed padding, whether you’re new to hiking or planning a long hike over challenging terrain. The socks do an excellent job of keeping the feet dry and provide padding where you need it the most.
Best Merino Wool Hiking Socks-Alvada Hiking Socks
These socks are made out of a blend of merino wool, polyester, nylon, and spandex. They’re designed to provide total support on longer hikes and feature wool that’s itch-free and soft. The nylon blend promotes a softer surface, so the socks won’t feel scratchy like traditional wool tends to. The cushioning located in the footbed promotes a more comfortable hiking experience, while the thick wool material works to wick moisture away from the skin and keeps the feet warm and dry in colder temperatures. While the socks only contain one percent of spandex, the addition of this material helps to keep the socks firmly in place and makes them easier to put on and remove.
- Includes nylon, polyester and spandex
- Itch-free wool
- Heavily padded footbed
- Low price
- Available in one size
- Not recommended for hotter climates
These socks are low maintenance, unlike traditional wool socks. They can be washed in the washing machine and dried on tumble dry in the dryer. The durable design and heavily padded footbed will allow you to use these socks season after season, and work to retain warmth in colder temperatures, although the design does lack the type of breathability you need in hotter climates.
Best Alpaca Wool Hiking Socks-Warrior Alpaca Socks
If you’ve never worn socks that are made out of alpaca wool, you’ll be surprised at how thick and soft they are. These heavy-duty hiking socks are terry lined, which provides padding on key areas of the feet. The material itself is designed to control moisture, regulate temperatures, and reduce foot odor. The socks provide ultimate protection against calluses, blistering, and feature natural moisture wicking properties that will keep your feet nice and dry in hotter climates or wet weather conditions. These socks may be on the pricey side but considering the level of protection they provide from both rugged terrain and wet conditions, they’re definitely worth every penny.
- Terry cloth lining
- Designed to reduce foot odor
- Material helps to regulate temperatures
These socks are made out of super fine alpaca wool and include nylon for added durability and protection from moisture. The socks themselves are soft and heavily padded with terry cloth. The socks are naturally flame retardant and won’t cause itching like traditional wool can. These socks also feature a thinner design compared to traditional wool, so they work well for most types of hiking shoes and boots.
Best Hiking Socks for Women-EnerWear 4P Pack Women’s Outdoor Hiking Sock
These socks are specifically designed for women. They’re made out of 86% of merino wool, with a blend of spandex, nylon, and polyester. The materials used are designed to keep the feet warm and dry, yet they also help to improve breathability and comfort. The socks can easily handle extreme weather conditions, especially cold weather, making them a great choice for hiking, camping, and mountaineering. This set comes with a total of four pairs of socks and are available at a price that won’t hit your wallet too hard.
- Features terry-loop padding throughout footbed
- Includes four pairs
- Low price
- Specifically designed for women
- Cuffs of the socks are very tight
These heavy-duty hiking socks are made out of tough merino wool that’s extra-fine. They’re perfect for any type of intense outdoor activity including hiking and mountaineering, and feature a comfortable stretchy design, moisture wicking ability, and feature terry-loop cushioning throughout the footbed, which will help to reduce foot irritation and blisters.
Best Hiking Socks for Men-Theme Designer Premium Hiking Socks
If you’re searching for durable hiking socks, your search is over. These hiking socks by Theme Designer feature reinforced heels and toes, providing the type of durability you need for longer hikes or challenging terrain. These socks will also be a great choice for the beginner whose feet are not used to the challenges that hiking can place on the feet. Despite the thick, durable design, the socks are breathable and made out of moisture-wicking material that will keep the feet comfortable and dry.
- Reinforced toes and heels
- Heavily padded
- Low price
- Available in one size only
These socks come equipped with a deep heel pocket design that will prevent the socks from sliding down as you climb treacherous terrain or handle unmaintained trails in the backcountry. The durable design doesn’t negatively impact the breathability of the socks, so your feet will not sweat excessively. Additionally, the natural materials will pull moisture away from the skin, so your feet will stay dry in hotter climates and wet weather conditions.
Best Hiking Socks for Hot Weather-Time May Tell Men’s Hiking Socks
This four-pack of men’s hiking socks is made out of 80% merino wool, with nylon, and polyester added to improve comfort, durability, and breathability. The socks are incredibly stretchy, so they’re easy to take off or put on and feature natural moisture wicking properties that will keep your feet dry and comfortable in hotter climates and wet conditions. The high wool content will help retain warmth and does an excellent job of eliminating odors. The socks themselves are also incredibly soft, until traditional merino wool socks that have a rough, itchy surface. These comfortable socks will keep your feet protected from the elements, challenging terrain, and do an excellent job of reducing foot fatigue and blisters.
- Excellent moisture wicking properties
- Eliminates odors
- Low price
- No cushioning on bottom of the socks
If you’re looking for affordable hiking socks that don’t skimp on comfort and quality, then you’ll love this latest set from Time May Tell.
These socks are a great choice for hiking in both cold and warm climates and offer the type of moisture wicking power all hikers are looking for. These socks are thick, comfortable, and a great choice for longer hikes or hiking over challenging, rugged terrain in the backcountry.
Best Cotton Blend Hiking Socks-innotree Hiking Socks
These hiking socks are made out of a blend of cotton, nylon, and spandex, and they’re durable, thick, and feature cushioning along the bottom of the footbed. The compressed design holds the socks securely against the calves. The socks feature a fine gauge knit that provides arch support, while the reinforced toe and heel provides maximum protection and comfort. However, the socks don’t do as good of a job retaining heat as socks that are made out of wool. Instead, these socks are a better choice for moderately warm and hot climates and are not recommended for winter use.
- Designed to wick moisture away from the skin
- Low price
- Not recommended for winter use
While socks that are made solely out of cotton are not a great choice for hiking, these cotton blend hiking socks do an excellent job of keeping the feet dry and comfortable in hotter climates. However, they struggle with heat retention, which makes them a poor choice for use in freezing temperatures.
Best Bamboo Hiking Socks-Bamboo Full Cushion Hiking Socks
These socks are made out of a combination of bamboo viscose, rubber, and polyester. The socks are ultra-soft and feature a fully cushioned footbed that’s designed to provide all-around comfort. The smooth toe seams are designed to reduce friction and improve comfort, while the material itself is very breathable and works to regulate temperatures. The material is hypoallergenic and naturally antimicrobial, so it’s a great choice for people with sensitive skin.
- Naturally antimicrobial
- Cuffs of the socks may be too tight for some hikers
These socks will prevent foot odor and offer enhanced moisture control. The socks also offer thermo-regulation so your feet will remain warm and comfortable, regardless of the climate you’re hiking in. The sock’s arch support ensures a proper fit and is designed to prevent foot fatigue and the many aches and pains that occur when hiking over challenging terrain.
Hiking Socks Buyer’s Guide
Socks that are the right weight, made out of the right material, and provide the type of protection you need based on terrain and weather conditions will be crucial. In this buyer’s guide, I’ll discuss what to look for in socks that offer ultimate comfort and protection on the trail. But first, let’s take a look at the many benefits wearing the right type of hiking socks can offer and how they can allow your feet to remain comfortable and dry, even in freezing temperatures and intense heat.
Benefits of Hiking Socks
- The socks you wear can make or break a hike. Aside from your footwear, socks are the next most important piece of hiking gear.
- Wearing the wrong type of socks when you’re hiking is basically asking for blisters. The right type of socks can protect your feet from friction, abrasions, and will come equipped with padding in all the right places.
- Hiking socks can help prevent unwanted odors, especially if you’re hiking in warm weather.
- If you’re headed on a longer hike, these socks can also provide cushion and comfort to the feet, allowing you to log in more miles per day.
- If you’re hiking in hotter temperatures, wet feet will be a concern. Socks with moisture-wicking properties will pull moisture away from the feet to keep them dry, preventing fungal infections.
- Even lightweight styles of hiking socks are very thick. This thickness is designed to keep the feet warm. But certain thick hiking socks can also help to keep your feet cool by preventing outside heat from reaching the feet.
Other Must-Have Features
Hiking socks are a must for the serious or casual hiker. They can prevent mild to severe foot conditions, such as athlete’s foot and can keep your feet cool or warm, depending on the type of material they’re made out of and how thick or thin they are. There are many factors to consider when you’re shopping for new hiking socks.
Now that you know why wearing the right socks on a hike is such a big deal, let’s take a look at the different styles, types, and features available, and how you can choose the perfect pair for your next outing.
Hiking socks are often available in three thicknesses ranging from lightweight to heavy-duty. Some socks are also available in an extra-thick style, which is perfect for freezing temperatures. How thick the socks need to be will depend on personal preference and when you hike.
For outings in the summer, go with a medium or lightweight style. For colder weather, medium or heavy will suffice. For extremely cold temperatures, extra-thick socks will protect the feet from frostbite and can keep them comfortably warm. For most hikes, a medium weight sock is the best choice, since it can handle both hot and moderately cold temperatures.
Medium weight socks can also easily fit inside most hiking shoes and boots and will provide more cushioning than lightweight socks.
Wearing socks that fit properly can keep the feet comfortable on a longer hike. If the socks are too big, they can slip off the heel or rub against the feet, causing blisters. If the socks are too small, then they can create pressure points.
To find the correct size, measure your foot instead of relying on your shoe size.
Once you’ve measured your foot, use the dimensions and compare them to a manufacturer’s size chart. If you’re between sizes, then go a size down to avoid socks that are too big that can cause blisters and bunch up.
Hiking socks should have a fit that’s snug but not overly tight. Socks that fit correctly should have a heel cup that lines up with the heel of the foot.
Since these socks can vary in thickness, you’ll also need to research how the style of socks you want to buy will work with your footwear.
Lightweight and medium weight socks usually fit all types of hiking boots and shoes. The medium weight socks may feel a little snug in hiking shoes.
Heavy weight socks can be too thick for hiking shoes, but they often work well with most styles of hiking boots.
Extra-thick socks are incredibly thick and will only fit inside boots that are pretty roomy. Some hikers recommend purchasing boots that are half a size larger, to accommodate these extra-thick socks. If you normally hike in freezing temperatures, or your feet tend to run on the cold side and you plan on primarily wearing extra-thick socks, then purchasing hiking boots that are slightly larger than what you normally wear is a great idea.
Aside from thicknesses, socks are also available in a variety of material types, which should also be chosen based on personal preference and the time of year.
Different materials will offer different heat retention and dispersing properties, not to mention different drying and moisture wicking abilities. The type of material the socks are made out of will have the biggest impact on how much they cost. However, high quality materials such as alpaca wool or merino wool are often worth the higher price tag since they last the longest and don’t require as much care as socks made out of bamboo or synthetic materials.
This type of wool isn’t quite as itchy as ordinary wool and the fiber length is also much shorter, which makes the material feel comfortable and soft against the skin. If you’re someone who has very sensitive skin, then this type of material is a good option since the hypoallergenic material doesn’t contain lanolin. It also offers excellent moisture-wicking properties as well, making it a very versatile material.
Bamboo is another popular material, due to its hollow structure of fibers, which makes the material very absorbent. Bamboo socks work well to effectively wick moisture away from the skin, providing the type of breathability many hikers are looking for.
Cotton is a natural, comfortable fabric, but since it tends to absorb moisture and is very slow to dry it’s not a good choice for hiking. It also doesn’t provide any type of insulation when it’s wet, so you’ll be pretty miserable if your feet sweat during a hike in the winter. Most hikers can agree that wearing socks that are made out of cotton is a huge mistake. However, socks that are made out of a combination of cotton and other types of materials, such as polyester or nylon, can still work to keep the feet dry and comfortable, just avoid socks that are made out of 100% cotton.
This material comes from sheep in New Zealand and it feels much softer than ordinary wool. It offers the same water repelling and insulating qualities that ordinary wool does, but it feels much softer and doesn’t create hot spots on the foot.
Silk is another popular natural fabric that feels comfortable and luxurious against the skin. It also offers excellent moisture wicking properties, so it’s a good choice for hiking in warm weather. These socks can also be worn as a base layer, with a heavier sock worn over them, if you’re hiking in colder weather conditions, or if you don’t like the feel of wool against your skin.
Socks that are made out of synthetic materials will be more affordable than pairs that are made out of natural materials such as merino wool.
Most types of modern hiking socks will weave natural and synthetic materials together. The addition of polypropylene can increase a sock’s moisture-wicking ability when added to wool or cotton socks. Polyester wicks moisture away from the skin and dries quickly. It also offers excellent insulating properties.
Nylon is another popular synthetic option. It can speed up the drying time and provides much-needed durability.
Spandex may be added to hiking socks to improve their fit and retain their shape.
Wool is the most common material used to make hiking socks. It offers superior moisture-wicking capability and insulation. Over the years, the rough texture has been minimized, to improve comfort.
Most socks will come in the basic crew style length, so there’s really no need to focus too much on the length of socks you buy. However, the length of the socks can be important if you’re traveling over dangerous terrain, such as backcountry trails that are full of sharp rocks and sticks, insects, and snakes.
You’ll commonly come across mid-length socks, which are a great choice if you’re hiking in warmer weather since the socks can protect the ankles from branches, rocks, bugs, and dirt.
Knee high socks are also available, but these socks are more designed for mountaineering than hiking. Knee high socks are designed to protect the skin from abrasions that can be caused by heavy-duty boots. This type of coverage will also keep the lower legs warm.
Ankle socks only cover the ankle bone and don’t provide much in the form of protection from the elements or insects.
No-show socks are sporty and don’t provide any protection from skin to boot abrasions or insect bites. They’re designed to be worn with low-cut footwear.
How padded a pair of socks are can give you a good idea of how thick and warm they’ll be. The right amount of cushioning can depend mainly on the type of hiking you do and the weather. A little cushioning can protect the feet during a high-impact activity, but thicker socks can cause the feet to sweat.
When you’re shopping for hiking socks, you’ll come across three types of cushioning:
This type of padding is perfect for warmer conditions. The socks are pretty thin, but feature some light cushioning in important places, such as the ball of the foot.
These socks offer a decent amount of padding in the ball of the foot and heel for hiking and can provide enough warmth in colder conditions.
These are the warmest, thickest, and most cushioned socks on the market, and they’re designed for colder temperatures, tough terrain, and longer hikes. They’re usually too warm and thick for backpacking journeys and hot weather and are a better choice for cold-weather backpacking trips and mountaineering.
How breathable socks are involves the fabric’s ability to transport moisture in the vapor stage, removing the moisture from the skin and allowing it to escape the socks. The more breathable the socks are, the more comfortable they will be to wear in hotter temperatures. As the body heats up, the moisture vapor will be absorbed by the material and released to a drier environment outside the fabric.
Merino wool is a type of material that will help to regulate body temperature, keeping the wearer warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. Wool also has the ability to store moisture inside the fibers. As the body heats up, the stored moisture in the fiber evaporates, cooling the air between the fabric and the skin. The hotter the wearer gets; the more evaporation takes place and the bigger the cooling effect. For cold temperatures, wool also possesses a natural crimp that allows it to trap dead air. When the temperature falls, the dead air works as an excellent insulator, providing a good buffer against cold air.
How much a pair of hiking socks costs will depend on the type of material they’re made out of and how thick the socks are. A high-quality pair of merino wool socks can cost $20 to $30 per pair, while bamboo socks will cost as little as $5 to $10 per pair. Socks that are a blend of both natural and synthetic materials tend to be more affordable, with a cost that ranges from $8 to $20. If you’re looking for hiking socks that will last, then plan on investing in a few pairs of higher priced merino or alpaca socks. Of course, if you’re hiking in hot or humid conditions, then more affordable synthetic socks will be a better choice.
How Many Pairs of Hiking Socks do I Need?
As I mentioned earlier, foot health is crucial, especially when it comes to long hiking trips. If you’re planning your next trip, bring enough socks so you can change them twice a day if needed. While some socks, such as those made out of merino wool, may not need to be washed daily and can even be worn more than once before needing a wash, you may encounter harsh weather conditions that can leave your feet soaked. Changing your socks at least once a day will help keep them comfortable and free from infection. Additionally, I recommend purchasing both medium and heavy-duty socks, so you can choose socks based on the weather conditions that day. You may start your hike off in warmer conditions, only to have the weather change drastically day to day. Being prepared and bringing along plenty of options in terms of socks, will ensure your feet stay warm, comfortable, and dry.
How to Care for Wool Hiking Socks
These days, wool hiking socks are much easier to care for than they were several years ago. Modern wool socks can be tossed in the washing machine and dried with the same type of special care you’d give other types of wool clothing. However, it’s important to properly care for your hiking socks, since doing so will make them last much longer. These socks aren’t cheap, so if you’re investing in a top of the line pair of merino wool socks, then make sure you pay close attention to the manufacturer’s care instructions.
Most brands that make merino wool socks provide the same type of care instructions. This type of wool is long-lasting, durable, and comfortable. It’s also antimicrobial. This means that you don’t have to wash them as often as you do normal socks that are made out of cotton or synthetic materials. In fact, washing them less often can also make them last longer.
If the manufacturer doesn’t require you to hand wash the socks, make sure you place the washing machine on the gentle wash cycle and wash them in warm or cold water. They can even go in the dryer, as long as the setting is placed on tumble dry.
Before you wash or dry them, make sure you turn the socks inside out. You can use a liquid or powder detergent but avoid using fabric softener or bleach.
Avoid rolling the socks together in a ball since doing so can distort their shape. When dry, the socks should be stored flat.
Additionally, one of the easiest ways you can take care of your expensive hiking socks is to pay special attention to your feet. Keep your feet clean and clip your toenails as needed. This will reduce the frequency in which you have to wash the socks and can prevent damage to the seams and material.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Socks are Best for Hiking?
The most popular type of material for hiking socks is wool. It’s also the top choice recommended by footwear specialists. Polyester is another great choice for hiking socks since it wicks moisture away from the skin and dries very quickly.
Do You Wear Socks with Hiking Shoes?
Yes, you should wear socks with your hiking shoes, unless the type of shoes you own are specifically designed to be worn without socks. Hiking is often done with thick socks, which can prevent the shoes or boots from rubbing against the skin. This will help to prevent skin irritation and blisters.
Should You Wear 2 Pairs of Socks When Hiking?
Wearing a couple of pairs of socks can help to keep your feet dry during a longer hike. However, two pairs of socks may make your hiking boots or shoes uncomfortable to wear for long. You’ll be better off choosing hiking socks that are thick or extra-thick.
Should Hiking Socks be Thick or Thin?
Thinner socks are a better choice for short hikes or hot weather conditions. Thicker socks will come in handy for longer hikes or when you’re hiking in colder weather. Medium thick socks are a great choice because they offer heat retention but will not make the feet overly hot in warmer weather.
Why Are Cotton Socks Bad for Hiking?
Cotton socks are a bad choice for hiking because they trap warm air near the skin. Once this material gets wet it will be unable to keep the feet warm because the air pockets in the material will fill up with water. When you’re hiking and your feet start to sweat, the cotton absorbs the sweat like a sponge, keeping the feet wet. This is not only uncomfortable, especially in colder conditions, but it can also cause athlete’s foot.
Should Socks be Tight or Loose?
The socks you wear should fit snugly but should not be too tight or too loose. Socks that don’t fit properly can cause blisters and other types of skin irritation. Socks that are too tight can also bind the toes, cutting off circulation, after hiking for several hours. Socks that are too big can pinch the skin, bunch up, and can cause blisters.
Do Tight Socks Cause Problems?
Yes, they can have a negative impact on circulation. If you’re wearing compression socks for hiking, make sure you put them on correctly. This means ensuring the socks are pulled all the way up, with no bunching of the material or wrinkles.
What is The Best Time to Go Hiking?
Many people think that the best time for a hike is in the spring or right after summer. Fall and winter can also be great times to hike, especially if you want to visit national parks, since the trails will be less crowded than they are during prime hiking times.
As you can clearly see, the right type of hiking socks can be a total game changer, especially if you’re hiking over challenging terrain or in hotter or freezing temperatures.
The best hiking socks can offer the perfect blend of cushioning, skin protection, breathability, and heat retention. But choosing socks for hiking isn’t as easy as it sounds, so you’ll need to consider many factors, before hitting that buy now button. This includes where you’ll be hiking, the time of year, the type of footwear you own, and personal preference. With this buyer’s guide and my eight product recommendations, you should have no trouble finding socks that can work for you and your next hiking trip, as long as take into consideration what your needs will be based on terrain and climate.