Besides having the right hiking shoes, a pair of quality hiking socks helps prevent foot discomfort, so you can remain focused on the invigorating feeling that hiking brings. Socks are a critical part of your hiking kit. If you pick the wrong pair, you risk sweating, blisters, and aching feet. This means you need to choose hiking socks with the same level of care dedicated to other outdoor apparel.
Sometimes you may be tempted to pack your regular gym socks, but these aren't proper hiking gear because they're not built for performance on the trail. Wearing regular socks on a long hike will have you cursing the whole way. What you need, however, is a pair that will keep your feet dry, comfortable and blister free. Pick the right socks, and your feet will thank you.
Why Hiking Socks
Hiking in the wilderness can be enjoyable, or a miserable experience depending on the type of apparel you carry with you. If you have worn cotton socks on the trail before, then you definitely understand how hard it is on your feet. It can even make you want to forgo your excursion and head back to the lodge instead.
Unlike regular socks, such as running or gym socks, hiking socks are designed for the harsh terrain and different types of weather and climatic conditions. Hiking socks not only keep your feet cushioned, but they wick away moisture to prevent blisters and let you sweat comfortably. Additionally, they’ll keep your feet warm when hiking in adverse weather like winter or rainy seasons, reduce friction, and improve boot fit.
However, picking the wrong pair can also bring misery to your otherwise fun outdoor excursion. Bad hiking socks soak up water, trap odor and sweat (causing that worn sneaker scent), make your toes cold, and cause bunching up around your heels. What’s worse, they chafe your heels, cut off your circulation, and give blisters that leave a painful reminder of your hike for days to come.
How To Pick Out The Right Hiking Socks
Your feet are your most important tool when hiking, so if they aren't cared for and kept comfortable, your hike can descend into the realm of misery pretty fast. So how do you pick out the best hiking socks for preventing odor and sweat, in addition to keeping away blisters, while cushioning your feet and keeping them warm or cool in different types of weather? Well, here’s a list of factors to consider before making that purchase.
For the most part, hiking socks are made from fabric blends, with merino wool as the core material. This is because merino is warm, quick drying, breathable, static resistant, and naturally antimicrobial. Other materials used include Lycra, elastane, and synthetic fibers, which when blended with merino offer durability, support and cushioning for your feet while on the trail. Wool regulates temperature unlike cotton or fully synthetic materials, which is why in cold weather, the socks retain heat yet stay cool in hot weather. The bottom line, however, is that your feet need to remain dry at all times. Among the materials you need to look for when choosing the best hiking socks include merino wool, nylon, spandex, elastane, polyester, and silk.
2. Thickness and insulation
Hiking socks come in a variety of thicknesses designed for different purposes. The three main types of sock thickness are ultralight, lightweight, and midweight. Ultralightweight socks are good for warm to hot weather and provide minimal padding. Lightweight hiking socks are suitable for most weather conditions and are more breathable and wickable than midweight socks, which are more durable and cushioned but may lose some breathability. There are also heavyweight socks for cold weather or heavy trekking, and these provide maximum cushioning but aren’t as wickable as the three other weights, plus they take up more space in your hiking boots.
The most common hiking sock height is that of crew socks, which extends six to eight inches above the heel, or a few inches above your hiking boots. This doesn’t make you excessively hot, plus, it offers added protection to your lower leg from rocks and brush while cushioning your hiking pants. The other option is quarter height hiking socks that cover the heel and ankle without extending up your leg as crew socks do. These are good for minimalist hikers and summer hiking, as long as your boots don’t have high ankles. Most hiking socks reach up to the knee, providing warmth to the lower part of your legs. As a rule of thumb, keep your hiking socks at least half an inch long above your shoe or boot, to reduce friction and blisters.
Comfort is everything during hiking. Otherwise, it would be a miserable experience. This is why it is essential to pick hiking socks that fit well. Comfort also has to do with the feel of the socks, as some are soft, others have a thicker and denser feel, while others have great loft and excellent fit. A good pair of hiking socks won’t bunch, but you’ll need to check the fit of your toes and heels. A sock that’s too long will bunch. If it is too short, it will slide down into your boot and feel tight, hence discomfort while hiking. Good hiking socks will have no bulky seams and no slippage.
Good hiking socks should come out feeling and fitting like new after putting them through the washer and dryer. Longevity depends on the brand of socks you choose, as some can be soft and comfy, but develop holes more quickly. Other brands have tough socks that aren’t as soft but have no issues with holes. Most wool socks have pilling issues over time, but line drying helps lessen the problem. You can have a few pairs in the rotation so that they can last a few seasons. However, good hiking socks hold up over time regardless of the miles you clock while hiking, or the number of washes, with minimal pilling or loose threads. Other factors affecting their durability include how often you walk, your weight, how often you wear the socks, and the strike of your foot.
How We Reviewed
Seasoned hikers know that the hiking socks are a must-have on the trail, but, however simple their appearance, they can be a complicated purchase. This is why we spent some time researching the top sock options. We discovered some great pairs from Amazon’s list of best sellers as well as brand websites, noting those that had the highest ratings, reviews, and met the criteria for the best hiking socks. What follows are 2019's best hiking socks, which offer the ideal mix of comfort, cushioning and durability.
Hiking socks may seem pricey compared to the usual cotton socks sold in packs of 12 for a few bucks. However, like all pieces of outdoor gear, they too are designed for performance, which is why their prices are higher than ordinary socks.
Best Hiking Socks Review
Now that you know how to pick out the best hiking socks, its time to slip into a pair and feel the difference. Below, in no particular order, are our picks for the best hiking socks of 2019.
- ALL WEATHER COMFORT: Darn Tough uses the highest quality Merino Wool, which naturally provides all weather performance....
- STAY DRY AND COMFORTABLE DURING THE LONGEST DAYS ON THE TRAIL: This hiking sock features a performance fit that stays in...
- LEGENDARY DURABILITY: The Hiker Micro Crew is built tough and made to last with 61% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, and 3%...
Darn Tough hiking socks are known for their unmatched durability and even have a lifetime warranty that lets you trade them in for a new pair if they don’t last long. They are great for different types of weather conditions and are designed with merino wool, nylon, and Lycra spandex for versatility, with medium cushioning.
Smartwool hiking socks are made from merino wool and nylon, but, unlike Darn Tough socks, they blend the two materials with elastane. They offer the three thicknesses available, ultralight, light and medium cushioning, and are known for their Indestructawool technology – a tougher wool blend.
Injinji hiking socks are made from a blend of NuWool, nylon, and Lycra, but what makes them unique is their five-toe design that claims to reduce the risk of blisters and hotspots. With solid reviews on their socks, Injinji has managed to attract hikers to their brand dispelling the saying that new gear technology isn’t always better.
- Midweight all season Merino Wool hiking Crew Socks with soft terry loops inside and elasticized arch outside for a foot...
- Fully cushioned terry loops inside and Seamless toe closure for comfort
- Elasticized arch with ventilation channel aids performance
Wigwam is one of the top brands in camping and hiking gear and has gained trust over the years while building reliability with their products. Their hiking socks are thick, cushioned fully, and work best in cold conditions.
If you keep getting sweaty feet or hotspots while hiking, then you need to rethink your sock choice. Icebreaker hiking socks feature breathable mesh zones that offer extra ventilation, keeping your feet dry, cool and void of blisters. Its anatomical toe box design reduces chafing, ensuring extreme breathability as it adds space around your foot. They are made of merino wool, nylon, and Lycra fabric blend.
Best Hiking Socks
Choosing the best hiking socks is difficult because it all depends on what type of hiking you are going to do. Darn Tough hiking socks are the best for long distance trekking and adverse weather conditions. Their sturdy construction gives them an edge over the competition. If you want a hiking experience that guarantees a blister-free time on the trail, Injinji hiking socks deliver on this better than other brands. Its five-toe unique design that separates the toes, plus the panels that create proper air circulation keep away blisters and hotspots. The Icebreaker hiking socks take the crown for best breathability and ventilation because of its breathable mesh zones.
There’s fierce competition as top brands keep innovating and patenting different types of technology and fabric blends to design, and create the ultimate hiking socks. Of all the hiking socks we checked out, the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew pair came out on top.
Have you recently gone hiking wearing any of the hiking socks on our list? Or is there a pair that you feel should be included? Share with us in the comments section below.