How to Choose the Best Hiking Socks (Tips & Advice)

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Whether you are thru-hiking, backpacking or just spending a day out walking through the woods, protecting your feet should always be a top priority.

Our feet are what keep us heading forward, propelling over to the terrain and on to that next great vista. Without proper protection, your day can be ruined in an instant from sweaty achy blistered feet.

That is why choosing the best pair of hiking socks is so important. They should keep you comfortable, by securing your feet in your hiking shoes. They should keep you cool enough to prevent sweat build-up that is a leading cause of blisters.

Your hiking socks should work in tandem with your hiking shoes or boots to keep you supported and on track to your final destination. So, we are going to break down what makes some hiking socks a step above the rest, the types of materials to look for and those to avoid as well as many other attributes that will give you the best possible experience while out on the trail!

Top 6 Best Socks for Hiking

PRODUCTDESCRIPTION 
best socks for hikingMen's Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks
-Merino Wool
-True seamless construction
-No slipping, bunching or blisters
-Mid level cushion
-Ribbed support
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Best socks for hikingMen's SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew
-Merino wool
-Virtually seamless toe
-4 degree fit system
-Durable yet breathable
-Medium cushion
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Best socks for hikingMen's Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro Crew Socks
-Midweight
-Cushioned for comfort
-Reinforced heel
-Lightweight instep
-Enhanced breathability
-Ultimax moisture management
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Best socks for hikingWomen's Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew Cushion Sock
-Merino wool
-No slipping, bunching or blisters
-Fast drying
-Naturally antimicrobial
-Repels odor
-True seamless toe
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Best socks for hikingWomen's SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks
-Merino wool
-4 degree fit system
-Lightly cushioned bottom
-Seamless toe for enhanced comfort
-Quick drying
-Mid ankle length
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Best socks for hikingWomen's Stance Adventure Quartz Hike Socks
-Merino wool mix
-Medium cushion
-Built in arch support
-Crew length
-Fun patterns
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Quick Answer: Best Hiking Socks


Things to Consider When Choosing Hiking Socks


Materials are Important

Wearing Wigwam socks while hiking in Greenland - Best Socks for Hiking 
Wearing Wigwam socks while hiking in Greenland

The fabric you choose in a hiking sock is key to its overall functionality. Each fabric has its own strengths and weaknesses such as breath-ability, warmth, stretch and overall comfort.

That is why many manufacturers are now “frankensteining” socks together with a variety of materials to give you the best hiking socks possible. Here are some of the best fabrics and what they mean for your feet. 

  • Wool- wool has long reigned supreme as the number one sock material for hikers. That is because of its amazing ability to regulate temperature along with its natural cushion. This fabric is also naturally antibacterial which prevents odors and germs from building up during a long days trek.  However, times have changed from the old itchy rag socks of yore. Now, most wool hiking socks are made from Merino wool which is extremely soft to the touch without losing any of the powerful capabilities of its rag wool ancestors. 
  • Cotton- cotton socks are the easiest to find and also the most common mistake made by beginning hikers. While they are comfortable on the skin and cheap to buy, they have no moisture-wicking abilities and do not regulate body temperature well. Instead, they trap heat and moisture which leaves you soggy and stinking by the end of the day. In colder temperatures, this combination of weaknesses can only lead to disaster. So, avoid cotton socks at all costs. 
  • Silk- You may be surprised to find silk as one of the hiking sock fabric options but it is! That is because silk is a natural insulator. Hiking socks made from this material are also extremely lightweight and comfortable. However, their downside comes in the form of durability. This material cannot stand up to heavy extended use like many of its counterparts, so it is often used in a blend or in sock liners to add reliable moisture wicking.  
  • Polyester- Polyester is a synthetic material found in all types of hiking gear and apparel. It is naturally moisture-wicking and has the ability to dry very quickly which means you will never be stuck with wet feet for long. It is also highly durable, and much like the wool has made the transition from the itchy fabric of the 1970s to a much softer modern product. 
  • Nylon- This is another synthetic fabric that has much of the same positive qualities as polyester. Often you will see these fabrics used in tandem to gain the best attributes of both. Nylon is light in weight, comfortable to the touch, naturally moisture-wicking and is extremely breathable. 
  • Spandex- this is the elastic material that helps mold the hiking sock to your foot for the best fit possible. It keeps things tight to prevent slipping and sloshing around in your socks and is a great addition to give you that barely-there feel. 
  • Blends- to be honest, these days no hiking sock is made from just a single material. Instead, they are a blend of the materials listed previously to great the perfect balance of comfort, warmth, breath-ability, and quick drying. These will be noted in percentages on the socks label with the primary material being the most important for choosing the right sock for the season/adventure. 

Is Cushioning Important?

Wearing Wigwam socks while hiking

Cushioning is a great added feature that can help protect your feet and joints during high impact activities such as running or backpacking.

However, the more cushioning a pair of socks have, the warmer they will be. That is why it is important to evaluate the warmth-to-cushion ratio based on the types of weather and activities you intend to place yourself in.

Heavy cushioned socks are going to be the thickest, warmest and most comfortable you can find. But, they will also be the heaviest. This would be overwhelming if hiking in the arid desert or summers over rocky terrain.

Here you would want something with medium or light cushioning, that will keep you comfortable without weighing you down or overheating.

No cushioning is the best choice for trail runners that want to keep the weight down and rely on their shoes for the brunt of the shock absorption. 

What Hiking Sock Style is for you?

Wigwam socks for hiking

There are a variety of sock styles that are generally labeled by their height between your ankle to knee. Each one is a matter of preference, climate and activity, so keep this in mind when choosing the best hiking sock style for you. 

  • No show- these are the babies in the hiking sock would and barely make it to the ankle. These are lightweight and are best if your primary hiking shoe is a trail runner. 
  • Ankle- These socks come right to the ankle as the name suggests. Again, they are light in weight and are low enough to keep your socks from rubbing against your heel. However, they are not suited for hiking boots as without the heel protection you will risk abrasion from the boot material. Stick with these socks if you like using low profile hiking shoes. 
  • Crew cut- These are probably the most common style of hiking sock on the market. This is because they fit well with both hiking boots and hiking shoes. These socks usually come up about an inch or so over the ankle and prevent abrasion from your footwear while also preventing cold air from going up your pants. 
  • Knee high- These tend to be heavy-duty socks that reach to just below the knee. These are best used in extremely cold conditions as an added layer of warmth for your entire lower leg. 

Hiking Sock Features to look for

Wigwam socks while hiking

Like all outdoor wear, the added features can make or break a pair of hiking socks. It is important to know what these features mean and if you find them necessary for your adventures. Here are the most popular features found in the best hiking socks. 

  • Breath-ability panels- These panels are usually found right at the arch of the foot where you are likely to sweat the most. They give you added airflow throughout your shoe and decrease the potential of sticky soggy feet. While it might be assumed that these are best for warm weather, they are actually crucial in colder climates where wet feet can tremendously bring down your body temperature and put you at risk of hypothermia.  
  • Moisture-wicking- The moisture-wicking abilities of a hiking sock are mostly going to be correlated to the type of material used in construction. That being said, you will want to look for this feature in any hiking sock as it is important in all climates, temperatures and activities. 
  • Seamless- A seamless design simply means a flat stitch throughout the sock. This gives your hiking socks the maximum comfort without the risk of your toes or the sides of your feet rubbing against the seams. This is a great way to prevent blisters and bruising especially when scaling strenuous terrain. 
  • Compression panels- compression paneling is found around the arch and heel of the sock. This ensures a snug fit and prevents your socks from slipping. These panels also produce a sock that is more streamlined, reducing the use of bulky materials that can bunch up while in use.  
  • Antimicrobial- socks with antimicrobial or antibacterial properties are especially important on backpacking or thru-hiking trips. This is because you will be transition through only a handful of socks over several days or weeks. If bacteria is allowed to build up within your socks, you run the risk of infection or fungus that could easily cut your trip short if not taken care of properly.  
  • Mosquito repellent- Some hiking socks will come treated with a mosquito repellent that will help your feet from getting bit while sitting around at camp. While not a necessary feature, it can be helpful in swampy areas where the mosquitoes are highly prevalent. 

Best Socks for Hiking – Our Recommendations


Men’s Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

This sock is light, nimble, fast, and rugged. It’s a go-to sock that won’t weigh you down when you’re hammering out the miles. Thru-Hikers logging hundreds of miles on the long trails of America have long coveted their hiking socks because they deliver the ultimate in comfort, durability and fit when failure is simply not an option.

So whether it’s Denali or just a day hike, with Darn Tough you’ll have the world’s best hiking sock underfoot.

SPECS:

  • Merino Wool
  • True seamless construction
  • No slipping, bunching or blisters
  • Mid level cushion
  • Ribbed support

Check Men’s Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks price at Amazon


Men’s SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

Whether you’re mountaineering, running, multi-day backpacking, hiking, or just shoveling snow in the dead of winter, the Indestructawool technology featured on the PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks provides exceptional durability and comfort all season long.

The Virtually Seamless toe and 4 Degree fit system on the PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks provides a performance-oriented fit with an ankle flex zone for enhanced comfort all day long.

SPECS:

  • Merino wool
  • Virtually seamless toe
  • 4 degree fit system
  • Durable yet breathable
  • Medium cushion

Check Men’s SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew price at Amazon


Men’s Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro Crew Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

The Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro sock is a go-to sock for anyone looking to pack light on their next adventure. Featuring a fully cushioned foot, reinforced heel panel and quick-drying Ultimax technology, you can wear this sock for multiple days on the trail. 

These socks are reinforced in major wear areas with synthetic fibers, to keep your socks from wearing thin and help to extend the life of the product. The mid-weight cushion throughout ensures that your feet, ankles and shins stay comfortable on all your adventures.

SPECS:

  • Mid-weight
  • Cushioned for comfort
  • Reinforced heel
  • Lightweight instep
  • Enhanced breath-ability
  • Ultimax moisture management

Check Men’s Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro Crew Socks price at Amazon


Women’s Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew Cushion Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

The ultimate companion for hot summer hikes. Coolmax moves moisture away from your skin and dries fast while legendary Darn Tough construction brings comfort, durability and fit to the trail.

The true seamless toe ensures comfort no matter if you are just hiking for the days or for several days.

SPECS:

  • Merino wool
  • No slipping, bunching or blisters
  • Fast drying
  • Naturally antimicrobial
  • Repels odor
  • True seamless toe

Check Women’s Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew Cushion Sock price at Amazon


Women’s SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

Experience durability at its peak with the Smartwool Women’s PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks. These socks are built for performance in the highest degree, making them ready for any adventure on your list.

These socks feature a 4 Degree Elite Fit System for a dialed, performance-oriented fit with a flex zone at the ankle joint and Virtually Seamless toe for enhanced comfort.

The lightly cushioned bottom on the Women’s PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks allows you to wear these performance socks on various trails and road terrains without discomfort. 

SPECS:

  • Merino wool
  • 4 degree fit system
  • Lightly cushioned bottom
  • Seamless toe for enhanced comfort
  • Quick drying
  • Mid ankle length

Check Women’s SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks price at Amazon


Women’s Stance Adventure Quartz Hike Socks

Best Socks for Hiking 

Pull-on the Stance Adventure Outdoor Sock and hit the dusty trail with confidence and peace of mind. The Merino blend material will wick moisture to keep your feet dry while simultaneously controlling temperature to keep you comfortable.

Additionally, these socks boast enough cushion to fight fatigue, reinforced toes and heels for longevity, and a seamless toe box to cut down on chaffing.

SPECS:

  • Merino wool mix
  • Medium cushion
  • Built-in arch support
  • Crew length
  • Fun patterns

Check Women’s Stance Adventure Quartz Hike Socks price at Amazon


ArmaSkim Extreme Anti-Blister Hiking Socks

If you are prone to blisters or like to play it safe on a multi-day hike, I cannot recommend these socks enough. No matter what socks, boots or shoes that Lina wears, she has a tendency to develop horrible blisters while hiking. 

These socks have been a lifesaver for her on the trail and she never hikes without them now. Since she started wearing them, she has never had another blister. The inside of these socks are made with a tacky material that prevents any type of friction within your boot. 

The outside is like a silk liner and she layers her wool hiking socks on top of that. Trust me, you want a pair of these babies in your hiking pack. 

SPECS:

  • Special inner Silicon fusion polymer coating gently adheres to the skin and PREVENTS any FRICTION that can occur naturally between socks and skin.
  • Si fusion polymer coating is macroporous and hydrophobic (water-hating) therefore MOVES MOISTURE away from the skin keeping it drier.
  • Better HEAT dissipation is achieved thanks to the hydrophobic/ hydrophilic moisture management. i.e one side of the fabric is water-hating the other side is water-loving.
  • Si fusion polymer is bacteria static so the socks can be worn for prolonged periods of time.
  • They can be easily washed and dry quickly.

Check ArmaSkin Extreme Anti-Blister Hiking Socks price on Amazon


Best Socks for Hiking 

Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.

  • Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
  • Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
  • Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.



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