Warm and durable yet lightweight. The socks keep feet dry and have exclusive antibacterial wool construction that also helps prevent blisters. 61% Merino wool. Lifetime guarantee.
Some owners, especially those with smaller feet, say these socks run somewhat large.
A popular choice for hiking enthusiasts. Thick enough for comfort yet flexible with movement. An unbeatable price for socks with 71% Merino wool. Pack of four pairs.
These socks may stretch after repeated wear.
Socks have cushioning for lightweight, comfortable wear. Smartwool technology and mesh area keep feet cool and dry. Material blend is 69% Merino wool.
Not as durable as some other options, especially when worn on long hikes in rough terrain.
These socks earn praise for their cushioning - buyers claim it helps prevent blisters. They do a good job wicking away moisture. Several colors are available, including bright hues.
Only 33% Merino wool, so they aren't as warm as some other choices. May run slightly large on some individuals.
Made of 73% olefin, a synthetic material known for absorbing moisture and keeping skin dry. Cushioning is comfortable yet not so thick that it makes shoes and boots feel too snug. Suitable for various weather conditions.
The downside of the over-the-calf style is that these socks may fit some wearers with larger calves too tightly.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Socks have been used to protect, warm, and cushion feet and ankles since ancient Egyptian times, and Roman soldiers often wore socks in cold climates. And yet sock technology has only recently progressed from basic sewn or knit pieces of cloth to purpose-built technical gear designed specifically for performance outdoors. Hiking socks are at the forefront of this change, and for good reason: a well-designed sock is not only comfortable but it can also save your feet from injury and even help save your life.
If that sounds like hyperbole, it isn’t. The right hiking sock can keep your feet warm and dry in cold conditions, helping to prevent hypothermia – which can torpedo a hiking trip in a hurry.
The wrong hiking sock can break down quickly on the trail. Think of it this way: On a short hike of just four miles, a hiker takes more than 9,000 steps. That doesn’t include detours around impassable features like boulders and lakes or the wear and tear of clambering up and over smaller obstacles. Beginning hikers averaging eight miles a day on a clear trail take around 18,000 steps. An average sock, made for business wear or casual sports, won’t hold up long under those conditions.
At BestReviews, we test several brands of each product, including hiking socks, to find out their best and worst qualities and the best value for you. We buy the products ourselves, and our experts research each style and brand. You can be confident that our reviews are unbiased.
Read on for key features and important buying points to pick the best hiking socks for your next adventure, then check out our top picks in the product list above.
The amount of cushioning determines the weight of hiking socks.
Low-cut hiking socks won’t protect your ankles from cuts and abrasions. Consider crew socks when hiking through brush or rocky areas.
As with sport socks, hiking socks come in different lengths.
When your hiking socks get worn, develop holes in the heel or toe, slip down frequently, or bunch up inside your shoe, toss ‘em and buy new ones.
The material used to weave the hiking socks is the biggest determinant of the socks’ performance when it comes to wicking away moisture and retaining warmth.
Keep toenails trimmed. Even reinforced sock toes will tear under relentless attack from sharp nails. You’ll reduce the chance of foot injury, too.
Knowing the features of hiking socks, why not just head to the discount store and buy the first pair you see? A bargain-basement sock might be just fine for a day hike of a couple miles in good weather, but longer hikes, rough terrain, hiking with a heavy pack, and hiking in colder weather can quickly take their toll on socks not designed for the task – and hurt your feet in the process.
Unreinforced toes and heels can wear through in hours, exposing your skin to rubbing against your leather boots.
Some socks that contain cotton retain water and sweat, becoming soggy and slippery. Wet socks won’t keep your feet warm in cold temperatures.
The wrong sock can contribute to and aggravate blisters, hot spots, bunions, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, and plantar fasciitis.
A sock material that doesn’t breathe can exacerbate athlete’s foot.
Know ahead of time the terrain and climate of the region in which you plan to hike, and pick your hiking socks accordingly.
Most stores won’t let you try on hiking socks before buying them, but you can inspect the socks.
Check the label. Identify the fabrics used in the socks’ construction. Make certain that cotton is not part of the blend.
Look at the toe and heel of each sock. Look for some cushioning (it varies depending on weight) and a strong, reinforcing fabric.
Turn the socks inside out to look at the seams. The seams should lie flat against the fabric or they’ll rub against your feet. The toe section should be one continuous piece, with no seam in the front. The seam should attach the toe section to the sock just before reaching the ball of the foot.
Note the size of the the fabric loops. Dense, tightly woven loops indicate a more durable sock that will cushion your foot and absorb water.
Tug lightly on the sock at different points. It should have some, but not too much, elasticity, just enough to retain its shape after you let go. Too much or too little elasticity and the sock may not stay in place on your foot.
Follow washing instructions closely for hiking socks. Frequent washing in hot water or with lots of soap can break down the fabric more quickly.
Once you’ve determined the fabric and overall quality, choose the sock size that most closely matches your shoe size. In the U.S., socks are labeled with size ranges and differentiated by gender, such as Women’s 4 to 7, Men’s 10 to 13, and so on.
Labels sometimes include the most closely corresponding EU and UK sizes. For example, a Women’s 5 to 10 has an EU size of 36 to 41 and a UK size of 3 to 8. Note that women who have larger feet might be more comfortable wearing men’s hiking socks. In this case, using the unisex EU sizing guide can help you choose a more accurate size.
The gender designation on hiking socks isn’t a strict rule. It’s more important that the socks fit well.
Once home, try on your hiking socks right away. Wear them the way you plan to wear them on the trail.
Make sure your feet are clean.
If you use thin sock liners, put those on first.
Note how easy or hard it is to put on the hiking socks.
Note where the heel of the sock sits in relation to your heel.
Note how comfortable the socks feel (or not).
If they socks are comfortable and fit well, try on your hiking shoes or boots.
If the socks aren’t comfortable or don’t fit well, exchange them for a different size or brand. Don’t assume the socks will somehow be more comfortable on the trail.
Mid- to high-cut boots combined with low-cut hiking socks is a recipe for blisters. Make sure socks extend past the top of the boot.
Hiking sock material is the main factor in price. Expect to pay between $5 and $37 for hiking socks.
Silk hiking socks range in price from $6 to $20.
Polyester-nylon blend hiking socks range in price from $10 to $25.
Merino wool hiking socks range in price from $5 to $35.
Nylon hiking socks range in price from $9 to $37.
Q. I’m interested in protecting the environment from synthetic materials and plastics. What hiking socks can I choose that help the environment?
A. There is an effort in the industry to offer hiking socks that are “ethically sourced” and have less of an environmental impact in their manufacture. Look for companies that create environmentally friendly socks using recycled synthetics, fair-trade wool, or locally produced wool.
Q. I have long and wide feet, and most women’s socks are tight and uncomfortable. What are my options?
A. Head over to the men’s department! Women’s socks are usually sized smaller and have a different heel-width-to-ball-of-foot ratio than men’s socks. There is no rule that you can only wear women’s socks. (It would be nice if the industry acknowledged that many taller women with larger feet would like to buy the prettier hiking sock designs, too.)
Q. How many pairs of socks should I take on a multiday hiking trip?
A. That depends on the length of the trip, miles hiked per day, and where you’re hiking. In a hot, dry climate you may only need to take two or three pairs, switching them out daily and letting them dry completely. In a wet, chilly climate, you might need more pairs. If you’re going on a guided trip, check with the company ahead of time for recommendations. Many websites for outdoors enthusiasts have packing guides based on season and region. Also, don’t assume that just because you’re hiking on a popular trail or near settled areas you can skimp on socks. For example, New Hampshire’s Presidential Range has notoriously fickle and dangerous weather year-round, and veterans of the Pacific Crest Trail have plenty of tales about sudden summer blizzards.
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