Hiking socks are generally different than other types of socks. They’re built specifically for hiking performance and are meant to prevent slipping or bunching so you don’t get blisters.
Compared to regular socks, hiking socks are built to handle wear and tear in different ways and have extra features. Some of these features include wicking to keep your feet dry, heel support, cushioning, and a better fit for hiking boots.
There are options for both summer months and winter months to keep your feet at the right temperatures for all of your exploring. This article will break down the different types of socks, what you need to keep an eye out for when you’re buying a pair, and how to find the right ones for the types of hikes you like to do.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Hiking S
What turns a lot of people away from buying the best hiking socks is that they’re usually more expensive than other kinds out there. However, the thing you need to keep in mind is that they’re built to last and you won’t regret buying some. If you’ve ever had to suffer through a blister, we’d bet that you’d pay almost any price to not have to do that again.
Hiking socks also offer moisture wicking, ventilation, quick drying, and compression features unlike regular socks, which can make them worth the price alone.
Most hiking socks cost about $18-25 per pair.
Here is what you need to know for all the options out there so you can find the right pair you need.
You have a few options when it comes to the height:
- No-show – These are the lowest height option and are usually best for low-cut shoes.
- Ankle or 1/4 sock – These will cover your ankles but not much higher than that.
- Crew (medium and mid) – Crew cut is the most common hiking style, and you’ll see that it goes about mid-way up your shin.
- Knee-high – These are great for colder days and any time you’re wearing big mountain boots.
You’ll want to pick the right height for the types of boots and weather you’ll be hiking in. Generally, you want your sock to at least go above your boot so it doesn’t rub against your skin. You’ll want to also pick higher ones in colder weather.
Sock weight or thickness
When you pick thinner socks, you’ll get less blisters. However, thicker socks are better for cold weather. While sock weight doesn’t vary by too much, if you’re planning a long trek, it’s something you might want to consider so you don’t get stuck with heavy socks in lighter weather.
There are quite a few options when it comes to cushioning in your hiking socks:
- No cushioning – These are ideal for quick trips or any hiking trips that are short. Hiking socks without cushioning are usually called liners and are great for wicking sweat off of your feet. Sometimes you can wear these in combination with other types of socks or choose to wear them on their own.
- Light cushioning – Similar to no cushion socks, ones with light cushioning are ideal for trail running or hot weather. These mostly have a slight cushion around your heel and the ball of your foot.
- Medium cushioning – Medium cushioning and above are best for colder weather and longer hikes where you need the most support possible for your feet.
- Heavy cushioning – These are the ones you want to choose for cold weather and long hikes. You’ll feel uncomfortable in these in warm weather, but they provide the most support and comfort for those cold days.
While most hiking socks are a blend of multiple fabrics, there are still benefits from choosing ones with a dominating fabric:
- Wool – You really can’t go wrong with picking wool hiking socks. It helps regulate the temperature in your shoes, no matter what kind of climate you’re in. Wool tends to avoid smells due to it being naturally antimicrobial. When you’re shopping you’ll see both ragg wool and Merino wool, and the main difference is that merino itches less.
- Polyester – This helps pull moisture off your feet while also drying quickly (unlike materials such as cotton). It’s not often the primary material and is instead combined with others to create an ideal hiking sock.
- Nylon – Next to wool, nylon is the next primary option for materials in hiking socks. It is a synthetic fiber that holds up over time.
- Silk – Due to how light silk is, it’s often put in no-show socks or liners to pull moisture off your foot without adding extra weight.
- Spandex – Having spandex in your hiking socks will help prevent them from bunching up and giving your feet blisters. That’s why you’ll often see a small percentage of it in most hiking socks.
While cotton is extremely common in non-hiking socks, you want to avoid it in your hiking socks. It is known for bunching a lot which causes blisters. Cotton can get wet from sweating and stay that way during a whole hike which not only feels uncomfortable but can also cause blisters too.
The last thing you want to have happen when you’re hiking is realize you picked the wrong size and end up with an uncomfortable experience. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to pick the right size:
- Know your foot size – Most hiking socks will be based on what shoe size you currently wear. If you’re shopping in a store, you can also use a foot measuring device to get the exact size.
- Go for a snug fit (but not too tight or small) to avoid blisters. If you’re right on the middle between two sizes, it’s not always a bad idea to lean toward the smaller size so they’re snug while you hike.
- For socks above your shin (such as crew or knee-high socks), you’ll need to keep the size of your calves in mind as well. If you have big calves, you’ll need to get socks that fit or else you’ll have to deal with it cutting off circulation.
Top Brands Of Hiking Socks
- Darn Tough – Known for their comfort and durability, Darn Tough is a well-known hiking sock brand. As a family-owned brand that’s been around for 40 years, they’re based out of Vermont and make some of the toughest socks. Every step of the knitting process happens in their facility so they can guarantee top-notch quality.
- Smartwool – Known for their performance fit, Smartwool has been around since 1994. They were the first company to use Merino wool in their ski socks which changed everything we know about outdoor socks.
- REI – If you live near an REI or shop their brand online, you know they offer a huge handful of options. Some of them are more budget-friendly so you can buy multiple pairs without spending too much.
- Farm To Feet – They use what they call and “All-American” recipe: all US materials, US manufacturing, and US workers. This allows them to keep a close eye on the materials and the manufacturing process so you get high-quality merino wool socks.
The Best Hiking Socks Of 2019 (Our Top Pick)
This is a versatile hiking sock that you can wear in almost all conditions. These socks will keep your feet cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter.
- Performance Fit: No slipping, no bunching, and no blisters
- Durable: Will last for countless hikes
- Super comfortable: you will forget you have socks on
- Mid-level cushion density
- Fast wicking and drying
- 61% Merino wool, 36% Nylon, 3% Lycra/Spandex
- Guaranteed for life
That concludes our guide to the best hiking socks. Read more about essential hiking gear that will change your hiking experiences forever.