A quality pair of hiking socks can make or break a day on the trail. Your feet are your most important tool when hiking. They’re your means of transportation, your method of travel and if they aren’t cared for and kept comfortable, hiking can quickly descend into the realm of misery. Hotspots, blisters and frostbite are all legitimate concerns.
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time to buy hiking socks — there are more companies applying careful consideration and serious tech to their knits than ever before, and warm, soft, breathable materials like merino wool have become standard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re headed up to the local overlook for an afternoon or making a ten-day trek through Patagonia; you’ll need a good pair of hiking socks.
BEST OVERALLSmartwool Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew Socks Read More
BEST UPGRADEDarn Tough Hiker Boot Sock Cushion Socks Read More
BEST BUDGET PICKWigwam Merino Comfort Hiker Wigwam Read More
Best ConstructionWorn T3 Hike Sock WORN Read More
Best Dress Sock-Reminiscent Hike SockFlint and Tinder Southwest Socks Flint and Tinder Read More
Do I Really Need Hiking Socks?
The short answer here is yes, you do. This comes with a caveat — if you've got the feet of a Flinstone and don't mind ill-fitting, non-breathable socks that don't have any antimicrobial properties to speak of, then no, you don't really need a hiking sock. But, if you're going to be trekking more than a mile on a regular basis, then it pays dividends to invest in a couple of pairs of well-constructed, highly durable hiking socks. Today's hike-specific socks don't just provide cushy comfort: many are made with merino wool, which is naturally antimicrobial and wicks moisture away from the foot (the benefit here is that you'll have less stink and keep blisters at bay). Many hiking socks are engineered to prevent hot spots and have a more accurate fit than your average pair of Hanes. A hiking sock will keep your feet drier, cooler and more comfortable — and even the most expensive pairs won't break the bank.
A Note on Price
At first glance, hiking socks can seem expensive, especially compared to the cotton socks you may buy in packs of 12 for less than $10. But like all pieces of outdoor gear, hiking socks are designed to perform: to keep your feet warm while letting them breathe, to prevent blisters and, of course, to be comfortable. Sock makers employ technical materials such as merino wool and construct each sock with hidden seams and hybrid knit patterns in order to create different levels of stretch. They also take careful consideration in applying compression to different areas of the foot. All of these things factor into the price of a decent pair of socks that are ready to take on the rigors of trail use; if you’re serious about getting outside, they’re well worth the extra cost.
Materials to Look For
- Merino Wool: Harvested from Merino sheep, it’s quick drying, static resistant, breathable and naturally antimicrobial, which means it doesn’t hold odors as polyester and cotton do. It’s also softer than traditional wool.
- Nylon: Fibers made from durable, lightweight, synthetic polymers.
- Spandex: A synthetic polyurethane-based fiber known for stretchability.
- Elastane: A variant of “spandex.”
- Polyester: A common plastic-based synthetic fiber that’s strong, light and shrink-resistant.
- Silk: A natural fiber produced by insects. Silk is strong, soft, smooth and cool but not very elastic.
Our testers walked many miles in these socks: they trekked in arid desert climates, splashed through the rainy PNW, hiked the Sierra Nevadas and traversed the Blue Mountains (with many, many hikes in-between). During testers, our intrepid trekkers focused on fit and feel, moisture-wicking efficacy and durability. After hundreds of miles, these are our top picks. Our hope is that in this guide, there's a sock for every kind of hiker.