What type of socks are best for hiking? You can not put a price on the comfort and dryness that a good pair of hiking socks provide: They keep your feet comfortable and dry while also preventing blisters and hotspots. We have put through the full range of designs in a variety of terrains, including Utah’s Canyonlands heat, Washington’s North Cascades snow, and Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains brush. Here are our top picks for the best hiking socks in 2022.
The majority of our favorites are made of merino wool, which has established itself as the gold standard in socks and all types of outdoor clothing. It is true that decent hiking socks can be costly, usually costing around $20 per pair, but all of the options listed below are tough enough for trekking and designed to endure.
For more information, see our hiking sock comparison chart and purchasing advice. We have also tested and reviewed hiking boots and lightweight hiking shoes for more on this topic.
How To Choose Hiking Socks
The typical person takes 2,000 steps to travel a mile. When you include the ups and downs of a hiking route, as well as the roots and rocks you will meet along the way, that figure becomes even more staggering. The appropriate socks are crucial in keeping your feet comfy and free of blisters during your trip. It is critical to think about these four factors while selecting the best hiking socks for your journey:
- Sock height: The proper sock height guards you against abrasion when you walk.
- Cushioning: The amount of cushioning has an impact on comfort and warmth.
- Fabric: The majority of hiking socks contain merino wool as the major component, although some are entirely composed of polyester or nylon.
- Fit: To prevent blisters, make sure your socks fit properly.
Hiking Sock Fabric Type
Hiking socks are generally constructed from a combination of materials that provide the ideal balance of comfort, warmth, durability, and quick drying. The following are the most frequent materials found in hiking socks:
- Wool: The most popular hiking sock material is wool, and our footwear experts advise it above all others. It regulates temperature effectively to prevent your feet from getting moist, and it has to cushion. Another benefit of wool is that, unlike synthetic fabrics, it is naturally antimicrobial, so odors tend to stay away from it more easily. Today, most socks are composed of merino wool, which is far less irritating than previous types of ragg wool socks. Most wool socks now include a mix of wool and synthetic materials to enhance durability and speed up drying.
- Polyester: It is a synthetic fiber that wicks moisture, insulates, and dries quickly. It is commonly combined with wool or nylon to provide excellent warmth, comfort, durability, and rapid drying.
- Nylon: This is a man-made product that is occasionally employed as the primary material. It provides extra durability and may help to reduce drying time.
- Silk: Silk, a natural insulator that is both soft and light, has lower durability than other materials. For reliable moisture wicking in sock liners, it is occasionally employed.
- Spandex: A small proportion of spandex is found in most hiking socks. This elastic material helps keep the shape of your foot and minimizes bunching and wrinkling.
Hiking Sock Cushioning
The four types of cushioning available on REI.com are as follows:
- No cushioning: In hot weather, these ultralight socks are ideal. They are extremely breathable and include a little cushioning. Liner socks are one sort of sock in this category, which some hikers prefer to wear beneath a midweight, lightweight, or heavy hiking sock. These liner socks were formerly popular for wicking moisture and keeping the feet dry, but many hiking socks nowadays are good enough to last without a liner sock. If you may continue to use them if desired.
- Light cushioning: Socks for warm weather are ideal for keeping your feet cool and comfortable. They prioritize moisture wicking and comfort over warmth, despite being somewhat thin. The heel and ball of the foot have some light cushioning.
- Medium cushioning: Hiking and backpacking, as well as moderate to chilly use, will benefit from these socks’ excellent cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot.
- Heavy cushioning: The ideal socks for most people are polypropylene or wool, which are warm, cushioned, and thick. They are meant for long trips, rough terrain, and chilly weather. They are often too thick and insulated for summer backpacking excursions and should be used on mountaineering or cold-weather backpacking treks.
Best Hiking Sock Merino Wool
Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion
Over the last several years, Darn Tough has surpassed Smartwool as the brand associated with hiking socks. With warm seamless construction, high-quality merino wool, and a lifetime guarantee to back it up, Darn Tough socks are simply the finest. The Micro Crew Cushion is our favorite hiking and backpacking model. For practically any 3-season outdoor activity, high-density knitting provides excellent cushioning and breathability. The fit is very comfortable; the material is not overly elasticized around the forefoot or arch, and it does not bunch or cause pressure points.
A minimally padded sock makes a lot of sense for warm-weather trekking, trail running, and casual wear with your sneakers. Smartwool’s newest Run Zero Cushion Ankle Socks are our favorite among the various ultralight possibilities. At only $19 per pair, they are affordably priced and provide a nice fit, excellent ventilation, and a very pleasant sensation. Smartwool, like the Performance Hike Light Cushion Crew above, added Indestructawool to these socks for improved durability. They will not last indefinitely, but the Run Zero Cushion is a great choice for summer when you do not want as much cushioning and thickness.
Some people are hesitant to spend more than $20 on a pair of hiking socks, which we realize; REI Co-op, on the other hand, provides a less expensive option for hikers using Merino wool with the Coolmax Lightweight Hiking Quarter. These socks are made with fabric that is composed of recycled plastic bottles, resulting in a soothing next-to-skin experience without the undesirable consequences of polyester (REI has been pro-sustainability recently). They also effectively wick moisture, making them ideal for hot weather excursions when you want good cushioning and support.
The three layers of the crew and quarter-height socks over the heel and ankle, but no-show designs like Balega Hidden Comfort go even lower. The minimalist design provides an adequate cushion between your foot and shoe while minimizing bulk when combined with a low-profile hiking boot or trail running (there is not enough clearance for ankle-height boots).
Furthermore, while many medium-cushioned socks are too warm in the summer months, the Hidden Comfort’s Dynamix construction efficiently wicks moisture and vents well (it also has enough impact resistance for long distances or trekking). Overall, these socks are incredibly comfy, breathable, and attractive.