How often do you think about your socks? If you’re like most people, you probably only notice your socks when one half of a pair goes missing. Even though they are often overlooked, socks make a huge difference in your overall comfort while hiking and running trails. High-quality hiking socks prevent discomfort and blisters by keeping your feet dry and cushioning the soles of your feet, especially at the heel, and the toes of hiking socks are generally seamless to keep anything from rubbing your feet sore. If you have only ever hiked in regular athletic socks, you will be amazed at how comfortable a ‘proper’ pair of hiking socks are, and how dry your feet can be after a full day on the trail.
Take a look at this quick overview of the best hiking socks to get an idea of which socks are doing the best job at keeping your feet blister free and comfortable. For more details on each sock head to the men’s hiking socks or women’s hiking socks sections where the socks are reviewed and compared.
|Product||Features||Men's or Women's||Material||Cost|
|Cloudline Medium Cushion Hiking Socks||Comfortable and moisture wicking||Both||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|Armadillo Merino Light Hiker Sock||Excellent odour control and comfort||Both||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|Thorlo Outdoor Explorer Unisex Socks||Warm and moisture wicking||Both||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|CEP Dynamic+ Outdoor Light Merino Mid||Compression, lightweight||Both||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|SmartWool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini||Lightweight, good value||Men's||Merino/synthetic mix||$|
|SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Crew||Durable, breathable||Men's||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|Wigwam Cool-Lite Mid Hiker Pro Quarter Length||Short, good value||Men's||Synthetic||$|
|Thorlo Lite Hiking Moderate Padded Crew||Padded||Men's||Synthetic||$$|
|Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker Full Cushioned Boot Socks||Long, very durable||Men's||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew||Very thick, warm||Men's||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew||Light cushioning||Women's||Merino/synthetic mix||$$|
|Thorlo Trail Hiking Moderate Padded Crew||Padded||Women's||Synthetic||$$|
|Bridgedale WoolFusion Trekker Socks||Durable, good value||Women's||Wool/synthetic mix||$|
|Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro||Moisture wicking, good value||Women's||Synthetic||$|
What to look for in a great pair of hiking socks
Hiking socks are usually thicker than regular socks, especially at the heel. Not all hiking socks have the same amount of cushioning, however. If your hiking shoes are already a tight fit, pick socks that have minimal cushioning. Thicker socks like the SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew will be a better choice if you often hike in cold conditions or have a roomy pair of boots.
When selecting the perfect hiking sock, consider both the height and the length. Hiking socks should hit high enough on your leg to protect it from rubbing against the inside of your shoe. If your trail shoes have a low profile, a crew cut sock is plenty. For taller hiking boots, however, look for a tall or boot-cut sock like the Merino Wool Hiker Boot Sock Full Cushion Socks from Darn Tough.
In addition to the length of the sock, men’s and women’s hiking socks vary in the cut of both the toe and heel. A sock that is too loose will be uncomfortable the longer it rubs against your foot inside your shoe. Women’s hiking socks are designed with a smaller toe box and narrower heel to reduce that rubbing. Women with wide feet might want to try a men’s style for a more comfortable fit.
The most common material for hiking socks is wool because wool is naturally antimicrobial and moisture wicking. Even though wool is a thick material, it can be surprisingly cool even in the summer. Some hiking socks are made from a combination of wool and synthetic materials to help them keep their shape. In spite of wool’s many remarkable qualities, some people are very sensitive to wool. If you find wool itchy, consider a fully-synthetic sock like Wigwam’s Hiking Outdoor Pro.
The best hiking socks in 2018
Made in the USA, the Medium Cushion Hiking Sock is Cloudline’s best seller, and for good reason. These no-fuss hiking socks are cushioned evenly throughout making them a superbly comfortable and durable option for long distance hikers. The 63% merino wool, blended with 33% nylon and 4% spandex, creates a perfectly balanced sock that is totally itch-free. They also stay up well without being too tight and restrictive on the calf. In super warm weather their lighter cousin will keep your feet a little cooler. But the high percentage merino in these medium cushion socks wicks away moisture very efficiently, should you prefer the extra cushion and warmth. Long enough to wear with high ankle boots but fun-looking enough to feel great wearing them with low-cut hiking shoes! An excellent value, highly comfortable hiking sock for year-round adventures.
If you’re after hiking socks that will perform exceptionally well all year round, then look no further than the Armadillo Merino Light Hiker. The crew length of these merino/synthetic mix are well suited to hiking boots or heavier hiking shoes, and the high percentage of merino (72%) helps to keep sweat at bay in the summer and fights the frost in the winter. The reinforced heel and toe, together with a smooth toe seam provides a padded sock that is well fitting and extremely comfortable. A really nice feature of these tough hiking socks is the internal weave that ensures only merino wool touches your skin to regulate temperature, maximise comfort, and minimised odor build up. They are fairly tight-fitting. So if you prefer a little more wiggle room then you may want to consider the Cloudline Medium Cushion Socks.
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New to the Thorlo range for 2018 are the wonderfully cosy Outdoor Explorers. Made in the USA, these moderately padded hiking socks are ideal for getting out and hiking in cooler conditions where the Primaloft (merino/polyester blend) does a great job at keeping the chill away. On the warmer days the moisture wicking THOR-LON fabric works its magic, keeping your feet dry and blister-free. That, together with the ventilated panels at the front of the socks, creates a super comfortable and protective environment for your feet to get exploring in. These socks are also blended with elastic to prevent them from losing their form-fitting shape, and to help the tops stay put on your calf. With a very spacious toe area, these socks are especially well suited to those with whose feet are wide across the toes. For those who prefer a more fitted feel at the toe, you may be better opting for the Bridgedale WoolFusion Trekker. Otherwise, the Outdoor Explorers are a superb quality sock that are ideal for all your outdoor adventures.
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Available in both mens and womens cuts, the CEP Dynamic+ Outdoor Light Merino Mid-Cut Socks are a lightweight and thinly padded option for when those who like to wear close fitting shoes or boots when hiking. The polyamide, merino, elastane blend is such that the socks are in no way itchy, even on the most sensitive skin, and are very efficient at wicking away moisture in hot conditions. As well as being ideal for summer hiking and use with hiking shoes, these socks also include compression material at the toes, right above the heel, and along the inside of the foot. This adds support to the foot, decreases the risk rubbing and blisters, and creates a very precise anatomical fit. The elasticity at the top of the socks could certainly be better — ideal for those with wide calves, but not so great for the slim ankled hikers out there!
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Men’s Hiking SocksSmartWool’s Ultra Light Mini socks are a great choice if you want a hiking sock that is thin and cool enough for everyday wear. Compared to other hiking socks, the padding is minimal, which means you can wear them with athletic shoes as well as hiking boots. The combination of Merino wool, nylon, and elastic helps the socks stay in place during heavy activity. Although all hiking socks cost more than regular cotton socks, the Ultra Light Minis are some of the least expensive on this list.
Another light option from SmartWool are the PhD Outdoor Light Crew socks. The socks are made from Merino wool and two different types of elastic for a combination of breathability and snug fit. An integrated mesh lining in the arch of the sock is designed to keep your feet cool. Even though the socks are thinner than most hiking socks, SmartWool uses a patented construction method to ensure the socks will be durable and soft at the same time.
If you don’t need a tall sock to accommodate a hiking boot, the Wigwam’s Cool-Lite Mid Hiker Pro Quarter Length socks hits just above the ankle. The instep is designed to hug your foot so the socks stay in place while you hike. If you have a negative reaction to wool, these socks are a great option as one of the only pairs on the list made with no wool. Some people find these socks run a little small, so order the next size up if you are between sizes.
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Thorlo’s Lite Hiking Moderate Padded Crewsocks offer high levels of cushioning by way of extra padding at the toe and heel. The patented acrylic material is designed to wick away moisture while remaining exceptionally soft. For best results, use liquid fabric softener each time you wash them. The fabric softener lubricates the fibers and extends the life of the socks. As long as the special washing instructions are not a problem for you, these socks are a great choice if you want an extra-soft sock.
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Darn Tough’s Merino Wool Hiker Full Cushioned Boot Socks are the most durable socks on our list and come with a lifetime comfort guarantee. If you have a tall hiking boot, the extra height on this sock will prevent the top of your boot from rubbing your calves raw during a long hike. The tops of the socks are thinner than the foot and slightly ribbed to reduce bulk and keep them from slipping down during use.
For the thickest padding, look no further than SmartWool’s Trekking Heavy Crew. This is a sock with serious cushion. To combat bulk and potential fit problems with the extra padding, the socks are made from a combination of Merino wool, nylon, and elastane. The nylon and elastane provide extra elasticity to keep the sock from slipping around in your shoe. Although wool socks can be cool even in hot weather, the thickness of these socks does make them warmer than the thinner socks on this list, making them ideal for cold-weather hiking.
Women’s Hiking SocksDarn Tough’s Light Hiker Micro Crew socks come with the same lifetime comfort guarantee as Darn Tough’s other socks. A small amount of spandex (4%) in the socks help them keep their shape even when exposed to rain or sweat. In addition to a smaller foot and heel box, the crew cut top is cut slightly lower than on their men’s socks. The socks are intentionally padded more lightly than some hiking socks in order to fit in tighter shoes, or when worn in warmer climates.
If you want a wool-free sock cut for a woman’s foot, Thorlo’s Trail Hiking Moderate Padded Crewsocks are a fine option. These socks provide more cushion than most of the women’s socks on this list; the extra padding starts just behind the ankle and extends all the way under the foot to the toe. All Thorlo socks are designed to prevent blisters and are guaranteed to be more comfortable than your old pair of hiking socks. If they’re not, then Thorlo will reimburse the cost of the socks.
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Bridgedale’s WoolFusion Trekkersocks are tall enough to wear with high-cut hiking boots without any discomfort where the top of the boot hits your calf thanks to a double cuff along the top of the sock. The Enduro wool-nylon material wicks away moisture to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters without pilling or snagging. If your hikes often take you near dry, thorny brush, the extra durability is a must. In addition to wool and nylon, the sock is made from a patented polypropylene fiber for extra durability.
Wigwam’s Hiking Outdoor Pro make a great choice if you need a sock that will keep your feet dry and warm even when your feet get wet hiking across a creek or in deep snow. The acrylic and nylon material reduces foot odor and wicks away moisture almost immediately. Because these socks can run a little small around the cuff, plan on ordering up a size. This is especially important if you have larger calves. There are more size options in this style than the rest, including youth sizes.
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Whether you already wear hiking socks or are thinking about getting your first pair, any of the socks on this list will make all the difference when it comes to comfort and the health of your feet. Say good-bye to the stink and hello to blister-free hiking feet!