Best Type of Sock for Hiking

Best Type of Sock for Hiking

People tend to spend a great deal of time and effort researching the best hiking boots to wear, but many forget to consider the socks that will go inside them.

Even with the best hiking boots in the world, if you have ill-fitted or itchy socks you can experience discomfort and frustration. Choosing the right type of socks for your hiking trip can be the difference between having a wonderful time and having a rather uncomfortable time.

There really is nothing worse than being uncomfortable whilst hiking as it can impact your ability to enjoy your surroundings, your pacing and the distance you are able to cover.

So read on for our guide to the best type of socks for hiking, complete with sock suggestions, a buyer’s guide and answers to all those FAQs that you might not have thought to consider.

Product Suggestions

Best Value Hiking Socks

Columbia mens 4 Pack Mid-calf Moisture Control Ribbed Crew Casual Sock, Black Brown Assorted, 6 12 US

This four pack of crew length hiking socks are great value considering their moisture controlling qualities, their light cushioning in key areas, and their instep support.

Although they do not contain any wool in the fabric blend, they are a great option for light walkers and those who are building up to longer, more adventurous hikes.

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Columbia mens 4 Pack Mid-calf Moisture Control Ribbed Crew Casual Sock, Black Brown Assorted, 6 12 US
  • Soft cotton blend arch support mesh ventilation
  • Half cushion moisture wicking

Best Premium Hiking Socks

Merino Wool Hiking & Walking Socks 3 pack (Light Grey, US Women 11-13 // US Men 9.5-12.5)

These Danish Endurance socks are a premium choice for hikers who really take their hobby seriously. The merino wool content means that these socks are soft, quick drying, moisture wicking and very warm.

The fact that they are designed in Denmark shows that they are ideal for tough, cold conditions, as well as having a breathable mesh element that is suitable for warmer climates.

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Merino Wool Hiking & Walking Socks 3 pack (Light Grey, US Women 11-13 // US Men 9.5-12.5)
  • MERINO WOOL FOR COMFORTABLE & DRY FEET: The natural thermoregulation of the merino wool blend ensures that your feet will be fresh in the summer and warm in the winter due to moisture wicking technology. Ventilation mesh lanes wick away sweat, increasing breathability while promoting odor control. Targeted cushioning and padding reduce the risk of getting blisters, aches and aid in shock absorbance
  • IDEAL FOR HIKING & OUTDOOR: Our unisex socks are great for hiking, trekking, outdoor adventures, walking, travelling or everyday wear. The cushioning of the socks also provides comfort in work boots. Our hiking and outdoor socks make the perfect gift. Available in sizes: X-Small: US Kids 13-3, Small: US Women 5-7 / US Men 3.5-6, Medium: US Women 8-10 / US Men 6.5-8.5, Large: US Women 11-13 / US Men 9.5-12.5, X-Large: US Men 13.5-16.0. We recommend to Size Down if you are in-between sizes
  • DESIGNED IN DENMARK - MADE IN EUROPE: Our Danish Endurance design team develops these socks in Copenhagen, Denmark. The production facilities are located in Portugal, where we ensure fair working conditions. These hiking socks are made from a premium blend of 30% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 33% Acrylic and 1% Elastane for comfort and durability. The merino wool is sourced in an animal-friendly way without mulesing practices
  • RECOMMENDED BY EVEREST CLIMBER AND ELITE ATHETE: These hiking socks are developed with mountaineer Rasmus Kragh, the first Dane to climb Mount Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen in May 2019. During his training and excursions, Rasmus is continuously testing our socks to ensure the highest standards of performance and material endurance
  • EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SUPPORT: We want our customers to be happy - In case you have any questions or issues, do not hesitate to contact us. Our customer service team is always ready to help you and find the best solution for you

Best Summer Hiking Socks

Merrell womens Cushioned Performance Hiker Hiking Socks, Charcoal Black (Quarter), Shoe Size 4-10 US

Speaking of summer, these ankle height hiking socks are lightweight and thin so won’t make your feet sweaty or heavy on hot, sunny rambles. They are highly elasticated so will also provide great underfoot support for long trips, and give you that extra bit of spring in your step.

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Merrell womens Cushioned Performance Hiker Hiking Socks, Charcoal Black (Quarter), Shoe Size 4-10 US
  • Arch support - Merrell short cushion low cut ankle socks have arch band support to give you maximum comfort and protect your feet from fatigue all day long
  • Reinforced heel and toe - Merrell and hiking socks have reinforced heel and toe which ensures better and longer durability of the sock, so they will last and serve for you year after year
  • Get more out of your hike - Merrell socks are specially designed to make sure the most serious of hiker is able to make it to every summit

Best Winter Hiking Socks

Luxury Thermal 80% True Merino Wool Socks-Over Calf, For Boots, Hiking,Ski &Home

Now to the other extreme, and these 80% merino wool, knee length socks will keep you warm even on top of a glacier or snow capped mountain. They provide support and protection for the whole lower leg, including calf, shin and ankle areas, meaning that injuries and discomfort can be avoided.

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Luxury Thermal 80% True Merino Wool Socks-Over Calf, For Boots, Hiking,Ski &Home
  • THERMAL RETENTION - No more frozen feet and toes! NO CHEAP MATERIALS! - we hate when products has cheap materials that decrease value. This 80% merion wool fabric will warm up your feet and toes, prevent loss of heat in the coldest conditions. Designed for people with extreme cooling tendencies in the feet area.
  • SOFT & COMFORTABLE – The merino wool combined with a little polyester gives extremely soft feeling, unlike acrylic or synthetic materials.
  • HIGH & THICK – We made our merino wool HIGH, to make it fit any shoe or boots, will heat up all your leg, makes it easy to hike with, THICK to absorb feet sweat perfectly even after long time. comfortable and perfect for wearing indoors as well
  • DURABLE – Easy to wear, the size adapts perfectly to your leg shape thanks to the perfect location of only 5% elastic materials. Thin top that does not squeeze your leg without sliding down or losing elasticity over time at all!
  • STRONG – The socks are designed to last for a long time without falling apart or developing holes. Been tested on combat soldiers over 2 years, and only great feedbacks!

Best Waterproof Hiking Socks

RANDY SUN Water Resistant Hiking Socks, Unisex Windproof Sweat-Absorbing Quick Dry Outdoor Sports Socks for Camping Fishing, 1 Pair Black&Orange, Small

We love these lightweight, breathable waterproof hiking socks because they are ideal for snow walking, river walking, kayaking and trail running. You don’t need to worry about feeling soggy, cold or itchy with these ingenious socks, because they will keep your feet dry even in very wet conditions, allowing you to enjoy your activity in comfort.

RANDY SUN Water Resistant Hiking Socks, Unisex Windproof Sweat-Absorbing Quick Dry Outdoor Sports Socks for Camping Fishing, 1 Pair Black&Orange, Small
  • SIZE - Small: US men 7-9, US women 8-10.5. Medium: US men 9.5-12, US women 11-13. Large: US men 12.5-14.5. Because of the thickness of the material of three layers, please ensure that your shoes are not too tight. For the further warmth, you can wear a pair of wool socks under them. Please note that the cuff of socks is not waterproof, so don't let water over the top of socks.
  • WATERPROOF & HEAT RETAINING & BREATHABLE - Water droplets can't pass through the membrane, which keeps water outside the socks when wading across creeks, streams, puddles, rivers, rain storms, slush, mud and so on. RANDY SUN camping socks also come with good air permeability to wick sweat away, and prevent the growth of odor. And your feet will get warmer since they are not wet. Compared with other waterproof socks, RANDY SUN waterproof socks are fairly breathable.
  • THE TOP CHOICE FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS- RANDY SUN crew hiking socks are 100% waterproof and breathable with good heat preservation performance. RANDY SUN cycling socks are perfect for all winter sports: snow-biking, snowmobiling, winter mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking. Keep your feet dry and warm when hunting, fishing, hiking in rain and snow, sleeping in sleeping bag in cold weather, going a trip to Alaska, playing golf in early morning when the ground and grass are wet.
  • FEATURES & GIFT IDEA– Elastic Cuff: socks stay in place and don't slip down; Soft Cushion: decent thickness and good warmth retention property, warm and comfortable, perfectly fit on the feet; Seamless Toe: 100% seamless avoid yarn chaffing and irritation. Sweet Thanksgiving Day gift for a mailmen who usually walks several hours in cold and rainy day, or for infantry and marine who spend his most of time outdoors in extreme weather condition.
  • WASH & CARE: Machine Wash and the water temperature should be below 40°C/ 104°F; Hand wash under normal temperature.Tumble dry below 60°C/ 140°F. Do not iron or dry clean. No distortion or color fading after multiple washings.

Buyer’s Guide

Before you make your decision about which type of hiking socks are best for you, here are a few key things to consider. 

Sock Height

The height of your hiking socks will determine how much skin is left exposed either to the element, or to the inside of your boots.

The style and height of your boots will therefore play a part in your choice of sock height, and as a general rule you should choose a height that sits an inch above the top of your footwear.

This will prevent chafing between your skin and your boots, and will therefore stop blisters and bruises from forming. Here is a break down of the typical sock heights available to choose from:

No show – A no show sock is almost invisible once any shoe, trainer or boot is put on. The neck of the sock sits around the very base of your ankle, beneath your ankle bone and therefore does not protect your ankle bone from rubbing and chafing.

This style of hiking sock is generally worn on summer hikes when trainers, running shoes or low-rise boots are being worn. They leave the whole ankle exposed so are great for hot weather when you don’t fancy being too wrapped up. They are often worn so that hikers do not develop tan lines above the ankle on long sunny rambles.

They are ideal for casual strolls, trail runs and short walks, but are not suitable for long hikes where ankle boots are necessary. 

Ankle length – Ankle length hiking socks generally sit about an inch above the ankle bone. These socks provide that extra bit of coverage that some summer walkers and runners desire in order to avoid rubbing around their ankle bones and achilles tendons.

Ankle socks are visible when trainers are worn but not terribly visible when hiking boots are worn, so many hikers choose them for their discrete design. They provide a protective layer around the delicate part of the foot whilst not providing too much insulation up the leg so as to make you warm.

For this reason, ankle-length socks are best worn in summer months. The ankle bone, achilles tendon and front of the ankle, are all areas that perform maximum movement during any kind of walking or running, which is why it is important to keep them protected.

Crew length – Crew socks are the most popular type of hiking sock and are the most versatile in terms of weather appropriateness. The height of these socks comes to about a third of the way up your leg, therefore covering the lower third of your shin and calf as well as your ankle.

This extra height is great for keeping your lower leg warm on fresh or chilly walks, and is also a great length for tucking your trousers into your socks. Many hikers love to tuck the ends of their trousers in to insulate themselves against cold and to stop branches and bush snagging on their trousers.

Crew socks are an ideal way of securing your trousers tightly around your leg in just the right place. These socks also provide support to the lower muscles and tendons, almost like a sports bandage, but less intense. They are flexible and structured and stop blisters forming around the sensitive foot areas.

Knee length – The tallest sock height for hiking is knee length, and this type of sock is particularly useful in winter. If you are going on a snowy hike, or a glacier walk, you will benefit from the warmth that knee socks provide to your entire lower leg.

The top of these socks finishes just below the knee, meaning that your knee movement is not impeded by a tight and restrictive sock, but is instead able to move freely.

These socks not only protect the delicate skin around the ankle from rubbing against your boots, but also protect your calves and shins from potential itching and irritation caused by your trousers.

Similarly, if you are hiking in shorts then knee length socks are a great way to stop your lower legs from being scratched and grazed against rocks, boulders and brush. They are too big and bulky for most summer, spring and fall walking, but are ideal for cold climbs.

Sock Fabric

The fabric that your hiking socks are made from will impact the feel of them, their durability, drying time and warmth. So, as you can imagine, the fabric plays an important part in any sock selection.

These days, most good hiking socks contain some wool, but almost all hiking socks are made from a blend of different materials in order to harness the desired qualities of each. When you buy your hiking socks, look out for any of the following fabrics on the label:

Wool – Wool is an amazing natural fabric that can both keep your feet cool in summer and warm in winter. It has moisture wicking qualities, which draw sweat away from your skin and into the fibers of the sock.

In hot weather it dries quickly and lets the sweat evaporate, creating a cooling sensation for your feet without leaving them clammy and sticky. In winter, the fibers of woolen fabric adjust to the air temperature and don’t allow moisture to escape, instead letting the moisture expand and insulate the foot (like a wetsuit does!).

This material is so clever and has so many desirable properties that it is used in most hiking sock fabrics. It is also antimicrobial so does not harbor bacteria or become smelly as quickly as other fabrics do. It is fast drying and soft, and these days the use of merino wool means that it is not itchy on your skin either.

Polyester – Polyester is a synthetic fabric that also has many of the brilliant qualities of wool like moisture wicking, insulation, quick drying and softness. Polyester tends to be cheaper to produce than wool and therefore socks with a high polyester percentage will usually be more affordable than those with a high wool content. 

Spandex – Most hiking sock fabric blends will contain some Spandex. It is a synthetic fabric with excellent elasticity, and it can help to bring flex and structure to socks which would otherwise fall down and sag. A high spandex content will produce a fabric with plenty of support for your feet on long and arduous treks.

Nylon – Nylon is another synthetic fabric which is often used in hiking socks. Although it is not as desirable a fabric as wool or polyester, nylon is very durable, and a high nylon content will indicate that you will get plenty of wear out of your socks before they fade or thin.

Silk – Silk is not a fabric that many people would associate with hiking socks because it is so delicate and fragile. However, silk is sometimes included in a fabric blend because of its moisture wicking quality which helps to keep feet cool and dry.

Silk is excellent for comfort as it is soft and smooth underfoot, and it is therefore often used as the primary fabric in thin sock liners.

Sock Cushioning

The level of cushioning in your hiking socks is another important consideration.

Cushioning does not only provide comfort under and over foot, it also provides support and protection from bruising, rubbing as well as bangs and knocks. There are four key levels of cushioning to look out for:

No Cushioning – Some hiking socks have no cushioning whatsoever, and these are designed for casual strolls, short walks and runs, and summer rambles.

The benefit of having zero cushioning is that your feet do not become overheated or weighed down. If you know that you are not going to walk far or for very long then cushioning is unnecessary and an uncushioned sock will be preferable.

Light Cushioning – Hiking socks with light cushioning are designed to provide support and comfort on summer hikes. The padding tends to be situated in the areas that come into most contact with the floor, the ball and heel of the foot.

However, too much padding can make feet sweaty in hot weather, so lightly cushioned socks only have a minimal coverage and prioritize moisture wicking and breathability over padding.

Medium Cushioning – Socks with a medium level of cushioning tend to have padding beneath the ball and around the heel of the foot, as well as additional padding in the ankle collar to provide warmth.

These socks are very popular because they give lots of comfort and warmth without being bulky and restrictive. They are slightly thicker than lightly cushioned socks, but can still fit inside hiking boots easily.

Heavy Cushioning – Hiking socks with a heavy level of cushioning are ideal for snowy hikes and glacier walking. These socks are double layered throughout, with padding around the toes and lower leg, as well as the sole and upper foot.

The cushioning not only protects your feet from painful blisters and bruises, but also keeps them warm even in the most freeing conditions. These socks would be too bulky and insulated to wear on general hiking trips.

Sock Fit

The overall fit of your socks brings together the height, material, and cushioning element and impacts how your feet feel inside your shoes.

An overly large sock can be very uncomfortable as it will bunch up and cause blisters and sores to develop. A sock that is too tight will pinch, slip off or restrict blood flow and cause your feet to feel heavy and numb.

So, here are some step to take to get your sock fit just right:

Foot size – Firstly you should measure your foot size using a ruler. Your foot size is different from your shoe size and is important to know because often people size up or size down when buying shoes and so don’t have the most accurate measurement of their own feet.

Once you have an accurate foot measurement you can compare it to the size chart provided by your sock company and choose the best size socks for your feet.

Shoe Size – Of course, you should also consider the size of the shoes that you are going to wear on your hike. If you have large and roomy hiking boots then you can afford to get thick socks, whereas a lighter, tighter shoe will only accommodate a lighter, thinner sock.

Test them out – Finally, you should always test both your socks and shoes out before you embark on a hiking trip or expedition.

Because the comfort and protection of your feet is so key on these trips you should leave nothing to chance, and be sure to walk back and forth to the store a few times to get a good idea of your comfort level before you leave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Cotton Socks Not Good For Hiking?

Cotton is not a good fabric to choose for hiking socks because it absorbs moisture and does not dry quickly. Cotton will become heavy and uncomfortable if your feet get sweaty or get wet, and this will not lead to a fun hiking trip.

What Does Moisture Wicking Mean?

Moisture wicking fabrics are able to draw moisture away from the body and let it evaporate swiftly, thus creating a cooling effect. They tend to be quick drying too, because water can also evaporate quickly.

But moisture wicking fabrics react to the air temperature, so that they can also keep the body warm if it is cold outside.

When the air is cold, the fibers of the fabric expand and trap moisture and air in, creating an insulating layer to warm you up.

When the outside air temperature is hot, the same fibers contract, allowing air to circulate and moisture to evaporate. Clever hey!

Are 100% Wool Socks Good For Hiking?

Merino wool is the most popular wool choice for hiking socks. It is breathable, moisture wicking, warm, quick drying and very soft. 100% merino wool socks are excellent for hiking but can be expensive.

Socks which have a high wool content but also include a blend of other fabrics can be cheaper and also have extra durability and elasticity. 

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