How to Pick the Right Hiking Socks for Your Adventure — and 10 of the Best Pairs to Buy
Keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable on any kind of trek.
Nothing can ruin a hike faster than the wrong pair of socks. Blisters, wet feet, and cold toes are all symptoms of picking the wrong pair of hiking socks for your adventure, whether it’s a short jaunt down a local trail or a multi-day backpacking trip. Luckily, this is an easily solvable problem if you’re armed with a little knowledge in advance.
A few things you will want to keep in mind while shopping for a hiking sock are material, height, comfort and durability. Many socks will do pretty well in all four categories, but depending on what kind of hike you’re heading out on, you might prefer one that excels in one area over another. When it comes to hiking socks specifically for men or women, the truth is that gender doesn’t really matter much in terms of performance needs in hiking socks. Most of the socks featured on this list are available in both men’s and women’s versions, unless otherwise noted, and the women’s will often have a slightly narrower fit (and sometimes a wider variety in color options). When in doubt, remember this general rule: if you’re aware of your hiking socks, something is wrong!
In general, you want to opt for either wool or synthetic material for hiking socks as opposed to cotton. Wool and certain synthetics are able to regulate the temperature of your feet and wick away sweat and moisture, keeping feet comfortable and blister-free. They also dry much more quickly than cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture, making socks both uncomfortable and unable to retain warmth. Many hiking socks will also feature a percentage of spandex to help the sock retain its shape and get on and off the foot easily. Merino wool is especially soft and warm, and flies in the face of wool’s reputation for being itchy.
To determine how high your hiking sock should be, take a look at your hiking shoes or boots and notice how high up the cuff is. You want to make sure to choose a sock a few inches above where your footwear ends to ensure that the hard material of the shoe doesn’t rub directly against your skin. Ankle-length socks are okay for short hikes, but for anything longer than a few miles you will probably want a higher sock to avoid bunching and having to stop on the trail for adjustments.
Different socks have different levels of cushioning, which affects how warm they are as well as how comfortable they feel. In general, the colder the weather the more cushioning you will want (which is called the weight of the sock), but all hiking socks will have some additional padding in the heel and toe of the sock. Remember that the more cushioning you have, the thicker your sock will be — so make sure that your hiking shoes still fit with your sock choice. You might end up getting one pair of hiking shoes for warm-weather hikes, and a slightly roomier pair for colder temps. Your hiking socks should fit snugly but not too tight, with the heel of the sock cupping your actual heel. If it’s pulling down towards your arch, you need to size up.
All high-quality hiking socks are built to last, which is why they tend to be a little more expensive than your day-to-day footwear. Sturdy construction and carefully-chosen materials help make hiking socks stand the test of time, but sometimes what you gain in durability you lose in comfort. If you’re planning on logging a lot of miles and are concerned that your soles will wear thin, some brands offer a lifetime warranty.
Now that you know what to look for, here are the best hiking socks, according to reviews:
- Best Overall: Danish Endurance Merino Wool Hiking Socks
- Best for Summer: Icebreaker Hike + Light Crew Sock
- Warmest Option: Darn Tough Vermont Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks
- Best Wool Hiking Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Mid Crew
- Fastest Drying: Sealskinz Waterproof Mid-Length Hiking Sock
- Best for Backpacking: CEP Outdoor Compression Merino Mid-Cut Socks
- Best Value: Wigwam Hiker Midnight Crew-Length Socks
- Best Low-Cut Hiking Socks: Feetures Merino 10 Ultra Light
- Best Liner Socks: Wigman Ultimate Liner Pro
- Most Durable: Darn Tough Micro Crew Light Cushion
Best Overall: Danish Endurance Merino Wool Hiking Socks
These Danish-made hiking socks are one of Amazon’s top sellers for a reason. Their medium weight means you can wear them all year-round, and their mix of merino wool and targeted ventilation mesh performs impressively well in both hot and cold weather. Unlike many drab hiking socks, these come in five colors ranging from bright yellow to deep forest green to vibrant red (and a more muted gray and brown for the traditional among us). The socks actually come recommended by the Danish mountaineer Rasmus Kragh, who was the first Dane to summit Mount Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen (while wearing Danish Endurance socks). If they got him up Everest, it’s safe to say that these socks can handle whatever adventure you take them on.
To buy: amazon.com, from $11
Best for Summer: Icebreaker Hike + Light Crew Sock
On long, hot summer hikes, feet can easily become overheated and stinky with the wrong footwear. While even lightweight hiking socks are thicker than normal socks, they can actually keep feet cooler than a standard cotton sock by trapping external heat in tiny air bubbles, preventing warmth from reaching the foot. On hot days, these soft hiking socks from Icebreaker will keep you cool and dry — even if you’re prone to sweaty feet — due to their increased ventilation and light cushioning. The anatomically-designed toe box and snug fit helps avoid chafing even if your digits do get a little moist. Reviewers say that these socks hold up well in the wash with no fraying, but remember to wash cold and lay out to dry to avoid pilling.
To buy: amazon.com, from $17
Warmest Option: Darn Tough Vermont Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks
In cold winter months, you need hiking socks that will go the extra mile in keeping your toes toasty. This usually translates into a heavier weight sock and sometimes a liner to go along with it. All that extra padding can add bulk and discomfort if the layers bunch up and move around. Finding a sock that’s warm enough for trekking or mountaineering on its own without a liner is a big hiking win — which is why these merino wool Darn Tough socks are such an incredible find. For how warm these merino wool, heavy weight, fully-cushioned socks are, they are surprisingly non-bulky. And almost more importantly, they wick sweat and water away from your foot supremely well — which is imperative in freezing temps. One customer even reported, “They kept my feet feeling dry (even when I accidentally dunked my whole boot into a puddle that reached my ankles).”
Another raved, “My toes are constantly abnormally freezing from November to March despite living somewhere not particularly cold… without these socks I'd still be wearing upwards of 3 pairs of socks.” An added bonus is that they come in five gorgeous color combinations for women, and a slightly more muted (but still playful) six colors for men.
To buy: amazon.com, from $23
Best Wool Hiking Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Mid Crew
In general, you’ll always want to opt for either wool or synthetic material for hiking socks as opposed to cotton. The aforementioned materials help wick moisture away from feet and keep them dry and comfortable on the trail, no matter what the temperature. Smartwool socks in particular are renowned for their comfortable, soft wool and high performance on long journeys. Made of 57 percent merino wool, these high-quality socks are no exception. The medium height of these Smartwool crews means this sock stays put with no tugging necessary and protects ankles from trail brush. One reviewer noted their versatility: “These Phd Outdoor Light socks are perfect for everyday wear in the city and for wilderness hiking — hard-wearing, warm but not hot, and just the right level of padding. Highly recommended!”
To buy: zappos.com, $22
Fastest Drying: Sealskinz Waterproof Mid-Length Hiking Sock
If you’re hiking anywhere with water, a fast-drying hiking sock is crucial. Wet feet are not only uncomfortable and smelly, but more prone to blisters — the archnemesis of all hikers. These miracle socks from SealSkinz manage to be waterproof with proprietary technology that also makes them windproof yet breathable. One reviewer reported, “I use these for search and rescue and they are awesome! They are surprisingly soft and comfortable, unlike neoprene versions, and I can easily wear them all day for a training or mission and come out with my feet perfectly dry. Wore them in a raging river the other day on a mission and still super-dry feet! Love these!”
To buy: amazon.com, from $40
Best for Backpacking: CEP Outdoor Compression Merino Mid-Cut Socks
When backpacking, you’re often putting in long days on the trail repeatedly, which can sometimes lead to swelling and discomfort in the feet and ankles. A compression sock isn’t always necessary, but can be a nice addition to your backpacking gear. This light compression sock designed for outdoor adventures is made from tightly knit yarn, which can help increase blood flow to the feet and ankles. Its mid-weight cushioning and soft mix of merino wool and synthetics make it a welcome companion on backpacking trips, when comfort and fast drying are both key. There is nothing worse than having to put on a smelly pair of socks day-after-day, or stuffing them into your pack with the rest of your belongings.
To buy: amazon.com, from $21
Best Value: Wigwam Hiker Midnight Crew-Length Socks
For a crew-length sock with a medium cushion, you really can’t beat this pair from Wisconsin-based Wigwam. Sure, you could find a cheaper sock, but probably not one with an elasticized arch, ventilation panels, and 67 percent merino wool material. If you buy in packs, the price goes down even further. While these might not be the most stylish pair on the list, one reviewer cautions, “Don't let the thickness and appearance fool you — these are wonderful for hiking under the baking sun as well as through the snow. I wear these with my work boots and I they really have a nice fusion to them without being slippery or changing my step. What's more — they seem to keep my feel dry and comfortable, and when they do get wet, they dry quickly.”
To buy: amazon.com, from $15
Best Low-Cut Hiking Socks: Feetures Merino 10 Ultra Light
While it’s usually preferable to have a higher sock to prevent your boot from rubbing against your bare skin and to protect you from brush along the trail, sometimes you want a good pair of low-profile socks to wear with a pair of trail runners or sneakers. These merino and rayon no-show socks will do much better than a regular pair of cotton running socks to keep your feet dry and comfortable while remaining ultra thin and light in your shoe. Avoid putting these socks in a dryer, though — that’s a good practice to follow with all wool socks, but especially with these. Even a bit of shrinkage could cause them to not fit properly and slip off the back of your heel.
To buy: zappos.com, $17
Best Liner Socks: Wigman Ultimate Liner Pro
Liners are thin socks that are designed to be worn under your other socks. Liners aren’t always necessary, but they can certain help reduce friction and wick sweat away (meaning fewer blisters) on long hikes, and keep feet warm in extra chilly conditions. These liners from Wigwam are versatile enough to be worn on their own or underneath wool socks. One reviewer raves, “I have been using these socks for 15+ years as liners in hiking boots, as stand-alone socks at the gym and as stand-alone socks when cycling. They last forever, fit well, wick moisture away, wash and dry fast (important when touring) and are just plain and simple an excellent product.” Especially on long trips or in unpredictable weather conditions, it’s never a bad idea to pack along a pair of liners just in case.
To buy: amazon.com, from $12
Most Durable: Darn Tough Micro Crew Light Cushion Sock
Darn Tough socks are made in Vermont — a state that really knows how to do hiking right, in nearly every weather condition. All of the brand’s socks are made on fine-gauge knitting machines, meaning that they can pack in a lot of fabric (so they’re extra durable) without adding any additional bulk. These breathable socks are an all-around stellar pair, especially if you’re looking for a long-lasting purchase. One reviewer on Amazon covered 500 miles with only two pairs of these socks and says they were “barely worn” at the finish. One thing to consider is that in opting for a hiking sock with such durable construction, you’ll be giving up a bit of the plushness of some of the other socks on this list. But if you’re looking for a sock that will really go the distance, the Darn Tough Micro Crew can’t be beat. All Darn Tough socks come with a lifetime guarantee, so even if you do manage to get a hole, they’ll send you a new pair for free. Have fun trying to wear these out!
To buy: amazon.com, from $20
Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we’ll send you our favorite travel products each week.