The Best Hiking Socks for Every Type of Adventure

Our favorite, the Ultimate Bison Sock, is lightweight and sustainably produced.

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best wool socks
Courtesy of Amazon; United By Blue; Buffalo Wool Co.

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, these are easily preventable problems if you're armed with a little knowledge in advance.

You'll want to keep material, height, comfort, and durability in mind while shopping for hiking socks. 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 in doubt, remember this general rule: if you're aware of your hiking socks, something is wrong! Overall, we find The Ultimate Bison Sock to be the most dependable choice for a durable hiking sock that's comfortable enough for everyday wear. We also have favorites in the liner, compression, and low-cut categories if you're looking for other options.

When it comes to hiking socks specifically for men or women, gender doesn't really matter much in terms of performance needs. Most of the socks featured on this list are available in both men's and women's versions, and the men's will often have a slightly wider fit.

These are the best hiking socks to keep your trail days foot-friendly.

T+L's Top Picks

Best Overall: United by Blue The Ultimate Bison Sock at United by Blue

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Unitedbyblue

Why We Love It: They're durable, versatile, and even comfortable enough to wear while lounging around the house.

What to Consider: They're best for hiking in cold temperatures.

United by Blue salvages bison fiber that would otherwise be a wasted byproduct of the meat industry, taking advantage of the fact that the material is hypoallergenic, lightweight, great for regulating temperature, and capable of wicking away moisture. The first product the brand made with its BisonShield yarn (10 percent bison fiber blended with recycled polyester, wool, and nylon) was the Ultimate Bison Sock, which now sells out year after year for cold-weather hiking.

Made of 62 percent wool, 22 percent nylon, 15 percent bison down, and 1 percent spandex, the Ultimate Bison Sock provides advanced insulation, ribbing for arch support, and plush cushioning. They're comfortable enough for long treks and are also perfect for getting cozy to lounge around the house. We find they get softer over time but still maintain the supportive features that make them a great choice for hiking.

Best Liner: ArmaSkin Extreme Anti-Blister Crew Socks

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: The silicon fusion polymer feels cool, dry, and incredibly comfortable against your feet.

What to Consider: Be sure to read directions prior to use so you know which sock goes on which foot (the logo labels on each pair should face each other).

Liners are designed to be worn underneath another pair of socks, and they don't get much better than the ArmaSkin Extreme Anti-Blister Crew Socks. They're made of Si Fusion fabric, which consists of a sticky hydrophobic silicone coating that's worn against the skin and a smooth hydrophilic fabric that masterfully reduces friction. Whether you're hiking in frosty Antarctica, during a Brazilian summer, or all seasons around Lake Tahoe, the ArmaSkin sock's friction-fighting power stops blisters in their tracks. The silicone is also bacteria resistant, which helps cut down on odors. The socks come in two lengths and two colors, and each is contoured for a specific foot, so make sure you have your left and right sides straight.

Best for Warm Weather: Icebreaker Hike + Light Cushion Merino Wool Crew

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They were designed for a snug fit that reduces chafing.

What to Consider: They don't last very long.

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 sweltering days, these soft hiking socks from Icebreaker will keep you cool and dry — even if you're prone to sweaty feet — thanks 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. These socks hold up well in the wash with no fraying, but remember to wash cold and lay out to dry to avoid pilling.

Related:The Best Outdoor Gear, According to Hiking Experts

Best for Compression: The Buffalo Wool Company OTC Compression Socks

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Thebuffalowoolco

Why We Love It: They can be machine washed and dried.

What to Consider: There are higher levels of compression available in other socks. .

Made of 45 percent merino wool, 31 percent nylon, 18 percent American bison down, 4 percent polyester, and 2 percent Lycra spandex, this sock offers a graduated 15-20 mmHg compression from ankle to just under the knee. Compression socks prevent swelling and discomfort by keeping your circulation maintained. These get the job done without feeling too constrictive and manage to provide arch support while still feeling stretchy and breathable. On top of being comfortable to wear, the machine-washable socks are a breeze to maintain.

Best for Uneven Terrain: Swiftwick Flite XT® Trail Collection at Swiftwick

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Swiftwick

Why We Love It: They're perfect for dynamic sports like basketball in addition to trail running and hiking.

What to Consider: With only 24 percent merino blend, these socks do need to be washed more often than other pairs on this list.

In the ball and heel of their socks, Swiftwick's GripDry fiber has micro treads that grip the insole of your hiking boot. Elastic around the ankle provides support while moving on uneven and varying terrains. The sock's natural, temperature-regulating merino wool blend kept our feet dry, cool, and blister-free while running and hiking, even through rivers. They're made of 24 percent merino, 38 percent nylon, 22 percent olefin, 13 percent polyester, and 3 percent spandex. They come in quarter-crew and crew heights.

Best for Kids: Smartwool Kids' Hike Merino Wool Crew Socks

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: Smartwool socks are durable enough to be passed down to younger siblings.

What to Consider: They tend to run small.

I've raised four children on Smartwool hiking socks. They are so durable that some of them have survived all four kids and still look brand new, especially the full-cushion style and crew height. The full-cushion style has an elasticized arch brace and cushioning in the toe, heel, and across the top of the foot. The merino wool is usually around 61 percent in order to provide breathability, odor control, and temperature regulation. We've been on numerous hiking trips with our kids, and none of them have ever gotten a blister in these socks.

Related: The Best Hiking Boots and Shoes of 2022

Fastest Drying: SEALSKINZ Unisex Waterproof Cold Weather Mid-Length Sock

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: Handmade and individually hand-tested for waterproofness, Sealskinz socks have incredible four-way stretch for waterproof socks.

What to Consider: Some reviewers complain about socks soaking through.

If you're hiking anywhere with water, a fast-drying sock is crucial. Wet feet are not only uncomfortable and smelly, but more prone to blisters — the archnemesis of all hikers. These unisex socks from SealSkinz manage to be both waterproof and breathable thanks to an innovative three-layer bonded technology which fuses a hydrophilic membrane between a merino wool interior and nylon blend exterior. Although the socks are a bit pricey, the money is well worth staying bone dry when your feet are submerged in water, and their durable construction means you'll get years of quality use out of your purchase.

Best Value: Wigwam Ultra Cool-Lite Crew

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: These socks deliver on comfort and odor-control.

What to Consider: Sometimes the socks slip down your calves.

For a crew-length sock with a medium cushion, you really can't beat this pair from Wisconsin-based Wigwam. A more affordable option compared to similar hiking socks, they deliver in the comfort and moisture-wicking departments thanks to a breathable, weightless feel and acrylic fiber material that absorbs water and evaporates it. In addition to providing a pitch-perfect fit, Wigwam socks come in trendy colors including mineral blue and picante.

Most Durable: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Lightweight Hiking Sock

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: We love that this brand unconditionally guarantees the quality and durability of its socks for life.

What to Consider: They aren't as plush as some of our other picks.

Darn Tough guarantees its socks for life — it doesn't matter if they've suffered wear and tear or a hole, they'll replace your socks. Fortunately, you probably won't be able to wear these socks out even if you try. Knitted in Vermont, all of the brand's socks are made on fine-gauge knitting machines, meaning that they can pack in a lot of fabric for durability 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 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.

Related: The Best Compression Socks for Women to Wear While Flying

Best Low Cut: Jack Wolfskin Hiking Pro Low Cut Socks

Best Hiking Socks
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: They provide padding on your Achilles tendon, ankle, instep, toes, and sole.

What to Consider: When damp, the socks may smell bad because of the synthetic materials (42 percent polyester, 40 percent polyamide, 14 percent polypropylene, 4 percent elastane).

Jack Wolfskin was founded more than 41 years ago while Ulrich Dausien huddled around a campfire in the Yukon territory listening to wolves howl during his trek which happened to be in the same area Jack London found inspiration for The Call of the Wild. The German company is known for its eco-friendly initiatives, such as reducing CO2 emissions on its transport routes and inspecting chemical outputs to its factories, and are also innovators in the hiking sock space. The brand's socks have a biosplit footbed to relieve stress from the sole and a protector to evenly distribute padding and pressure on the Achilles tendon. One of the best features of their Hiking Pro Low Cuts are the cross ventilation zones where spacer pads create a gap between your foot and shoe, and breathable hybrid fabric keeps your feet cool.

Tips for Buying Hiking Socks

Pick wool or synthetic materials

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 faster than cotton, because cotton absorbs moisture, making socks both uncomfortable and unable to retain warmth. Merino wool is especially soft and warm, but can sometimes be itchy. Another option is bison down, which is warmer than wool and feels dry even when it's wet. Many hiking socks will also feature a percentage of spandex to help the sock keep its shape and get on and off the foot easily.

Pay careful attention to the height

To determine how high your hiking sock should be, take a look at your hiking shoes or boots and note how high up the cuff is. You'll 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.

Make comfort your top priority

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, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I wash hiking socks?

If your sock is made of bison fibers, then simply machine wash warm and toss them in the dryer. If your sock is made of merino wool, then avoid hot water. Turn them inside out when you throw them in a washing machine on a gentle cycle using either warm or cold water. Avoid bleach and fabric softener because the former destroys merino wool fibers and the latter reduces the ability of the fibers to regulate temperature and manage moisture. Use Nikwax Wool Wash or a detergent with neutral pH. Air-dry by laying your socks flat.

Can I wear compression socks hiking?

Yes, compression socks apply pressure to the legs and promote blood circulation. The more blood circulation, the more oxygen-rich blood is pumped to muscles. This decreases the build-up of lactic acid and cramping. Hikers recover quicker from long distances using compression socks.

What material is best for hiking socks?

Hiking socks feature a blend of materials. Usually, the parts of the sock that touch your skin are made of natural fibers like bison down or merino wool. To make socks more durable, synthetics like polyester or nylon are used because they can wick moisture and dry quickly. Spandex helps socks keep their shape and prevents bunching or wrinkling.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Leslie Hsu Oh, her husband, and her four kids (16, 13, 9, and 5) test gear for Backpacker Magazine, Outside Magazine, REI, Sierra Magazine, and T+L. Their adventures have included snowmobiling with a 10-month-old across an ice cap in Iceland, visiting over a dozen active volcanoes, camping in Antarctica, canyoneering in Jordan, and climbing, hiking, kayaking, and white-water rafting through nearly all the national parks in the United States. Leslie used her outdoor experience and extensive research to compile this list of the best hiking socks.

Up Next: The Best Hiking Backpacks for Women

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