The 12 Warmest Winter Socks You Can Buy
If there’s just one thing you truly need to protect while you’re traveling, it’s your feet. Passports can eventually be replaced and credit cards can be canceled, but uncomfortable footwear, blisters, or frozen toes will put an end to your adventure faster than you can count your piggies to ten.
When looking for new socks, Ashleigh McClary, Gearhead with outdoor retailer Backcountry, recommends travelers first consider the height of their shoes to make sure there aren’t any gaps in coverage. You also need to determine your cushioning level. “Cushioned socks are going to usually be warmer, so make sure you find some that fit your foot, but don’t cut off circulation when wearing the boots/shoes you plan to wear,” said McClary. “Make sure to try on the socks with the boots/shoes you are planning to wear before you take the tags off, and make sure the fit is snug with no bunching.”
REI’s Expert Advice blog also has a few suggestions about how to choose your ideal sock. Look for either wool or synthetic fabrics. Merino wool is usually best as it’s soft rather than itchy, and its temperature regulation, moisture wicking, and antimicrobial properties mean it will keep you cozy both by the fireplace and out in the snow.
Synthetic materials can help add elasticity and a better fit to wool socks, or build a full sock that will dry quickly and wick moisture but may not breathe as well if conditions warm up. Cotton, however, absorbs moisture quickly but dries slowly and will pull heat away from your skin, making it a fabric to avoid when there might be snow involved.
“When you’re traveling, all day comfort is key,” said Randy Goldberg, co-founder of sock brand Bombas. “You’re likely on your feet bouncing from place to place, so ensuring you have the proper support is going to make a world of a difference. Look for socks with added arch support and a cushioned footbed, or even small features like a blister tab.”
We’ve focused mainly on medium-cushioned hiking socks for this list, as they provide the most versatility if you’re trying to travel light. Most of the brands we’ve chosen offer a variety of thickness and height levels, so whether you’re looking for a warm no-show sock style, thick boot sock, or somewhere in between, if this specific sock doesn’t suit, seek out some of its cousins instead.
Best Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks
Most socks don’t develop a cult following, but these aren’t most socks. Darn Tough are some of the most popular socks on gear roundups (including the fastidious Outdoor Gear Lab), drawing lifelong devotees to their hardy construction and lifetime warranty.
Best Wool Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
Smartwool socks often tie with Darn Tough at the top of testers' lists, with solid merino wool construction, fun patterns, and a slew of sock options for any activity. The PhD Outdoor Medium Crew is one of the most popular pairs, but they also offer heavier and lighter choices in varying lengths and a rainbow of colors.
Warmest Socks: Wigwam Ice Socks
Best Cushioned Socks: Icebreaker Hike+ Medium Crew Socks
Where better to source your merino wool socks than from New Zealand, home to both millions of sheep and some of the best hiking trails in the world? Icebreakers Hike+ offer an anatomical fit and full cushioning to make the best of both of those resources.
Best Thin Warm Socks: Uniqlo HeatTech Socks
Best Socks for Walking: Fit Socks Medium Rugged Crew Socks
A favorite of Outside editors for winter hiking, Fits socks offer a deeper heel pocket than most other designs, which stops them from sliding down no matter how much walking you’re doing. Try the Medium Rugged Crew for inner merino cushioning and a nylon exterior to minimize abrasion.
Best Winter Sport Socks: UnderArmour HeatGear Unrivaled Crew Socks
The UnderArmour Unrivaled Crew socks with HeatGear are made for any gender but customized with specific left and right feet for full arch support and a better footbed fit.
To buy: (unisex) underarmour.com, $15
Best Socks for Staying Up: Bombas Merino Wool Calf Socks
Sock brand Bombas was created when its founders set out to design the perfect sock after learning that socks were the most-requested item in homeless shelters. Their quest resulted in a company that donates one pair of socks for every pair purchased and offers detail-focused everyday merino wool socks specifically designed to stay up even within your fussiest pair of boots.
Best Compression Socks: Vim & Vigr Compression Socks
Best Supportive Socks: Farm to Feet Damascus. Midweight Crew Socks
Another Outdoor Gear Lab favorite, the Farm to Feet Damascus Midweight won praise for its versatile balance of durable fabrics and quick drying feature.
To buy: (unisex) amazon.com, $26
Best Toe Socks: Injinji 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Nuwool Socks
Best Value: People Socks
Best Sock Liners: REI EcoMade Liners
If you want to extend the life of your socks on a long trip, adding CoolMax liners will help wick sweat away from your feet — wear a new pair of thin liners with the same chunky sock for multiple days, helping cut down on packing volume.
To buy: (unisex) rei.com, $7