A quality pair of hiking socks can make or break a day on the trail. Your feet are your most important tool when hiking. They’re your means of transportation, your method of travel and if they aren’t cared for and kept comfortable, hiking can quickly descend into the realm of misery. Hotspots, blisters and frostbite are all legitimate concerns.
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time to buy hiking socks — there are more companies applying careful consideration and serious tech to their knits than ever before, and warm, soft, breathable materials like merino wool have become standard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re headed up to the local overlook for an afternoon or making a 10-day trek through Patagonia; you’ll need a good pair of hiking socks.
BEST OVERALL HIKING SOCKSSmartwool Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew Socks Read More
BEST UPGRADE Hiking SockDarn Tough Hiker Boot Sock Cushion Socks Read More
BEST BUDGET HIKING SOCKSWigwam Merino Comfort Hiker Read More
Best ConstructionWorn T3 Hike Sock Read More
BEST QUARTER LENGTH SOCKDarn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks Read More
Do I Really Need Hiking Socks?
The short answer here is yes, you do. This comes with a caveat — if you've got the feet of a Flintstone and don't mind ill-fitting, non-breathable socks that don't have any antimicrobial properties to speak of, then no, you don't really need a hiking sock. But, if you're going to be trekking more than a mile on a regular basis, then it pays dividends to invest in a couple of pairs of well-constructed, highly durable hiking socks.
Today's hike-specific socks don't just provide cushy comfort: many are made with merino wool, which is naturally antimicrobial and wicks moisture away from the foot (the benefit here is that you'll have less stink and keep blisters at bay). Many hiking socks are engineered to prevent hot spots and have a more accurate fit than your average pair of Hanes.
Bottom line: a hiking sock will keep your feet drier, cooler and more comfortable — and even the most expensive pairs won't break the bank.
A Note on Price
At first glance, hiking socks can seem expensive, especially compared to the cotton socks you may buy in packs of 12 for less than $10. But like all pieces of outdoor gear, hiking socks are designed to perform: to keep your feet warm while letting them breathe, to prevent blisters and, of course, to be comfortable.
Sock makers employ technical materials such as merino wool and construct each sock with hidden seams and hybrid knit patterns in order to create different levels of stretch. They also take careful consideration in applying compression to different areas of the foot. All of these things factor into the price of a decent pair of socks that are ready to take on the rigors of trail use; if you’re serious about getting outside, they’re well worth the extra cost.
Materials to Look For
Merino Wool: Harvested from Merino sheep, it’s quick-drying, static resistant, breathable and naturally antimicrobial, which means it doesn’t hold odors as polyester and cotton do. It’s also softer than traditional wool.
Nylon: Fibers made from durable, lightweight, synthetic polymers.
Spandex: A synthetic polyurethane-based fiber known for stretchability.
Elastane: A variant of “spandex.”
Polyester: A common plastic-based synthetic fiber that’s strong, light and shrink-resistant.
Silk: A natural fiber produced by insects. Silk is strong, soft, smooth and cool but not very elastic.
New and Upcoming Releases:
Our recommendations are based on real-world testing. Here's a snapshot of new and just released hiking socks our testers are considering for future updates to this guide.
Smartwool Second Cut Hike Sock: On April 10th, 2023, Smartwool launched a new sock focused on sustainability and keeping material that can be re-used out of landfills. The Second Cut Hike Sock is made by re-spinning old socks, which the brand collected through its Second Cut take-back project, into new yarn. Through its take-back program, Smartwool has has collected more than 725,000 socks and kept more than 54,200 pounds of socks out of landfills.
Gordini Performance Socks: On 8/15/23, Gordini will enter the performance sock category for the first time, releasing both ski and hiking-specific socks for men and women. Gordini's new socks feature Soleknit and Orbitknit technologies: Soleknit zones differeny performance fabrics into key areas of the sock for a cushioned, quilted effect that increases breathability and moisture transfer, while Orbitknit ribbing tech allows for the cuff or leg of the sock to expand to all shapes and sizes from the structural pattern of the knit itself, rather than relying on elastic yarns (which wear out over time). The Fall 23 collection will include four ski socks and four hiking socks for men and women in varying heights.
Our testers walked many miles in these socks: they trekked in arid desert climates, splashed through the rainy PNW, hiked the Sierra Nevadas and traversed the Blue Mountains (with many, many hikes in-between).
During testers, our intrepid trekkers focused on fit and feel, moisture-wicking efficacy and durability. After hundreds of miles, these are our top picks. Our hope is that in this guide, there's a sock for every kind of hiker.