If you’re planning a hike, keeping your feet safe, dry, and comfortable is the big difference between an enjoyable day of exploring the outdoors and an early return home to rest your aching feet. There’s a huge market of carefully designed hiking boots built to provide comfort and cushion for your feet to protect you from blisters and other injuries, but shoes are only part of the equation. Even the best hiking shoes can only do so much for your feet if you don’t have the best hiking socks to go with them.
The best hiking socks support the protection your shoes give your feet and protect your feet from your shoes. The best shoes can still chafe your feet and toes after a long day of hiking if your feet aren’t protected with socks. Offering a combination of comfort, durability, and breathability, the best hiking socks are a perfect fit with your favorite hiking boots. Here at Trail n Gear, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best hiking socks and a summary of what you should look for when buying socks for hiking trips. Read on and discover the best hiking socks to ensure you have a safe and comfortable hike.
Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Crew
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool
REI Co-op Lightweight Merino
Darn Tough Quarter Cushion
Unisex Bridgedale Ultralight Coolmax Liner Sock
Unisex Bridgedale Ultralight Coolmax Liner Sock
Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks
UBB x Danner Ultimate Bison Sock
DG Hill Thermal Hiking Crew Socks
Danish Endurance Compression Hiking Sock
What Are Hiking Socks?
Hiking socks are made to offer maximum durability, protection, and breathability while you’re on the trail. They’re made from an ultrafine knit to help them stand up to the wear and tear of extended use. The best hiking socks are most commonly made of merino wool, which is a quick-drying and breathable natural fabric with antimicrobial properties. No matter how much you sweat during a long day of hiking, it won’t hold odors. Softer than traditional wool, it’ll protect your feet from chafing.
Hiking socks are also made from highly durable synthetic fabrics like nylon, spandex, elastane, and polyester. While these fabrics aren’t as breathable as merino wool, they provide the needed protection to prevent chafing and are cheaper than high-end merino wool socks. Built to last, a single pair of hiking socks averages between $10 and $30 on Amazon, with some high-end models reaching prices of $50 or more.
Hiking socks come in four styles: no show, ankle, crew, and knee high. The best socks for your hike will depend on the height of your shoe and the terrain you’ll be exploring. You should only wear a no-show sock with low-cut footwear like trail sandals, while a knee-high sock is ideal for mountaineering. Hiking socks also come in multiple degrees of padding and cushioning. Unlike standard cotton socks, hiking socks come in different sizes and should be ordered according to your foot size.
Ten Best Hiking Socks
We reviewed the following 10 best hiking socks on the market today based on the following factors: comfort, protection, durability, stretchiness, breathability, and ability to resist odors.
1. Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Crew
Made from a blend of 56% merino wool, 43% nylon, and 3% elastane, these crew-fit socks offer arch and instep support and are designed to hold your feet in place while hiking. Offering three levels of thickness – ultralight, light, and medium cushioning – these socks are perfect for everything from trail running to backpacking. The sole is thick, but the top and sides are light and breathable. Even the cushioned bottom wicks moisture away effectively. Smartwool uses Indestructawool technology, the most durable wool blend in the industry, and offers a two-year money-back guarantee.
2. Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool
Even the most effective hiking sock can still leave you with blisters from rubbing inside the sock, but Injinji solves that problem. Injinji socks have a unique separated toe design that’s ideal for hiking. By clothing each toe in its own fabric sleeve, this sock prevents friction from skin-to-skin contact.
Made from 64% merino wool, 33% nylon, and 3% lycra, this distinctive hiking sock is very comfortable and designed to support your arches. The mesh top helps with breathability and dries quickly. While the sock may look unusual, the simple gray color will look like any other when inside your shoes. This is also an ideal sock for long-distance runners.
3. REI Co-op Lightweight Merino
This budget-friendly hiking sock is made from a durable blend of 79% merino wool, 20% nylon, and 1% spandex. The REI Co-op Lightweight Merino offers a soft feel and a cushioned sole that protects you from blisters. Comparable in performance to more expensive socks, it is ideal for distance hiking and is as breathable and light as many high-end socks.
The fabric is more fragile than other models and we recommend that you line-dry them after washing them. You should get extensive use out of these socks although the spandex around the arch loosens quicker than other models. Even with these small caveats, these socks provide the protection you need for little more than half the price of top models.
4. Darn Tough Quarter Cushion
If you’re looking to be light on your feet, the Darn Tough Quarter Cushion provides all the protection you need. Ideal for low-cut shoes designed for track or trail running, these 61% merino wool, 37% nylon, 2% spandex socks let your legs breath. They offer all the moisture resistance, arch support, and odor protection of taller socks and they provide all the protection your feet need all year long. They feel light but still keep you safe from blisters, making them good options for long-distance hiking or backpacking.
5. Unisex Bridgedale Ultralight Coolmax Liner Sock
If you’re going on a long-distance hike or backpacking trip, consider a liner sock. These light, thin socks are made from 57% Coolmax polyester, 20% nylon, 19% Endurofil, and 4% lycra. Coming in gray and white, they add an extra layer of comfort and protect against blisters and moisture build-up. Ideal for protecting your high-quality hiking socks from sweat, these synthetic socks are easy to fold and store. Coming in a two-pack, they’re ideal for when you want to protect both your feet and your socks on the most intense hiking trips.
6. Wigwam Hiker Midweight Crew
Made from 67% merino wool, 21% nylon, 7% elastic, and 5% acrylic, this is one of the most budget-friendly merino wool-based socks on the market. While the fit is less tailored than other top models, the merino wool content is equivalent to top brands, and the US-based construction is high-quality and built to last. Best for casual use and light hiking, they provide a decent layer of cushioning all around the foot. Their biggest asset is their warmth, making them ideal for cold-weather hikes and snowshoeing. They are available in over 25 colors.
7. Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line heavy-duty sock for the harshest hiking conditions, the Darn Tough brand has you covered with this mountaineering sock. Made from 74% merino wool, 24% nylon, and 2% spandex, these socks are ideal for snowshoeing or cold-weather hiking or backpacking.
The thick cushioning protects your soles for long hikes in rough terrain, but be careful of the fit – the extra thickness can make it tricky to size for your boots. These socks run up to just below the knee, but have a firm elastic band around the top to prevent slippage. These socks are very warm and can become uncomfortable in summer, but for the winter you won’t find a better pair.
8. UBB x Danner Ultimate Bison Sock
Made from 64% merino wool, 17% bison down, 16% nylon, 2% polyester, and 1% spandex, these fashionable tan-and-green socks are made of the most unique fabric on the list. Bison down is as soft as cashmere and one of the warmest fabrics on the market. It’s resistant to water and has powerful moisture-wicking abilities.
The Bison’s natural defense properties help to make it resistant to microbes, and its reinforced heel and toe areas are highly durable. This is a great all-purpose sock, ideal for both winter snowshoeing and summer trail-running. The socks are warm without overheating and dry easily, and the style will make you stand out on the train.
9. DG Hill Thermal Hiking Crew Socks
With the highest percentage of Merino wool on the list at 80% – combined with 17% nylon, 2% spandex, and 1% elastic – these low-cost hiking crew socks are among the best options on the list for frequent use. They’re among the warmest socks on the market, ideal for winter and for snowshoeing.
These socks get high marks for their softness as the high wool content offers a comfortable feel. Their heels are reinforced and protect you from blisters during long hikes. Unlike most items on this list, these socks come in three-pair packs. That means you can get years of use out of a single pack for a lower price than one pair of some high-end models on the list. However, their warmth may be a bit much during the summer.
10. Danish Endurance Compression Hiking Sock
Made of 95% polyamide and 5% elastane, these synthetic socks are designed to boost performance and blood circulation. While they’re often prescribed for diabetics, pregnant women, those suffering from shin splints, or those prone to swelling while flying, they’re also ideal for high-performance athletes. The compression they provide helps to prevent lactic acid build-up while you run or hike.
They’re lightweight and breathable, making them ideal summer hiking socks. The tight fit means they stay firmly in place during the hike and they provide full coverage – coming up almost to the knee. They’re thinner than the average sock on this list but they provide a suitable cushion to prevent blisters and chafing during long days of hiking.
All 10 of the best hiking socks on this list offer impressive protection and coverage. However, knowing which sock is the right one for your next hike will depend on the season and what kind of hike you’re planning. An ideal sock for a summer trail run will differ greatly from the best pick for a multi-day winter snowshoeing trip.
However, one sock stood out above the rest. Not only did it have the highest merino wool content of any sock on the list, but it offered three pairs for less than some hiking socks charge for one. The DG Hill Thermal Hiking Crew Socks beat out some of the top brands to earn our endorsement for the best hiking socks on the market.