Are you one of those people who groan when they receive socks as a gift? That’s too bad but for hikers, backpackers, outdoorsmen and mountaineers, socks can be the best gift this coming Holiday season.
The best hiking socks are very important because the last thing you want to worry about when you’re outdoors is your feet. Feet are very important because they are your mode of transportation when you’re on an adventure and keeping them in the best condition can save your life when you’re off hiking in the woods.
Hikers, backpackers, mountaineers and outdoorsmen like exploring in any weather so giving them cheap cotton socks can be a mistake.
While cotton is great because it is affordable and breathable, it does not provide comfort, support or cushioning needed by adventurers. If you want something tough, durable, comfortable and warm you have to buy the best wool socks available.
Best Materials for Hiking Socks
When it comes to choosing hiking socks, one of the considerations to keep in mind is material. Hikers walk around all day and in different kinds of terrain or weather. They need socks that are made from durable material.
Wool and cotton come from natural materials and are absorbent and breathable. There are also socks made from synthetic materials like nylon and Elastane. They are more affordable than socks made from wool or cotton but are not as breathable.
A blend of natural and synthetic material is a good combination since it is more affordable and the wearer can get comfort and breathability. Here are some of the best materials for hiking socks.
- Merino Wool. Merino wool comes from an ancient breed of sheep and is engineered for extreme conditions. It can keep feet cool during the summer and keep it insulated during the winter.
Merino wool fibers make good choices for hiking socks because they are lightweight, are naturally wicking and odor-resistant. When buying wool socks; don’t settle for the cheap variety. Find good quality merino wool so that you won’t itch while hiking or backpacking.
It is also best to find something with good quality to prevent the sock from slipping. Merino wool is organic so they are durable and will last for years.
It has good wicking abilities (draw away or absorb moisture) so your feet stay dry even if you’ve stepped on puddles.
This natural material is also surprisingly quick to dry making it an ideal sock to have when camping or backpacking so you can hang them to dry and will be ready to wear after 3 to 4 hours in the sun or by the fire.
It is also the wicking ability that keeps bacteria from multiplying thereby preventing odor. The only downside to merino wool socks is the price as they tend to be more expensive.
- There are many types of synthetic materials like nylon and Elastane used to make hiking socks. Thanks to advances in technology they are as durable as wool socks. However, they are cheaper than wool socks so they provide good value to hikers.
Like wool, they also have good wicking abilities and are usually quicker to dry than all-wool socks. Synthetic socks are smellier though but some manufacturers make socks that are have odor resistant materials so make sure to check the packaging especially if you plan to go on long hiking expeditions.
- Wool and Synthetic Blends. The marriage of merino wool and synthetic fibers make some of the best hiking socks.
This hiking sock has the benefits of merino and synthetic fibers so you have comfortable socks you can wear in different weather conditions; have access to fast drying and odor free socks while keeping your toes comfortable during long hikes.
Benefits of Wearing Good Quality Hiking Socks
When you’re hiking, backpacking or mountaineering, the health of your feet should be the least of your worries. You’re miles away from civilization so getting a sprain, blisters or nasty fungal infections can make the trip uncomfortable for you and your buddies.
Start taking care of your feet by wearing good quality hiking socks. You need to change them often so that they won’t harbor bacteria that causes odor and fungus that causes itchiness. They also need to be fast drying because there aren’t any dryers in the wilderness.
Hiking socks should also be durable so that you can take them on many adventures without wearing out. Here are other features why you should consider buying good quality hiking socks.
- Fast Drying. We can’t bring our whole sock drawers when hiking or backpacking. Depending on the length of the adventure, most people just bring a few pairs. This means that you will need to wash your socks at some point.
Good quality hiking socks are quick to dry so you can wash them after a hike and hang them to dry by the fire or under the sun. They should be dry enough to use the next day. Cotton can take up to 24 hours to dry.
- Odor Resistant. Merino wool is naturally odor resistant and synthetic materials have anti-bacterial coating. This ability is important when you’re outdoors and can’t/don’t change socks every day.
With a pair of good quality hiking socks, you can get away without changing them for around 2 days before they smell. Cotton socks usually smell after a day on the trail.
- Moisture Wicking. Keeping feet dry is very important when hiking, backpacking or mountaineering. Sweaty feet is not only uncomfortable and smelly, it can also cause blisters which will make walking painful and slow.
Hiking socks made from wool and natural materials wick away moisture from your feet keeping them dry.
Good quality hiking socks can be made from merino wool or a combination with synthetic fibers. This way, hikers and outdoorsmen get the best of both worlds without spending too much money compared to going for an all-wool sock.
For outdoor activities, it’s best to look for a sock that has good support, cushioning, drying time, fiber combination and wicking abilities. Here are some great choices for hiking socks.
Top Products of 2017
Darn Tough Men’s Merino Wool Hiker Boot Sock
Price: $18.99 – $70.94
Sizes: Men’s Sizes: Small 5.5-7.5, Medium 8-9.5, Large 10-12, X-Large 12.5-14.5, XX-Large 15-17
Specific Features: 67% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% Lycra® Spandex, unconditional lifetime guarantee, performance fit and durability
Best Use: Hiking, keeping feet warm in cold weather
Description: The perfect blend of merino wool, nylon and Lycra Spandex offers breathability, great wicking ability and durability. When you put these Darn Tough Men’s Merino Wool Hiker Boot Sock on, it is like slipping on a pair of warm blankets for the feet.
The soles have a cushion construction that can help ease discomfort during hikes while providing additional padding. It also has compression panels, one focused on the arch of the foot and the other around the ankle for additional support.
The socks are tall enough so you can wear them with boots so your legs are protected during cold weather.
The best thing about this pair is its ability to keep your feet super warm even during the low twenties. The merino wool in the socks also does a good job of wicking away sweat so your feet also stay dry during hikes in warm temperatures.
Overall, this pair of socks is great for dry, warm and cold conditions. It lives up to its name because of its durability. You can wear this sock for hiking, running, backpacking, snowboarding, skiing or for fun until it has holes.
Wigwam Men’s Hiking/Outdoor Pro Length Sock
Price: $7.14 – $34.98
Specific Features: 40% Olefin, 36% X2O Acrylic, 20% Stretch Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex, Ultra-smooth toe closure and dense terry loop footbed provides all-day comfort, Abrasion resistant Achilles cradle
Best Use: hiking, backpacking, low-cut foot wear
Description: Wigwam Men’s Hiking/Outdoor socks do a good job of keeping feet dry while hiking on a hot day. The blend of fabric does a good job of insulating the feet in dry and wet conditions while doing a good job of drying quickly.
It is surprisingly warm for a synthetic sock and provides good insulation during wet and dry conditions. The 4-hour drying time is not the best, but it is not bad either. The material of the sock is thick in some places but is surprisingly breathable.
The fabric of the Wigwam socks is porous making it a good hiking sock if you’re going somewhere warm. It also wicks well in warm weather.
This pair of socks is surprisingly durable given its price. The fibers are of the highest quality making this sock from Wigwam the best value socks out there.
There are even testers who have used this sock for hiking, backpacking and camping for over 6 years, lasting way longer than its 2-year warranty. Wigwam socks are lightweight best value socks with fantastic durability.
Smartwool Men’s PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
Price: starts at $14.37
Specific Features: 67% Merino Wool, 31% Nylon, 2% Elastane, Strategically placed mesh ventilation zones provide ventilation for temperature and moisture management, 8.5″ overall height
Best Use: Skiing, backpacking, hiking
Description: If you want something versatile, Smartwool Men’s PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks can go anywhere with you.
This pair of socks is ideal for mountaineering, backpacking, day hiking and even skiing. It can also be used for trail running and can provide comfort and protection for the feet even after 20 miles.
It also scores well for wicking capabilities so it will keep your feet dry while providing breathability thanks to the merino wool fibers. This Smartwool sock also dries fast under the sun, but it is not the fastest at drying mainly because of the thick compact material construction.
It can be a bit pricey but Smartwool socks are the best in comfort and durability thanks to the merino wool material. It is plump and flush so it is very comfortable while providing padding to the heel and forefoot. It is a great sock if you have to hike a long trail. You won’t have to worry about your feet getting cold either.
Your feet stay warm for the longest time if it is armored in this pair of socks. Best of all, it has a no-itch guarantee so you won’t feel any itching while hiking or when your socks get wet. Overall, you can wear this sock in different conditions including your bed.
Injinji 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Nuwool Socks
Price: $18.99 – $68.01
Specific Features: 64% NuWool, 33% nylon, 3% Lycra, anatomical five-toe design, mesh top for breathability, 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
Best Use: hiking, camping, running
Description: Go for longer hikes with Injinji’s Outdoor Midweight Crew Socks. Injinji’s blend of NuWool, nylon and Lycra will keep your feet comfortable by providing thermal regulation, odor resistance and soft feel.
The socks sport an anatomical 5-toe design to prevent blistering while the top mesh provides breathability. While it does not provide additional cushioning for the overall foot, the level of compression is good. This is the sock for people who love 5-toed socks. For additional comfort during tougher trails, the socks feature arch support and a cushioned underfoot.
Unfortunately, the sock does not provide lots of insulation even though it has merino wool fibers. Your feet can feel cold and wet when exposed to these conditions because of the 5-toe constructions. Your toes are basically separate so they cannot keep each other warm resulting in a colder experience.
This pair from Injinji is better suited for warm and dry environment. The thinner construction enables the socks to dry quickly at approximately 2 hours under the sun. The construction also makes the sock have good wicking abilities and is very durable. There can be a bit of pilling around the heels but otherwise this pair is going to last you a long time.
Thorlo Women’s Moderate Cushion Coolmax Light Hiking Crew Sock
Price: $1.13 – $76.76
Specific Features: Exclusive Thor-Lon® and CoolMax® construction, moderate cushioning in ball and heel, ventilation panels for breathability, 62% Coolmax polyester/19% Thor-Lon acrylic/14% stretch nylon/5% spandex
Best Use: hiking
Description: Hikers love the lack of blisters when they wear the Thorlo Women’s Moderate Cushion Coolmax Light Hiking Crew Sock. The blend of fabric provides excellent wicking ability so your feet stay dry and comfortable during long hikes.
The cushioning on the ball and heels of the sock provides support and comfort while preventing blistering. There is even a lace pad on top of the foot to protect against lace pressure. This sock has a snug fit so you won’t slip and feel secure while hiking.
A pair from Thorlo’s won’t last forever but it is one touch sock and will survive even after 1,000 slopes. While it isn’t an ideal companion for temps below 20 degrees, they are good enough to keep your toes warm in milder weather.
Overall, this is a good basic sock for different activities in moderate to hot weather.
Smartwool Men’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks
Price: $17.10 – $78.28
Specific Features: 74% Merino Wool, 25% Nylon, 1% Elastane, SmartWool Fit System, Extra Heavy Cushion, flat-knit toe seam
Best Use: multi-day backpacking, mountaineering, ice climbing
Description: When you’re hiking, backpacking, mountaineering or ice climbing, the last thing on your mind should be your feet. If you wear Smartwool’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks, the only thoughts about your feet will be about comfort.
This is the best merino wool socks for people looking for extra-heavy cushioning and durability. The extra cushion will keep your feet dry and warm in cold temperatures and rough terrain. It also features an arch-brace that will keep your socks in place.
Its warmth and thickness is perfect for boots on cold days and will keep them warm even if your feet get wet thanks to the merino wool fibers. If you want to wear them indoors; don’t worry, you’re feet won’t overheat because the sock has good wicking ability to keep your feet dry while providing ventilation.
This is the best sock for a rugged lifestyle. It is fully cushioned so it is ready to protect the feet from rough terrain or extreme weather.
The Arch brace, ankle brace, and a 2×1 rib knit cuff provides additional support making it a great sock to wear when mountaineering or ice climbing. The socks are very durable so they are worth their price.
Smartwool Women’s Best Friend Sock
Price: $11.97 – $25.99
Specific Features: 61% Merino Wool, 37% Nylon, 2% Elastane, Light Cushion: Light cushioning for impact absorption without added bulk, knitted in the USA with imported yarn
Best Use: light backpacking and hiking, walking, running
Description: Made with merino wool, Smartwool Women’s Best Friend Sock has good wicking capabilities leaving your feet warm and dry. This sock can be a woman’s best friend most especially if she lives a moderately active lifestyle.
The Best Friend sock features light cushioning so that impact is absorbed. However, it does not have that added bulk so your feet feel comfortable.
It also has an arch brace for added stability while hiking. The footbed of this sock is reinforced so it is durable enough to withstand lots of hikes. There will be some pilling but that’s about it.
You can wear these under casual boots in mild weather and it won’t feel bulky or uncomfortable. The merino wool, Elastane and nylon combination provides good drying time but not the best.
However, the combination does a good job at keeping feet comfortable so if you’re looking for good light hiking socks without the bulk or just something to wear underneath your boots on a cold day, the Best Friend sock can be your best friend.
Why Good Socks Are Important
Outdoorsmen and adventurers spend a lot of time on their feet everyday when they are traveling. The feet should be treated well and pampered because if they start hurting, you could be in big trouble. A good pair of hiking socks can keep feet dry and warm, prevent blistering and even prevent odor.
They can also last for years so in the end and are a better investment than cheap cotton socks. So don’t overlook the important of your hiking socks the next time you’re planning a trip.
And, as always, don’t forget to leave a comment or share your suggestions/experiences with us in the section below!