A hiking sock form a vital part of your hiking equipment. Not only do it works to keep your feet warm and comfortable but it also help protect against any blisters and add to the support that your feet need. Getting the best overall socks then is obviously important to your hiking experience.
Choosing the best hiking socks though can sometimes be tricky as there are a few things to consider such as the material they are made from and the support that they can give you. After that, it’s important to consider aspects such as fit, comfort and weather resistance among others.
That’s where we can help as we’ll explain through all the key features so you know exactly what you are buying and have completed socks reviews on the ten best products on the market. Once you have read through this guide, you’ll be fully confident in finding the best hiking socks.
How To Choose A Pair Of Hiking Socks – Buying Guide
When it comes to the materials that can found in trekking socks, merino wool holds the clear lead in terms of the material of choice. Cotton and polyester socks can still be found but they are starting to get rarer when compared to merino wool due to the vast range of qualities that merino has.
The reasons that merino wool has become the material of choice is that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to what makes a camping sock. First and foremost it is highly comfortable which is what a hiking sock need to be. That regular motion of your feet can happen thousands of times during a hike, so your socks have to remain comfortable.
What merino wool also does extremely well is its ability to wick away moisture which is the ability of a material to take the moisture that it coming off your feet and allow it to evaporate away from the surface. This stops your feet from getting clammy and wet which can be horrible in cold conditions and can make chaffing a lot worse.
Merino wool is able to wick away this moisture while still remaining breathable and enabling air to be able to flow through the sock. This allows your feet to stay warm in winter and them to keep cool in the summer. Another added benefit of merino wool is that it has anti-bacterial properties which will prevent your feet from stinking.
The reason cotton socks are rarely seen these days is that they simply don’t have all the qualities that merino wool has. While cotton may be comfortable when you put on the sock, they are a heavier option but also absorb moisture and will stay wet for the duration of your hike as they don’t dry very easily either. Cotton though can still be a good choice when it comes to day hiking.
Polyester isn’t quite up to the standards of merino wool but it doesn’t have some good qualities. One of them is how durable the material is, as it will last for a very long time and longer than a pure merino wool product would. It also doesn’t absorb much water and dries very quickly. It doesn’t though have any anti-bacterial properties so can stink very quickly and doesn’t have the same level of comfort.
You may have noticed though that very few socks are actually made from pure merino as they will be blended with other materials in order to hijack their qualities to add to the overall quality of the sock. There is no perfect percentage for this but you generally see a majority of merino with polyester or nylon (or both) mixed in for that added durability. On top of that you often see spandex included in order to have that stretch to keep the socks on your feet.
The fit of the socks is going to be vitally important to your overall comfort and the first step in getting a good fit is to simply make sure that the length of the sock is going to be high enough for the height of your boot. You want to ensure that you have sock protection up to and beyond the ankle cushioning on your boot.
This will help you to avoid getting blisters for your boots rubbing up against your skin. Overall it’s probably going to be a better choice to opt for a higher sock as not only will it give you a layer of insulation but it will also protect your skin from any insects that might be low to the ground.
It does also depend on the type of activity that you might be doing too as if you are hiking in warm and dry weather with a low-rise boot or hiking shoes then it might well be a better idea to get smaller socks to allow your skin more place to breathe.
It’s naturally important to get the right size of sock so that it is able to fit your properly. These socks can come with specific support in different areas for a specific reason. You want to make sure it is able to do its job properly which it won’t be able to do if it has not been fitted correctly.
Regular socks are merely just there for comfort and to be a protective layer between you and your foot but in terms of a hiking sock, it need to be able to offer you a level of support and it is able to do this in a number of different ways to ensure that you have a comfortable hiking experience.
One area of support that a lot of them give is in the form of extra cushioning that can be found on the underneath of the sock. This will be able to give an extra layer of shock absorption to the ball and the heel of the foot to stop it jarring with the thousands of steps you’ll be taking.
Another great feature that some models have is a layer of elastic which will be around the arch of the foot. This is great for everyone but especially those who need all the support they can get with their arches and will be able to help the sock fit perfectly on the foot.
General support can often be found in the thickness of the sock but you also want it to be tough as well. A sock can’t be too thick otherwise you’ll struggle to get your foot in your shoe but enough support should be given to it. There are some socks which offer features such as abrasion resistance on the ankle as it’s a place which can take a lot of wear.
Looking for these features is a great way to ensure that you are going to have a sock which will help to keep your feet in a healthy state, even after a long walk. This support is only going to be useful though when used in conjunction with a great hiking boot, as if you have a poor hiking boot then not even the best socks for walking long distances would be able to save you.
In terms of what is the first and foremost important feature when it comes to socks then it’s going to be comfort. It’s why everyone wears them in the first place as you don’t want your bare skin rubbing against the raw material of your footwear as it would soon be painful if you are walking long distances.
This also links in the quality of your shoe though as a sock can only give you a certain level of comfort. If you have boots which are cramped in the toes or aren’t wide enough for your feet then you are quickly going to be very uncomfortable and it’s probably the best idea to try and solve the problem with a new boot, as well as new socks.
As we have mentioned already in terms of materials, there is one clear winner when it comes to comfort and that is merino wool socks and if you are going to be hiking for a long time then it’s going to be ideal to get a pair of socks where this is the majority of the material to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible.
If you are a fair weather hiker and only ever really see yourself doing short walks when the sun is shining then this is going to be less of an issue and choosing cotton or polyester socks would be a fine choice. It’s important to also know the difference between regular wool and merino wool too as you don’t want to get caught out. The key difference is that regular wool can be itchy whereas merino wool isn’t, so make sure you are buying the best walking socks.
There are other key features which add to the comfort levels too such as the socks ability to wick away moisture as if you have a sock that stays we then it can leave you very cold and very uncomfortable. You also want it to be breathable too in order to get that air circulating through your foot.
There is also the obvious link with support too as the extra supportive padding that you can get on the ball and the heel can not only save you from injury but it will also simply make for a more comfortable walking experience, especially if you have the type of feet which can quickly get sore.
The first barrier to weather resistance is going to be with your boots and the importance of this will depend on what type of climate that you are going to be hiking in. If it’s going to be wet then you want boots which are as waterproof as possible and socks which will be able to feel with any water that does seep in.
This is one area where cotton socks really fail as not only do they absorb a lot of moisture but they take a long time to dry too and therefore don’t offer a lot of weather resistance. Merino wool socks still absorb some moisture but they do a better job at keeping your feet warm and will dry more quickly too.
In the colder temperatures you would naturally want a sock which is going to be thick and have a good layer of insulation; it’s also a good idea to get a higher sock so you are able to protect more of your skin. This is another where the fabrics ability to wick away moisture is important as it will take away moisture from your feet which could otherwise become frozen.
That ability is also important in warmer conditions too. Even though you would ideally want a thinner sock the ability to take away the moisture from your skin will stop your feet from becoming clammy which can feel uncomfortable but also make you much more prone to blistering and other foot problems.
It’s always going to be important to be able to match your socks to the situation that you are in. If you don’t match them with your environment when you could quickly find yourself in an uncomfortable position as you might have socks with aren’t able to keep your keep warm or in contrast, socks which might make you far too hot.
Thickness and Insulation
In the majority of circumstances it’s probably going to be the best idea to get more lightweight socks as the extra insulation that will be given to them won’t really be required if you are constantly on the move when you’re hiking. A lot of people only hike in spring, summer and fall, if that’s you then a lightweight sock would be more than enough.
This is where you might need to invest in two different types of socks if you plan on hiking in the winter. Heading out there in the cold with light socks on would probably make for an unpleasant experience as would hike in the heat with heavier socks. Having two types and changing over when the weather does is probably the best way to go.
The thickness of the sock though also plays a role in your overall comfort as to have that extra padding which can protect your feet will mean that you will be having a thicker sock. This can be a matter of personal preference but it’s important to point out that in drier weather your feet won’t be getting wet, which is usually a major source of discomfort.
If you’re paying good money for a hiking sock then you want to make sure that it’s going to be very durable but that can vary from one company to the next, which is why it’s always a good idea to buy from a reputable company and ideally one which is going to be able to give you some sort of guarantee.
Wool does tend to have a habit of pilling over time (where small balls of fiber form on the surface) but the sock will still remain solid and this can be lessened with more considerate washing techniques, both with machine washing and drying the product.
One good place to check the durability to a product is with the user reviews which can be easily found. If any people have any long-term issues with the durability of the product then you’ll soon know about it and this can separate one product from the next as you will be able to see what quality is and what isn’t.
In terms of materials then it’s often a good idea to look for a sock which is a mix of different materials which will have the comfortability of a cotton or a wool then that will often be added in with the durability of a polyester or a nylon. This gives you the best of both worlds and allows them to stay strong for a long time.
We referred to it in the last section but it’s important that you take proper care of your socks in order to make them last for as long as possible and stay comfortable. The first crucial element of this is that if you plan on machine washing them, then make sure that you follow the instructions otherwise you could well end up ruining the socks.
Most of these socks can’t be machined dried and it’s for the best to avoid that all together anyway. It’s best to let your socks air dry in order for them to do it in a natural way and not be subject to the heat or motion that will be found in your regular drying machine.
If you want to spend the time and the effort then it’s going to be the best idea to ash them in cold water and then line dry them. This will ensure that no other problems occur and that you are taking the best possible care of your socks. Harsher washing methods are likely to increase any pilling on the surface and also lead to shrinkage.
One solution that can appeal to many people is to have an inner liner of a thin merino sock and then have a second sock over the top so you have the dual layer which can also help to avoid blistering as your inner sock can rub against the outer sock rather than on the boot.
Having this inner liner with an outer sock will also allow you to have more flexibility as you’d be able to remove the outer sock when it is too warm to stop your feet from overheating. This is a personal choice which many people prefer than the traditional method of wearing just one sock.
Q: Why Does A Hiking Sock Has Spandex?
Q: What To Do With The Odor?
Q: How To Make A Hiking Sock Last Longer?
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If you are going out hiking then you want to make sure that your feet are going to be well cared for otherwise you are not going to have a good time. If you are backpacking then this is even more important as any foot problems that you have are going to be a longer-term problem and might prevent you from going any further.
If you are simply going out for a day hike then it could well be that blistered feet will prevent you from wanting to go out on another hike. That would be terrible and can be simply solved by having the best equipment available, whether that is a hardshell jacket or simply having the perfect hiking that you can buy.
Many people have hiked with bad equipment at one stage or another and we know how it can detract from what should be a great experience. Here we want to make sure that you enjoy your adventure which is why following the guidelines that we have laid out in this article is going to be important in getting the perfect socks available and taking that next step in being able to hike with confidence.
Walking with blistered or sore feet isn’t fun but the socks that we have featured here are able to play a vital role in ensuring that it doesn’t happen. In terms of your sock choice it’s important that you assess the conditions that you are going to be camping in and the specific needs that you have, once you know that then you will be able to choose which features are going to be the most important to you. Once you have all the best equipment, then you are going to be able to enjoy hiking more than ever before.
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