Hiking socks are a vital part of your hiking outfit. They are necessary to keep your feet warm and comfortable, provide the support your feet need when tackling tough terrain, and keep hotspots, blisters, and odors at bay. Choosing the best socks for hiking requires that you pay attention to the material they are made of and the features they are equipped with.
To help you find a supportive, comfortable, anti-odor, and durable pair of hiking socks, the reviews below present the ten best socks for hiking on the market while the buying guide further down goes through all the key features you should look for to find the best socks for your outdoor pursuits.
How To Choose A Pair Of Hiking Socks – Buying Guide
Thanks to its inherent qualities, merino wool is the ultimate material for hiking, backpacking, and trekking socks. It’s moisture-wicking, temperature regulating, and naturally odor-resistant, and feels luxuriously soft against the skin, not scratchy.
To ensure a balance of comfort and durability, the best socks for hiking also include a nylon component for durability and a stretchy fabric such as Spandex for a secure yet flexible fit and to ensure they maintain their shape.
It goes without saying that a hiking sock should fit well. Poor-fitting socks are uncomfortable to wear during long walks and can cause serious issues such as blisters due to chafing. Of course, the first step to ensuring that the socks you get will fit well is to order the right size according to your shoe size.
Hike socks made specifically for men’s or women’s feet also provide a secure foot. As for socks height, the sock should be higher than your hiking boots or shoes in order to stop the boots from rubbing against your skin. Crew length socks are the perfect length for hiking shoes, boots, or trail runners.
To ensure that you have a comfortable hiking experience, your socks should provide support for your feet. Make sure the socks you choose are reinforced at the heel and toes to add a layer of shock absorption to the ball and the heel and stop it from jarring with the thousands of steps you’ll be taking on rugged terrain.
Another supportive feature to look for is an elastic band around the arch of the foot. This provides compression support at the arches, which is essential when you will be walking for hours at a time.
Comfort is why you wear socks in the first place. They act as a barrier against your bare skin rubbing against the raw material of your footwear, as this is very painful when walking long distances. The most comfortable socks are made of wool.
Not only does this material feel soft against the skin, but it’s also moisture-wicking, and odor resistant. Most importantly, it’s excellent at regulating temperatures to keep your feet warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. The best walking socks also have breathable features, supportive cushioning, and arch support.
Ideally, your backpacking socks should remain dry, keep your feet warm in cold weather, and keep your feet cool in warm weather.
Merino wool socks are, again, the winners when it comes to weather resistance. Merino wool socks hiking allow your feet to breathe, wick moisture to keep your feet dry, and regulate temperature to keep your feet at the desired temperature.
The ability to take away the moisture from your skin stops your feet from becoming clammy which can feel uncomfortable and also make you much more prone to blistering and other foot problems. While Merino wool socks will absorb some moisture, the good thing is that they dry very quickly.
Thickness and Insulation
In most cases, lightweight hiking or backpacking socks are ideal as you will be constantly on the move. The perfect socks for hiking in summer, spring, or fall should be lightweight. This enables them to provide comfort and support without weighing you down during your thru-hiking or backpacking adventure.
On the other hand, thick winter socks are necessary to keep you warm when adventuring during the cold season of the year. No matter what socks you choose, make sure they have thicker reinforcement at the heel and toes to provide support and cushioning for your feet.
When evaluating durability, look for socks constructed with nylon or polyester fibers in addition to merino wool or cotton fibers. This blend gives you the best of both worlds, keeping your feet comfortable while being tear and wear-resistant even with hard use in the great outdoors.
Beyond choosing durable socks, you can prolong the life of your socks with more considerate washing techniques as explained below.
Once you get the best pair of socks, it’s important that you take proper care of them in order to make them last for as long as possible.
While it’s okay to machine wash the socks on cold and tumble dry on low heat, it’s best to avoid that all together anyway. It’s best to hand-wash your socks in cold water and let them air dry. Harsh washing methods can lead to pilling and shrinking.
Most hikers and backpackers wear an inner liner of a thin merino sock and then have a second sock over it. This dual-sock layering strategy works very well to prevent blisters and hot spots.
Having an inner liner and an outer sock also gives you flexibility when hiking in variable weather conditions. You can take off the outer socks when it gets warm and put it on if the weather gets colder.
Q: Why Does A Hiking Sock Has Spandex?
Spandex gives a hiking sock a level of stretch to it. This adds flexibility enabling the socks to mold to the shape of your feet and stay in place.
This is why the majority of hiking and backpacking socks have an elastic component such as spandex/lycra. Top-rated socks also have a band of elastic material around the arch to provide arch support.
Q: What To Do With The Odor?
If you find that your socks stink after a hike, you can get rid of the odor by soaking them in a mixture of water and white vinegar for 30 minutes then wash and leave them to dry.
The best way to make sure that your socks won't develop odors in the first place is to choose socks made of merino wool. This material is excellent at wicking sweat away from your feet and has inherent anti-bacterial and odor-resistant properties.
Q: How To Make A Hiking Sock Last Longer?
Avoid machine washing, heat drying, and harsh detergents. These are surefire ways to ruin a good pair of hiking socks. Hand washing your socks in cold water and letting them dry naturally will make your socks last longer.
Q: What Kind Of Socks Are Best For Hiking?
Socks for hiking should be breathable, moisture-wicking, odor resistant, and temperature regulating. This is why socks made of Merino wool are best for hiking.
Q: Should Hiking Socks Be Thick Or Thin?
This depends on the conditions you will be hiking in. Socks in summer should be thin while in winter they should be thick. However, all hiking should be reinforced at the heels and toes to provide much-needed support while hiking.
Q: Should You Wear Liner Socks When Hiking?
This comes down to personal preference. Although wearing lining socks hiking is not mandatory, it's a good idea to layer liner socks underneath your socks. Doing this adds an extra layer of protection against abrasion and blisters. And, when it gets warmer, you can easily remove the outer socks and leave the liner socks.
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As your feet undergo the most punishment when hiking or backpacking, taking care of them is of the utmost importance if you want to have a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience.
By choosing among the best socks for hiking and following the guidelines we’ve laid out in the buying guide, you’re sure to end up with a pair of socks that will keep you comfortable on the trails.