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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 ten-day trek through Patagonia; you’ll need a good pair of hiking socks.
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 breath, 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 like 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.
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Smartwool Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew Socks
Smartwool may be the biggest name in technical hiking socks. It’s no surprise that its plush trekking model, built with full cushioning to provide support over miles and miles, is also incredibly comfortable. The sock has a heathered look that’s iconic among hikers and it’s equipped with all the additional features a hiker needs: a flat and minimal toe seam, light compression around the arch and of course, a very healthy dose of merino wool.
Materials: 70% merino wool, 29% nylon, 1% elastane
Darn Tough Hiker Boot Sock Cushion Socks
The hallmark of all Darn Tough socks is their unmatched durability. These socks last forever — and if for whatever reason they don’t, Darn Tough has a simple lifetime warranty that allows you to trade them in for a brand-new pair with few questions asked. But it’s not just that resilience that makes Darn Tough socks, and particularly the Hiker Boot Sock Cushion, great for multi-day and long-distance hiking — they’re comfy and warm, too. The Hikers are tall enough to accommodate supportive boots made for trekking and are knit with a merino wool blend so they’ll hold off going sour during long days on the trail.
Materials: 64% merino wool, 33% nylon, 3% Lycra spandex
BEST BUDGET PICK
Wigwam Merino Comfort Hiker
For a piece of clothing that’s so easily forgotten (and lost in the wash), hiking socks are expensive. But they’re also essential. That high price tag is a result of the technical materials and processes that go into making socks that are suitable for a lifetime of trail use. Wigwam has been making socks in Wisconsin for over 100 years, and its Merino hiking socks are a solid set that will meet most hikers’ needs mile after mile.
BEST QUARTER LENGTH SOCK
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks
So much of hiking gear is made for the hardcore crowd, the thru-hikers and the folks who hit the trail at sunrise and don’t get back to the car until dusk. Darn Tough’s Light Hiker Micro Crew is perfectly suitable for that set, but it’s also an excellent choice for day hikers, hikers who hike in running shoes and hikers who might only go a few times a year (yes, even they should invest in the right socks). To put it plainly, it’s a great sock for every type of hiker, thanks to a comfy fit, breathable nylon-merino construction and Darn Tough’s lifetime warranty.
Materials: 54% nylon, 43% merino wool, 3% Lycra spandex
BEST BLEND OF STYLE AND FUNCTION
Arvin Goods Hemp Biofiber Performance Crew
As the new kid on the block, Arvin Goods doesn’t have heritage to lean on — however, it does have style, breathability and comfort. The Hemp Biofiber Performance crew blends organic cotton, polyester, recycled cotton and hemp to create a lightweight, hard-working sock that gets softer every time you wash it. The ribber cuff provides a secure fit and is soft to the touch. Upon wearing, we discovered the sock is neither too thick nor too thin: it’s just right.
Materials: 39% organic cotton, 25% polyester, 16% recycled cotton, 13% hemp biofiber, 6% rubber, 1% spandex
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT CREW
Farm to Feet Damascus 3/4 Crew
To many people, origin is important. Farm to Feet, owned and operated by the Nester Hosiery in North Carolina, may be the only company making hiking socks with a supply chain that’s 100 percent made in the United States. (Many other brands do build their finished products here with materials that are sourced abroad; most merino wool, for instance, comes from New Zealand and Australia.) The Damascus is a great example of what that supply chain can produce: a technical hiking sock with targeted cushioning and compression that’s ideal for hikes both long and short. It’s also available in a quarter-length model.
Materials: 57% merino wool, 40% nylon, 3% Lycra spandex
BEST FOR SPEED HIKING
Fits Light Performance Trail Quarter
You can’t really go wrong with FITS socks — every pair is incredibly comfortable and hard-wearing. But when it comes to ticking off the miles as fast as possible, its new Light Performance Trail sock is unbeatable. The sock features a slightly taller hybrid cuff that’s built out just enough to guard your ankles (and shoe interior) against sticks, rocks, snow and any other debris you might kick up as you make your way towards your destination. These socks also fit incredibly well (as if the brand name couldn’t have been more of a clue); they hug the foot snugly without feeling restrictive and breath well with venting on the top of the foot.
Materials: 50% merino wool, 40% nylon, 7% polyester, 3% Lycra
Cushion: Hybrid; extra cushioning on toe, arch, heel and ankle cuff
Lasso Performance Compression Socks
If you’re the type that likes a little compression on your hikes, pick up a pair of Lasso Gear’s performance socks. Available in an array of colors and prints, Lasso’s appeal goes beyond the surface; its patented compression patterns have been shown to support the ankle, foot and arch, reduce muscle fatigue and soreness and improve muscle recovery. Tempcontrol polyester wicks away moisture, and SmartSupport compression keeps you hiking, biking or whatever you choose to do that day.
Materials: 62% polyamide, 29% Tempcontrol polyester, 9% Lycra spandex
BEST LINER SOCK
REI Co-op Silk Liner Crew Socks
Liner socks are divisive; either you like them or you don’t. Liners are thin, lightweight socks typically worn as a layer underneath regular hiking socks. Their purpose is to keep your feet dry by wicking away moisture and to prevent blisters by reducing the friction on your skin with an added layer. As with any layering system, everyone has his or her own approach and there’s no solution to suit all hikers, but if you are thinking of trying a liner, REI’s silk and nylon model is a solid place to start.
Materials: 55% spun silk, 44% nylon, 1% spandex
BEST FOR PREVENTING BLISTERS
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Mini-Crew NuWool Sock
Yes, Injinji’s separated toe design is definitely different, but it’s also ideal for hiking. Separated toes mean less rubbing and friction from skin-to-skin contact, which in turn means fewer blisters. The style can feel strange at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to and is actually incredibly comfortable. Like any high-quality hiking sock, Injinji’s is constructed with supportive arch compression, a mesh top and, yet again, merino wool. If you can’t get past the look, just remember: once your feet are in your boots, nobody will be the wiser.
Materials: 64% NuWool, 33% nylon, 3% Lycra
BEST FOR TRAIL RUNNERS
Feetures Elite Ultra Light Quarter
Feetures specializes in running socks, so it’s no surprise that these socks are built to tackle any climbs you have planned as well as trail runs that turn into full-day hiking adventures. The ultralight feel is durable enough to hold up to dirt, mud and rain, while still protecting your piggies from blisters. Plus, the anti-odor properties are always a good performance addition that helps for those sweaty workouts.
Materials: merino wool and Rayon
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