Best hiking socks 2021: protect your feet while hiking and backpacking

Banish sweaty feet, cold toes and blisters with the best hiking socks for big walks, multi-day hikes and backpacking

best hiking socks: Smartwool Hike socks
(Image credit: The Public Works - @thepublicworks )

The best hiking socks are breathable, warm in cold weather, and – most importantly – stop your boots from rubbing, helping you to avoid dreaded blisters. In this guide you will discover the main types of hiking socks, the materials they are made from and what role those materials play in keeping your feet happy on long walks, and how to choose the right style and fit for you. 

If you've kitted yourself out with a pair of the best hiking boots or walking shoes, spending a little more on some dedicated hiking socks will pay dividends for those of you who want to feel comfortable each step of the way on your outdoors adventure.

They work in tandem with your breathable footwear to ensure that you don't succumb to sweaty feet, and one of the main factors involved here is the material your hiking socks are made from. Common material choices include polyester, nylon and silk, known for their insulation, moisture-wicking and lightweight characteristics. For the most part, hiking socks are made from a blend of fabrics. 

As you'll see below, the very best hiking socks feature Merino wool as the core material, which is breathable, antibacterial and quick-drying. Merino is usually blended with elastane, lycra, spandex or other synthetic fibres to offer support, durability and cushioning. We'll start with some buying tips, before moving on to our pick of the best hiking socks around. And if you're already struggling with sore feet, check out our guide to how to prevent and treat blisters

The best hiking socks to buy now

best hiking socks: Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

(Image credit: Smartwool)

1. Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

The best hiking socks for year-round hiking comfort and breathability

Specifications
Material: 62% Merino Wool 12% Nylon 2% Elastane
Cushioning: full
Height: crew
Reasons to buy
+Mesh ventilation zones+Recycled nylon+Seamless toe section

In 2021, Smartwool replaced its bestselling PhD socks with this Hike collection, and almost everything has had an upgrade. They're made with 'Indestructawool' technology, which as well as being pleasingly dramatic to say, adds impressive durability to high-wear areas. The 4-degree elite fit system is flexible in all the right places and helps keep the socks in place inside your hiking boots. This pair is fully padded for ultimate comfort and protection (but the range includes are options with lighter padding for less demanding walks and hotter climates, too). The merino wool – which is naturally anti-bacterial, so your feet or hiking boots won’t smell after a long day on the trail – with recycled nylon and a bit of elastane, to help them stay put. A complete winner for us. 

best hiking socks: Darn Tough Hiker boot midweight

(Image credit: Darn Tough)

2. Darn Tough Hiker boot midweight

A fully cushioned sock to take the impact off the trail

Specifications
Material: 66% Merino Wool 32% Nylon 2% Lycra Spandex
Cushioning: full
Height: mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Lifetime guarantee+Padded all over for warmth and comfort+Lycra for a snug fit

The best hiking socks are ones that you don’t know you’re wearing. They create the perfect synergy between your feet, your boots and the trail, without getting in the way. The Darn Tough Hiker Boot socks feature a 'fit and forget' feel, as well as being padded all over, to absorb impact and help stave off foot fatigue. That also means they're super comfy and cosy warm (these probably aren't socks for the height of summer). The fine gauge knit is designed to be, well, darn tough, and there's a lifetime guarantee to back that up, and the performance fit also means they won’t bunch up or slip down into your boots – a classic cause of blisters. The 2/3 marino wool makeup is quick to dry, odour resistant and breathable, and there's an extra bit of Lycra in the mix for a snug fit. Head to our Darn Tough hiking sock review to find out more.

The best hiking socks: Icebreaker Hike+ Mid Crew Socks

3. Icebreaker Hike+ Mid Crew Socks

The ideal socks for hiking the trails this spring and summer

Specifications
Material: Merino Wool, Nylon, Lycra
Cushioning: Full
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Long walk durability+Extra cushioning+Seam free toes

Hiking in warmer months requires a sock that delivers plenty of breathability, whilst still offering enough cushioning to help your feet withstand those multi-mile or long-haul walks. In terms of comfort, the Icebreaker Hike+ Mid Crew is fully cushioned, with double-up cushioning around high-impact areas including the heels and balls of your feet. These hiking socks combine soft and breathable merino wool with stretchy Lycra, ensuring they fit great, stay put and keep your feet cool when the going gets tough. Another great feature is the seamless toe, which reduces unnecessary material bunching at the end of the sock and in turn helps prevent blisters. However far you’re walking, it’s likely you’ll give up before these socks do.

best hiking socks: Bridgedale Woolfusion Summit Knee Sock, white, grey and black

4. Bridgedale Woolfusion Summit Knee Sock

The best walking socks for cold weather

Specifications
Material: new wool, nylon polyamide, Endurofil
Cushioning:
Height: knee
Reasons to buy
+Great balance of warmth and wicking+Thick cushioning
Reasons to avoid
-Too heavy for warm weather 

Another clever combo of natural and synthetic fibres, these Woolfusion socks really offer the best of both worlds. Enduro new wool brings warmth and durability to the table, a little lycra adds stretch, and a good portion of nylon polyamide ensures the all-important moisture-wicking is there – basically, it balances insulation and evaporation, which is exactly the kind of engineering you want on your side out on the trail. There’s also dense cushioning to absorb shock on rougher tracks (and for particularly aggressive walkers), making these a solid choice for more demanding walks, especially in cooler weather.

The best hiking socks: 1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock

5. 1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock

Cold feet? These hiking socks will keep your toes toasty

Specifications
Material: Nylon, Polyester, Merino Wool, Spandex, Cotton
Cushioning: full
Height: mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Keep your feet frost-free+Double layers ensure long-haul comfort+Soft Merino Wool blend

As the name suggests, these socks are designed to keep your feet warm and functional when the temperature drops. An inner layer of Nilit Heat yarn heats the feet effectively, ensuring comfort from the moment you set off from base camp. If you’re concerned about sweating, you needn’t be. A further layer of breathable material helps sweat escape to keep your feet dry and your temperature regulated. The natural anti-bacterial properties of the outer layer material combination keeps nasty smells at bay and extends the life of your socks and boots. Your feet will be well protected in these socks too. All-over padding helps keep the core heat from escaping, while also providing ample cushioning from high impacts and rubbing.

The best hiking socks: SealSkinz Walking Thin Ankle Socks

6. SealSkinz Walking Thin Ankle Socks

The best hiking socks for wet weather and damp conditions

Specifications
Material: Polycolon, Nylon, Elastane, Merino Wool, Acrylic, Polyester
Cushioning: medium
Height: ankle
Reasons to buy
+Premium waterproofing technology+Ideal for warm, wet days+Additional support in key areas

The only thing worse than cold feet is wet feet. Now, imagine having feet that are cold and wet? SealSkinz products are designed to combat both, ensuring longer, more comfortable days in the great outdoors. An outer layer featuring SealSkinz’s Strechdry technology combines with a breathable merino wool inner to prevent the ingress of water, keeping your feet warm and wicking away sweat. Elasticated ankle and instep panels offer additional support and keep the socks in place. Up front is a hand-linked toe closure, which produces a flat seam to help prevent rubbing and blisters. The ankle height of these socks makes them best for wearing with hiking shoes or short hiking boots. But they’re not just for hiking. SealSkinz socks are favoured by anyone who enjoys outdoor activity, from mountain biking to rock climbing. 

best hiking socks: Injinji 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Socks

7. Injinji 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Socks

They look weird, but they're surprisingly comfortable

Specifications
Material: NuWool, Acrylic, Nylon, Lycra
Cushioning: Medium
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Boosts agility letting you use your entire foot+Sweat wicking material
Reasons to avoid
-Style isn't for everyone

Toe socks may seem like a blast from the past but the the outdoor boffins were actually onto something when they got together and invented the monster from the noughties. With a little refinement (and with some major help from Merino Wool), they’re now a top hiking sock that offers extra dexterity on the trail, not to mention arch support, moisture management to avoid sweaty feet, and protective cushioning. Designed and made by a team of passionate adventurers, this sock truly is about boosting comfort in the great outdoors.

Choosing the best hiking socks for you

It might sound like a no-brainer, but when shopping for hiking socks it's important to consider fit and sock height first. You want the sock to at least sit above the top edge of your shoes or boots to avoid any rubbing, which can lead to soreness and blisters. As you'll see from our list of the best hiking socks below, a popular height is mid-calf, which is commonly known as 'crew' style. Hikers in need of a lightweight summer sock will be better suited to ankle socks, although these are probably more for use with  these are better with walking shoes than boots.

In terms of fit, choose socks that feel snug but not constrictive. It’s recommended to have your feet measured at your local outdoor store, then match your socks to your true size. This is better than opting for the same size as your hiking boots, which are commonly bought the next size up.

The best hiking socks are also determined by the level of cushioning they offer. While typical walking socks might only have minimal padding, for longer and more strenuous trips you'll need something more cushioned. Heavy cushioning is better at absorbing the impact of walking on rough terrain with a large pack on your back. Heavier cushioning will also be warmer, ideal for winter hiking, although it's worth noting that these socks may make your hiking boots feel tight. Medium cushioning provides an all-round balance of warmth and comfort, while light cushioning should be reserved for summer hiking when temperatures are higher.