Best hiking socks 2020: 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

The best hiking socks: keep your feet warm and protected when walking

Breathable socks that keep your feet warm in cold weather and free from blisters and rubbing whenever you hit the trail are a real godsend, and as you'll see from our best hiking socks list below, there's plenty to choose from. 

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 your type of walking shoe.

Just like a pair of the best hiking boots, 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.

Let's now look at how you can discover which socks for hiking would suit you...

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.

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. 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.

The best hiking socks: close-up of walking shoes and hiking socks

The best hiking socks: our expert pick

  • When you’re planning a hike, you need socks that can go the distance. They need to be the right height for the boots or shoes you’ll be wearing and they need to provide enough cushioning for the terrain you'll be walking. Material choice is important too, but you can’t go wrong with a soft Merino Wool blend.
  • Therefore, our top pick of the best hiking socks is the Smartwool PHD Medium Outdoor Crew. The anti-bacterial Merino Wool blend ensures comfort and breathability on the trail, with the 4 degree Elite Fit System promoting flexibility in all the right places. The mid-calf height is ideal for most hiking scenarios and the seamless toe helps keep blisters to a minimum.

The best hiking socks to buy now

The best hiking socks: Smartwool Phd Medium Outdoor Crew

1. Smartwool Phd Medium Outdoor Crew

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

Best for: Comfort and durability
Sizes: M, L
Material: Wool, Polyamide, Elastane
Cushioning: Medium
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Mesh ventilation zones+Medium cushioning+Seamless toe section

Smartwool claim that these hiking socks are their best seller, and the rave reviews across both Smartwool and Amazon certainly back this up. 

Featuring a Virtually Seamless toe, mesh venting and medium cushioning, these socks are comfortable and breathable for all-day trail hacking, while the 4 degree Elite Fit System is flexible in all the right places and helps keep the socks in place inside your hiking boots.

Thanks to the composition of Merino Wool - plus SmartWool’s patented ReliaWool technology - these socks are strategically cushioned in high impact areas, as well as being naturally anti-bacterial, so your feet or hiking boots won’t smell after a long day on the trail. A complete winner for us.

Unsure whether you want to team your new hiking socks with boots or shoes? Take a look at our guide to walking boots vs walking shoes, and discover the key differences and how they can boost your enjoyment when walking outdoors.

The best hiking socks: Icebreaker Hike+ Mid Crew Socks

2. Icebreaker Hike+ Mid Crew Socks

The ideal socks for hiking the trails this spring and summer

Best for: Milder seasonal hiking
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
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.

The best hiking socks: Smartwool PhD Light Margarita Mash-Up Hiking Socks

3. Smartwool PhD Light Margarita Mash-Up Hiking Socks

The best hiking socks for staying cool on summer hikes

Best for: Comfort and style
Sizes: M, L, XL
Material: Merino Wool, Nylon, Elastane, Polyester
Cushioning: Light
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Awesome designs available+Comfortable and lightweight+Cool feel on warmer days

Draw your attention away from the fantastic design for a minute - which, by the way, looks so great thanks to Smartwool’s 360-degree printing technology - and you will find a lightweight sock that’s ideal for warmer days out on the trail.

Mesh venting and light cushioning combine to ensure that foot temperature is regulated for all-day comfort, while Smartwool’s Indestructawool technology ensures long-term durability.

If your main concern is fit, a 4 Degree elite fit system hugs your foot comfortably, with extra flex built-in to key zones. You’ll be thankful for the Virtually Seamless toe compartment, too.

The best hiking socks: 1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock

4. 1000 Mile Heat Walk Sock

Cold feet? These hiking socks will keep your toes toasty

Best for: Warmth on the trail
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
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: Darn Tough Hiker Boot Sock

5. Darn Tough Hiker Boot Sock

An ideal choice if you're racking up some serious miles on a hike

Best for: All-day comfort
Sizes: M, L, XL
Material: Merino Wool, Nylon, Lycra
Cushioning: Medium
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Snug fit boosts performance+Great in hot or cold weather+Mid-calf length is great for most situations

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 fine gauge knitting, which is designed to be ultra durable when covering long distances, but also to create a ‘fit and forget’ feel. The performance fit also means they won’t bunch up or slip down into your boots – a classic cause of blisters.

The blend of Merino Wool and nylon is ideal for sweat-wicking and fending off unwanted pongs, while their all-weather properties mean your feet will stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The ultimate year-round socks for hiking.

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

Best for: Waterproofing
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
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.

The 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

Best for: Boosting agility
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Material: NuWool, Acrylic, Nylon, Lycra
Cushioning: Medium
Height: Mid-calf
Reasons to buy
+Using your entire foot as you walk+Sweat wicking material

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.

The best hiking socks: Sockmine Tread Light with Coolmax and Merino

8. Sockmine Tread Light with Coolmax and Merino

The best hiking socks for those on a tight budget

Best for: Pub walks
Sizes: 6-7.5, 8-9.5, 10-11.5, 12-13.5
Material: Merino Wool, Nylon, Lycra, Polyester, Elastane
Cushioning: Light
Height: Ankle
Reasons to buy
+Padding in key pressure zones+Reinforced heel and toe

We say ‘best for pub walks’ but these are actually Sockmine’s words, not ours, which makes them a pretty cool brand in our book. 

Lightweight and with a nifty filet mesh for added breathability, these great value socks are the perfect companion to mid-weight summer walking (to the pub and beyond).

Although light, the Tread Lights still provide plenty of support with padding in key pressure zones and arch support for additional foot comfort, while the ankle height means you'll never overheat on balmy summer evenings.