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.
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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 to buy now
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.
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.
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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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.