The 6 best hiking socks, for backpacking trips, day hikes, or everyday wear
- Hiking socks are an important piece of outdoor gear, able to keep you comfortable and supported on any hike.
- The best improve the comfort of your hiking boots, keep you cool in hot weather, and are built for durability.
- Our top pick, Darn Tough’s Hiker Boot Socks, is highly comfortable and has a snug yet flexible fit.
When I was sixteen, I spent three weeks trekking across much of northern Spain. It was a formative experience that cemented a lifelong love for hiking and the outdoors. Among the wisdom I gained during that long-ago journey was a gem I keep with me today: Don’t be cheap when it comes to buying hiking socks.
Within the first few days of my trek, my feet developed multiple blisters caused by the abrasion of my boots rubbing through thin socks. My feet were covered in sores in just my first week and every step was agonizing — it was difficult to push on. It was then that I learned (the absolute hardest way) of the benefits of a reliable hiking sock.
In the nearly two decades since that trip, I’ve logged hundreds of miles over mountains, across trails, on roadsides, and elsewhere — and I’ve bought and tested many pairs of hiking socks. Finding the right pair of hiking socks not only means choosing a pair that’s comfortable and fits properly, but you’ll also want to consider the materials, construction, and conditions beyond your feet.
To help narrow down which pair of hiking socks is right for you, I’ve compiled the following list of the favorites I’m currently wearing from brands like Darn Tough, Bombas, and Smartwool. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for hiking socks, as well as the testing methodology I used in deciding which socks made the cut.
Here are the best hiking socks:
- Best hiking socks overall: Darn Tough Hiker Boot Socks
- Best cold weather hiking socks: Fox River Cold Weather Explorer
- Best warm weather hiking socks: Smartwool’s PhD Hiking Crew
- Best odor-blocking hiking sock: ScentLok Elite Sport Crew
- Best compression hiking sock: Flite XT Five socks
- Best hiking socks for everyday wear: Bombas Hiking Socks
The best overall
The Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker Boot Socks offer unmatched support and cushioning to increase comfort and prevent soreness and injury during long treks.
Pros: Excellent support, durable construction, warm and wicking
The Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker Boot Socks for men and for women were specifically designed to stabilize, cushion, and hug all parts of your foot, ankle, and shin. The idea is to provide ample support against stresses and strains caused by repetitive, heavy footfalls that come with a good hike.
Taut elastic wraps under your arches provide support for this sensitive, critical part of the foot. Extra cushioning pads your heels and toes, helping reduce the impact during each part of a step. There’s also generous ribbing above the ankle providing compression to your shins, reducing the likelihood of shin splints.
Made with a blend of wool, nylon, and spandex, these socks are warm and wicking. As the brand name promises, they are indeed darn tough, lasting for many miles more than most competitors — which is good, because they cost a bit more, too.
Buy the women’s version here.
The best cold weather
The Fox River Cold Weather Explorer Socks are designed to keep your feet warm when the temperature drops.
Pros: Great for cold weather, wool lining provides comfort, affordable price point
Cons: Too bulky for comfort in some boots
With the Fox River Cold Weather Explorer Socks, cold feet can be a thing of the past. These socks keep your feet warm thanks to a blend of acrylic, wool, nylon, and spandex fabrics. Fox River used a generous amount of fabric in its construction, too, making the socks extremely thick. They also feature a “thermalined wool” design that keeps this naturally warm fiber close to your skin.
The lining and the exterior fabric blend work in concert to draw moisture away from your foot, keeping you drier and therefore warmer — this also makes it less likely you’ll develop blisters.
These can be a bit bulky for some hikers’ preference, so keep this in mind when shopping for these. If your preferred hiking boots are already snug, these might not be the most comfortable option.
The best warm weather
Smartwool’s PhD Outdoor Light Hiking Crew socks feature a mesh ventilating system designed to keep your feet cool during warm weather hikes.
Pros: Breathable, mesh design keeps feet cool in hot weather, wool helps block odors, features a snug fit that won’t fall down
Cons: Tend to run smaller, so sizing up is recommended
Though wool is synonymous with warmth, it also excels at keeping you cool by absorbing and repelling moisture (i.e. sweat). Smartwool’s PhD (which stands for Performance in the Highest Degree) line of hiking socks goes a step further by offering a ventilation system that makes the sock ultra-breathable. This helps keep your feet dry and comfortable no matter how hot it gets outside.
The socks also feature the brand’s performance-specific fit which produces a snug fit and helps them avoid creeping down while hiking. Padding in the heel and the ball of the foot provide support in high-use areas and work to prevent blisters or hot spots.
Hiking socks often take a beating but Smartwool’s PhDs are built for durability and are capable of standing up to everything from 15-mile day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips without showing significant signs of wear. The fact its wool features a natural odor blocker is much appreciated, too.
The best odor-blocking
You know that stink coming off your feet after you kick off your hiking boots following a ten-mile trek? You won’t smell it if you’re wearing the ScentLok Elite Sport Crew socks.
Pros: Help prevent food odor, good mid-foot support, durable construction
Cons: Rise too high for some hikers’ preference
I’d recommend the ScentLok Elite Sport Crew socks for hikers even if it weren’t for the unique silver alloy infused into the fibers. Silver particles prevent bacterial growth, which therefore prevents the development of stinky feet — a must-have for anyone trekking multiple miles.
Even beyond the odor-blocking, these are an excellent pair of activewear socks. They have a supportive bridge and arch compression zone, a cushioned sole and heel, and they wick moisture as well as any decent hiking sock. There is also a seamless toe pocket which reduces the chance of irritation and blisters.
I own two pairs of ScentLok sports socks and both have held up well during regular use. I also happen to have several pairs of the brand’s more casual, everyday socks, and these have also proven comfortable and durable when worn around town or just around the house.
If you consistently battle foot funk, you’ll want to add a pair of ScentLok’s Elite Sport Crew socks to your hiking kit immediately.
The best compression
Swiftwick’s Flite XT Five socks are supremely grippy with support around the ankle to provide stability and comfort no matter how long you’re on the trail.
Pros: Compression promotes blood flow and helps keep your feet feeling good for miles on end, the sock’s fibers add extra grip inside your hiking boot, and the olefin in the fabric helps wick away sweat.
Cons: Expensive, not everyone will feel comfortable in a compression sock
Swiftwick specializes in compression socks that aid in a variety of ways, be it to promote blood flow or soothe sore muscles. Though these aren’t necessarily things on the mind of hikers getting ready to hit the trail, they’re still incredibly important to be aware of.
Our favorite compression sock to hike in from Swiftwick is the brand’s crew cut Flite XT Five socks. Made of 66% nylon, 7% polyester, 14% olefin, and 3% spandex, the Flite socks offer just enough compression without feeling too snug and are able to move as you move over rocks, logs, or whatever you come across outside.
Swiftwick outfit these socks with special fibers that add grip inside your shoes (or boots, rather) which helps improve stability and control. The olefin in the fabric also helps wick away excess moisture and goes a long way in helping your feet stay dry.
Their $24 price tag is a little on the steep side but it’s hard to find this come of compression quality without paying a premium.
The best for everyday wear
A pair of Bombas Hiking Socks keep your feet supported and cool during hours on the trail, and look great when you put your feet up back at the lodge.
Pros: Stylish appearance, good arch support, Bombas makes a charitable donation with each sale
Cons: Cotton fibers reduce insulation properties when wet
When it comes to form versus function, the merits of a pair of hiking socks should be judged entirely by the latter. Frankly, the looks of your hiking socks shouldn’t matter so long as they keep your feet warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot and dry and protected at all times. But if you find a pair of hiking socks that cover the basics while also looking good, why not indulge?
Each pair of the Bombas Hiking Socks use a pleasing blend of colors woven into a natural-looking pattern that’s subtle enough not to draw attention yet fashionable enough for admiration when noticed. But of course, these socks wouldn’t be on the list if they didn’t also perform. The Insider Reviews team tested a few pairs out and, by and large, liked them.
Bombas Hiking Socks have a reinforced heel and toe and use a system of honeycomb stitching to add arch support. They allow for decent breathability and wick away sweat. Do note that due to the 62% cotton used in the blend, they’ll lose much of their thermal properties if soaked through. They may even slightly shrink after washing but do stretch out again after you work them onto your foot.
Buy the women’s version here.
How to shop for hiking socks
There are a few general notes about materials to keep in mind while shopping. First, avoid 100% cotton socks whenever possible. Stick to blended options containing some combination of wool or acrylic. I also recommend avoiding socks made of any one single material. Though people swear by wool or acrylic, blends were created to get the best out of both.
In cold weather, wool helps keep your feet warm, especially if you don’t own a pair of winter-specific boots. In wetter conditions, a good percentage of acrylic keeps you drier and many artificial fibers, such as PrimaLoft, keep you warm even when wet. In any condition, you want something with stretch material to keep the sock fitting snugly without causing any hot spots or chafing.
How we test hiking socks
Each pair of hiking socks featured in this guide went through a series of on-foot tests to see how well they held up across these four categories: Comfort, durability, features, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into which pairs of hiking socks we ultimately featured:
Comfort: Perhaps the most important of the four categories we considered, how comfortable a hiking sock feels (as well as how it fits) when worn is a vital detail. And hiking socks should keep comfortable no matter how many miles you decide to hike, be it a short day hike or a multi-day, tens of miles per day backpacking trip. We looked for all facets of comfort, too: On-foot feel, how it felt at the end of a long day, and how it held up during sweltering hikes, freezing hikes, and everything in between.
Durability: Holes or tears developing in socks is nearly inevitable, though it’s ideal for this not to occur until you’ve quite literally worn through the pair. This means that we stress-tested the socks over more than just a hike or two — we lived in them.
Features: A fancy category for something as basic as a hiking sock but added features do contribute to why one pair might better than the other. The most notable features are sweat-wicking capability, arch support, odor-resistant, and compression. Some features are more well-suited to specific terrain or even a specific wearer, so not everyone will need a hiking sock packed to the gills with each one of these — though a sock with at least two or three of them should be on your radar, and something we kept in mind while testing.
Value: A hiking sock’s value is essentially a combination of the three categories above, as well as a true assessment of its sticker price and worth. Of course, it’d be ideal not to spend a large amount of money on a simple pair of socks but we’re of the thinking that it’s better to spend a little more to invest in a premium product than to spend less more often. Now, this doesn’t mean we only featured socks with high price tags but more so that a sock’s value isn’t just confined to what it’ll cost.
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