By wearing a pair of the best hiking socks, your time on the trail is enhanced greatly. When all is said and done, it’s your feet that do the hard graft on a hike. While you’re up there enjoying the views and breathing it all in, your feet are slogging through mud, pounding the trails, crossing the rivers and crunching through the snow. Basically, your feet deserve the best hiking socks.
The coming of winter means colder days on wetter trails. Along with your best hiking boots, a quality pair of hiking socks are essential for keeping your feet dry, toasty and protected. At this time of year, A pair of good-fitting, comfortable and well-cushioned hiking socks are worth their weight in gold.
Of course, quality comes at a price and hiking socks are no different. Many of the best hiking socks are designed for unbeatable performance, woven from materials like merino – which is also popular in base layers, as it is moisture wicking, breathable, quick drying and warm – or synthetic fabrics that do a similar job. While they may cost a bit more than your everyday pair, they will last longer, keep blisters at bay and keep your feet comfortable, regardless of the conditions you meet during your hiking adventures.
Everyone’s feet are different. Bilbo Baggins would need different socks to Cinderella. Look closely and our feet have their own individual lumps, bumps, bunions and idiosyncrasies, meaning that finding the best walking sock for you is a subjective search. Our round up of the finest walking socks out there features a variety of styles. From tall, warm socks that are ideal for winter, such as Helly Hansen’s Alpine sock warm; and socks designed specifically for walkers with bunions, such as Hanwag’s Bunion Socks; to highly-supportive toe socks, such as the Injinji Trail Midnight Crew.
The best hiking socks for walkers with bunions
Hanwag Bunion Socks
Comfortable hiking socks specifically designed for walkers with bunions
RRP: $26 (US) / £20 (UK) / €23 (EU) | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: 36–38 / 39–41 / 42–44 / 45–47 | Materials: Schoeller EXP merino wool (40%), polyamide (29%), polypropylene (28%), elastane (3%) | Length: Shin height | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 67g / 2.4oz | Colors: Black / Anthracite
Bunions (bony lumps that develop on the inner-facing side of your feet, at the base of the big toe) can become extremely uncomfortable when you are out hiking trails, to the point that they completely ruin the experience. If this ailment affects you, then these socks from German boot brand Hanwag could be exactly what you’re looking for. Designed specifically for bunion sufferers, and intended to be paired with Hanwag’s range of bunion boots and shoes, these socks are left/right specific (of course) and feature extra padding on the side the big toe where bunions cause problems.
There is also extra padding on the heel and sole, and the mid-shin length provides decent levels of protection. The high level of merino used means they feel great, breath really well, wick moisture excellently and don’t hold on to odours. The materials used get a big tick for being eco-conscious and sustainable too, with the merino wool content having received an eco-friendly EX-Pollution anti-felting treatment, a chlorine-free wool finishing process that uniquely meets the bluesign standard.
Best hiking socks for winter
Helly Hansen Alpine sock warm
Tall socks for alpine activities of all sorts
RRP: $30 (US) / £30 (UK) | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: 36–38 / 39–41 / 42–44 / 45–47 | Materials: Merino wool (46%), Polymide (27%), Polycolon (24%), Elastane (3%) | Length: Over the calf | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 94g / 3.3oz | Colors: Sparrow green / Black / Liberty
With a ribbed cuff to keep them firmly in place, these long socks reach right up to just below the knee and perform well when worn on the mountains, no matter what you are up to. They have excellent shin protection, which makes them particularly comfortable when worn with rigid boots, whether you’re skiing or climbing icy peaks and kicking snow steps.
There is ventilation on the top of the foot, and cushioning on the heel and toe – again, very handy in most alpine sports, when feet can take a hammering. The seams are imperceptible, while an excellent level of support is supplied to areas of the foot where it is most required. These are Helly Hansen’s coziest socks, but they also breath well and manage odors and moisture magically, thanks to the large amount of merino in the mix, while the poly content means they are built to last.
Smartwool Ski Full Cushion OTC Socks
For toasty toes on the slopes
RRP: $27 (US) / £27 (UK) | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: S/M/L/XL **Materials:** Merino wool (57%), Nylon (41%), Elastane (2%) Length:** Over the calf | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 90g / 3.2oz | Colors: Alpine blue / Black / Charcoal | Patterns: Mountain snowflake, Trellis, Alpenglow
These cosy, breathable socks live up to Smartwool’s reputation for producing some of the best ski socks on the market. The 13in over-the-calf fit hugs snugly just below the knee and promises to stay there when you hit the slopes, while the performance-oriented fit contours to your arches and allows for flex at the ankle. Made from merino wool, nylon and elastane, these socks wick sweat away from your feet on powder days and are ultra-breathable.
With full cushioning on the entire sock, you can expect all-day comfort on the slopes, especially on colder days. Smartwool promises that they’ve improved the durability of these socks too, so they should last you a few seasons.
Best hiking socks for the environment
Warm, comfortable hiking socks with a low environmental footprint
RRP: £15 (UK) | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: 4–7, 8–11, 10–12 (UK sizes) | Materials: Bamboo (56%), Merino Wool (16%), Recycled Polyamide (26%), Elastane (2%) | Length: classic crew | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 99g / 3.5oz | Colors: Charcoal / Fig
Whether you’re wearing wellies or walking boots, these bamboo blended socks will stay in place and keep working to ensure you enjoy good levels of comfort, support and performance. By mixing the natural materials of bamboo and merino, BAM have created a lovely soft sock that is far more gentle on the environment than some of its synthetic counterparts.
These fabrics both breath really well, and will wick moisture away from your feet. Brilliantly, they also both contain anti bacterial properties, which stop the socks from stinking even if you’ve had them on for a few days. These are fairly thick socks, with full terry lining for extra protection, and they will keep your toes nice and toasty even on frosty mornings and cold evenings - however, the natural fibers will ensure you don’t overheat.
The poly material (recycled) adds a level of durability that can sometimes be lacking in bamboo garments (handy in a product like a sock, which has to deal with a lot of hard use) and the elastane keeps them in shape. Design features include ankle and arch ribbing, which combine to stop the sock slipping around on your foot.
Best hiking socks for preventing blisters
Injinji Liner and Hiker Crew
Top two-layer socks that really toe the line when you are walking, no matter what the conditions through at you
RRP: $29 (US) / £25 (UK) | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: S–M, L–XL | Materials: Liner: CoolMax (75%), Nylon (21%), Lycra (4%); Hiker: NuWool (43%), Acrylic (43%), Nylon (12%), Lycra (2%) | Length: High crew | Weight (men’s large, per pair Liner + Hiker): 139g / 4.9oz | Colors: Charcoal / Denim / Forest
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to foot care, and this two-layer hiking sock set-up offers possibly the very best protection available against the ramble-ruining horrors of blisters. A toe sock inner fits your feet like a glove and keeps your toes from rubbing against one another. Over the top of that, the substantial outer layer provides the thermal and physical support and protection that makes this an excellent all-round option for serious hikers and backpackers, for whom toe trouble could spell disaster.
The super thin inner liner wicks moisture away from the foot, while the Nuwool Hiker outer features extra cushioning along the footbed and proper padding around your pinkies. There’s minimal movement in either the liner (held firmly in place by the toe-sock design) or the hiker, This is a fairly high design, where the hiker comes halfway up your calf, so there’s a good amount of protection from flora and fauna out there on the trail.
Injinji Trail Midweight Crew
These toe socks fit like a glove and are perfect for tough trails hikes and off-piste adventures
Unisex: Yes | Sizes: S–M–L–XL | Materials: Coolmax polyester (39%), Nylon (58%), Lycra (3%) | Length: classic crew | Weight: 80g /2.8oz Colours:** Dijon / Granite / Peak / Space / multiple patterns
From the pioneers of the toesock, the Trail Midnight Crew is a nuggety and versatile weapon, which can be deployed during challenging treks through the mountains, or for running escapades across rough and rugged terrain. They’re up for anything. The idea of the toesock is that it prevents you pinkies rubbing together and causing blisters or hotspots, and it allows for greater dexterity on technical trails because you can splay your toes. Having used such socks for years, I can say that all this works perfectly (the only downside being that it takes me a while to squeeze my toes into them).
Obviously, being toesocks, there is a distinct left and right foot. These are tall for crew socks, a deliberate design feature to help keep out grit and sand. There’s a very pronounced heel box, and the arch support is good. Comfort levels are excellent on these hiking socks, with midweight cushioning on the bottom to protect your sole, and a breathable Coolmax mesh over the top to help with temperature regulation. The fabrics used wick moisture away well, and will perform well even when wet. The socks are made in China, entirely from synthetic materials, however, so the ecological footprint they leave behind is quite big.
Best hiking socks for summer hiking
HJ Pro Trek HJ700 Light Hike
Well-designed from heel-to-toe, this summer hiking sock is a solid performer available for a good honest price
RRP: £10.50 single pair / £28 three pairs / £46 five pairs | Unisex: Yes | Sizes: 4–7 / 6–11 / 11–13 **Materials:** Cotton (45%), Polyamide (29%), Polyester Coolmax (25%), Lycra (1%) Length:** Ankle | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 61g/2.2oz | Colors: Blue marl & navy / Blue marl & turquoise / Brown marl & rust
Ideal for trekking, hiking and day walking in warm conditions from late spring though to early autumn, the HJ700s from legacy brand Honest John Hall & Sons are breathable, cool to wear and luxuriously comfortable. Despite extending only as far as the top of the ankle, the HJ700s feel highly supportive, with a graduated rib, arch support and ankle bracing to supply ergonomic fit and to keep the socks securely in place during outdoor activity.
The toe seam has been designed so you literally can’t feel it, and there are reinforced areas on the heel and toe to supply some extra enforcement where it’s most required while you’re hiking on the trails. The Coolmax material used wicks moisture and dries fast, although we would have preferred the brand to go with the EcoMade Coolmax option, which is made with recycle yarn. On the upside, HJ are currently donating 10% from the sale of all their ProTrek socks to Lamp, a British mental health charity close to the brand’s home turf.
Falke TK2 Men Trekking
Comfortable lightweight socks for hiking in the lower hills, and wearing on coastal and countryside capers
RRP: $23 (US) / £22 (UK)/ €23 (EU) | Unisex: Men’s | Sizes: 39–41 / 42–43 / 44–45 / 46–48 (EU sizes) | Materials: Polypropylene (40%), Acrylic (28%), Wool (22% ), Polyamide (9%), Elastane (1%) | Length: calf-length crew | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 52g / 1.8oz | Colors: Mustard / Olive / Galaxy blue / Black / Asphalt / Light grey / Nature / Copper / Marine / Yve / Lime
These socks feel extremely lightweight and quite cool when you first put them on, but they are medium cushioned and offer more protection and support than you might expect once you pull them on and hit the trails. With myriad color options to chose from, it would be a shame to hide them entirely under a boot with a high collar, but that’s not what they’re designed for anyway - these socks work best when worn on lower, less technical trails and in pretty temperate conditions, so you are more likely to pair them with a good walking shoe.
They are left foot / right foot specific, and the fit is nice and secure as a result of this and the decent triple-layer construction technique employed by this excellent German brand. Of course the materials used play a large part in their fit, performance and comfort levels too, and the rich mix of merino and synthetic fabrics results in a sock that breaths and wicks away moisture well, keeps its shape, lasts the distance, supplies warmth when required and feels great on your foot.
Durable and versatile three-season sock made from synthetics, that performs well on the trails
Unisex: Yes | Sizes: S–L | Materials: Coolmax polyester (52%), Isofil polypropylene (38%) Nylon (7%), elastane (3%) | Length: classic crew | Weight: 70g /2.5oz / Colours:** Carbon
A versatile, high-performing, three-season sock that can be used for hiking trails or running them, these Keela crews are high-performing and long-lasting. The materials used retain their thermal properties, even when wet, but – on the downside – all the ingredients are manmade and non-recyclable, so this isn’t the most eco-friendly option (Keela do offer merino socks elsewhere in their range).
Little touches like the extra padding on the top to stop laces rubbing and irritating, and the Cordura-reinforced heel and toes – both high stress areas in a sock, which often fail first – are excellent. The seams are flat, and unnoticeable when you’re wearing them, and Coolmax padding provides good wicking properties, as well as comfortable cushioning. These socks are left- and right-foot specific, for a more precise fit, and the elastic panels have been positioned to provide optimum support for each arch.
Smartwool Hike Light Crew
A light hiking sock made from mostly merino wool that looks and feels great, and performs well in warmer conditions
Unisex: Yes | Sizes (men's): M–L–XL | Sizes (women's): S–M–L | Materials: Merino Wool (60%), Nylon (37%), Elastane (2%), Polyester (1%) | Length: classic crew | Weight: 67g 2.3oz | Colours: Denim / Taupe / Grey / Desert Solitaire and many other designs
Made mainly with merino wool, as you’d expect from Smartwool, Hike Light Crew socks are highly breathable, wick sweat away from your feet superbly, keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold, and deal with odours and bacteria brilliantly. The next-to-skin comfort levels are sumptuous, and the flat-knit toe seam seals the snug deal – you barely realise you have them on at all. Besides the more sober colourways, these socks are available in a range of funky designs with 360° print graphics, such as the Desert Solitaires (which are a couple of dollars more), but despite their fun and frivolous look, these socks are technical trail apparel, made for walking.
Smartwool offer a huge range of socks for different conditions. As the name suggests, the light hike range are not the socks of choice for highly technical treks or backpacking epics in the depths of a bitter winter, but they are excellent for most walks in more benign conditions, with light cushioning to soak up impact and provide warmth. There’s also an elasticized arch brace to provide a bit more support and make the fit feel extra secure. These hiking socks offer an everyday level of comfort that makes them good both on the trails and off them, whether that’s in camp, or curled up on your sofa.
Best hiking socks for durability
Darn Tough Hike/Trek Micro Crew Cushion
A perennially popular performer on the trails, much beloved by generations of hikers
Unisex: Yes | Sizes (men's): S–M–L–XL–XXL | Sizes (women's): S–M–L | Materials: Merino wool (61%), Nylon (36%), elastane (3%) | Length: mini crew | Weight: 75g /2.6oz | Colours (men's): Denim / Charcoal / Lime / Olive / Oatmeal / Onyx; | Colours (women's): Denim / Slate / Onyx / Moss heather / Aqua Heather / Plum heather
Made in Vermont, USA, with a mix of merino wool (just over half), nylon and Lycra, these excellent socks have a hard-earned reputation among hikers and outdoorsy types in general for their combination of comfort, performance and durability. The merino provides the cozy feel and breathability, plus moisture wicking, antibacterial and pong-prevention properties, while the nylon is hardy and the Lycra holds them in excellent shape, with no slippage or bunching. The seams are completely flat, and totally imperceptible when the socks are being worn.
Darn Tough are sock specialists – it’s their sole focus – and they have complete confidence in their product, to the extent that they offer a lifetime guarantee of satisfaction, or your money back; no conditions or strings attached. That’s quite a bold statement and commitment to make, especially on a high-use item like a sock, which many hardcore hikers will hammer pretty heavily on the trails. But serious walkers know a good bit of kit when they wear it, and will set their expectations accordingly, and these socks are firmly in the quality gear category.
And Darn Tough can make a promise like that without breaking a sweat because they know that their socks have a very high loop stitch count, which not only provides sublime under-foot cushioning, it also makes them resistant to flattening, shearing and holing, even after repetitive use. Despite being described as a micro crew, we’d argue these are more of a mini crew, as they still reach to just above the collar of a standard mid walking boot, which is perfect for the vast majority of hiking and trekking adventures.
Best waterproof hiking socks
Arctic Dry 100% Waterproof
A high-performing hoof protector for outdoor adventures in any conditions
Unisex: Yes | Sizes: S/M/L | Materials: Outer: high waterproof nylon (61%), polyester (32%), elastane (7%); Interlayer: PU Waterproof Membrane, Lining: coolmax (66%), polyester (30%), elastane (4%) | Length: classic crew and long (kneelength) | Weight (men’s large crew): 108g /3.8oz | Colours: Black and blue
When you’re heading into the wet and windy wilderness for a long hike or backpacking escapade, keeping your feet dry is a major priority, and if you work or play in really extreme conditions, it could be a serious safety issue. Arctic Dry socks are a three-layer insurance policy against getting soggy socks and frozen feet, even if your boots fail.
The design and materials used in these walking socks keeps your skin dry, while allowing feet to breath and wicking internal wetness away, which is of course a crucial consideration when it comes to waterproof garments, because moisture from within can be just as dangerous as wetness from without. They’re tough too, made with hardwearing – albeit synthetic – materials. These socks are also available in a knee-length version, and can be used for much more than just walking – think trail running, snow sports, cycling, fishing, fossil-hunting, golf.
Choosing the best hiking socks for you
The best hiking socks are a reasonable investment, especially because most people are going to need several pairs, so it’s important to get the right ones for your needs. For us, high quality hiking socks are high on our list of hiking essentials, as they play a vital role in keeping your feet dry and comfortable, preventing blisters and ensuring you have as positive experience on the trail.
When planning a backpacking adventure, your footwear is a primary concern. If you're heading out in your winter boots, you'll need thick socks rated for all seasons.
Oh, and don't forget, wear your best walking socks when you come to try on new hiking boots in store. Forgetting them is a common mistake. It's also worth keeping them on as you break in your hiking boots.
So, before you buy, carefully consider the following.
Comfort and fit
If your socks are ill-fitting they will pinch, bunch up or wrinkle, which will be massively uncomfortable and put a proper downer on the day. Being able to prevent blisters, which can ruin your walking experience not just for one day, but for weeks afterwards, is a big selling point for many of the best hiking socks
Feet vary enormously, and people have all sorts of different requirements, such as extra support around the arch or Achilles areas. Toe socks work wonderfully for some, while others will struggle to get their feet into them, which just leads to frustration. Take the time to find the best hiking sock design for you, and then stick with it.
This is a big consideration when looking for the best walking socks – next to skin comfort is essential (the last thing you want is itchy feet when you’re already on the move), but you need socks made from fabrics that offer technical performance too. Merino is the magic material of the outdoor world, because it keeps you warm when it’s cold (even when wet) and cool when it’s hot, plus it’s highly breathable, wicks internal moisture away brilliantly and has antibacterial and anti-pong properties that mean you can wear it for several days without clearing a hut, or killing your tent mate when you eventually take your boots off. For these reasons, merino is often the material of choice for the best base layers too.
But, on it’s own, merino will wear through fairly fast, and won’t necessarily hold its shape well. Many socks combine merino (or other wools) with hardwearing synthetics such as nylon, plus panels of dynamic materials like Lycra, spandex or elastane, which provide support where its needed, such as on the arches and at the top of the cuff, so your socks stay up.
Other socks are made entirely of manmade materials, such as CoolMax, a series of polyester fabrics, which perform well in the outdoors because they don’t absorb water, so they won’t become overly heavy and will continue to provide warmth even when wet. Should you buy waterproof socks if you're heading somewhere notoriously wet, such as Scotland's Munros? Probably, so this becomes a factor to consider.
While they work well, however, synthetics are not biodegradable, and have a much bigger carbon footprint than natural materials. For some winter adventures, you may wish to consider fully waterproof socks, which are typically a bit more pricey, but will keep your feet dry while hiking.
Design, size and weight
For a seemingly simplistic item of clothing, socks come in a surprisingly array of styles. Things to look for in the best hiking socks are reinforced cushioning around the parts of the foot that bear the brunt of impact with the ground when you’re walking, so the heel and the toe box. Many also offer extra support around the arch and the Achilles. Some designs have designated left and right socks, and these often offer the best support.
Toe socks provide lots of protection from rubbing, but don’t suit everyone. Most of the socks featured here are nominally ‘crew’ socks, which typically means they will extend just above the top of a standard hiking boot, but interpretation of this varies quite a lot, with some going well up the shin. We have given the exact weight of all the socks featured here, but you will often see a sock described as ‘lightweight’ or ‘midweight’, which just refers to the chunkiness of the knit.
We would encourage you to invest in decent hiking socks, because they will seriously improve your experience on the trails and are well worth the expense. You should expect to pay more than you would for everyday socks – from $12/£10 upwards – because you’re asking them to be technical and robust enough to deal with much tougher conditions. After all, as with the best hiking gloves and the best hiking hats, if you're heading out into Arctic conditions, you want to be wearing something you have confidence in. It's the same with socks. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re going backpacking or taking on multiday walks, you will need several pairs.
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