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Best hiking socks: for winter walking, epic hikes and awe inspiring trekking adventures

best hiking socks: winter socks
Keeping your feet dry and warm in winter is half the battle (Image credit: Getty)

The best hiking socks are an shrewd purchase. At the end of the day, it's your socks that get intimately acquainted with your feet during a long day on the trails, not your hiking boots. We really put our feet through it when we’re on the trail, so looking after them properly is the least you can do.

Feet are like faces and fingerprints – from afar they all look roughly the same, but on closer inspection they’re unique, with highly individual lumps, bumps, bunions and idiosyncrasies. That means finding the best walking sock for you will likely be quite a subjective search.

best hiking socks: hiking sock

A pair of good-fitting, comfortable and well-cushioned hiking socks are worth their weight in gold. (Image credit: Getty)

A pair of comfortable, well-cushioned hiking socks are worth their weight in gold, and skimping on them is not just a basic mistake, it’s also completely false economy – you may as well not bother seeking out the best hiking boots if you’re going to line them with garbage, because the experience will be ruined by rubbing, blisters, hotspots, sweatiness or just general discomfort.

Equally, you need to match the walking socks you wear to the conditions you’re hiking in – in terms of terrain and climate – and match them with your choice of external footwear. Are you wearing your best hiking shoes or boots? Do you need light, medium or thick socks – in a high or low cut crew – made from merino or synthetic materials?

We've done the hard yards for you – putting a whole load of socks specifically designed for walkers, hikers, trekkers and backpackers through their paces – and following are the best hiking socks you can buy.

How we test the best hiking socks

Our reviewers test hiking socks on trails in a range of environments and conditions, while wearing various walking shoes and boots. Features (including height, thermal properties, style, breathability, materials, next-to-skin comfort and support) are tested against claims made by the brand, and we assess factors such as value for money, durability, functionality and environmental impact.

The best hiking socks for winter walking and hill hiking

Best hiking socks: Horizon Performance Extreme

(Image credit: Horizon)

Horizon Performance Extreme

A heavyweight winter sock designed to deliver warmth in extreme temperatures

Specifications

RRP: £45 (UK)
Gender specificity: Unisex
Sizes: S / M / L
Colors: Charcoal/Orange, Charcoal/Cerise, Charcoal/Turquoise
Materials: PrimaLoft Silver yarn (28%), Merino wool (28%), Isolfil polypropylene (29%), Nylon (8%), Cordura polyamide (5%), Lycra elastane (2%)
Compatibility: Winter hillwalking, mountaineering, fishing

Reasons to buy

+
Soft and comfortable
+
Hard-wearing
+
Warm

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

These long, over-calf length socks use a combination of Primaloft synthetic fibres and natural merino wool for excellent comfort and temperature regulation, and the brand boast they are “the best cold weather sock that money can buy”. That’s a bold claim, but it demonstrates that Horizon have plenty of faith in their products. The premium materials used in their construction suggest they ought to live up to their billing, too. These socks are made from a blend of PrimaLoft Silver yarns, merino wool, Isolfil polypropylene, hard-wearing nylon (including ultra-tough Cordura fibres in the toe and heel) and a little Lycra for stretch. That mix of synthetic fibres and natural wool is all about balancing comfort with durability, whilst also ensuring good warmth and excellent wicking performance. 

On the feet, they feel extremely soft and comfortable. The finishing is first-class, with no loose threads or uncomfortable seams. Inside the sock, terry loops feel great against the skin and trap plenty of warm air, while inspecting the outer reveals a zoned construction, with reinforced heel and toe areas plus ventilation channels along the top of the foot. Bear in mind that these are long socks that come up over the calf. They’re designed to be worn with winter mountaineering boots, though they’d also work well with wellies or fishing waders. An elasticated ribbed top ensures they stay put, while the rest of the sock is well-cushioned and very cosy. They’re definitely winter-ready but are overkill for other seasons unless you suffer from extremely cold feet.

Best hiking socks: Keela Primaloft Expedition Socks

(Image credit: Keela)

Keela Primaloft Expedition Socks

Chunky, warm and hardwearing crew-length socks that are a good choice for all sorts of cold-weather adventures, including winter hillwalking

Specifications

RRP: £25
Gender specificity: Unisex
Sizes: S / M / L
Colors: Carbon
Materials: PrimaLoft Silver yarn (28%), Merino wool (28%), Isolfil polypropylene (29%), Nylon (8%), Cordura polyamide (5%), Lycra elastane (2%)
Compatibility: Winter hillwalking, mountaineering

Reasons to buy

+
Hardwearing
+
Warm
+
Quick-drying
+
Fast-wicking

Reasons to avoid

-
Toe seam a little uncomfortable

These socks are tough and hardwearing, but also warm and well cushioned, with a practical crew length fit that comes up to mid-calf. That isn’t as long as some over-the-calf dedicated mountaineering socks, but it still means they work well with chunky B1 or B2 boots, while also arguably making them a little more practical and versatile too. Performance comes from a carefully chosen blend of PrimaLoft Silver yarns, merino wool, Isolfil polypropylene, hardwearing nylon (including ultra-tough Cordura fibres in high-wear areas) and a little Lycra for stretch. That mix of synthetic fibres and natural wool is all about balancing comfort with durability, whilst also ensuring good warmth and excellent wicking performance. They’re comfortable and generally well finished, with tidy stitching, though the toe seam is perhaps a little more noticeable than in some other socks. But there are reinforced heel and toe areas plus ventilation channels along the top of the foot to ensure good abrasion resistance and breathability.

The best hiking socks for walkers with bunions

best hiking socks: Hanwag Bunion Socks

(Image credit: Hanwag)
Comfortable hiking socks specifically designed for walkers with bunions

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Tailor made for trekkers with bunions
+
Left/Right specificity
+
Comfortable (regardless of whether you have bunions)

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited colorways

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

best hiking socks: Helly Hansen Alpine sock warm

(Image credit: Helly Hansen)

Helly Hansen Alpine sock warm

Tall socks for alpine activities of all sorts

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Shin protection
+
Moisture wicking 
+
Well cushioned
+
Supportive
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited colorways
-
Expensive

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. 

best hiking socks: Smartwool Ski Full Cushion OTC Socks

(Image credit: Smartwool)
For toasty toes on the slopes

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Warm and cosy
+
Moisture wicking and breathable 
+
Cushioning on the entire sock for added protection and warmth
+
Performance-oriented fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Full cushion may be too much padding with insulated boots
-
May be too warm for milder days
-
Relatively expensive

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

best hiking socks: BAM Bamboo

(Image credit: BAM)

BAM Bamboo

Warm, comfortable hiking socks with a low environmental footprint

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Environmentally friendly
+
Highly breathable
+
Soft and comfortable
+
Natural materials with moisture wicking and odor controlling properties

Reasons to avoid

-
Too thick for some
-
Won’t last as long as synthetics

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

best hiking socks: Injinji Liner and Hiker Crew

(Image credit: Injinji)

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent defence against blisters
+
Supportive
+
Very warm
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow to put on
-
Pricey
-
It's recommended you wash them in cold water

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.

best hiking socks: Injinji Trail Midweight Crew

(Image credit: Injinji)

Injinji Trail Midweight Crew

These toe socks fit like a glove and are perfect for tough trails hikes and off-piste adventures

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Best on test for preventing blisters
+
Highly supportive

Reasons to avoid

-
Constructed entirely from non-recycled manmade materials,
-
Takes time to put them on
-
Less odour control than socks made with wool blends

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

best hiking socks: HJ Pro Trek HJ700 Light Hike

(Image credit: HJ)

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable 
+
Good price
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited colorways
-
EcoMade Coolmax not used

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.

best hiking socks: Falke TK2 Men Trekking

(Image credit: Falke)

Falke TK2 Men Trekking

Comfortable lightweight socks for hiking in the lower hills, and wearing on coastal and countryside capers

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Clever mix of materials to performance and durability
+
Stylish, with lots of color options
+
Cool and comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Fair weather sock
-
Low natural fibre content (not great for environment)
-
May hold on to odors after time

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.

Best hiking socks for durability

best hiking socks: Darn Tough Hike/Trek Micro Crew Cushion

(Image credit: Darn Tough)

Darn Tough Hike/Trek Micro Crew Cushion

A perennially popular performer on the trails, much beloved by generations of hikers

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent fit and performance
+
Extremely durable, with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee 
+
Great cushioning 

Reasons to avoid

-
Some hikers might prefer a higher cut (which is available from Darn Tough)

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

best hiking socks: Arctic Dry 100% Waterproof

(Image credit: Arctic Dry)

Arctic Dry 100% Waterproof

A high-performing hoof protector for outdoor adventures in any conditions

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Completely waterproof, but also breathable 
+
Hard wearing
+
Comfotable and supportive

Reasons to avoid

-
Require a little more care when washing
-
Synthetic materials
-
Limited colour options

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 (opens in new tab)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.

Best hiking socks comparison table
Hiking socksPriceWeightStyleBest use
Horizon Performance Extreme£45 (UK)HeavyOver-calf winter socks4 season hiking, mountaineering, fishing
Keela Primaloft£25 (UK)HeavyMid-calf winter socks4 season hiking, mountaineering
Hanwag Bunion Socks$26 (US) / £20 (UK) / €23 (EU)LightShin height socks designed specifically for bunions3 season hiking
Helly Hansen Alpine sock warm$30 (US) / £30 (UK)MediumHigh socks designed for cold conditions4 season hiking and mountaineering
BAM Bamboo hiking shoes£15 (UK)MediumClassic crew, bamboo hiking socks3 season hiking
Injinji Liner and Hiker Crew$29 (US) / £25 (UK)HeavyHigh crew, blister preventing socks 4 season hiking and mouintaineering
Injinji Trail Midweight Crew$17 (US) / £15 (UK)MediumClassic crew, blister preventing toe socks3 season hiking and trekking
HJ Pro Trek HJ700 Light Hike£11 (UK)LightAnkle length hiking socks3 season hiking and trekking
Falke TK2 Men Trekking$23 (US) / £22 (UK)/ €23 (EU)UltralightClassic crew hiking socks3 season hiking and trekking
Darn Tough Hike/Trek Micro Crew Cushion$25 (US) / £20 (UK)MediumMini crew merino hiking sock3 season hiking and trekking
Arctic Dry 100% Waterproof£27 (UK)MediumClassic crew or long nylon hiking sock4 season hiking and trekking

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.

best hiking socks: HJ Pro Trek HJ700

The best hiking socks keep your feet toasty and comfortable (Image credit: HJ)

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.

best hiking socks: A hiker walking through a hill wearing hiking socks and boots

Take the time to find the best hiking sock design for you, and then stick with it (Image credit: Getty)

Materials

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. 

best hiking socks: murky Highland scene

If you're hiking in regions that see substantial rainfall, waterproof socks might be a good option (Image credit: Getty)

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.

best hiking socks: A hiker wearing hiking socks and boots taking a break

The best hiking socks offer excellent comfort (Image credit: Getty)

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.

best hiking socks: A mountain view from the door of a tent

Merino hiking socks have anti-pong qualities, which is handy if you're sharing a tent (Image credit: Getty)

Price

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.

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).