A pair of the best trail running socks allows you to approach any kind of terrain with confidence. On an adventurous trail run, you're going to be hitting a much wider variety of surfaces. Whether it's hooping between rocks on a rough trod, splashing through a shallow river crossing or tap dancing across a rooty forest track, a trail runner ventures where road runners don't.
With this in mind, you need specialized tools in your arsenal and they need to operate effectively together. There’s little point having the best trail running shoes and wearing cheap, nasty socks underneath. Your feet won't thank you for sub-standard socks. You'll suffer with blisters on longer runs; suffer with damp on wet, wilderness adventures; and suffer sweat on those hot summer jaunts. Ultimately, it’s your socks that get intimate with your feet on a trail run.
The best trail running socks wick the sweat away from your feet while simultaneously keeping them warm. The anti-odor properties of many fabrics mean smelly running socks are a thing of the past, a godsend on those epic, mutli-day trail running adventures. The material you opt for will depend on your priorities. We feature truly sustainable socks make from recycled materials, along with pairs that are made from completely natural fabrics like merino and Angora goat hair.
What you choose will also depend on the kind of runner you are. If you're a skyrunner who loves nothing more than hitting cold, high mountain ridges, you'll need a pair that are as effective at keeping your toes warm as your running gloves are for your fingers. If you're sticking to the low trials in summer, we'd recommend checking out our selection of the best trail running socks for the warmer months, so that you don't end up with cooked feet.
The best trail running socks for warmer months
Voormi Run Socks
Ultralight, innovative well-vented wool socks completely sans cushioning
RRP: $25 (US) | Gender specificity: Male / Female | Materials: Polyester (50%), Wool (40%), Nylon (5%), Lycra (5%) | Length: Sub ankle | Colors: Red/Navy | Compatibility: Warm weather running on any terrain
Voormi has created a unique double-layer sock with a wool outer layer and a soft, next-to-skin synthetic inner layer that hugs and supports the curvature of the foot. The outer layer provides temperature management – warmth when it’s cool and cooling when it’s warm – while the inner layer ensures an optimal fit and excels at wicking moisture away from the skin. Although it’s a low-cut model with no cushioning, it has an Achilles protection pad that helps keep the socks in place and reduce friction against the back of the heel. A seamless toe closure and flex panel under the arch for dynamic motion as your foot moves through the gait cycle. The socks were designed and produced with sustainable New Zealand wool.
Darn Tough No Show Tab Ultra-Lightweight Merino Wool socks
Comfortable, hard-wearing and high performing, these trail running socks might be invisible, but their benefits are very obvious on the trail
RRP: $16 (US) / £17 (UK) | Sizes (men's): M-XXL | Sizes (women's): S-L | Materials: Merino Wool (48%), Nylon (48%), Lycra Spandex (4%) | Length: Ankle (no show) | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 40g / 1.4oz | Colors (men's) : Eclipse / Black / Fatigue / White / Burgundy | Colors (women's): Ash / Black / White / Baltic / Gray | Compatibility: Best suited to trail and mixed-terrain running in warmer conditions
Unless you’re wearing a extremely low profile running shoe, you won’t really see these socks (as the name suggests), so they won’t protect you from things like stinging plants, brambles or ticks, and are better suited to the warmer months, but there’s lots going on beneath the surface. The design and fine-gauge knitted material cradles the foot really well, regardless of the lack of left/right specificity, and the seams are entirely undetectable. Once pulled on, they stay firmly in place. As Darn Tough proudly proclaim at every opportunity, their socks are still made in Vermont, and they are constructed with lots of attention to detail and extremely well quality controlled.
Available in cushioned (for extra bounce) and non-cushioned (superlight, with more trail feel) versions, these near-as-damn-it half-merino socks offer performance and comfort in equal measure. The wool brings various things to the party, all of which are very useful in a sports sock, including temperature regulation (providing warmth when you need it, but keeping you cool when things get hot – regardless of whether they’re wet or dry), antimicrobial properties (which keeps the pong away), moisture-wicking and quick-drying capabilities. And for its part, the nylon supplies the robustness and durability – something that Darn Tough are confident enough about to offer a lifetime guarantee.
1000 Mile Run Socklet
Comfortable and short, this is one of the best trail running socks for summer weather
RRP (twin pack): £13 (UK) | Materials: Nylon (97%), elastane (3%) | Length: Mini crew | Sizes (men's): M-L-XL | Sizes (women's): S-M | Colors (men's): Kingfisher blue / Navy blue | Colors (women's): Pink & lavender / Steel & blue (one of each in every twin pack) | Compatibility: A great sock for spring, summer and early autumn/fall running
The 1000 Mile Run Socklet features extra padding in various areas to better protect your feet from the stresses of running. This is most pronounced around the Achilles, where there’s a big fat-lip of material to cushion the oft-problematic tendon, but there are also padded zones on the heel, toes and ball of the foot. Sections of ventilation mesh have been employed along the top of the foot, which helps noticeably with breathability, and these socks seem so well made that these areas still seem robust despite their lightness.
Other useful features include arch bracing, which feels supportive and helps keep the sock in place, a Y-shape heel for a better fit, and flat toe seam, to reduce irritation and rubbing on pinkies. Although made mostly from nylon (not brilliant from an environmental point of view) these socks are very breathable, wick moisture well and don’t feel super synthetic – they’re actually very soft and comfortable. Will they last 1000 miles? Well, we haven’t run quite that far in them yet, but we have ticked off over 100km without any signs of wear and tear presenting themselves, and they do seem genuinely durable.
The best trail running socks for breathability
Bombas Performance Running Quarter Sock
Tight fitting performance-focused shorts for runners on all types of terrain
RRP: $16 (US) | Gender specificity: Male / Female | Sizes: Men’s: M/L/XL; Women’s: S/M/L | Materials: Polyester (57%), Nylon (25%), Cotton (13%), Spandex (5%) | Length: Quarter length | Colors: White / Black / Charcoal | Compatibility: Trail and road running
Built specifically for running, these lightweight, snug-fitting socks feature zone cushioning under the heel and forefoot, air flow vents across the top and a specialized honeycomb arch support system that provides firm compression at the midfoot. There’s just a sparse layer of cushioning under the heel and forefoot, but it’s sufficient and is well integrated into the other performance-oriented attributes of the socks. They’re designed with left and right contouring to maximize the performance, fit and ventilation of each foot. The no-slip quarter-cuff design stretches in two directions to contour the upper ankle and lower leg.
Swiftwick Flite XT Five
Lightly cushioned, well-vented compression socks that keep feet comfy and dry
RRP: $24 (US) / £22.50 (UK) | Gender specificity: Unisex | Sizes: S/M/L/ XL | Materials: Nylon (66%), Polyester (17%), Olefin (14%), Spandex (3%) | Length: Crew | Colors: Black/Gray | Compatibility: All terrain running, cross fit, various activities
Serving up medium cushioning and moderate compression, the Flite XT Five socks feel like a second skin when you pull them on. Swiftwick name the material mix they use GripDry, but no matter what it’s called, it keeps the socks from slipping. Made from a blend of four synthetic fibers, it is engineered to stay in place, provide support under the arch and around the ankle and wick moisture away from the skin with targeted venting over the top of the foot. The zoned cushioning pads under the forefoot and ankle help reduce bulk as it works in concert with the other design aspects of the sock. As much or more than any socks we tested, the Flite XT five stays in place without any interior slippage.
The best trail running socks for comfort
Stance Run Crew Staple
Sturdy, supportive running socks with a touch of style
RRP: $15 (US) / £14 | Gender specificity: Unisex | Sizes: S/M/L | Materials: Nylon (85%), Polyester (8%), Elastane (7%) | Length: Crew | Colors: Black & gray / White & gray | Compatibility: Trail running, road running and general activity
Stance burst on the sock scene a few years ago and made a splash with bold, disrupted new designs, but it was its unique Infiknit construction technology and use of sturdy, high-end yarns and air jet texturizing to create socks that perform as good as they look. They’re not soft or cushioned, but they’re smooth, sleek and comfortable when you pull them on. These socks support your arch and stay in place, helping your feet feel energized with a wrap-like feel throughout a run or workout. It’s an ideal pair for trail running, both because Stance offers the Run Crew ST in a lot of dark color patterns but also because they’re so comfortable, supportive and breathable. Made from a blend of nylon, polyester and elastane, it’s a reliable, stay-in-place model that’s comfortable and cool enough for casual wear.
Wigwam Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew
Performance-oriented socks with an innovative design to ensure optimal fit
RRP: $19 (US) / £19 (UK) | Sizes: S-XL | Materials: Polyester (49%), Stretch Nylon (38%), Tencel (7%), Spandex (6%) | Length: Mid crew | Colors: Black / Gray & Blue / Green & Yucca / Red & white / gray | Compatibility: Trail and mixed terrain running
Wigwam developed their Synchroknit sock technology with the intent of creating a contoured, no-slip fit while also strategically reducing material bulk. Soft and lightweight, the Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew socks serve up a near-custom fit for most foot shapes with its innovative contour knit that uses gradient stitching to use less yarn than its contemporaries in the running sock arena.
Made from a synthetic blend of polyester, stretch nylon, Tencel and Spandex, the SynchroKnit Surpass socks have an elastic, form-fitting construction with a double-Y heel pocket design that envelops the rearfoot. It provides noticeable arch support and modest padding and a seamless design in the unrestricted forefoot.
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool toe sock
Extremely versatile, the original toe sock performs at the highest level out on the trails
RRP: $21 (US) / £24.50 (UK) | Sizes: S-M-L-XL | Materials: NuWool (43%) Acrylic (43%), Nylon (12%) Lycra (2%) | Length: Crew | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 62g / 2.2oz | Colors: Charcoal / Oatmeal | Compatibility: Excellent for all trails in any conditions
Injinji pioneered the toe sock and we have been wearing various iterations of this sock for over 8 years now, and have always been very impressed with the performance. With your toes being separated from one another, the level of skin-on-skin rubbing is reduced, massively lowering the risk of blisters in this potentially problematic area. This design also lets your feet and toes move in the way they are supposed to (natural splay), albeit within the confines of a shoe (obviously if your running shoe has a narrow toebox, this won’t work as well). Depending on your feet, it can take some time to get these on properly, but the comfort levels make it worthwhile.
Arguably, a toe sock is slightly less warm than a normal sock – just as gloves aren’t as warm as mittens – but the Nuwool fabric used in these socks has excellent thermal properties. Other features include midweight padding cushions, and some arch support. The cuff is designed to stay firmly in place, keeping out dirt and debris from the trail. A large area of mesh across the forefoot allows air to your feet – it will be interesting to see how durable this element is, but we have run 50km-plus in them, washing them after each outing, and haven’t noticed any concerning issues yet. In fact, they seem extremely robust.
Inov-8 speed sock high
Solidly supportive synthetic sock
RRP (twin pack): $24 (US) / £18 (UK) / €20 (EU) | Sizes: S-M-L | Materials: Nylon, Spandex | Length: High crew | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 20g/0.7oz | Colors: Black / grey | Compatibility: A very versatile sock that performs well on and off trails, in any conditions
A hard-working and versatile outdoor-active sock (good for running, cycling, walking with a hiking shoe), the Inov-8 Speeds are extremely durable and priced sensibly. The first thing to note is that they are very supportive – the fit is tight, to the point of compression, which aids blood circulation when you’re working hard and reduces foot swelling.
These socks are left/right foot specific, and this is clearly indicated on forefoot, next to the size, so you don’t have to faff about in the half light of dawn before a morning run trying to work out which foot to pull what sock on. They feature extra padding around the heel and underfoot, which cuts down on the chances of you suffering sores and blisters. Materials are entirely synthetic, which isn’t so brilliant from an environmental point of view, but they will last ages and they wick moisture brilliantly.
The best trail running socks for sustainability
Rockay Flare Quarter Running Socks
Lightly cushioned performance-oriented crew socks made from recycled materials
RRP: $18 (US) / £16.50 (UK) | Sizes: S-XL | Materials: Econyl Regenerated Nylon (50%), Recycled Polyamide (46%), Recycled Elastane (4%) | Length: Ankle | Colors: Light gray / Lime & blue / Orange & black / Lime & black / Red & eco white | Compatibility: Trail and mixed terrain running
Rockay has only been around for a few years, but it’s quickly making a name for itself with its penchant for making great-fitting socks out of eco-friendly materials. Most of its socks, including the Flare, are produced entirely with recycled or regenerated fibers and fabrics, which allows the brand to use the equivalent of 13 plastic bottles pulled from the ocean.
The Flare is a performance-oriented sock with a high degree of elasticity, allowing it to mold to any foot shape and move without any bunching or stretching. The sophisticated weaving process gives the multi-zone Flare exceptional arch support, breathability, a compact layer of cushioning and a snug, seamless toe box. It’s a thin sock with minimal cushioning, but it fits as well or better as any sock we tested in this review.
Balega Blister Resist Quarter Running Socks
Soft, comfortable socks made from sustainable South African mohair
RRP: $15 (US) / £15 (UK) | Sizes: S-L | Materials: Drynamix Polyester (49%), Mohair (16%), Wool (16%), Acrylic (8%), Nylon (3%), Microfiber (3%), Neofil (3%), Elastane (2%) | Length: Ankle crew | Colors: Mink / Grey / Ink / Cobalt / Black / Grey/ Orange / Ethereal blue / Pink/ Wildberry | Compatibility: Trail running, endurance events
Balega’s Blister Resist Quarter socks combat friction and other blister-causing factors with a smart design and a blend of materials that keeps the sock in place and ensures your skin remains dry and cool. These socks have a deep, form-fitting heel pocket, a snug, elastic ankle cuff, form-fitting arch support and a seamless toecap.
One of the key materials in the sock’s blend is South African mohair, a sustainable natural fiber made from Angora goat hair that’s long been known for its durability, softness, stretchiness and antimicrobial qualities. It’s a hollow-structure fiber that delivers superior temperature regulation, providing warmth when it’s cold and a cool sensation when it’s cool. The other key material in the makeup of these socks is Drynamix, an elastic synthetic fiber with exceptional moisture-wicking capabilities. The quarter cuff height does a good job at keeping dirt and pebbles out.
Bamboo sport socks
Comfortable, high-performing socks that are friendly to your feet, wallet and the planet
RRP (2-pack): £10 (UK) | Materials: Viscose Bamboo (53%), Organic Cotton (30%) Recycled Polyamide (15%) Elastane (2%) | Weight (men’s large, per pair): 39g/1.4oz | Colors: Navy / Amber | Compatibility: A good summer running sock for all kinds of terrain
As a natural material, bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than synthetic fabrics, and it’s also fine for vegan runners to wear. Here it is blended with organic cotton, grown without insecticides, and the whole manufacturing process uses far less water than industry usual (Bam say purchasing these specific socks over most alternatives is equivalent to saving 25.5 days of drinking water). Bamboo isn’t just a Panda snack, spun into yarn it is a dynamic, comfortable fabric with lots of naturally occurring properties that work particularly well with active apparel, including excellent breathability, moisture-wicking capability and anti-stink attributes.
As a 100% natural fibre, it will also biodegrade after your sock’s lifespan is over - although these socks are pretty robust, so you should get plenty of runs done in them. It is absorbent too, as is the organic cotton it is blended with, so it’s not as light as some synthetic material when wet, when it will also lose some thermal properties (although this is a not a cold-weather design anyway). This is a low-cut sock with a terry cushion sole and an extra-padded tab at the back to protect your heel and ankle against rubbing on the cuff of whatever trail running shoe you pair them with them. Other features include added mesh section for extra breathability. The sports sock is less specced out than Bam’s technical running socks, which feature rib compression around the arch and a reinforced toe box, but this more relaxed and comfortable design is rated as better for longer distance runs.
How to choose the best trail running socks for you
Feet are the single most important part of the body for runners, and even if you’re into ‘barefoot’ running (see: What is barefoot running?), how you treat them and what you clad them in is vitally important. Trail runners look for a slightly different set of features in a sock than their road running cousins, because of the gnarlier terrain and increased potential of encountering wet, muddy and generally more challenging conditions.
The best trail running socks tend to take the key features of the best hiking socks but place emphasis on being lighter. Following are some factors we recommend taking into account to help you choose the best trail running socks for you.
There’s a lot to ponder under this heading. The best trail running socks are breathable, warm (when they need to be), wick sweat away, last for a good amount of time without stinking your sock draw out, look ace and are good for the planet. It’s hard to get all of these qualities in one sock, though, because materials all offer different qualities.
Natural fabrics such as wool and bamboo boast great thermal qualities, wick well, feel great and don’t pong (too much). They're also environmentally friendly, partly because they’re grown and not made as a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, and partly because they biodegrade at the end of their life.
So what's the downside? Well, they’re often not as durable as socks made from manmade materials. Cotton feels lovely in summer, but offers no warmth whatsoever when it’s wet and cold outside. Synthetic poly products dry incredibly quickly, still perform when wet and last for ages. In fact, they’ll outlive all of us. However, they don’t feel as nice next to your skin and one day they will take over the entire planet if we keep buying them.
The best choice really is to go for socks made with a mix of materials – although these can be more pricey. If you run trails regularly, it’s worth getting a garment that will make that experience more enjoyable.
You need to consider seasonality here, and the kind of terrain you are running through. Obviously, a longer sock is great for cold weather runs, which are more endurable when you’re better covered up. They also provide more support for tendons, joints and muscles and protection against prickly and stinging plants, and little nasties like ticks (also see: How to avoid tick bites). But if you’re running open or sandy trails in mostly good conditions, an ankle sock or socklet can be the most pleasant choice.
Padding and cushioning
The best trail running socks offer that little bit extra, in terms of protection for the various long-suffering parts of your foot against the stresses of repeated foot strike when running, and the constant chafing and wearing a trail shoe can cause. A bit of cushioning on the heel, toe area, sole, ankle, and around the Achilles tendon can really make a difference. These elements can increase the price of the sock, but if it’s going to prevent blisters and blackened toenails, it’s definitely worth it. If you're heading out on an ultra run (What is ultra running?), this added protection can be the difference between success and failure. Thicker material in these areas will also increase the durability of the sock, so you’ll get your money’s worth in the end.
Other design elements
When a sock has left/right specificity, it implies that each sock has a more contoured fit for each foot. This can absolutely be the case, and the majority of socks covered here do include one left- and one right-footed sock. But it shouldn’t be the deal breaker that turns the best trail running sock into an also-ran – in reality, the difference feels fairly negligible. When you’re trying to get out the door for a dawn run, it can be a pain if it’s not immediately obvious which sock is for which foot.
We have put the wrong one on the wrong foot before now, and we didn’t fall over any more than usual. The exception to that rule is, of course, the toe socks, where you definitely need to get them the right way around. But you already knew that.
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