The 7 Best Hiking Socks for 2023

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Your feet are your foundation. My experience has taught me that if you don’t take care of your feet and wear a good pair of hiking socks you might have a rough time on the trails. But with so many types of socks out there on the market it can feel like an endless search trying to find the best hiking socks.

Over the last couple years and counting I have researched and physically tested 14 pairs of socks majority of them in the top hiking socks on the market along with some underdogs. I make it my mission to continue to test and update this list as needed and look for new upcoming brands. I spend time analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each pair out on the trails.

When creating this list, I focused on hiking socks that I found to have a good value to performance ratio. But when it comes to socks and any gear, I do not believe in a one size fits all, everyone has different needs. So, to help you find a pair that will fit your needs I have put my favorite socks into categories that I believe they excel in. 

7 Best Hiking Socks for 2023

Best Hiking Socks at a Glance

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Mid

Best Overall Hiking Sock

MSRP: $25 |Cushion: Midweight |Fabric: 61% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 3% Lycra® Spandex

Pros

  • Durability
  • Great Fit
  • Amazing Lifetime warranty
  • Cool designs

Cons 

  • A bit expensive but worth it
  • Can be a little warm in summer heat

Bottom Line:

Darn Tough has made some reliable hiking socks and this pair is definitely no different. The fit of the socks is great, it fits snug without sliding which minimizes blisters during your outdoor adventures. Cushion is definitely well made and placed on the sock preventing your feet from getting super sore. Overall, the sock manages to keep the foot warm in the winter and breathable enough to keep it cooler in the summer. However, some may find it a little too warm for really hot summer days like I did.

Finally, these socks are a bit expensive, but in my mind, they are worth every penny due to Darn Tough’s lifetime guarantee. Out of the socks in this list I believe this one will appeal to most people and provides overall the best versatility.

For the warmer weather this sock will most certainly do the trick. However, there are other socks that will compete at a very close level, and some will perform a bit better. If you find this sock a bit too warm in the hotter months, you might want to check out the lighter options like Smartwool Hike Lite or get the Darn Tough light Hiker Micro Crew.

Read more: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Mid Review

Smartwool Hike Light Crew

Best Lightweight Hiking Sock

MSRP: $23 |Cushion: Light |Fabric: 56% Merino Wool, 11% Nylon, 31% Recycled Nylon, 2% Elastane

Pros

  • Sleek fit
  • Great Ventilation
  • Comfortable at toe box

Cons 

  • A bit expensive but worth it
  • A little long for a crew cut
  • Thinner fabric

Bottom Line:

The Smartwool Hike Light line previously the popular PhD collection has a strong reputation in the hiking sock game. Overall, the Smartwool Hike Light feel really breathable and airy we really like how they ventilated and dried fairly fast after crossing creeks and other waterways. The Hike Light socks have a fair amount of cushioning but run a little thin but that is one of the sacrifices of breathability or cushion.

Overall, the Smartwool Hike Light is an improved design from the PhD line featuring the newer Indestructawool fabric in the socks. This has really improved the socks durability in comparison to the Darn Tough line. Smartwool is right up there at the top in the hiking stock market featuring very balanced and good performing socks. When it comes to the Smartwool Hike Light I do not have any major complaints and only wish the company offered a better warranty.

Swiftwick Flight XT Trail Two

Best Sock for Trail Runs & Hiking

MSRP: $23.99 |Cushion: Medium |Fabric: 39% Nylon / 23% Merino wool / 23% Olefin / 12% Polyester / 3% Spandex

Pros

  • Sleek fit
  • Excellent Breathability
  • Compression adds to stable feel
  • Anti-stink fabric

Cons 

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Some may not like the snug fit
  • limited colors and designs

Bottom Line:

In general, Swiftwicks are renowned for their lightweight construction and exceptional breathability. The Flight XT Trail socks uphold this reputation admirably. These socks possess a snug fit, thanks to the medium compression around the ankle. This compression feature proves beneficial as it effectively reduces the likelihood of blisters and combats leg fatigue during physical activity (study).

All in all, these socks have consistently been a top choice due to their outstanding breathability and featherlight feel. Personally, I own multiple pairs of Swiftwicks, and they are my preferred socks for trail runs and summer hikes. When wearing lower cut running shoes, I opt for the Flite XT Zero variant instead of the Two. Thus far, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any blisters (fingers crossed). For hikers I would recommend trying the longer Flite XT Trail five for a longer cut.

Injinji Trail Midweight Mini Crew 

Best Toe Socks

MSRP: $16 |Cushion: Medium |Fabric: 39% COOLMAX® 58% Nylon 3% Lycra®

Pros

  • Blister prevention
  • Good breathability
  • Free toe mobility
  • Decent pricing

Cons 

  • Some may not like fit around the toes
  • Can be a little warm in hotter temps

Bottom Line:

The Injinji Trail Mini Crew sock truly excels in performance and versatility. Its snug fit around the ankle ensures a secure and supportive feel, without compromising on comfort or breathability. Reinforced stitching at the base of the arch provides an extra lift, offering enhanced support during active pursuits. Thanks to the COOLMAX fabric, temperature control is effectively managed, making these socks suitable for warm weather conditions.

One of the most notable features of this sock is the individual wrapping of each toe with fabric. This innovative design plays a pivotal role in minimizing blisters and hotspots, which are common discomforts experienced during trail activities. Additionally, the freedom of movement granted to each toe allows for a more natural and efficient stride on the trails.

For those seeking an even lighter option, the Injinji Run lightweight socks are a worthy alternative. Whether you’re tackling rugged terrains or enjoying a leisurely jog, the Injinji Trail Mini Crew sock proves to be a reliable companion that prioritizes both comfort and performance.

Ascend Hiker Quarter Sock

Best Budget Hiking Sock

MSRP: $16.99 |Cushion: Medium |Fabric: 67% U.S. merino wool/31% nylon/2% Lycra® spandex

Pros

  • Comfortable 
  • Good fit and sizing 
  • Above average durability 
  • Cost

Cons 

  • Can be a little warm
  • Fair breathability
  • limited colors and designs

Bottom Line:

The Ascend Hiker Quarter Crew presents a budget-friendly option for hiking socks. With commendable durability and reliable wear, these socks offer a standard fit that strikes a balance between snugness and looseness. The ample cushioning ensures remarkable comfort throughout your hiking adventures. It’s worth noting that while these socks may not be as durable as other brands mentioned and they can be slightly warmer due to their heat retention.

One notable aspect is the brand’s commitment to quality and excellence, as each sock is meticulously handcrafted in the Carolinas and thoroughly inspected. This attention to detail reflects a similar approach seen in the renowned brand Darn Tough. Overall, the Ascend Hiker Quarter Crew delivers a solid performance at an affordable price, making it a noteworthy choice for those seeking value.

Read more: Ascend hiker socks review

Wrightsock Coolmesh II Socks

Best Double Layer Socks for Blister Prevention

MSRP: $15 |Cushion: Light |Fabric: 70-71% Dri-Wright 2 Polyester / 24-26% Nylon / 4-5% Lycra

Pros

  • Breathability
  • Blister prevention
  • Good fit and sizing 
  • Cost

Cons 

  • Fair durability
  • limited colors and designs
  • Minimal cushion

Bottom Line:

The Coolmesh II socks are an excellent choice for blister protection. Constructed with a two-layer design using synthetic materials, these socks offer a snug-fitting inner layer that keeps the feet dry and shields against blisters. The outer layer adds extra protection and reduces friction.

Moreover, the Coolmesh II socks excel in providing ventilation and moisture-wicking capabilities, ensuring optimal breathability. I found them very effective against blisters while keeping the feet cool. However, it’s important to note that these socks may not be ideal for longer trips due to their durability.

Overall, the Wrightsock Coolmesh II offers superior blister protection and keeps feet cool with its moisture management properties. Though it may lack substantial cushioning and durability for extended hikes, it remains an excellent choice for most.


Sealskinz Cold Weather Waterproof Mid Sock

Best Sock for Cold and Wet Conditions

MSRP: $55 |Cushion: Midweight |Fabric: 90% Nylon, 10% Elastane, 100% Hydrophilic Membrane, 35% Merino Wool, 35% Acrylic, 23% Polyester, 3.5% Nylon, 3.5% Elastane

Pros

  • All Weather protection
  • Snug fit
  • Retains heat

Cons 

  • Fair durability
  • limited colors and designs
  • Expensive

Bottom Line:

Sealskinz is known for making fantastic weather resistant and waterproof gear. If you are looking for a great pair of socks to keep your feet warm and dry these socks are our top pick. While we don’t normally do a ton of hiking in the snow and water. We like these socks for those times that we do.

Overall, these socks are surprisingly comfortable and do allow for good movement in your feet. Waterproofing material has the tendency to be limiting in breathability and unfortunately these socks do struggle a little with air flow. But, for its intended purpose that may not be too big of a deal breaker. The one glaring thing we don’t like is the price. However, Sealskinz does offer a lifetime product guarantee against any defect.

Wearing Injinji toe socks with Chacos

Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Hiking Socks 

When choosing hiking socks there are a lot of considerations. In our top hiking sock picks we mostly focused on light – midweight cushioned socks with ankle to crew height styles. The reason for this is because these sock heights and cushioning work well for majority of people hiking in moderate to high temperatures on average hiking trails. But many of these hiking socks come in various height cut and cushioning.

When choosing the best hiking socks for your needs, you need to take in consideration of what footwear you’ll be wearing. In addition, to the hiking terrain, temperature, and weather forecast. In general, when looking at hiking socks there are a few important factors to consider such as: comfort and fit, sock height, cushion, durability, and breathability.

Comfort and Fit

Comfort and fit of hiking socks are the most important attributes of any hiking sock. If your hiking sock ultimately causing more irritation or bunches up instead of staying tight that will cause a problem on the trail. Having a good fitting sock means that you will be less likely to develop blisters when you are out using them. Always try a pair of sock on and see how it feels before you take it on an adventure where you are stuck with a sock that does not work for your feet.

From Left to Right – No show, Ankle, Micro Crew, Knee high

Sock Height 

Socks come in various heights, ranging from below the ankle to below the knee, and the appropriate height depends on the style of boots you’re wearing. For mid-height boots, ankle, crew, or knee-high socks are suitable choices as they provide ample cushioning.

No Show: These socks are worn below the ankle and are typically not visible in shoes. They offer limited protection and should only be worn with low-cut shoes, trail runners, or lightweight hiking shoes.

Ankle or Quarter: Slightly higher than no-show socks, they cover the ankle and offer increased support. They work well with mid-height boots or shoes and can also be worn with low-cut shoes for added protection against debris.

Crew: This is a popular style of hiking socks, providing good protection for the back of the ankle. They are suitable for low or mid-height shoes or boots.

Over The Calf: These socks fall between crew and knee-high socks. They are great for rugged conditions and offer more protection than crew socks. They can be worn with boots that extend higher above the ankle.

Knee High: Usually reserved for very rough conditions, these socks provide the highest level of protection up to the knee. They are typically worn with large boots that reach closer to the knee.

Fabric


The choice of fabric significantly influences the comfort, breathability, moisture-wicking, and temperature control of socks. Socks are typically crafted using a blend of fabrics, with each fabric serving a specific purpose.

Wool (Merino wool): Wool is widely regarded as the premier fabric for sock design. It offers numerous benefits, such as effective temperature regulation, ample cushioning, moisture-wicking properties, and resistance to mildew, which helps prevent unpleasant odors.

Nylon: As a synthetic fiber, nylon is often incorporated into sock blends to enhance durability, breathability, and sweat-wicking capabilities. It is commonly combined with wool to further improve temperature control and moisture management within the sock.

Polyester: Polyester, another synthetic material, excels at retaining heat, wicking away moisture, and drying quickly. It contributes to maintaining a comfortable and dry environment for the feet.

Spandex, Lycra, Elastane: Many hiking socks contain a small percentage of these elastic fibers in their fabric blend. This addition allows the socks to stretch, maintain their shape, and prevent bunching during outdoor activities.

By carefully selecting and combining these fabrics, sock manufacturers optimize the overall performance of the socks, ensuring a comfortable and functional experience for the wearer.

Cushion

The amount of cushion in a sock will make a sock more thick and warmer. How much cushion you want depends on where you will be hiking and the weather. Cushion also helps to protect your feet as well for activities like trail running or longer hikes. 

Ultralight: These socks are usually used in hot conditions. They are very breathable but have very little cushion. 

Lightweight: Generally good for warm or hot temperatures. Still have very good moisture wicking and breathable design. These socks are a good option for summer and offer more padding for the foot. 

Medium weight: These socks are good for majority of seasons. They provide more cushion at the heel and bottom of the foot. They are a little thicker than the lightweight socks making these socks warmer and able to be used in mild colder temperatures. 

Heavy weight: These socks are full of cushion. They are the thickest, warmest, and most cushioned sock option. This makes them a good choice for mountaineering. Also, will work well for areas with tough terrain or colder temperatures. These socks are often way too thick for warm weather 

Durability

Socks are one of the pieces of gear that take a lot of beating while outdoors. But no sock should fall apart with minimal number of miles placed on them. When hiking you want a good pair of socks that can hold up to the wear and tear placed on them.

In my experience the most durable sock on this list is the Darn Tough Micro Crew socks. They have withstood hundreds of miles and I still have not had to send them in to get repaired or replaced. I have worn other socks that could not hold up with a 30-mile trip at Glacier National Park.

Breathability

This is another factor that is important when buying a pair of hiking socks. Breathability is impacted by fabric type and cushioning. Some fabrics offer better breathability than others such as merino wool in comparison to cotton.

While also the amount of cushioning itself is a significant factor to breathability because the lighter the cushion the less fabric compared to the more cushioning the more fabric. It would be like wearing a t shirt in the summer versus wearing a sweater. Obviously, the sweater would be warmer because it is heavier with more fabric makeup.

Women Specific Socks

Although various companies market both men’s and women’s hiking socks separately, the reality is that there are generally minimal performance disparities between the two. Typically, women’s socks differ primarily in color and are available in smaller sizes, while maintaining the same overall design and fit as their men’s or unisex counterparts.

Hence, it is more practical to base your decision on selecting the appropriate size rather than determining whether the sock is specifically designated as unisex or women’s specific. By focusing on finding the right size, hikers can ensure optimal comfort and a proper fit, irrespective of gender.

Warranty for Socks

In recent years, the cost of hiking socks has increased significantly, leading to the prominence of warranties as a crucial aspect of the purchasing process. Darn Tough is known for offering an incredible lifetime waranty for purchasing their socks. Which means that if you purchase their sock they will provide a replacement pair.

Most brands offer a limited time warranty such as Smartwool and REI Co-op. During that timeframe you can utilize their return process but, afterwards you are not guaranteed a return. Though warranties are a huge incentive to buying a product. It should not be the sole factor, make sure the product really works for you and your feet.

Hiking Sock Care

When dealing with most merino wool products, we suggest washing them in cold water and allowing them to dry naturally or using the tumble dry for delicate. While the specific guidelines may differ among manufacturers, some claim that machine drying is acceptable for merino wool. However, based on our experience, utilizing a dryer significantly reduces the longevity of these items.

Nevertheless, when it comes to synthetic fabrics, we often opt to include them in the dryer with our regular laundry. These socks tend to exhibit better durability compared to other merino products, and the warm dryer effectively restores their original shape.

FAQ

Which material is best for your hiking socks? The best materials for your hiking socks can very and is a bit based on personal preference. Merino wool is a super popular choice because of its natural moisture wicking properties, temperature regulating properties, and cushioning. Synthetic fabrics tend to be more durable, quick drying, and offer better wicking, and stretch. I believe the best material is a blend of that offers the pros of each.

Should I wear thin or thick socks hiking? This depends on your preferences thicker socks tend to have less cushion but offer more breathability and ventilating due to having less fabric. Thicker socks tend to be warmer and more cushioned. A great middle of the road is to go with a midweight sock that most companies offer. Though ultimately it depends on where and when you will be wearing the socks.

Is wearing 2 pairs of socks good for hiking? Yeah, most people when wearing 2 pairs will wear one sock liner and then a hiking sock over the liner. This can be helpful for blister prevention. The Wrightsock Coolmesh II actually uses this tactic, but the liner is sowed into the sock. If looking for a good sock liner I recommend Injinji sock liner.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best hiking socks, several key factors should be considered. Quality materials such as merino wool, synthetic blends, or a combination of both offer excellent moisture-wicking, insulation, and breathability properties.

Cushioning and padding in the right areas, such as the heel and toe, provide extra comfort and support during long hikes. A well-fitting sock with a snug, but not too tight, compression ensures a comfortable and blister-free experience. Additionally, features like seamless toes and reinforced construction contribute to durability and reduce the risk of friction-induced injuries.

Ultimately, the best hiking socks will vary depending on individual preferences and specific hiking conditions. It’s essential to consider factors such as climate, terrain, and personal comfort preferences when selecting the right pair. By investing in high-quality hiking socks that prioritize comfort, durability, and performance, hikers can enhance their overall hiking experience and enjoy the great outdoors with confidence and comfort.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published September 28, 2021 and has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness

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