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 10 Best Hiking Socks of 2019

Wearing the right footwear is key to success in all outdoor adventures, but it's especially important for hiking and backpacking. As hikers, our feet are the workhorses that carry the load and take the most beating on the trail. Our experience has taught us that we have to treat our feet right to keep them in peak condition so we can see and do more comfortably.

It’s normal to experience some foot aches and pains, overheating, and hot spots/blisters after long days of hiking, but we’ve found that wearing quality socks (along with good shoes/boots) makes a big difference in how long we can keep our feet comfortable and in good shape on trail.

GOOD HIKING SOCKS:

  • Fit snuggly to reduce wrinkling and friction

  • Are breathable and moisture-wicking to manage sweat

  • Dry quickly after water crossings or being rinsed

  • Are odor resistant for multi-day use

  • Are reasonably durable for good value

What Type of Socks Should I Get?

Generally, our preference is to hike in trail runners with minimally cushioned synthetic or wool socks for trips where we’re moving quickly and crushing lots of miles. That said, you should choose socks that compliment your shoes and support your feet in the conditions you expect to encounter. 

  • The ankle height you choose should depend on the cuff height of the shoes/boots you wear and your fashion preferences. 

  • Thickness/cushioning should be selected based on weather conditions and your foot sensitivity. 

  • Hikers with tough feet generally need less padding and prefer the greater breathability of ultralight or lightly-cushioned socks. 

  • Hikers with sensitive feet, worn pads, or those prone to getting cold easily may prefer a medium to heavy weight sock with more cushioning. 

  • Almost all of the socks on this list are available in various heights and cushion-levels to accommodate all needs and preferences. 

Need a New Pair of Hiking Shoes or Boots?

Check out our 10 Best Hiking Shoes & Boots guide, where we report our findings after testing a whole slew of the latest and greatest footwear. We prefer hiking in trail running shoes that are lightweight, highly breathable, have great traction, and dry quickly after being submerged. In 5 Reasons to Ditch your Hiking Boots we explain why we almost always hike in trail runners. 

For more of our favorite gear recommendations, have a look through these popular CleverHiker Gear Guide links:

Why Trust Us?

We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:

  • Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience. 

  • We’ve logged over 10,000 trail miles and test outdoor gear for a living.

  • We own and field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.

  • We travel to industry trade shows to learn about upcoming product innovations. 

  • We constantly update our guides when new products launch.

  • We treat our recommendations as if they were for our family and friends.

  • We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to constructive criticism. If you think we’ve missed a product or got something wrong, we’d love to hear your feedback.


Critical Considerations

Want to know more about the best (and worst) sock fabrics to look for, get tips on getting the most life out of your hiking socks, and a whole lot more? Scroll to the bottom of this post for our Critical Considerations section where we cover everything you need to know.


10 Best Hiking Socks of 2019


MSRP: $21

FABRIC: 54% nylon, 43% merino wool, 3% Lycra spandex

HEIGHT: Crew (also available in No Show)

CUSHIONING: Light (also available in medium)

PROS: Lifetime warranty, durable, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, comfortable, don’t slide down

CONS: Expensive, hotter/less breathable than some

BOTTOM LINE: Darn Tough Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks are comfortable, versatile, and built to last. They’re relatively thin for good temperature regulation, but are woven very tightly, which gives them outstanding durability. The Light Hiker Micro Socks are warmer and thicker than minimalist socks, but they’re still quite breathable and the wool-synthetic blend makes them adaptable in warm or cool conditions. Darn Tough socks are expensive, but well worth the money since they last forever and are backed up by an amazing unconditional lifetime guarantee. If you’re looking for more cushioning and warmth, we also like Darn Tough’s popular Micro Crew Cushion and Hiker Boot Socks.


TOP PICK: The Darn Tough Light Hikers are our favorite hiking socks overall as far as comfort, quality, durability, and value. They’re available in Women’s and Kid’s in a variety of colors and patterns.


MSRP: $19

FABRIC: 51% merino wool, 45% nylon, 4% Lycra spandex

HEIGHT: Quarter (also available Low, ¾ Crew, and Crew)

CUSHIONING: Light (also available in medium)

PROS: Durable, lifetime warranty, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, comfortable, and don't slide down

CONS: Expensive

BOTTOM LINE: The Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Technical ¼ Crew socks are made with 100% American materials and construction. Created with long-distance hikers in mind, these socks are built tough and will last for hundreds of miles. Besides that, they’re guaranteed for life! Slight compression and unique targeted cushioning in the heel and toe as well as on top of the instep help prevent pain from shoelace pressure, which is especially nice for long, steep descents. We recommend Damascus Technical socks for rugged hikes and backpacking trips in trail runners or boots (choose ¾ crew or crew height for boots) when minimalist socks aren’t quite enough. They’re also available in a Women’s specific version.


MSRP: $15.99

FABRIC: 92% nylon and 8% spandex

HEIGHT: Quarter (also available No Show Tab and Mini Crew)

CUSHIONING: Ultra Light (also available in Light Cushion and Max Cushion)

PROS: Affordable, lifetime warranty, comfortable, moisture-wicking, breathable and don't slide down

CONS: Hold odor more than others, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Feetures is a brand that’s better-known in the running community, but we love their socks for hiking too. Feetures’ Elite Ultra Light Quarter socks are thin, stretchy, and fit snugly with compression in all the right places so the socks stay smooth and wrinkle-free during aerobic activity.  The Elite Ultra Light socks stand out best in warm conditions when wicking and ventilation are critical.


MSRP: $22.95

FABRIC: 56% merino wool, 41% nylon, 3% elastane

HEIGHT: Crew (also available Micro, Mini, Mid Crew)

CUSHIONING: Light (also available ultralight and medium)

PROS: Comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and don't slide down

CONS: Expensive and lack long-term durability (but has 2 year satisfaction guarantee

BOTTOM LINE: Smartwool’s PhD Outdoor Light Crew Socks are some of the best all-around socks for hiking. They’re well-designed with a snug, anatomical fit and padding only where you need it underfoot for excellent breathability. Though past versions of the PhD Outdoor have lacked durability, the 3rd generation PhD Outdoor socks have tougher wool in the heel and toe which substantially extends their lifespan (and Smartwool will replace them if you send them in within 2 years of the purchase date). We recommend PhD Outdoor socks to those who prefer a sock that’s a bit lighter and more breathable than Darn Tough’s, even if they won’t last quite as long. If you’re looking for something a bit heavier, you might also like Smartwool’s classic Hike Medium Crew socks, which have been popular for a very long time.


MSRP: $13

FABRIC: 100% polyester

HEIGHT: No Show

CUSHIONING: Medium

PROS: Affordable, comfortable, don't slide down, moisture-wicking, breathable

CONS: Hotter/less breathable than some, hold odor more than others, not as durable as some

BOTTOM LINE: Balega Hidden Comfort Socks are simple, lightly padded, and comfortable with cushy tabs at the ankle that effectively keep them from sliding down much better than most ankle socks. The plush padding across the entire sole makes them a bit warmer and less breathable underfoot than some, but the Hidden Comforts are an excellent, affordable choice for those looking for comfy low cut socks with a little cushion for everyday use. Balega also offers their popular Ultralight No Show Socks (excellent ultralight feel, but lack long-term durability), Blister Resist No Show Socks (made with mohair fibers that resist friction), and Silver No Show Socks (great compression and antibacterial properties). If you’re looking for a quarter length hiking sock, we also really love the Balega Enduro Quarter Socks.


MSRP: $14.99

FABRIC: 62% “Thor-wick cool,” 21% nylon, 16% polyester, 1% elastic,

HEIGHT: Low cut (also available in no-show tab)

CUSHIONING: Light

PROS: Affordable, breathable, moisture-wicking, comfortable

CONS: Hold odor more than others, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Thorlos XCCU Experia socks are designed to help reduce pain and pressure from diminishing fat pads that naturally cushion the bottom of the feet. With cushioning only in the places you need it and thin, stretchy material on the arch, top, and sides of the sock, the Experia’s breathe well but supplement your foot’s pads at the same time. The Experia do slip down on occasion with aerobic activity, but they’re still really comfortable and are awesome for walks or everyday wear. Since the Experias don’t contain wool, they’re also good alternative for those who find wool to be itchy. For intense activities, you might also like their Outdoor Athlete Sock (which has a higher cut), or the The Outdoor Fanatic, their most technically-advanced sock. 

We also had an opportunity to check out Thorlo’s new First Nation casual socks featuring designs by Native American artists. A portion of the proceeds from First Nation socks will go to benefit the American Indian College Fund.


MSRP: $16

FABRIC: 54% nylon 41% merino wool 5% Lycra spandex (available in a Coolmax version)

HEIGHT: No Show Tab (also available Quarter and Over-the-Calf)

CUSHIONING: Ultra Light 

PROS: Affordable, durable, lifetime warranty, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, comfortable

CONS: May slip down, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Darn Tough’s Vertex No Show Tab Ultra-Light Socks are super thin, form-fitting, wicking and breathable, but built with Darn Tough’s signature high-density weave for serious durability. These socks won’t get holes in them nearly as quickly as other minimalist socks, but if they do, you can count on Darn Tough’s lifetime warranty. The Vertex are an excellent choice for nimble hikers wearing trail runners in warm conditions. Vertex socks are available in Men’s and Women’s versions. If you’ll be traveling in serious summer heat, check out the Coolmax version.


MSRP: $17.99

FABRIC: 55% merino wool, 23% nylon, 17% olefin, 5% spandex

HEIGHT: Quarter (also available Mini Crew and Crew)

CUSHIONING: Ultralight (also available Light, Medium, and Heavy)

PROS: Comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and don't slide down

CONS: Lack long-term durability (but great customer service)

BOTTOM LINE: Swiftwick’s PURSUIT HIKE Two Ultra Light are some of the best minimalist socks we’ve taken on the trail. The bulk-free PURSUIT HIKE’s hug the feet snugly around the instep, so they’re best for those who like a little compression. The Olefin fibers (used in carpet) make the Pursuit Hike’s dry very quickly, while the wool helps keep your feet a comfortable temperature and minimize stink. We recommend these socks to hikers or trail runners traveling fast and light in moderately cool or warm conditions.


MSRP: $12

FABRIC: 67% nylon, 28% CoolMax polyester, 5% Lycra spandex

HEIGHT: No Show (also available Crew)

CUSHIONING: Ultralight

PROS: Helps prevent toe blisters, affordable, comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking

CONS: Hold odor more than others, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Injinji’s Run Lightweight socks are some of the most popular toe socks on the market, and with good reason. They’re affordable, comfortable, highly-breathable, and excellent for reducing friction between the toes. Since each toe is wrapped in wicking fabric, we found that they do a very good job of keeping our feet dry on the trail too. Toe socks may feel a little strange at first, but we think they’re worth getting used to if you frequently struggle with blisters. The Trail Midweight Mini-Crew combines a toe sock liner with a regular outer sock for those looking for even more friction relief.


MSRP: $14

FABRIC: Inner Layer - 70% Dri-Wright II polyester, 26% nylon, 4% lycra / Outer Layer - 71% Dri-Wright II polyester, 24% nylon, 5% lycra

HEIGHT: Quarter (also available Tab, and Crew)

CUSHIONING: Light

PROS: Helps prevent blisters, affordable, breathable, moisture-wicking, comfortable, lifetime warranty, don't slide down

CONS: Lack long-term durability, hold odor more than others

BOTTOM LINE: WrightSock Coolmesh II Lo Quarter Socks are extremely comfortable and feel like slippers on your feet. They’re thin and minimal, and the double-layer system makes them excellent for preventing blisters. The downside is that they’re built with thin materials and they wear down fairly quickly in the heel and toe. We wish the outer layer of the Coolmesh II was a bit tougher, but for those with blister-prone feet, they might still be well worth it. WrightSock also makes a Kid’s version.


Honorable Mentions


MSRP: $19.95

FABRIC: 62% wool, 4% spandex, 34% nylon

HEIGHT: Mini Crew (also available Crew)

CUSHIONING: Light (also available in medium)

PROS: Comfortable, durable, lifetime warranty, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and don't slide down

CONS: Expensive and hotter/less breathable than some

BOTTOM LINE: The Point6 37.5 Hiking Light Mini-Crew socks are so great at quickly evaporating moisture and odor that they can be worn for multiple days without washing. Despite being a little warmer and less breathable, since they’re cushioned even under the arch, they’re comfortable in almost all weather conditions due to their high wool content. The 37.5’s tend to pill a bit when you put them in the dryer, but they’ll last a long time. If you prefer fully cushioned socks that keeps you feet dry and slightly warm, these are a fantastic choice. 


MSRP: $22

FABRIC: 59% merino wool, 38% nylon, 3% lycra

HEIGHT: Crew (also available Mini)

CUSHIONING: Light

PROS: Comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, don't slide down

CONS: Expensive, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Icebreaker specializes in making high-end merino wool products, working closely with the growers they source their fibers from. Their Hike+ Lite Crew socks are comfortable for hiking year-round, made thin with a blend of fine wool and nylon which is excellent for thermoregulation. We like that the Hike+ aren’t too tight, and we think they’re a great choice for those who tend to have cold feet. But the Hike+ are quite expensive and we have found them to be less durable (no lifetime warranty either) than some socks at the same price point (Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks).


MSRP: $19.99 (for 2)

FABRIC: 55% merino wool, 42% nylon, 3% elastane

HEIGHT: Ankle (also available Crew)

CUSHIONING: Light (crew versions also available in ultralight, mid weight, and heavy)

PROS: Very affordable, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and comfortable

CONS: May slip down, hotter/less breathable than some, lack long-term durability

BOTTOM LINE: Woolly’s Merino Wool Ankle Air Socks are light, comfortable, affordable, and locally made in Seattle, WA. Woolly’s simple offering of quality merino wool products at half the price (their socks always come in 2-packs), makes wearing the good stuff (wool) more attainable for everyone. The Ankle Air’s don’t have a tab at the ankle to keep them from slipping down, so they can be a little annoying on hikes, but for everyday wear they’re perfect. For hiking, backpacking, or trail running, Woolly’s Outdoor Air socks, which are the same but with crew cuffs, are a more ideal option since they have better holding power around the calf.

TOP BUDGET PICK: Woolly’s Ankle Air are the best value hiking socks on our list. 


MSRP: $16.95

FABRIC: 79% merino wool, 20% nylon, 1% Lycra spandex

HEIGHT: Quarter (also available ¾ crew and crew)

CUSHIONING: Medium (also available in ultralight and midweight)

PROS: Comfortable, odor-resistant, durable, 1 year guarantee, moisture-wicking, don't slide down

CONS: Hot/lack breathability, heavy/bulky

BOTTOM LINE: REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Quarter Socks are affordable, warm, and comfortable, though they’re a bit on the bulky/heavy side so they’re best reserved for hiking in cool or wet conditions, wearing with boots, or as cozy sleep socks on backpacking trips. In our opinion, these are a bit too warm and not breathable enough for most 3-season trips, but they’re made with a high percentage of quality wool that manages sweat and odor well and are a great choice for those who like a looser fit with cushioning under the entire sole. The Crew version is also very popular and offers protection up to mid-calf.

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Critical Considerations

FABRICS MATTER - The fabrics that work best for hiking socks are moisture-wicking, breathable, odor resistant, and reasonably durable.

  • Cotton - cotton collects and holds moisture, which causes problematic softening of the skin which can lead to blisters. We don’t recommend socks with any cotton content for hiking for this reason, though they are inexpensive and comfortable for everyday use.

  • Synthetics - Polyester, nylon, Coolmax, spandex, and other synthetic fabrics are breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying, which makes them excellent choices for hiking sock materials. They also tend to be a bit more durable than natural fibers, though they can pill (form small balls on the surface) and hold onto odors more too.

  • Wool - Wool is an amazing natural fiber that’s excellent for managing moisture, evaporating odors, and keeping you warm when wet, as well as cool in hot conditions. Quality fine merino wool is soft and comfortable to most people and works exceptionally well when blended with synthetic fibers.

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CUSHIONING - Cushioning affects comfort and warmth.

  • No Cushioning & Ultralight Cushion - Often considered liners, uncushioned or ultralight cushioned socks are best for running or hiking in trail runners when it’s not  super cold out. Sometimes people wear liners under a pair of light or medium-cushioned socks to help prevent blisters, though many ultralight hikers wear them alone. We prefer how ultralight cushioned socks feel and use them on most trips because they dry so quickly and breathe so well, but they can also wear out really fast.

  • Light Cushioning - Socks with light cushioning are good for hiking in both cool and warm weather. They’re relatively thin and are designed with breathability and moisture-wicking in mind, but have a bit of cushioning on heel and the ball of the foot for extra comfort and durability.

  • Medium Cushioning - Socks with medium cushioning are good for hiking in average to cold weather. They  provide a moderate amount of cushioning in the heel and the ball of the foot to protect your feet from impact. Aging hikers or those with worn fat pads due to heavy use might be more comfortable with some cushioning instead of minimalist socks.

  • Heavy Cushioning - Socks with heavy cushioning are the thickest and warmest socks available. Many hikers find them to be too bulky and hot for backpacking, but they’re great for warmth in camp, winter hiking, and mountaineering in boots. Heavy cushioned socks are best for those who tend to have cold feet, worn pads, or for sleeping socks on backpacking trips.

FIT- Your socks should fit just right. Not too tight, but not too loose.

  • Support - Strategically-placed bands of compression around the calf, ankle, or arch of the foot help socks stay in place and keeps them from twisting and bunching. Compression also provides support to the muscles and ligaments to prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis, which can make hiking extremely painful. If you have an existing condition, a good pair of socks can work just as well as an Ace wrap or sports tape.

  • Sizing - light compression and a snug fit aid in your socks ability to effectively wick moisture, breathe, and stay wrinkle-free, but socks that are too tight can restrict blood flow and limit your toes range of movement. 

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HEIGHT - The right sock height will protect your feet from abrasion from your shoes

  • No Show/No Show Tab - sit just below the ankle bone and are best worn with trail runners or low cut shoes. They’re the most ultralight but sometimes slip down or collect debris. They also leave your ankle exposed to possible heal clipping and minor cuts.

  • Quarter (also known as minis or mini crew) - sit just over the ankle bone and are best with trail runners or low cut shoes. These show a little but they also stay-put better and keep out debris when hiking.

  • Crew - come up to about mid-calf. These are a more traditional cut that can be worn with trail runners or boots. Crew socks tend to be a bit warmer and may give you a funny tan line, but they also generally stay up better, keep debris out, and they offer some protection to your shins from brushy trails.

  • Over-the-Calf - extend up the calf further and sit just below the knee. Socks this high can be worn with any shoe but are mostly seen in compression socks to help with leg fatigue and swelling or winter socks that are meant to keep you warm and insulated.

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Sock Care

WASHING & DRYING - Beware that socks with high merino wool content are likely to shrink if you put them in the dryer on high heat. For best results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying your socks to maintain their cushion and avoid miniaturizing them. We recommend washing wool products inside-out on a cool or lukewarm washing machine setting with gentle detergent, then air drying them on a clothesline or flat surface. If you’re in a hurry, the next best thing is to tumble dry your wool socks on low. If you treat them well, your wool hiking socks should last for a long time.

HOW TO AVOID LOSING SOCKS - It’s a huge bummer to have a pile of single expensive hiking socks, but we all know how easy it is to lose track of them. We recommend using a small mesh laundry bag as your sock-specific hamper and just toss the laundry bag into the wash when it's full. Soapy water will get through the bag and the socks will get clean, but they won't go missing.

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MORE INFORMATION

If you enjoyed this review, you'll probably like our other gear lists as well. Here are some popular resources from the CleverHiker Gear Guide:


 

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