Whether you're trekking between rocks or jumping through puddles, the last thing you want is your socks slipping down into your hiking boots or the wrong socks causing blisters.
To keep your feet dry, cool and protected, you need to choose socks for hiking wisely, according to Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS, a Washington-based physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. That means considering the weather and terrain you're hiking in and thinking about the amount of cushioning and ventilation you want your socks to provide.
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Here's several pairs you'll want to add to your cart, including tips on how to find the best hiking socks for you.
Some manufacturers market socks according to gender, and we've included links for both men's and women's versions where available. However, the main difference between most men's and women's socks is foot size. So, it's best to shop according to your shoe size.
How We Chose
We spoke to Garcia, a physical therapist and CSCS to get her picks, as well as scouring the internet and our own staff for the best-rated hiking socks. Then we narrowed down our choices based on the following criteria:
The Best Hiking Socks
- Best Full-Cushion: Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks ($28, REI.com)
- Best Wool-Blend Quarter: Bombas Merino Wool Blend Hiking Quarter Socks ($26, Bombas.com)
- Best Lightweight: REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Lightweight Hiking Quarter Socks ($13.95, REI.com)
- Most Durable: Smartwool Performance Hike Light-Cushion Crew Socks ($24, REI.com)
- Best Liners: Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks ($12, REI.com)
- Best for Gifting: Jimmy Chin X Stance 4 Peaks Performance Wool Hiking Socks ($30, Stance.com)
1. Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks
Made of a combination of Merino wool, nylon and Spandex, these cushioned socks are perfect for a long-distance hike, especially in cooler weather, according to Garcia. The thicker fabric provides more insulation while also absorbing shock from rough terrain.
But even if you're hiking during the summer months, you don't have to worry about overheating: Merino wool naturally regulates temperature and fights odor-causing bacteria. Plus, these hiking socks have a performance fit, which means you can hit the trails blister-free.
2. Bombas Merino Wool Blend Hiking Quarter Socks
The best all-terrain, all-weather hiking socks are going to be made with a blend of Merino wool (but not too much to be scratchy) and a stretchy fabric, like nylon. These hiking socks from Bombas fit the bill, and they're good-looking to boot. Plus, for every pair purchased, another pair is donated to Bombas' giving partners.
The quarter height also makes them great option for warmer weather hikes where you still need to keep dry (summertime creek crossings, anyone?), and a specific arch support pattern helps support your feet. And you can say goodbye to blisters thanks to the seamless toe that helps eliminate friction where it happens most.
3. REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Lightweight Hiking Quarter Socks
Those who prefer an ankle-length hiking sock will love this comfy pair. Thanks to REI's COOLMAX fabric, these socks promise an ultra-light and breathable fit, which makes them perfect for warm-weather treks, Garcia says. They also provide just the right amount of cushioning in the heels and toes to keep your feet and joints happy.
They're also made from recycled plastic, so you can feel extra good about investing in a pair. LIVESTRONG.com Senior Fitness Editor Jessica Campbell-Salley owns two pairs and they're her go-to for mid-summer hikes.
"When it's hot out but I still need the support of a boot, these are great for that," she says. "And most importantly, they stay up without cutting into my ankles, which is a problem I have with almost every other sock."
4. Smartwool Performance Hike Light-Cushion Crew Socks
In addition to being thermoregulating and moisture-wicking, the other great thing about Merino wool is its durability. These Smartwool socks have Merino wool woven into the heels, where fabric tends to wear very quickly.
These hiking socks also have a cushioned underfoot for extra comfort. And because they're a wool and nylon blend, Garcia says these socks are a great fit for all kinds of weather.
The "light" in the product name refers to the cushioning, which is better suited for day hikes. These are also great if your shoes or boots are already well-cushioned and you're not looking for extra support from your sock.
5. Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks
Injinji's toe socks have a unique five-toe design that bends and extends with your foot, guaranteeing they stay put throughout your hike. Plus, the COOLMAX, nylon and lycra fibers make them lightweight, breathable and odor-resistant — and they're top-rated, with a nearly 5-star rating on REI.com.
Although you can wear these socks on their own, Garcia likes to layer them under a thicker wool pair for snowy, cold-weather hikes.
6. Jimmy Chin X Stance 4 Peaks Performance Wool Hiking Socks
Hikers can always (always!) use more socks. If you need a gift for the hiker in your life, these socks, a collab from photographer and adventure extraordinaire Jimmy Chin and Stance, will make you their new favorite person.
In addition to the cool design featuring mountain peaks, these socks are made with a Merino wool blend and a medium amount of cushioning, making them a great all-around choice.
These are also reinforced in the toe and heel for extra durability and have some extra arch support.
4 Tips for Buying the Best Hiking Socks
1. Pick the Right Height
Much like boots, hiking socks come in different heights, including no-show, quarter length, crew and knee-high. The best height for you depends on your boots and the terrain you plan to hike in. Generally speaking, if you have tall boots, your socks should be higher than the cuffs to prevent chafing and blisters, according to REI.
But even if your boots are ankle-length, you may still want taller socks for grassy or rocky hikes to protect your legs along the trail.
"Wearing knee-high socks on overgrown trails has prevented many a poison ivy rash," Campbell-Salley says.
2. Find Your Personal Fit
Fit is a personal preference, so you'll want to try a few different pairs to nail down your favorite. Garcia recommends you go with a snug fit if you want a pair that fits more like your everyday socks. This will help prevent the socks from moving around in your boots as you walk.
3. Go for Fabric Blends
Most hiking socks are made of a blend of performance fabrics, including wool, polyester, nylon, silk and Spandex, per REI. Why choose socks with fabric blends? Different fabrics all play a part in providing a certain level of comfort, support and protection.
For example, experts recommend wool socks for their thermoregulation. Lycra offers breathability. And polyester, nylon, silk and Spandex are great for wicking moisture away from your feet.
Bottom line: Look on the package for a pair of socks that blends wool with synthetic fabrics.
4. Choose Cushioning Wisely
While some prefer an ultra-lightweight sock, others like the extra cushioning. But the best socks for hiking also depend on the weather. Cushion-free and lightweight pairs are great for warm conditions, while thicker socks are ideal for cold-weather hikes or backpacking trips.
Sock packaging or online descriptions should all make note of cushion level, fabric, and height, so make sure to keep these features in mind.