The 9 Best Hiking Socks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Stay comfortable on the trail with these backcountry essentials

<p>TripSavvy / Alli Waataja</p>

TripSavvy / Alli Waataja

The humble sock may be one of the most easily overlooked items on your hiking equipment list, but wearing the wrong ones can make all the difference between a great day out in nature and a lesson in discomfort. The best hiking socks are purpose-built from a blend of technical materials that work together to protect your feet on the trail.

Ideally, they are breathable, moisture-wicking, and temperature-regulating, keeping your feet fresh and dry in all types of weather. They should have some level of cushioning against high-impact activity and rough terrain, and the fit needs to be snug enough to prevent blister-causing bunching, yet forgiving enough to allow maximum circulation.

With so many factors to consider, we decided to do the legwork for you by carefully researching top options across a range of styles and prices. We also sought the opinion of Tressa Kreis, U.S. Sales Manager at top hiking sock brand, Darn Tough. Our overall winner was the Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks, chosen for their versatile style, breathability, and full cushioned comfort. Here is our full list of stand-out hiking socks.

Best Overall: Smartwool Men Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew

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What We Like

  • Seamless toe for zero chafing

  • Mesh zones provide breathability

  • Versatile crew style

What We Don't Like

  • May be too warm for summer hikes

A classic choice from renowned hiking sock manufacturer Smartwool, the Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks are sustainably made from responsibly sourced merino wool and recycled nylon. This technical blend provides just the right combination of softness, temperature regulation, stretch, and durability, with cushioning across the entire sock for maximum impact protection. Full cushioning does mean the socks are best suited to cooler seasons and climates; however, mesh zones in strategic areas help to provide some breathability.

The medium-height crew cut offers great versatility, making the socks tall enough to wear with most hiking shoes and boots, but short enough to be wearable in all but the warmest weather. Reviewers confirm that they’re comfortable without being too bulky. Stand-out Smartwool innovations include a new ply structure that reduces pilling and increases softness, a four-degree elite fit system, and a virtually seamless toe. The latter two features help to keep you chafe- and blister-free.

Choose yours in light gray, black, taupe, or chestnut, or opt for the ladies’ version of this sock in women-specific sizes and colors.

Price at time of publication: $26

Materials: 56 percent merino wool, 31 percent recycled nylon, 11 percent nylon, 2 percent elastane | Style: Crew | Sizes: M, L, XL

Best Budget: REI Co-op Merino Wool Trailsmith Crew Socks

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What We Like

  • All-rounder cut and cushioning

  • Naturally odor resistant

  • Climate Neutral Certified

What We Don't Like

  • Only one color choice

There’s no such thing as a “cheap” hiking sock, at least if you want decent durability and performance on the trail. But the Merino Wool Trailsmith Crew Socks from REI are a great value option, with excellent user reviews and a price tag that’s roughly two-thirds of the cost of our overall winner. These socks are designed as all-rounders, with a crew cut and light cushioning that makes them suitable for all but the most extreme weathers. With merino wool as their primary ingredient, they’re naturally breathable, moisture-wicking, and odor resistant.

Secondary ingredients include nylon (adding durability and making the socks quick to dry) and spandex (for a snug yet stretchy fit that prevents blister-causing wrinkles without being too constricting). The socks score sustainability points, too, coming from a Climate Neutral Certified brand—helping protect the environments you love to hike in. The only downside? They’re not especially stylish, coming in just one color choice: a rather drab gray-green known as Asphalt/Rockwall.

Price at time of publication: $17

Materials: 59 percent merino wool, 38 percent nylon, 3 percent Lycra | Style: Crew | Sizes: M, L, XL

Best Double Layer: WRIGHTSOCK Double Layer Silver Escape Crew Socks

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What We Like

  • Optimum blister prevention

  • Antimicrobial odor resistance

  • Lightly cushioned footbeds

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively expensive

Double-layered socks are ideal if you’re prone to blisters, since the outer layer rubs against the inner layer instead of your skin, thereby reducing friction without adding extra bulk. The inner layer also serves to wick moisture and speed up sweat evaporation, keeping your feet drier and cooler. The Double Layer Silver Escape Crew Socks from Wrightsock go a step further by blending inner-layer yarns with silver for natural antimicrobial protection, which prevents the growth of bacteria and helps keep odors at bay.

The socks feature a versatile crew cut, with lightly cushioned footbeds for noticeable shock absorption without the warmth of full cushioning. Mesh panels on top of the socks also add ventilation, making these a good option for warm weather. Many reviewers report completing multi-day treks in these socks without any blisters. Available in a full range of sizes from small to extra-large, they’re meant to be gender-neutral and come in four practical colors: Ash Twist/Navy, Ash Twist/Turquoise, Black Twist, and Trail Green.

Price at time of publication: $25

Materials: 65 percent Dri-WRIGHT II polyester, 26 percent nylon, 5 percent silver, 4 percent Lycra (inner layer)/ 68 percent Dri-WRIGHT II polyester, 24 percent nylon, 8 percent Lycra (outer layer) | Style: Crew | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Best Extra Cushion: Smartwool Classic Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

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What We Like

  • Great for long hikes and rough terrain

  • Flat-knit toe seam reduces chafing

  • Secure, elasticized fit

What We Don't Like

  • Too warm for summer wear

A brand original and Smartwool favorite since 1994, the Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew Socks have recently been updated to be more sustainable with responsibly sourced merino wool and recycled nylon. They are the ultimate choice for those that want a little extra padding—to prevent foot fatigue on an extended hike, perhaps, or to ward off discomfort on particularly rough terrain. Reviewers praise them for their warmth and coziness, but bear in mind they’re likely too hot for use in warm weather.

The crew cut is compatible with most types of hiking footwear, while an elasticized arch brace ensures a secure fit: no irritating wrinkling, slipping, or bunching here. When combined with the socks’ flat-knit toe seam, your chances of avoiding blisters are good. The socks are knitted in the U.S. using imported materials, and come in four inclusive sizes and five colors. Choose between picante (rust), taupe, medium gray, navy, and black.

Price at time of publication: $24

Materials: 56 percent merino wool, 31 percent recycled nylon, 11 percent nylon, 2 percent elastane | Style: Crew | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Best Lightweight: REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Lightweight Flash Crew Socks

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What We Like

  • Lightweight yet durable

  • Tactical cushioning in all the right places

  • Seamless toe reduces chance of chafing

What We Don't Like

  • Some reviewers find the fit a little tight

Whether you’re looking for the perfect summer hiking socks or simply prefer a lighter fit and feel, you’ll find what you want in the REI Co-op Coolmax EcoMade Lightweight Flash Crew Socks. Made with recycled water bottles for added sustainability points, they’re breathable and moisture-wicking—keeping feet drier and smelling better even in high temperatures and humidity. The polyester blend is enhanced with nylon for extra durability and spandex for increased snugness.

The socks feature a crew cut with comfortable cushioning at the heel and balls of the feet. Reviewers love that they’re supportive and long-lasting despite their lightness, with an elasticized arch that helps to tailor the fit. Worried about blistering in a thinner sock? With a seamless toe and reinforced protection over your Achilles heel, you no longer have to. The socks are designed to be unisex and come in a full range of sizes, with color choices including Black, Blue Nights, and Green Arbor.

Price at time of publication: $18

Materials: 61 percent Coolmax EcoMade polyester, 32 percent nylon, 5 percent polyester, 2 percent spandex | Style: Crew | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Best Cold Weather: Darn Tough Men’s Mountaineering Over-the-Calf Heavyweight Hiking Socks

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What We Like

  • Heavyweight yet breathable

  • Knee-height for extra warmth

  • Guaranteed for life

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively limited uses

Vermont-based brand Darn Tough is known for high-quality construction and its Men’s Mountaineering Over-the-Calf Heavyweight Hiking Socks are no exception. Made from 73 percent merino wool, they’re wonderfully thick, naturally trapping heat to keep the cold out. At the same time, merino wool is breathable, moisture wicking, and temperature regulating so that when you exert yourself on the trail, your feet won’t get sweaty. Integrated Lycra allows for a performance fit that doesn’t slip down, bunch, or cause blisters.

Averaging 17 inches from heel to cuff, the socks reach to just below the knee on most men. This means extra protection both from the elements and from the unforgiving build of bulkier, cold weather hiking and mountaineering boots. You’ll also benefit from a fully cushioned footbed and Achilles protection, and an ultra-smooth, seamless finish over the toes. Nylon fibers add durability, but in the rare case that the socks don’t last as long as expected, your purchase is protected by the brand’s Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life warranty.

Price at time of publication: $31

Materials: 73 percent merino wool, 25 percent nylon, 2 percent Lycra | Style: Over-the-calf | Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Waterproof: SEALSKINZ Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

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What We Like

  • Waterproof yet breathable

  • Durable three-layer construction

  • Soft merino wool inner

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

Wet feet are the worst on the trail and they can be dangerous, too, leading to numbness, blisters, and, in extreme conditions, even frostbite. If you often hike in inclement weather or on routes that require a lot of stream crossings, the Waterproof All Weather Mid-Length Socks from Sealskinz may just be your new best friend. These highly technical socks are 100 percent waterproof and windproof, thanks to a unique three-layer construction that includes a middle layer of hydrophilic membrane.

If you’re envisioning the concept as something like wearing a raincoat on your feet, don’t worry. Despite their waterproofness, the socks are also breathable, pulling moisture away from your skin at a molecular level. The inner layer’s primary ingredient is soft, warm merino wool, while the nylon-blend outer layer offers four-way stretch for a customized, comfortable fit. And although the socks are undoubtedly expensive, their layered construction also makes them virtually indestructible and therefore well worth the investment.

Price at time of publication: $50

Materials: 62 percent polycolon, 29 percent nylon, 9 percent elastane (outer layer)/ 100 percent hydrophilic membrane (middle layer)/ 36 percent merino wool, 36 percent acrylic, 18 percent polyester, 5 percent nylon, 5 percent elastane | Style: Crew | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Best Ankle Socks: Darn Tough Men’s Light Hiker Quarter Lightweight Hiking Socks

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What We Like

  • Anti-blister performance fit

  • Mesh panels for improved ventilation

  • Cushioning in targeted areas

What We Don't Like

  • Lightweight style limits versatility

If you prefer an ankle sock to the traditional crew style—perhaps because you primarily hike in hot weather or because you favor hiking shoes or sandals over high-top hiking boots—look no further than the Darn Tough Men’s Light Hiker Quarter Lightweight Hiking Socks. They are meant for summer hiking and are therefore relatively thin. But, with strategic underfoot cushioning extending up the Achilles heel, they do offer some padding and protection from rough terrain.

Multi-zone mesh panels add ventilation while keeping bulk to a minimum and using merino wool as one of the primary ingredients makes the socks naturally thermoregulating and moisture-wicking. Comfort is paramount, too, with a smooth cuff and a Lycra-enabled performance fit. The latter prevents slipping and wrinkling, helping to ward off blisters. Like all Darn Tough socks, these ones are Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life. They come in five inclusive sizes and three colors: Taupe, Space Gray, and Denim Blue.

Price at time of publication: $21

Materials: 52 percent nylon, 44 percent merino wool, 4 percent Lycra | Style: Ankle | Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Low Cut: Farm to Feet Damascus Low Cut Light Targeted Cushion Socks

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What We Like

  • Targeted cushioning

  • Seamless toe closure

  • Three quite different colors

What We Don't Like

  • Limited to summer use

  • Expensive for a low-cut style

For the minimalist out there who wears hiking or trail-running shoes and loves the idea of an invisible sock, there’s the Farm to Feet Damascus Low Cut Light Targeted Cushion Socks. Light enough and low-cut enough to wear with your everyday fashion sneakers, they’re made with the same technical materials and construction as the brand’s traditional-height socks. Each of their blended ingredients bring different benefits, including nylon for quick-drying durability and merino wool for temperature-regulating softness and odor resistance.

The third ingredient, Lycra, delivers a blister-resistant performance fit that stays snug without being too restrictive. Seamless toe closure also helps to reduce chafing and the likelihood of blisters. Because the socks are meant for summer use, they feature strategic ventilation panels to keep your feet fresh and dry. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice cushioning, which is still present on all high-impact areas. The socks come in three diverse colors: Charcoal, Plum, and Green Gables.

Price at time of publication: $20

Materials: 54 percent nylon, 43 percent merino wool, 3 percent Lycra | Style: Low cut | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

What to Look for in Hiking Socks


Hiking socks are typically made from a blend of materials chosen to deliver just the right mix of performance and durability. For all but the most lightweight summer socks, merino wool is usually a primary ingredient. It’s naturally antimicrobial and moisture-wicking, which keeps your feet feeling dry and smelling good; it’s non-itchy; and it regulates temperature to insulate you in cold weather and provide breathability in warm weather.

Most socks also use synthetic fibers like polyester and/or nylon for added durability and faster drying times. Finally, stretchy fabrics like spandex and Lycra help socks to keep their shape and allow for a tailored, just-right fit that’s neither too tight nor loose enough to cause bunching or wrinkling. The latter is important in order to avoid blisters. Specialist socks like the waterproof ones from Sealskinz use unique materials such as a hydrophilic membrane.

Comfort and Fit

Tressa Kreis, the U.S. Sales Manager for Darn Tough, says that the best and most comfortable fit is determined by three factors: your footwear, the hike, and your personal preference. For example, those that wear traditional hiking boots will probably be most comfortable in crew-style socks that sit high enough to prevent any contact between your boots and your skin. But if you wear low-cut hiking shoes or trail-running sneakers, you can get away with an ankle or even a no-show style.

Similarly, if you’re planning a winter hike over rough terrain, you’ll want fully cushioned socks with plenty of height for maximum weather and impact protection. But if you’re hiking somewhere tropical, light cushioning in only the most strategic areas (your Achilles and toe box, Kreis says) is a better option. Whatever style of sock you go for, use size guidelines to choose a pair that fit correctly. They should be snug enough to prevent wrinkles or bunching but not tight enough to restrict blood flow, and the heel cup should align correctly with your heel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hiking socks necessary?

Kreis says that the primary difference between hiking socks and everyday socks is the level of cushioning they provide and where that cushioning is located throughout the sock. This added padding makes hiking socks infinitely more comfortable, with better impact protection. Cushioning also adds durability and keeps your feet warm in winter, as does the use of insulating materials like merino wool. By blending several materials together, hiking socks offer much better temperature regulation than regular socks, no matter what climate you’re in.

Are compression socks good for hiking?

Originally designed for medical purposes, compression socks use pressure to support the process of blood circulation and reoxygenation. They are becoming increasingly popular among hikers, with potential benefits including increased blood flow and quicker lactic acid drainage (translating to less muscle burn, less fatigue, and quicker recovery times). By preventing fluid buildup they also minimize swelling and the likelihood of pressure-related blisters.

However, the effects of high-pressure medical compression socks may be too extreme for active pursuits. Look for compression socks with light to medium pressure that have been designed especially for hiking. Keep an eye out for signs that your blood pressure is being negatively affected (ranging from bluish skin to leg cramps and a change in the color and/or temperature of your toes) and remove the socks immediately if they should occur.

How much should I spend on hiking socks?

According to Kreis, Darn Tough hiking socks range in price from $19 to $35 depending on their height, weight, and level of cushioning. This is a pretty accurate reflection of prices across the industry, with the cheapest on this list coming in at only a few dollars less than Darn Tough’s lower range and the most expensive price reserved for Sealskinz’ specialty waterproof socks. How much you should spend depends on what style and features you’re looking for. Sometimes, it’s worth forking out a little extra for long-lasting socks with a great warranty, like the Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life one from Darn Tough.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Jessica Macdonald is TripSavvy’s Africa travel expert and Commerce Updates Editor. She has plenty of experience on the trail, from multi-day expeditions through the Amazon jungle to Scottish hillwalking challenges and hiking tours through the national parks of the western States. For this article, she compared product descriptions, industry reviews, and customer feedback for more than 20 pairs of hiking socks to come up with the category winners featured above. She also consulted Tessa Kries, U.S. Sales Manager for Darn Tough.

Read the original article on TripSavvy.