The 10 Best Hiking Socks of 2021

The perfect options for hiking in comfort—and style—regardless of your footwear

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Midweight Hiking Sock at Backcountry

"Great for all types of weather."

Best Buy: REI Co-Op Merino Wool Ultralight Crew Hiking Socks at REI

"Provides all the performance features you’ll need to hike in all conditions."

Best for Men: Smartwool Men's Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks at Smartwool

"Integrated cushioning throughout the Hike Full Cushion Crew Sock provides maximum warmth and protection."

Best for Kids: REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks - Kids' at REI

"Made with 39 percent merino to wick sweat and keep the feet warm in cold weather and cool in the heat."

Best for Women: Smartwool Women's Hike Light Cushion Mid Crew Socks at Smartwool

"Boasts a narrower heel and slimmer overall fit to align with the foot shape of many female hikers."

Best Lightweight: Swiftwick Pursuit Zero Ultralight at Amazon

"Assures optimal performance with natural wicking to keep things comfortable."

Best Ankle Sock: Darn Tough Light Hiker No Show Lightweight Hiking Sock at Darn Tough

"Perfectly suited to match those who hike in trail runners."

Best for Warm Weather: Icebreaker Cool-Lite Merino Hike 3Q Crew Socks at Icebreaker

"This sock is pretty minimalist, with breathe zones on the top to improve airflow."

Best Waterproof Sock: Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock at Amazon

"100 percent waterproof under any condition."

Best Compression: SockWell Ascent II OTC Moderate Graduated Compression Socks at Amazon

"Provides the comfort and protection that lovers of compression socks crave."

The pedigree of a true gear geek may lie in their appreciation of the ideal hiking sock. It’s truly astounding how many tech elements—layers of fabrics and mesh panels, seamless seams and weave patterns that provide support—come into play in what many see as a basic piece of apparel. “Socks are the number one piece of my essential kit,” says avid hiker, traveler, and gear-writer Nancy Bouchard. “A good pair of wool-synthetic blend socks, with enough fit mapping to keep them snug, but not too tight, protects your feet from all eventualities.” The higher-end technical socks even look technical thanks to the variable stitching patterns integrated into the design. They do cost more than your normal, everyday sock, but they’re worth the investment. “They aren’t cheap,” says Bouchard, “but when you compare them to the cost of a visit to the local doctor or losing a day due to blisters, they’re one of the cheapest trip insurance investments around.”

Here, the best hiking socks for your next hiking excursion.

Best Overall: Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Midweight Hiking Sock

Darn Tough Hiker 1/4 Cushion Sock

Courtesy of Backcountry

What We Like
  • Padded support

  • Loads of size options

  • Lifelong guarantee

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Height: Quarter, Medium Cushion

Available for both men and women, Darn Tough’s Hiker Quarter Midweight Hiking socks reign supreme. Its “performance fit” assures that the socks won’t bunch, slip, or cause blisters, with fine-gauge knitting to improve durability. A mix of fabrics—61 percent merino wool, 37 percent nylon, and a bit of Lycra spandex for stretch—let the sock wick away sweat naturally, keeping your feet cool in hotter climes and warm when it gets cold. Terry loops under the foot add a bit of extra cushion, while the upper fabrics are thinner for optimal performance and breathability. And in the unlikely event that the socks wear out, you can take advantage of Darn Tough’s no-questions-asked guarantee, which lets you swap your old pair for a new set. The made-in-Vermont company also offers the Midweight Hiking Sock in other heights. But the quarter height—which hits a few inches above the ankle—is great for all types of weather.

Best Buy: REI Co-Op Merino Wool Ultralight Crew Hiking Socks

REI Co-op Merino Wool Ultralight Crew Hiking Socks

Courtesy of REI

What We Like
  • Solid color options

  • They don’t retain odors

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Less cushioning than other options

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Height: Medium, Light Cushion

A heady mix of merino wool, nylon, and Lycra spandex provides the Merino Wool Ultralight Crew Hiking Socks from REI Co-op with all the performance features you’ll need to hike in all conditions. A stretch arch band provides support. Reinforcements at the heels, toes, footbeds, and Achilles improve the comfort, fit, and durability. The light cushion provides some additional protection from hard trails without adding weight or bulk.

Best for Men: Smartwool Men's Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

Courtesy of Smartwool

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Padded support

  • Moisture-wicking

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

Sizes: M, L, XL | Height: High (8 inches), Heavy Cushion

Smartwool has integrated cushioning throughout the Men's Hike Full Cushion Crew Sock to maximize warmth and protection. The sock provides a blend of responsibly sourced merino wool for wicking sweat, stretches of nylon (both virgin and recycled) for quick-drying durability, and a touch of elastane for stretch. Smartwool has baked in all its sock tech, including Indestructawool to avoid damages to the merino, a 4 Degree Elite Fit System for optimal comfort, and a virtually seamless toe to avoid hot spots. Mesh zones have been body-mapped onto the sock as well to improve breathability.

Best for Kids: REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks - Kids'

REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks - Kids'

Courtesy of REI

What We Like
  • Padded support

  • Affordable

  • Moisture-wicking

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

  • Not recommended for those prone to overheating

Sizes: XS, S, M, L | Height: Medium, Medium Cushion

Chances are good that any hike with kids will come with a bit of complaining. But if you go with the Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks from REI Co-op, it won’t be about the fit or comfort of their socks. In many ways, these socks are simply smaller versions of the brand’s high-performance adult hiking socks with 39 percent merino to wick sweat and keep the feet warm in cold weather and cool in hot. Recycled polyester improves the overall fit and durability, while one percent of Lycra spandex offers the right measure of stretch. The heels, toes, footbeds, and Achilles have all been reinforced with extra fabric to improve performance, and a stretchy arch band adds some extra support. Seamless toes avoid any chaffing.

Best for Women: Smartwool Women's Hike Light Cushion Mid Crew Socks

Women's Hike Light Cushion Mid Crew Socks

Courtesy of Smartwool

What We Like
  • Women-specific fit

  • Solid color options

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size options

Sizes: S, M, L | Height: Medium (5.5 Inches), Light Cushion

Smartwool, arguably the most well-known merino wool brand, took everything they knew about hiking socks—and then reinvented it. The end result is the women-specific Hike Light Cushion Mid Crew Socks which boasts a narrower heel and slimmer overall fit to align with the foot shape of many female hikers. Extended durability zones cover more of the sock, updated mesh zones improve breathability, and flex zones at the ankle allow for unhindered movement. A patent-pending construction method improves the durability compared to earlier versions with a virtually seamless toe to avoid chafing and a performance-oriented fit.

Best Lightweight: Swiftwick Pursuit Zero Ultralight

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Great for running, cycling, or travel

  • Comes in various cuff lengths

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Height: Low, Light Cushion

Sometimes you yearn for a bit of extra heft in a pair of hiking socks. Other times you want it to feel as if you’re barely wearing socks at all. Swiftwick’s Pursuit Zero Ultralight falls confidently into the latter category. A mix of merino, nylon, olefin, and spandex assures optimal performance with natural wicking to keep things comfortable. These socks have just enough fabric to add a bit of insulation when it’s cold and a touch of coolness in hot weather. Naturally, the cushion is fairly light, though the heels and toes are reinforced to improve durability in the high-abrasion areas, and flex zones at the ankle prevent bunching. A snug fit is assured thanks to the Y-shaped heel, a thin-channeled upper improves ventilation, and a seamless toe box removes any threat of sock to foot friction.

Best Ankle Sock: Darn Tough Light Hiker No Show Lightweight Hiking Sock

Darn Tough Light Hiker No Show Lightweight Hiking Socks - Women's

Courtesy of REI

What We Like
  • Padded support

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Durable

  • Lifelong guarantee

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size options

Sizes: M, L, XL | Height: Low, Light Cushion

Perfectly suited to match those who hike in trail runners and don’t want their apparel to announce their presence are the Men's Light Hiker No Show Lightweight Hiking Socks from Darn Tough. The Light Hikers have integrated merino wool throughout to provide moisture-wicking comfort. There's also fine-gauge knitting to improve durability, a seamless toe, and an overall lower-than-average profile to perform on the trails for months. The dominance of quick-drying nylon, which makes up 56 percent of the fabrics, further reinforces the socks’ durability. And because of Darn Tough’s lifelong guarantee, you can get a new pair simply by sending in the old ones.

Best for Warm Weather: Icebreaker Cool-Lite Merino Hike 3Q Crew Socks

Women's Cool-Lite™ Merino Hike 3Q Crew Socks

Courtesy of Ice Breaker

What We Like
  • Ultralight

  • Breathable

  • Moisture-wicking

What We Don't Like
  • Limited color options

  • Expensive (when not on sale)

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Height: Medium, Light Cushion

It might seem counterintuitive to wear a wool hiking sock in the blistering heat of summer, but Icebreaker’s Men's Cool-Lite Merino Hike 3Q Crew Socks make a pretty solid argument. Almost half of the sock consists of durable, cooling polyamide fabric, along with 28 percent merino wool to wick sweat and keep feet even cooler. A touch of elastane adds stretch for an optimal fit with Achilles support, a seamless toe closure, and additional support in the instep. This sock is pretty minimalist, with breathe zones on the top to improve airflow, though they do double up on the merino cushioning to add comfort for the heel and metatarsal bones.

Best Waterproof Sock: Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock

What We Like
  • Moisture-wicking

  • Great for cold weather

  • Breathable

What We Don't Like
  • Hotter than other options

  • Expensive

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Height: High, Medium Cushion

100 percent waterproof under any condition, Sealskinz’s All Weather Mid Length Socks utilize a unique hydrophilic membrane that keeps moisture out while also wicking sweat off your skin at the molecular level. The three-layer sock is a dizzying mix of fabrics—ultralight polycolon, nylon, and elastane in the outer, a breathable membrane in the middle, and an inner layer made of merino wool, acrylic, polyester, nylon, and elastane. This complex architecture simply delivers a product that wears and feels like any other normal, stretchy sock. But also one that will protect you from water, wind, mud, cold, and blisters. The complexity doesn't come cheap as this is a super spendy sock.

Best Compression: SockWell Ascent II OTC Moderate Graduated Compression Socks

What We Like
  • Graduated compression hits the sweet spot

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Padded support

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size and color options

Sizes: M/L, L/XL | Height: Knee-High, Medium Cushion

With an even degree of graduated compression, the SockWell Ascent II OTC provides the comfort and protection that lovers of compression socks crave. The high-collar sock fits snugly thanks to the brand’s “Accu-fit” technology with full arch support, a seamless toe closure to fend off blisters, and a breather panel for coolness. The bulk of the sock is composed of naturally wicking merino, assuring you’ll stay warm in colder temps, and cooler during the hottest days. They’ve also blended in a mix of performance-enhancing alpaca wool, along with durable nylon and a touch of Spandex to let the sock flex.

Final Verdict

Bolstered by a lifetime guarantee, it’s hard to find fault with Darn Tough’s Men's Hiker Quarter Midweight Hiking Sock (view at Backcountry). The sock boasts a blend of natural and synthetic fibers to wick sweat, provide comfort and support, keep you warm or cool, and last for years. But Smartwool’s new line of hiking socks—the women’s-specific Hike Light Cushion (view at Smartwool) and the men’s Hike Full Cushion (view at Smartwool)—also work wonderfully well. The brand integrated all its sock technologies to craft a pair that fits snuggly, provides support and cushion, and won’t introduce any hot spots.

What to Look for in Hiking Socks

Material

Almost all technical hiking socks are now a blend of several fabrics. Merino wool typically makes up more than half of the fabrics used due to its many tech properties. It wicks sweat, keeps you warm in cold temps and cool when it's hot. A huge bonus? It doesn’t retain body odor due to its natural antimicrobial properties. The rest of a hiking sock is typically nylon (or some proprietary fabric), which improves the socks’ durability and dries faster than merino. And then most brands integrate stretchy materials like Lycra spandex or elastane to provide a snug fit. “You want the perfect wool-synthetic blend, where they wick moisture from sweat and splashes but also dries out at night,” says Bouchard. 

Comfort

This consideration is essential to finding the right hiking sock. Most modern socks have been body-mapped to provide integrated mesh panels in the uppers to help circulation, layers of cushion underfoot to amp the comfort levels, and other features that improve mobility and a snug fit. Also, be sure to find ones with seamless—or near-seamless—toes. Lesser socks with noticeable seams on the toes or elsewhere are destined to create friction, which can result in blisters.

Warmth

As mentioned above, merino wool reigns supreme at temperature control. But if you want a pair that really adds some insulation, consider those with more cushioning and a higher overall collar, reaching well past your ankle for added protection and warmth. Waterproof socks are a smaller—and often pricer—sub-section of hiking socks, but they provide bomber protection against the elements and more heat retention due to their three-layer construction. Thinner socks breathe more but don’t insulate as well.

Thickness

Typically thickness refers to the quantity of fabric used in a sock. In general, the thicker and warmer the sock, the more padding or cushioning they have. But even lightweight socks typically have padding in key areas. “I traveled nearly 120 miles along Turkey’s Antalya Coast with a single pair of socks—my luggage got lost,” says Bouchard. “What saved me was targeted padding in the toe box, heel, and ankle.” Look for socks that integrate additional cushioning at the toe and heel at a minimum. And if you’re hiking in warmer areas, consider lighter-weight or thinner socks for better breathability.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How should I clean my hiking socks?

    Most hiking socks made of merino wool or other tech-centric fabrics are typically machine wash-friendly. But they’re not dryer-friendly as the fibers will shrink and get distorted. Always air-dry your hiking socks. Merino wool socks should also not be bleached, ironed, or dry cleaned. Most brands also provide additional guidance for cleaning their products.

  • Why are merino wool socks better for hiking?

    Merino wool is a miracle fabric in many ways. It wicks sweat naturally, allowing your feet to breathe, and will assist in temperature control—even if socks get wetted out from sweat or puddle-stomping. Merino wool also doesn’t retain odors. Unlike the itchy wool sweaters of yore, merino wool is also soft to the skin, stretchy, and relatively durable. “I’ve been hiking in merino wool socks since 2006,” says hiking enthusiast Susan Patterson. And fellow hiker Shalini Batra proclaims, “One day wearing a pair of technical merino wool socks and I was a convert.”

  • What’s the difference between liner socks and hiking socks?

    Liner socks are typically made of polyester or some other thin synthetic fabric or merino wool, which you wear on your feet underneath your actual hiking socks. The purpose of sock liners is to help reduce friction points to avoid blisters as well as adding another wicking layer to keep your feet dry. Day hikers probably don’t need to use liners unless they’re prone to getting blisters, but for backpacking trips which typically include more miles and carried weight with the potential for inclement weather, liners might be a good idea. Just be sure you don’t create any friction points in places like the seams of the toes or by bunching up the liner inside the hiking sock.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Borchelt is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and has been testing, rating, and writing about outdoor and travel gear for decades. His sock drawer is stuffed to the breaking point with all types of socks and brands, giving him firsthand experience about which socks are best for hiking.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. American Wool Council. "Benefits of Wool."

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