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Whether you’re looking for a pair of wool socks to tuck under snow boots or a pair to hit the trail in, there’s plenty of options out there — especially so in recent years, when textile engineering has moved beyond the scratchy wool socks Grandma used to knit you and into technical knits that guarantee not just warmth, but have performance boosts practically built in. There are a ton of choices, and it’s best to narrow them down by what you’ll wear them for, whether it’s hiking, running or staying warm in a cold climate. Other considerations include whether you’re on a budget, looking for an investment (we have some guaranteed for life, no joke) or just looking for a pair made out of some high-grade merino wool.
We at TripSavvy have left no rock unturned when it comes to finding the best pairs of wool socks out there, organized by price point, gender and purpose — so you’re sure to find the best pair of wool socks out there for your purposes.
Best Overall: Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion
Sure, these might be a little expensive for a single pair of socks, but what if we told you they last forever? Darn Toughs have built a reputation for quality wool socks for active, on-the-go people who aren’t afraid of heading out in a chill — or on a hike where a pair of standard athletic socks just won’t cut it. The seamless construction helps keep blisters and hot spots from forming, while the merino wool keeps feet breathing and dry, even when you start to hit double-digit miles. Plus, the thick knit makes these a genuine treat to wear in terms of comfort, and colorful patterns (chocoloate, lime, oatmeal, olive, etc.) make these fun to put on.
And about the whole lasting-forever thing? Darn Toughs come with a lifetime warranty — if you happen to get a tear or these start to wear, just send them in. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing: All that cushioning means these aren’t great to wear on super-hot days — but that’s not what you’re buying these for, right?
Best Budget: Wigwam Hiker Midweight Crew
Made of 67 percent merino wool, 21 percent nylon, seven percent elastic and five percent acrylic, these are breathable with a built-in ventilation channel at the fraction of the price of comparable socks — but the merino loops also help retain heat. They also come with extra long-life reinforcement, courtesy of the material blend that makes these shine when it comes to durability.
The crew length fits great under boots, and there’s a huge variety of colors to choose from, from very practical tan to fuschia that’s guaranteed to stand out in your sock drawer. They’re also machine washable, making these a breeze to care for once you’re back from the trail — or from a day of running errands in the cold.
Best for Women: Joyca & Co. Women’s Multi-Color Fashion Socks
When it comes to deals, you can’t beat Joyca & Co.’s cozy wool socks. Colorful and stylish, with great color combos and plenty of on-trend knit patterns, these are the kind of socks you want to curl up near the fire with or have peeking out of the tops of your fall and winter boots. They’re 38 percent wool, with 32 percent cotton, 25 percent polyester and five percent spandex — the latter two materials help increase durability and get rid of any scratchiness from the wool. Plus, it helps it stay thin enough to tuck under everyday boots in colder months — not every occasion calls for the most heavy duty pair of socks.
One size fits almost all with these, which makes splitting a four-pack with a friend even better (sizes 10 wide and up might not fit these well). Technical trail socks these are not, but sometimes you just need a cozy pair to relax in — and these are perfect for that.
Best for Men: Wigwam Men’s El Pine Sock
Wigwams have a cult reputation among winter-sock shoppers for being warm and stylish and this raglan pair hits both those marks — hence why it’s been on the market for years and years now. WIth a stylish heathery knit that feels great tucked into a pair of hiking boots or peeking up over the top of a pair of everyday fall ones, these are great all-purpose socks at not too bad of a price. They’re also machine washable and dryable (just keep them on low) — and even after dozens of washes, the rib knit still clings just as well to the calf without being too tight.
To make sure they last you for seasons to come, the El Pines are designed with synthetic-fiber enhanced, fortified heels and toes — two easily wearable and blister-prone areas — to keep the skin safe and the knit intact. They also come with a workmanship guarantee, though that won’t cover normal wear and tear.
Best 100% Merino Wool: Rockay Accelerate
When most people think of 100 percent wool socks, something big, chunky and thick is what usually springs to mind. Not so with these sleek socks: Looking downright sporty and modern, Rockay’s Accelerate socks are made from 100 percent merino wool — and not just any merino, but organic merino. The brand is still an up-and-comer, quickly getting (deserved) attention but not quite to the name recognition of SmartWool or Darn Toughs.
Made in Europe with wool from South America, these pairs are seriously comfortable, with padding in the heel and toe — right where your foot absorbs plenty of impact — and ventilation is built-in to help wick moisture away even more. Plus, these socks come with a heel tab that’s a little higher so they don’t annoyingly slip down in shoes. (The brand went so far as to test these with 30 different runners before switching on the production.) Like Darn Toughs, these are guaranteed for life — no conditions, and no questions asked.
Best for Hiking: SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks
SmartWools are great if you want something a little more geared toward on-the-trail performance. Made from 70 percent merino wool, 29 percent nylon, and a dash of elastan (spandex), these knit-in-the-USA socks are great to take out on the trail, even after miles and miles, thanks to their moisture-wicking properties. Plus, they’re good for all seasons, thanks to the wool that keeps feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
We love the elasticized arch brace for extra support and for keeping the sock in place, as well as the flat-knit toe seam that avoids rubbing up against the toe of your boots, even during the steepest downhill descent. Speaking of downhill descents, these are also designed with full cushioning that helps with shock absorption. Unlike some wool socks, you can machine wash and dry these — just keep it all on gentle and low, and they’ll be just fine for many hikes to come.
Best in Extreme Cold: J.B. Icelandic Arctic Trail -40 Below Winter Sock
There’s cold, and then there’s teeth-chattering cold. These are for the latter. Made to keep toes warm down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, these wool socks will keep you warm in the coldest of temperatures. Made from 85 percent pre-shrunk wool (no nasty dryer surprises here) and 15 percent nylon, these socks are easy to care for. Wool is naturally breathable, so your feet won’t get clammy in these, even if you go from the chill outside to a cozy fire. Plus, the wool helps to wick away any moisture that does build up, keeping your feet non-smelly, blister-free and dry.
Best for Trail Running: FITS Light Performance Trail Quarter
FITS was created in response to what they call an “industry-wide epidemic of ill-fitting socks,” so right off the bat, you know these are going to be good. These won’t be no-shows — in fact, a taller cuff is the opposite of a no-show — but the extra height around the ankle helps to keep tiny twigs, pebbles and all other types of trail debris away from your skin and the inside of your shoes.
The 50 percent merino, 40 percent nylon, seven percent polyester and three percent Lycra construction means that this sock breathes just as well as its more heavily woolen brethren (aided also by a vented lower), while encasing your foot in a snug fit — per the brand’s name — that won’t slip down in the shoe. Bonus: We love the extra cushioning on the heel, toe and arch.