TOP GEAR PICKS

Best Hiking Socks: Keep Your Feet Warm and Dry While on the Trail

Merino wool hiking socks
Russell McCarty
Written by Russell McCarty

When on a trail, it’s must for you to protect your feet; else it will get difficult to take a step forward. Some believe that only having good shoes will serve the purpose, but we want to tell you that shoes can still be harsh on your feet. To protect them for the roughness of shoes and cold weather, you will need soft, sturdy, and reliable socks.

The best hiking socks on the market are hands-down, all made out of Merino wool. It’s not because Merino wool is the most economical, the most fashionable, or even the most technologically advanced, but merino wool has a deep history of keeping feet warm, dry, and durable. There is no comparison to any other natural or man-made fabric.

Merino wool yarn

In fact the best Merino wool socks are so durable; many brands offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. You read that correctly, companies are so confident in the performance of their wool socks that they offer their clients new socks if their product ever wears out. Think about all those knitted wool socks being mended time and time again by grandmothers around the world, wool simply stands up to the test of time.

These days merino wool sock customers are not going lightly on their socks either, they are hunters, backcountry ski enthusiasts, mountaineers, and generally extremely tough customers to please.

ProductMaterialAnkle LengthWeightPrice
Darn Tough Micro CrewMerino Wool, Nylon, Lycra SpandexCrew height3.2 ouncesCheck price on Amazon
Smartwool Phd Light CrewMerino Wool, Nylon, ElastaneCrew height3.2 ouncesCheck price on Amazon
Darn Tough Quarter CushionMerino WoolAnkle height4.8 ouncesCheck price on Amazon
Smartwool Phd Ultra Light MiniMerino Wool, Nylon, ElastaneAnkle height1.6 ouncesCheck price on Amazon
Smartwool Women’s CrewMerino Wool, Nylon, Elastane, PolyesterCrew height3.2 ouncesCheck price on Amazon
Smartwool Trekking Heavy CrewMerino Wool, Nylon, ElastaneCrew height9.8 ouncesCheck price on Amazon

Things To Look For While Buying A Pair Of Socks

The following are the factors that you should consider when shopping for a pair of socks that are great for hiking.

Breathability

No matter what sweat inducing outdoor activity you get up to, Merino wool has an incredible capacity to absorb moisture from your skin, and then transfer it into the air through evaporation. Nearly every hiker you speak with will confirm that after a long day trudging up the side of a mountain, when they take off their Merino wool socks in the evening, their feet are dry and their socks aren’t dripping.

Hiker wearing merino wool socks

Imagine doing this with cotton socks, you’d be leaving pools of sweat around the campfire after a long day of trekking. Wool is the tried-and-true option for dedicated outdoor enthusiasts. So, we recommend looking for merino wool socks.

Temperature Regulation

Certain socks are made to regulate your temperature. Look for socks with small air pockets that offer some of the best insulation. Winter or summer, this is a must have quality in your socks.

Odor Resistant

When you walk long hours, it’s natural to develop sweaty feet, but a good pair of socks checks this and ensure your feet is left without any bad odor. Look for socks that have a complex fiber structure that to pull smelly oils that your body produces while sweating away from the body, and lock it into its fabric. The odor should be released only while washing.

Quick Drying

Not every environment supports a quick dry, so, your socks need to let naturally evaporates moisture even in humid conditions. These days most many companies have also developed technologically advanced ways of making socks that have allowed for socks to stay dry even after heavy sweating.

Socks drying

 Top Hiking Socks Reviews

The following are some of the top-rated hiking socks that you can find in the market. Consider checking them out and you’re bound to find a pair that you will like.

Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksDarn Tough Men's Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks

Price: $16.02 – $100

Weight: 3.2 ounces

Dimensions: 13 x 8 x 4 inches

Specific features: Lifetime guarantee, performance fit, merino wool

Best use: Day trips, multi day hikes

What more can you ask for then an unconditional lifetime guarantee in socks? Considering how many socks are worn out for the average person every year (some guesses are up to five) think about what it would mean to be able to get these socks replaced for free, just because of simple wear and tear.

Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks likely won’t wear out in a year though; they are made with a majority of Merino wool, Nylon and Lycra. They work well in the backcountry because you can literally wear them for days at a time, with no wear, no tear and no stink!

Wear these socks and you are not likely to find any sort of slipping, bunching, and blisters. It’s a nice, cozy pair of socks with thick cushioning and perfect support any hiker would need. While there are people who are allergic to wools, but we want to bring it to your notice that most of the time it’s not the wool that causes problem, but it’s the chemical used in it. In these socks, you won’t find any sort of allergens.

Plan on trudging through the mud? According to customers, these socks will still hold up! Just don’t forget to wash them off in the riverbed afterwards! Plus, there are a number of color options available for you, so, you have a lot of options in there.

PROS:

  • Intensely comfortable
  • Antimicrobial and antibacterial
  • Unconditionally guaranteed for life

CONS:

  • They run a bit tight so buy a size larger.

Related: People who bought this product also buy the OUTAD Envelope Outdoor Sleeping Bag are one of the few things that we would recommend our readers. Summer or fall, this hiking bag is good for all weather conditions. Even though it comes at a very low price, you get a lot of good features in this sleeping bag, like double-sized zipper, durability, portability, and multiple-uses. 100% satisfaction is guaranteed when you buy this product.

Check the price on Amazon

SmartWool PhD Light Crew SocksSmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Crew Socks

Price: $13.97 – $43.90

Weight: 3.2 ounces

Dimensions: 11 x 5 x 3 inches

Specific features: Moisture management, ventilation areas, durable toe seam

Best use: Trail running, hiking, manual labor

According to some, these could possibly be the best socks ever made. Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? Consider the Reliawool patented technology which provides for superior durability where it counts in high impact areas such as toe and heel.

Even looking at SmartWool PhD Light Crew Socks you can visibly see the research and development that went into their woven sock technology. There is a myriad of criss crossed inter woven threads supporting the most essential areas. This technology makes these SmartWool PhD socks wearable all year long, in all-terrain and in every sport.

The 4 Degree Elite Fit system uses 2 elastics to keep the sock in place. This technology is likely to offer greater stretch and recovery. To offer maximum breathability and optimum moisture management, the socks are created with mesh ventilation zones. The cushioning in there is ideal for varied terrain and can be worn in almost every weather.

For longer user of the product, you need to machine wash the product gently and make sure to not dry clean, iron or bleach the product.

PROS:

  • Light cushion
  • Mesh venting

CONS:

  • Not for extreme summer

Related: The buyers of this product also recommend Smartwool Men’s No Show Socks. Good for your routine work, this sock has an internal grip at the heels. Made up of 75% Merino wool, 23% nylon, and 2% Elastane, these socks have all the good features like durability, breathability, and virtually seamless toe.

Check the price on Amazon

Darn Tough Quarter Cushion SocksDarn Tough Vermont Men's Merino Wool Cushion Hiking Socks

Price: $10.72 – $17.00

Weight: 4.8 ounces

Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 2 inches

Specific features: Unconditional lifetime guarantee, durable, soft, thermal properties

Best use: Backpacking, hot or cold weather, day trips

There is a rumor circulating around the internet about these socks. The rumor goes that someone had to hike over 700 miles with only one pair before he had to take advantage of the Darn Tough’s lifetime guarantee. This sock in particular is famous for being made out of very soft merino wool, comparable to a really nice pair of comfortable slippers.

Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Socks however were made to stay tough on long trail days, and keep your feet sweat free and dry in the backcountry. They also offer a nice shorter cut for those who prefer an ankle style sock.

Unlike the other socks on the list, you are not likely to face any sort of slipping, bunching, and blisters. The fine gauge knitting results in unprecedented durability and you are not likely to feel anything on the feet. To keep the moisture away from your skin, the sock is made with fast action wicking technology.

Whether you are going for hunting in the cold weather or for a normal walk, Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex is going to be your best purchase. You can select from a variety of colors, including Sulphur spring and jasmine green.

PROS:

  • No slipping
  • No blisters
  • Fast action wicking

CONS:

  • Consider buying a smaller size

Related: The Darn Tough Vermont Men’s Vertex Socks is one of the products that you should consider with this product. This lightweight running sock comes with cushioning along the bottom of the foot. Provided it has a true seamless construction, these socks will not cause any sort of slipping bunching, and blisters. You don’t even have to worry about the bad odors as this product is created with several antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

Check the price on Amazon

SmartWool PhD Ultra Light Mini SocksSmartWool Mens PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini Socks

Price: $11.37 – $35.90

Weight: 1.6 ounces

Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 2 inches

Specific features: Super stretchy, special ventilation zones, extremely thin

Best use: Backcountry, 3 season, day trips

Not every merino wool sock has to have serious backcountry thermal properties. SmartWool PhD Ultra Light Mini Socks instead caters towards the moisture wicking, cooling characteristics required by weekend warriors, commuters and trail runners.

Built for performance in the highest trails, these socks are built with light cushioning, which is durable and comfortable. To maintain the long life of your socks, you need to wash them gently. Avoid dry cleaning the cushion and say a strict no to ironing.

These are more discreet, and have a lighter Merino wool content than others on the list, making it a little more comfortable for the less strenuous activities in our life. These socks will make a great addition for a three-season wardrobe, and can easily be worn under runners or leather dress shoes.

PROS:

  • Light cushion
  • Mesh venting
  • Indestructawool technology

CONS:

  • Good for minimalist camping and hiking

Related: People who bought this product also prefer the Buttoned Down Men’s Classic Fit Shirt. Made with 100% Supima cotton, this long sleeve button front shirt features a chest pocket. The products come in three types of fits, including Slim, Fitted, and Classic. Buyers are allowed to select from the 72 size combinations to decide which one suit you best.

Check the price on Amazon

Smartwool Women’s Crew SocksSmartwool Women's Hike Light Crew Socks

Price: $16.95 – $33.90

Weight: 3.2 ounces

Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 2 inches

Specific features: Lightweight arch support, made in the USA, durable, thermal properties

Best use: Backpacking, winter sports, hiking

Women should never feel left out in terms of having super durable, always reliable warm socks. Why should men get all the great socks? In fact, with Smartwool Women’s Crew Socks women are actually getting a better deal than with the men’s socks, because the woman’s version comes in a much wider variety of colors. They are also built to better fit the shape of a female foot, meaning they are slimmer and structured for the difference in arch support and heel shape.

However, don’t think that just because these are built specifically with women in mind, that they aren’t built to be a workhorse. Women have used these when deployed in Afghanistan, finding them comfortable, dry, and warm for over 14 hours a day.

Despite being extremely long lived and durable, wool requires a bit of extra care in terms of storage, washing and overall care. Although wool is known for its ability to hold up under even the harshest elements, it has a sensitive side and needs to be properly looked after to ensure it has the longest life possible. We would recommend you to wash them properly so as to avoid contraction.

PROS:

  • Perfect for all weather
  • Enhanced breathability
  • Keeps your feet dry

CONS:

  • Padding is probably heavier

Related: The Smartwool Women’S Hike Medium Socks is one of the products that buyers prefer to buy with this product. Not just that it comes on a very low price, but it also has all the perfect features for a reliable socks. Keeping the choice of women in mind these socks are available in multiple colors. The flat-knit seam tends to keep you fit throughout the day, so that you don’t face any issue in long walks.

Check the price on Amazon

SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew SocksSmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks

Price: $19.10 – $99.10

Weight: 9.8 ounces

Dimensions: 11 x 4 x 3 inches

Specific features: Heavy cushioning, arch support, thermal properties

Best use: Winter sports, backcountry, extended use, hunting

The warmest sock on our best wool sock list, the SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks have a higher percentage of merino wool than many others, and are built to for long lasting thermal capabilities in the deepest depths of winter backcountry activity. They are especially cushioned for high impact activities you might get up to in the snow, including skiing and snowboarding.

Hunters are known to rely on these socks for extended hunting or canoe trips in the brisk months of fall. Despite their ability to keep your feet warm, because of their construction and material they will ensure your feet stay dry, no matter how sweaty you might feel.

The socks are available in a pair of great colors and even the prices are not so high. From day to day use to the hiking jobs, you can buy these socks for all sorts of purposes.

PROS:

  • Ultra comfortable
  • Proper ventilation
  • Keeps your feet dry

CONS:

  • A little pricier

Related: If you require a good pair of hiking socks that will not break the bank, the Kirkland Signature Men’s Outdoor Trail Sock is a solid choice. It is made of 70% Merino wool so it provides the best warmth without overheating.

Check the price on Amazon

Bottom Line

Nearly everyone has memorable story of their socks holding up throughout a 700 mile trek, or an epic adventure through the jungles. Some people have reported taking their shoes off, to more easily claw their way through the mud in their wool socks. After making their way through the mud, they simply wade into a river and wash their socks off on the rough river bed. The merino socks keep trucking through all this.

Hiking woolen socks

Do you have a similar story of how your merino socks proved their worth even in the toughest conditions? Share us your experiences with us in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russell McCarty
Russell McCarty

Russell considers backpacking one of his great passions in life. He actually managed to transform his passion into a living becoming a professional adventurer. Russell loves long-distance backpacking and he enriched his portfolio with famous trails like the Alaska-Yukon Expedition or the Appalachian Trail. With thousands of miles under his feet, Russell is the expert to consult when it comes to how to prepare for a successful outdoor adventure.

  • Shawna Lewis

    I absolutely PUNISHED my feet on my last hike but the Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Socks I bought really lived up to their name. They are so durable! I would gladly recommend them to anyone. Very comfy too!

  • Russell McCarty

    Love these socks, too. The Merino wool is tops when it comes to keeping us comfy and toasty. The socks are constructed well and they are quite affordable, I should point out.
    Glad you favored them Shawna! It’s a smart choice.

  • Mike Baker

    The Smartwool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks are pretty tough, too. I wear them (and wash them) on a regular basis and they have held up fine. The wool also does an impressive job of keeping my feet warm in pretty tough conditions.

  • Russell McCarty

    This pair of socks can withstand the toughest conditions and I’m pleased that you were able to discover it Mike. It has a good arch support and thermal properties that care for our feet. Very affordable price, as well.

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