What Are the Best Socks for Hiking?
Socks are a deceptively important gear item for hikers. Most people give them little thought and choose to focus more on hiking boots and outer garments. However, as any true hillwalker will tell you, hiking boots are only as good as the socks you wear them with. That invites the question of what are the best socks for hiking?
If you make the wrong choice, you could have cold, wet feet that are painfully covered in blisters. If you make the right choice, you can have a happy hike with warm, dry feet that feel like you’re wearing slippers! To help you make this decision, here are some tips on buying the best socks for hiking.
The material of the sock should be one of your first considerations. Unfortunately, you can’t just grab any pair of socks out of your drawer and slip them on for hiking. Well, technically you could, but if you value warmth and comfort, it’s probably not advisable. One of the issues here is that most socks are made from cotton. There’s an old rambler’s adage levelled at socks for hiking that says, “cotton is rotten”.
Although cotton has properties that suit an everyday lifestyle, they are not up to the rough and ready exertions of a hiker. Once wet, cotton socks will stay that way. This means you can get cold, damp feet simply from sweating inside your waterproof boots over a long hike. Cotton is also not particularly durable which makes it easy for your skin to rub and blister.
Instead, use socks for hiking that have a synthetic blend. Artificial fibres are better at wicking away moisture to keep your feet dry. They are also designed to provide extra support in areas of stress around the heel and toe pads. Wool, particularly merino wool, is a great thread as it is very good at insulating, even when damp. However, it can be a little rough against the skin if worn on long-distance hikes.
Socks come in many different lengths and sizes. Generally, there are ankle socks, quarter socks, crew socks, and knee-high socks. These sizes have different names and classifications but that is the overall range on offer. To get the best socks for hiking, select a size that is appropriate for your shoe choice and weather conditions.
For example, if you are using trail running shoes to hike along a path in hot weather, you may find ankle socks the most fitting choice. Alternatively, if you are trekking in winter using ankle-high hiking boots, you may want quarter or crew socks to prevent the lip of the shoe from rubbing against your skin and to provide extra warmth.
To select an appropriate sock size for hiking, choose a range that fits into your normal shoe size. For example, a UK 9-11 sock size is suitable for someone with a size 10 foot. If you are an 8, only select this larger size if you plan on double layering your socks as you will find the material will bunch up in your shoe as you hike.
Double Layering & Alternative Shapes
Double layering of socks is a technique that is popular if you are hiking in particularly cold conditions or using specialist boots. For example, if you are planning a multi-day trek in snow, you may want a thick wool sock to handle the warmth, but to prevent the material from rubbing against your skin, you might choose to layer it with a thin mixed-blend inner sock for added comfort. This is also a technique that must be used if you are wearing mountaineering boots which can be very hard on the skin due to the rigid design used for rock climbing.
The best socks for hiking may not even be the traditional sock shape. For example, the Injinji socks mould to your toes much like a glove would wrap around your fingers. This is ideal for long-distance hikers and trail runners as it prevents your toes from rubbing together and allows you to have more grip when moving along the trail.
Hiking Sock Recommendations
These socks can be bought at many high street camping shops or specialist shoe stores. Alternatively, they can be ordered online and delivered to your home if none are available in-store.
1 . Darn Tough
Darn Tough are one of the best socks for hiking on the market. Their brand specialises in durable socks that maximise comfort and warmth by using clever stitching and appropriate thread material. They come in many different lengths, sizes, and colours to suit all your hiking needs.
2 . Smartwool
Smartwool is another brand making socks for hiking. They opt for a predominantly wool-based material in their hiking socks. However, they also use a mixed blend of fibres integrated with the wool to help the socks wick away moisture. This is essential to keep your feet dry and as a result, free from blisters!
3 . Injinji
This is a unique brand that has a faithful following of thru-hikers and trail runners who swear by their efficacy. They are some of the most funky-coloured and unusually shaped socks for hiking, but they deliver where it most counts, in comfort and durability. Their nylon and polyester blend are designed to maximise breathability. Even a fully-submerged foot can rapidly dry with these hiking socks.
Socks for hiking come in a great variety and this is a huge benefit to the user. You can carefully select your socks and tailor your choice to fit your hiking preferences and to match your outdoor style. Think first of functionality and second of colour and branding. You may well need multiple socks for hiking in different situations.
Whenever you buy new hiking shoes, make sure you have the appropriate socks to pair them with. While you’re breaking in your boots, wear these socks and get comfortable using the two together. That way, you can enjoy a comfortable and cosy hike for many trips to come!