Best Socks For Hiking & Walking Tested and Compared

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Often when looking to improve our comfort while walking or hiking we turn our focus to the latest in shoes or gadgets. Sometimes, however, the best thing we can do is invest in a good pair of socks. It may not seem very appealing to have to “invest” in socks of all things, but your feet will be thanking you. Plus, in this day and age finding a great pair of socks can be just as exciting as a Fitbit or a new pair of hiking boots.

To help you find that great pair of socks we’ve put together a list of the best socks for hiking and walking. Check out our recommendations below as well as our collection of criteria that we used to rate each pair and our list of frequently asked questions!

Last Updated:
By EJ Callanan:

This update adds the unique Injinji 2.0 Midnight Nuwool socks to our list. These are a great pick for adventurers who are willing to try something new like the great toe separating design that allows for a natural step and prevents blisters and hotspots. We also edited the criteria we used to create our list for accuracy and readability.

Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker
  • Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Durable & Versatile
  • Price: See Here
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew
  • Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Comfortable
  • Price: See Here
Rockay Accelerate
  • Rockay Accelerate
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Prevents Blisters
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Hiking and Walking Socks

 

 

 

Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker

Breathable, comfortable, durable and a great fit– these socks get a check in every category. Made with merino wool, these socks have fast action wicking capabilities, prevent blisters and won’t bunch up in a hiking boot. They are cool in the summer, warm in the winter. They feel great on and feature high density cushioning for those long walks.
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Comfort

These are full cushion socks, made with high density padding that is located throughout the entire sock for maximum comfort. Made with majority merino wool, these socks help keep the feet nice and toasty in the winter, yet cool in the summer with its temperature regulating capabilities. Darn Tough made these socks completely seamless, so they are smooth with no possibility for hot spots or irritations caused by lines and seams. It has a great balance between padding and support, ideal for being worn long periods of time.

Breathability

The merino wool makes these socks breathable and fast-drying, wicking away moisture so sweaty feet is not a problem. This also means it has antimicrobial properties that wards off bacteria and odor so they can be worn an extra day when backpacking.

Design/Fit

These socks have a performance fit, and are made to be worn in boots without bunching or slipping. It has fine gauge knitting that makes it durable, and it sits mid-calf to protect the ankle from boot irritation and abrasions.
Pros
  • Medium cushioning throughout the entire sock that is super comfortable without being bulky
  • Versatile among seasons for hiking and every day wear
  • Durable
Cons
  • A bit pricey for a pair of socks, but a worthy investment

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew

Ideal for long hikes and walks, these socks are extremely durable in the heel and the toe. They have a crew cut that is ideal for hiking boots, with an elite fit system that helps keep the sick in place no matter the shoe. It has light cushioning for both trail and road terrains and made with breathable merino wool.
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Comfort

The construction of these includes merino wool that enhances comfort and softness, making 22 miles feel as comfortable as 2. Light in this case refers to the amount of cushioning, ideal for mild weather without being too heavy and thick, yet providing enough padding for various terrains.

Breathability

These socks are definitely breathable, equipped with mesh zones on the top of the foot to allow for air circulation while regulating temperature. The merino wool also aids in moisture management, wicking away sweat.

Design/Fit

The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light is constructed with the company’s patent-pending Idestructawool technology that makes it extremely durable (they claim about 33% more durable than other socks) and comfortable. Its Indestructawool is strategically placed at the bottom of the foot and the heel, “high wear zones” to makes theses socks last. It has a 4 Degree elite fit System with elastics that prevent it from slipping or bunching up. There is even a women’s specific fit with a slimmer heel pocket and is more narrow. These socks have a crew cut height.
Pros
  • Great fit, even its ankle-high boots
  • Super durable with its
  • Indestuctrawool tech
  • Cozy and comfortable
Cons
  • Can be a little snug, especially around the ankle

ROCKAY Accelerate

Long hikes or walks are great for building endurance, but to survive these longer activities one must find gear with optimal durability and breathability. That’s where the ROCKAY Accelerate comes in. This highly durable sock made of Merino wool provides the wearer with a durable sock that will allow for air flow and wick away moisture caused by sweat.

A new and upcoming brand, with some good fans, ROCKAY looked at what walkers and hikers alike wanted in a sock. They took this feedback into consideration in the creation of the Accelerate and designed a sock that meets all of the needs of the wearer, including breathability, comfort, durability, and support.
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Because long outings can put stress on your feet, ROCKAY wanted to make sure these socks would wick away moisture and allow the foot to breath, all while still protecting it from the elements. They succeeded in this feat and have used an alternative weave pattern and Merino wool to keep the foot cool and dry. This makes them ideal for all weather conditions.

As most of us struggle with, a major complaint with most socks is the fact that they tend to wear out quickly in the heel and toe areas. The Accelerate has been designed with emphasis to durability in these areas to help them last longer and provide an increased value in return. 

These socks also provide the wearer with a good amount of support. The material gives just the right amount of compression that the socks will stay in place the entire time they are worn and will not slip and slide around in the shoe. 

The breathability of these socks is another area where the Accelerate shines. The Merino wool keeps the foot ventilated but doesn’t sacrifice support or durability to do so. The low, no-show design also helps the lower leg and ankle to breath.

ROCKAY has also put considerable thought into the look of these socks. The sleek and minimal design is sure to match any athletes style and pairs nicely with your favorite running shoes. 
Pros

Durable Merino wool construction

Excellent protection from the elements

Long lasting heel cushioning

Cons

May irritate wearers with textile allergies

Thorlo Walking Ankle

Thorlo Walking Ankle
Designed to prevent foot pain and blisters, these socks allow wearers to walk around without having stress on the feet. Lightly padded, they aren’t, and are breathable for warmer weather wear.
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Comfort

Just one look at these socks and they say “comfortable,” and this isn’t just an illusion when it comes to performance in this category. It doesn’t provide as much padding as other Thorlo socks and other brand socks on this list, so it’s not for those with foot issues or used to thicker padding when walking. However, it provides ample cushioning, especially at the arch), that makes this a lightweight option for active individuals. It still includes padding under the ball and heel of the foot that amp the comfort level here without being too bulky in a shoe. Its impressive padding absorbs shock to ease the impact of contact with the ground. There is also padding on the top where the shoelaces are to prevent hot spots. The fibers are soft so it feel great on the feet. It is also clinically tested to protect against friction that causes blisters.

Breathability

These socks are constructed with ThorWick Coolfibers that wicks away moisture to keep the feet nice and dry. There is also more loose spun fibers around the socks with more breathable mesh panels to allow for ventilation.

Design/Fit

These socks take into account the way the feet move to ensure a good fit with protection and comfort. They are designed to be worn with all kinds of sneakers and feature and ankle length. It has a cushioned, close fitting arch which provides support.
Pros
  • Comfortable without being too thick
  • Padding on top
  • Prevents blisters
  • Affordable
  • Durable
Cons
  • Might be too thick for those who want lightweight, but not enough for some
  • Can feel snug in the arch

Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew Nuwool

Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew Nuwool
These Injinji socks have a unique design with a form-fitting foot shape, toes and all. As far as hiking socks go, they are the total package. Cushioning, great breathability, and a high-quality fiber blend are just a few of the features that help these socks take your performance above and beyond.
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Comfort
These midweight socks are made with a combination of Nuwool--which is a Merino wool blend-- nylon, acrylic, and LYCRA. This is a great combination for durability, warmth, and moisture wicking. The footbed has extra cushioning for support and each toe is wrapped individually to help prevent blistering and redirect sweat.

Breathability
An ultra-breathable mesh layer makes up the top and is great for ventilation. This and the moisture wicking fabric that covers every inch of your foot will keep you cool and dry no matter where your trek takes you.

Design/Fit
The crew length is high enough to accomodate most hiking boots and the upper cuff has enough grip to keep a close, comfortable fit without being constricting. The thing that really sets these socks apart is the Injinji design that separates each toe and allows your feet to spread naturally while walking. They are great for comfort, breathability, and for keeping sweat and moisture off your feet. All in all, one of the best socks you could take with you on your hiking adventures.
Pros
  • Unique toe sock design that wicks moisture and prevents blisters
  • Nuwool fabric blend
  • Breathable mesh top
  • Cushioning in the footbed
  • Extra band for arch support
  • Variety of colors
Cons
  • Toe coverings may not be comfortable for everyone

Smartwool Walk Light Mini

Smartwool Walk Light Mini
These socks have all the important features needed for a reliable walking sock, including being flexible for movement, yet durable with its reinforced sole. It is comfortable with a light amount of cushioning that doesn’t make it too bulky to wear with sneakers. It has a great fit and will stay in place. It’s designed for every day wear, short walks around the block and longer walking adventures.
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Comfort

These socks are design specifically for walking, and its level of comfort reflects that. It is lightly cushioned which gives the foot enough protection for trail and not too bulky for the road. It is made with mostly merino wool to increase its softness, making them just generally feel nice on the feet.

Breathability

The merino wool construction helps to make this a breathable option, wicking away moisture as well. It also isn’t thick or bulky, and has ventilation panels to allow for air in and to escape to keep the feet cool.

Design/Fit

The sock height on these walking socks is described as being “mini.” This translates it to being ankle height. This makes it a great fit for sneakers and even some boots. This cut also prevents the sock from slipping. It has SmartWool’s Fit System, which consists of braces at the ankle and arch that calls for a more secure and hugging fit. It also has a flat knit toe seam, waffle knit flex zone and reinforced sole.
Pros
  • Perfect sock for long walks for comfort, breathable and fit
  • Versatile; good for every day wear and workouts
  • Durable and last long
Cons
  • Can be too lightweight and thin for some

Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew

Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew
These are super comfortable socks, ideal for longer hikes and climbs when having ample cushioning is necessary. Made with mostly merino wool for comfort and moisture wicking properties, this fabric helps to regulate temperature. It has a crew cut that is ribbed around the leg and mid-level padding under the foot.
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Comfort

These are some darn comfortable socks. (Pun intended.) Tested on the Vermont Long Trail, these socks performs well thanks it is mid-level cushion density under the foot and soft merino wool. There is no seam at the toes because of its ring-toe construction and these don’t bunch up because of its elastic around the arch that also provides support. They feel great in boots, and the wearer will not need to worry about any blisters forming.

Breathability

The merino wool is the main breathability feature here, being able to regulate body temperature and wick away moisture. These socks are also warm making it great for winter activities.

Design/Fit

With its crew cut, these socks won’t be slipping around with its wide-ribbed design. The merino wool is shrink-treated to keep its fit after washes. It has a two-toned color pattern that is neutral and great for both genders.
Pros
  • Super comfortable for long treks on the trails
  • Warn, dry, and breathable
Cons
  • Pricey for a pair of socks
  • Sizing can be a bit off (too tight for some)
  • Threads snag

Smartwool Hike Medium Crew

Smartwool Hike Medium Crew
This is another great option from Smartwool, made for rugged hikes or when backpacking through the backcountry. It’s best feature is the arch brace that hold the sock in place while giving lots of support. Along with being comfortable, its merino wool helps to wick away moisture keeping feet cool and dry. It has a crew cut, ideal for hiking boots and overall fits well.
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Comfort

Comfort is in the forefront here since it is made with soft merino wool, and featuring a medium amount of cushioning that lessens the impact from the feet from pounding against the trail. The amount of comfort makes it great for those rough hikes and rugged climbs, as well as days long backpacking travels. It has a flat-knit toe seam that reduces the chance of irritation.

Breathability

The merino wool aids in this socks breathability, but overall they do a decent job keeping the feet dry. The wool does keep the feet warm, even when getting wet from sweat, so this is a good option for colder weather hikes.

Design/Fit

This sock has a crew cut, great for boots. The Smartwool Hike Medium Crew socks are equipped with an elasticized arch brace that keeps the sock from bunching while providing stability. It comes in neutral colors and is unisex.
Pros
  • Warm and comfortable for winter
  • Knit in the U.S.
Cons
  • Not as breathable as other options
  • Quality decreases over time

Thorlos Light Hiking

Thorlos Light Hiking
Made in the U.S., these are some high quality socks geared towards those who enjoy long hikes on rugged terrain. Constructed with ThorWick and ThorLon fabric to make it moisture wicking, soft and durable, these socks have lots of cushioning while still being fairy light. Its padding is strategically placed to reduce blisters, hot spots and other irritations.
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Comfort

These socks from Thorlos are among the best scoring when it comes to this category. Its padding is clinically tested to reduce blisters and foot pain. The padding is located under the ball and the heel to provide maximum protection against impact while reducing pressure and friction to prevent blisters.

Breathability

These socks will keep the feet cool and dry thanks to its THORLON fabric that includes its Thor-Wick Cool treated yarn that enhances breathability and moisture control. Along with wicking moisture, it also include a ventilation panel for even more air flow. In comparison, they don’t dry as fast as some options like Wigwam’s Hiking/Outdoor Pro socks.

Design/ Fit

These socks have a low profile toe seam and a crew cut, ideal for hiking boots. These socks are light, but thicker than other options on this list. This is a good thing for those who like thicker padding when going on longer hikes, but might not be the best for just a short stroll. These socks are soft and durable, and unisex; however there is women’s specific version that has a narrower toe box, extra stretch in the ankle, smaller heel pocket.
Pros
  • Thick and soft padding for optimal comfort
  • Breathable with ventilation panels
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Might be too thick for some for sneakers
  • Bunches up a little

Balega Hidden Comfort

Balega Hidden Comfort
Balega socks are very popular among runners for being lightweight, breathable and comfortable, and the Hidden Comfort sock has all these features that make it great for walkers too. This includes a more structured fit with a reinforced heel and toe. It has protective cushioning that comes in handy when on the feet for a long time. There is plenty of ventilation and it comes in various color options.
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Comfort

The Balega Hidden Comfort sock is extremely popular when it comes to runners, making it also a great option for walkers. And with its impressive comfort score, it can also be worn for day hikes. Just keep in mind these aren’t the best to wear with hiking boots because of its low cut. Worn in sneakers, these socks feel great. They have a medium volume construction and are very soft, combining lightweight properties with enough padding. The cushion here is in the under sole to provide extra protection when walking through the rugged trails. In comparison, this option is slightly thicker (and more comfortable) than the Hidden Contour option.

Breathability

These socks have mesh on the front of the sock and along the sides, allowing for the feet to breath and not get too hot and sweaty. They perform well in this category, a great option for working up a sweat without feeling like the feet stepped into a puddle.

Design/Fit

Balega made improvements to the design to now include elastane throughout the sock for a more secure and snug fit. As a result, this sock contours well to the foot. There is enough padding for comfort without making the sneaker feel tighter. It has a low cut, with no show design without the sock slipping off the ankle thanks to its heel tab. It also has a deep heel pocket with added stitches to enhance the fit.
Pros
  • A favorite for runners because of comfort
  • Great fit
  • Breathable
  • Available in lots of colors
Cons
  • Pricey for one pair of socks
  • Might be too thick for some

 

The Criteria Used For Our Evaluation

There’s a huge variety of socks available on the market, but how did we narrow it down? To make sure that our list includes the best of the best we hand-pick a set of criteria to measure each pair of socks up against. We’ve detailed these criteria below for you to examine so you can see why we chose the socks on our list and so you can hopefully make a more confident and informed choice on your own.

Comfort  

It seems obvious, but if you’re not comfortable in your socks you definitely won’t be comfortable while walking, hiking, or while doing any combination of the two. You need to find a pair of socks that lets you concentrate on the task at hand and that will provide stability as well as comfort. Cushioning can help ease the strain of longer walks or offer more support for your feet. Higher-quality materials can be softer and hold up longer. They can also have better breathability, which is so important in a good pair of socks that it became criteria all its own.

Breathability

The breathability of a sock is a function that can be affected by a variety of different features, the most of which is the fabric. We looked for socks with high-quality fabric like Merino wool, Coolmax threads, and smart textile blends that would offer the most breathability. Materials like Merino wool and Coolmax will help wick moisture from your foot, causing fewer blisters and bacterial issues that can be caused by an accumulation of sweat. Different blends that use things like LYCRA or nylon can help with durability and stretch.

If you feel like no matter what you’re wearing you can’t seem to get your feet to breathe, it might be time to check out some new shoes. If you don’t have enough ventilation or breathability in your outer footwear, it doesn’t really matter how incredible your socks are.  

Design/Fit

Looking for a good fit means more than just making sure you find something in your size. Sometimes when you’re trying to predict how well a sock will fit you simply won’t know until you wear it yourself, but there are certain clues and red flags you can look for by using customer reviews. We sorted through hundreds of reviews to check what people thought of the general fit of each selection and whether or not they seemed to run small or large. We also looked for any other common fitting issues, like whether or not the heel or the toe was too loose, or if the socks had a poor grip on the cuff and wouldn’t keep a close fit.

The style of the socks may be less important than the functionality, but it’s also nice to have a pair that will make you look and feel good when you’re sweating it out. We tried to choose socks that had a good variety of colors to choose from, or that had aesthetically appealing designs. We also looked for designs that were intuitive and practical, that would live up to expectations while looking great.

 

Other Important Factors To Consider

Pricing

Some of the options on this list and in stores may have an unexpectedly high price tag for a pair of socks. Keep in mind that they are probably built to be high-performance and will carry many benefits with them, hopefully lasting you a long time.

Don’t shy away from those with around a $20 price point. In fact, many good quality socks made for hiking will cost around this much. Many include antibacterial properties that can be worn for multiple days for those longer backpacking adventures. That means one less pair to buy and pack. Those that are durable pay for itself compared to having to keep buying cheaper quality socks that have a cheaper price tag, but unravel, get holes or don’t provide enough protection to ward off blisters. Consider the fact that this means the consumer is also saving money(and the amount of pain) from having to purchase blister treatment.

Fit

Hiking and walking socks come in various height sizes, from no-show options that are great for walking around the neighborhood to mid-calf length for mountaineering. The best hiking and walking socks fit wise vary among consumers based on their needs. Some might not mind wearing crew cut socks, especially in the winter for walking activities and everyday wear.

Size

Check the company’s sizing guide to get the right overall fit. Some options are unisex but might run big for women. Other options have specific versions tailored better for those with smaller feet. Having the right fit is important to prevent bunching and slipping when in the shoe. The heel cup should be at the heel of the foot. The socks shouldn’t but too tight around the ankle, yet not too loose either.

Weather

Some hiking socks are made to be versatile, constructed with fabrics like merino wool that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Think about what time of year long walks are expected to know how warm the sock should be for each specific consumer. Since these socks are designed to be breathable, sweaty feet is not a worry here. However, thicker socks are not ideal for long summer walks. With that said, when paired with hiking boots, consumers might find they like the extra padding and support.

 

FAQ

Q: How do I prevent blisters forming from hiking?

A: A great preventive measure is to purchase socks designed for hiking that offer enough padding and protection, as well as being form fitting to prevent rubbing and friction.

Q: Should I buy wool hiking socks?

A: This depends on the specific consumer’s preferences. Wool is soft and comfortable, although merino wool is more breathable.

Q: How do I choose walking socks?

A: The socks should have padding that protects against impact, keeps the foot pain free and is breathable with moisture wicking properties.

Q: How do I clean hiking and walking socks?

A: Consult the product’s care instructions. These socks are generally machine washable, although it’s best to leave them to air dry to avoid shrinking.

Q: What size hiking sock should I buy?

A: The sock should fit snug, but not to tight around the arch and ankle. Look at the company’s sizing chart to get the best fit based on shoe size.

Q: How thick are hiking socks?

A: This varies among products. Many on this list are mid-weight with enough padding without being too thick and bulky.

Sources

  1. Rei, How to Choose Hiking Socks, Outdoor Gear Website,
  2. Smartwool, Meet Our PhD Outdoor Socks, Company website,
  3. Smartwool, Meet Indestructawool, Social media website ,
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