Best Socks For Hiking & Walking Tested and Compared

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Those who enjoy spending long relaxing walks in the great outdoors know how important it is to have the best hiking socks to walk comfortably in. And those who have experienced the pain and discomfort from a serious blister while trekking can contest to this.

Hiking socks are made to prevent blisters from forming when walking for a long period of time. Blisters are caused by friction from the sock moving when in a boot or sneaker. Hiking and walking socks avoids this.

While walking socks can be used for running and other activities, these types  differ from socks designed for running because of its thicker padding and sometimes cushion throughout the entire sock. Both socks made for hiking and walking  have cushioning to take shock from the feet from constantly pounding the pavement or trail. Hiking socks typically have a higher cut to be worn with ankle and higher hiking boots.

These socks are also made to be breathable so feet don’t become sweaty, wet and smelly during that walk.

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
Thorlo Walking Ankle
  • Thorlo Walking Ankle
  • 4 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

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

Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro Length

These socks were made with hiking lovers in mind, balancing durability and comfort in a medium weight package. These socks are comfortable with features like a terry loop footbed and an abrasion-resistant Achilles cradle. They also have Ultimax moisture control to prevent sweaty feet.
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Comfort

These socks are made for hiking enthusiast, so wearers can count on the fact that there feet will feel great and be blister and pain free in their hiking boots. They include mid-weight cushion with terry weave throughout the sock to absorb shock. These socks are cozy, but not made with merino wool, so not as soft as other options on this list.

Breathability

The lack of merino wool also means it isn’t as breathable as other options, too. However, this doesn’t mean it is lacking significantly in this area. Its synthetic blend has impressive moisture wicking capabilities thanks to the Ultimax technology material that moves sweat away from the feet. It also has a speedy drying time that outperforms some merino wool options. The fibers also aren’t has tighten woven together, which allows air to ventilate.

Design/Fit

These socks have a decent fit thanks to its nylon and spandex blend, but not as snug as others. They are durable and have a higher cut above the ankle for a lower calf length. It is a mid-weight option that is versatile and unisex.
Pros
  • Versatile to be worn in all weather, but great for rainy day hikes for fast drying time
  • Good price for great performance
  • Very durable
Cons
  • Looser fit than other options

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

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

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

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 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

Darn Tough 1/4 Light Cushion

This sock is built for endurance activities, fast drying with moisture wicking and natural antimicrobial properties. But is also is great for casual walking with its performance fit that won’t slip or bunch up. It has a seamless design that covers the ankles, with enough cushioning to prevent blisters.
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Comfort

Made with merino wool, these socks are comfy and cozy while still being breathable for those long walks. They have a seamless design that doesn’t irritate the skin. This is a lightly cushioned socks with a thin layer of padding along the base the foot. This makes it great for longer periods of time of the feet without being bulky.

Breathability

Cool in the summer and warm in the winter, these socks are versatile mainly because of its breathability.The merino wool fibers provide ample ventilation to avoid sweaty feet, while wicking away moisture and repelling odor and bacteria.

Design/Fit

These socks have a 1/4 height, which means they sit right above the ankle. Think them as being low cut socks for hikers who aren’t fans of crew styles, while also not looking bad with running sneakers. These Darn Touch socks have a performance fit, which means no bunching or slipping. It is lightweight, yet durable, and the wearer will forget it’s even on.
Pros
  • Comfortable with seamless design
  • Lightweight and breathable with fast drying
  • Versatile option because of style
Cons
  • A little pricey for a pair of socks

 

The Criteria Used For Our Evaluation

Picking up just any hiking sock is not a good idea unless the you know how well it performs. Considering you might be walking over rocks and debris, up or down the mountainside or regularly around the neighborhood, these socks need to perform well.

It’s not enough that the sock has a good cut when it comes to its length and that it feels soft to the hand’s touch. There is a lot more than goes into high quality socks.

To determine what makes a hiking and walking sock the best, we did all the heavy lifting when it comes to research and testing. And we used a set criteria in our evaluation to determine the cream of the crop. These metrics are detailed below.

Comfort: Since the consumer is probably walking for long periods of time in these, they need to have enough padding to keep the foot comfortable and blister free. The amount of cushioning needs to be enough for activities like long walks. How much cushioning does this option provide (none, light, medium or heavy)?

Breathability: The fabric type is important not only for comfort, but also for breathability. Merino wool, for example, is both soft and breathable and wicks away moisture. But the sock doesn’t need to have merino wool to have moisture wicking properties. Polyester is great for being quick to dry. The sock might also have mesh panels for increased air flow. These socks need to be breathable to prevent blisters and sweaty feet, both which can cause discomfort.

Durability: With sometimes higher price tags, users don’t want to shell out the cash only to have the socks gets holes after one wear. Is this option made to last?

Value: Are these a worthy buy? Do they perform like they claim to? How well do these socks fit? Is it worth purchasing this option?

Other Important Factors To Consider

Pricing

Some of the options on this list and in stores may have a high price tag—especially when it comes to a pair of socks. Keep in mind that if they perform exceedingly well, the wearer walks a lot and they are built to last, then is is a good investment.

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 varies among consumers based on their needs. Some might not mind wearing crew cut socks, especially in the winter for walking activities and every day 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 female specific version tailored better for these customers. 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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