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Our hiking enthusiasts have tested dozens of the best hiking socks over hundreds of miles in the last 11 years. This update features 14 of the market's top options that we compared side-by-side, trekking the globe in search of the most epic outdoor adventures. Our test socks get soaked, compressed, wrung out, smashed with dirt, and washed in rivers. After hundreds of hands-on testing hours and meticulous assessments, we hope to help you find the best hiking socks for your performance needs and ambitions.
We've been testing footwear for well over a decade now. From the top hiking boots and best hiking shoes to top trail running shoes, we know a thing or three about keeping feet happy. We've put every pair up to rigorous testing to find the best shoes and boots, so no matter what kind of excursion you're heading out on, we can help you choose the right gear for the job and the right companion for your new socks.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on October 19, 2022, to reassess our entire lineup, revisit test practices, and add new highly-rated products.
The Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion is our clear favorite due to its ample cushion, protection, and performance. It is unmatched in durability, lasting years through countless applications and adventures. The tall, boot-compatible cut is thin enough to be worn with a pair of hiking shoes. The fibers are soft and comfortable, and the design is attractive. All this is backed by a lifetime warranty that we've verified and successfully claimed. The men's and women's specific fits are right on the money and feel good on a wide or narrow foot. This is the sock we choose if we are headed out on a long backpacking trip, especially since it can also double as a cozy pair of sleepers.
Unfortunately, extra padding means less breathability, and this design does not incorporate a breathable instep like most lighter hiking socks. So this isn't our top choice for the warmest of weather, though it does wick sweat very well. Also, the upfront cost is a little steep. That said, given the excellent warranty that allows you to exchange them if they ever wear out, it is a worthwhile purchase. Look no further if you are looking for a boot-capable, durable, cold-weather sock with excellent underfoot cushioning.
The Danish Endurance Unisex Merino 3-Pack is a Merino-synthetic blend sock that comes in a pack of three. It is comfortable, performs well across most metrics, and is compatible with boots or shoes. In terms of breathability, it's at the top of the class due to a unique venting stitch design that runs across the ankle and up the shin. The cushioning underfoot is sufficient for longer multi-day hikes, trail runs, or day hikes over tough terrain. It also comes in a unisex fit that our male and female testers found snug and true to size.
While this sock is nicely priced, its performance doesn't hold up to some of our higher-scoring options. Even though it's a Merino wool blend, it integrates more synthetic material which doesn't thermoregulate as well as socks with a higher wool percentage. Additionally, one of our testers found that the toe box isn't well fitted for those with narrow feet and bunches up, especially when wet (those with wider feet had no complaints.) While these concerns are valid, it's hard to find a Merino-synthetic blend sock that matches value with performance. The Danish has shown piling, compaction, and thread wear after two years of use, but it's still usable. Additionally, the three-pack means you get each pair for less than half the price of other socks, extending your mileage. For the fashionable, they also come in multi-color packs so you can color coordinate with your favorite outdoor threads.
We had to get out of the heat to test these warmest of socks. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion is built for cold, wintry weather. It features one of the highest wool contents of anything in our lineup and plenty of thickness to keep your toes toasty when the temps turn frigid. We are highly impressed not only by its ability to keep feet warm but also by its wicking and breathability. We tested this sock in boots on a hot (90°s F) workday and were blown away that our feet never felt sweaty. When it was time to kick back and take off our boots, our skin was very warm but also surprisingly dry.
This sock kept our feet comfortable in a lot of various conditions — we even hiked shoeless in the rain! Our feet got wet for sure, but they stayed warm and comfortable. At the end of a long day hiking, the Mountaineer also helped maintain warmth in our sleeping bag and quickly became our favorite warm sleeping sock. This attribute can also be a drawback, however. When we tried to hike in even moderately warm weather, our feet quickly felt overheated and our calves itchy. Because of their thickness, we recommend this sock primarily for cold weather pursuits. Also, there is no elastic around the arch or heel to holds the sock in place, so it may move around. Due to the plushness, this didn't cause any issues with blistering. But cramming all that plushness into a tight hiking shoe can be an issue. While these socks will fit into shoes, we find them much more comfortable in a pair of boots. Bottom line, if you're looking for a thick sock that will keep you comfy on all your wintry adventures, look no further.
The Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew offers a thinner, more breathable construction if you're looking for something for the warmer months of the year. The high concentration of nylon provides powerful wicking power while the breathable stitching on the instep keeps your foot ventilated. This is the sock to wear if your feet sweat a lot or you find yourself in hot places. The height is compatible with low or mid-calf hiking boots or running shoes, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. Its drying speed is impeccable, keeping feet dry on long adventures.
This sock will offer plenty of warmth while in motion (given its high proportion of Merino wool), but it won't offer the same warmth while standing still or sleeping. We would not choose the Light Hiker for winter camping or standing around in the cold. However, if breathable and durable construction is what you seek, then you'll be a happy camper in these socks.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is one of our longest-tested socks and has proven its longevity and breathability in warm weather. We've been testing this sock for over seven years, and it is still going strong. After hundreds of miles, some of the fabric is thinning, but remarkably, we haven't torn through. The 100% synthetic construction provides excellent breathability with durable fibers. It'll dry relatively quickly on the trail (compared to other medium-weight socks), making it a good option for both soggy and dry environments.
This tried and true hiking sock does have some drawbacks. It isn't the warmest sock in the lineup; once the mercury drops close to freezing, it loses its wicking power. Also, the fit is less snug than other options. This isn't a deal breaker, but it's certainly a consideration when choosing a sock to slip into a pair of boots for a long trek. The design lacks compression paneling, which sometimes causes it to bunch in the toes if the fit isn't just right. All that aside, if you're seeking a synthetic design with good durability for warmer-weather adventures (e.g., shoulder season hiking), it comes highly recommended.
Our hunt for the best hiking socks began by combing the market to find potential candidates. We then selected the top models to purchase, compare, and wear side-by-side. We considered the most important functions of a hiking sock and designed tests to compare performance. We then wore each sock for at least60 miles while hiking or running on trails. We test throughout the seasons, wearing each sock almost daily throughout the year, updating our findings as we gather new information. We have traveled around the world, exploring remote locations like the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve in Iceland and the Santa Cruz trail in Peru. We've also put the socks to rigorous use during long, hot days in farm boots. All this is to ensure that we have the most comprehensive review of the best hiking socks for any environment. After field testing, we meticulously compare details and perform a series of objective tests to compare performance based on these five metrics:
Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Wicking and Breathability (25% weighting)
Warmth (20% weighting)
Durability (20% weighting)
Drying Speed (10% weighting)
This review is brought to you by Amber King and Jon Oleson. Amber is an endurance athlete that loves to trail run, splitboard, hike, and backpack. She spends most of her time exploring places in remote, trail-less tundra and rocky and exposed areas surrounding Ouray, Colorado. Additionally, she makes a point of traveling for fastpacking adventures worldwide to remote 100+ mile trail systems. Jon has spent a lifetime in the outdoors. He grew up hunting, fishing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, climbing, and camping across the state of Utah. These days Jon spends much of the year farming and gardening in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. When his hands aren't in the soil, he journeys to wild, remote places to explore and sleep in the vast tranquility. These days his adventures often surround his two young kids, who enjoy getting out to play in the woods and rivers with their dad.
Analysis and Test Results
This review compares lightweight, medium, and heavy cushion hiking socks with functionality for all adventures. We consider options suitable for different seasons, with varying levels of protection. We evaluate each using five core metrics, comparing each sock against the different metrics to help you find exactly what you're looking for.
Getting a durable sock that won't break down after minimal use is super important. Some socks offer better durability and, thus, more mileage for your money. Others are low-priced or sold in bulk to increase their value.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a synthetic sock that provides good cushioning and breathability for warmer weather pursuits. While it isn't as warm as wool socks of comparable thickness, this can be a benefit in the right conditions. Bottom line is that this is a good general trekking sock if you're on a budget.
We also like the Danish Endurance Unisex Merino. These socks come in a three-pack, making them one of the lowest-priced pairs that we've tested. They are durable enough and have a unique breathable design that keeps your feet feeling dry. These are great socks if you're looking for some general hiking/work socks that won't break the bank.
Darn Tough brand socks are our favorite for value. Even if they're initially more expensive, each pair is backed by a lifetime guarantee that allows you to exchange the socks if you wear a hole — we've used and verified this guarantee, and yes, it's for real. No surprise, this brand offers the best when it comes to durability — Darn Tough socks have consistently outlasted the competition during our decade of testing. When looking at value, don't just consider the initial price, but also how long the sock will last.
Socks on Sale
Strategically shopping for socks can pay off. Colors are often updated once or twice per year, and when this happens, the older colorways are usually available at a steep discount.
When testing this metric, we considered many variables that contribute to comfort. This includes panels of cushioning, relative thickness, and snugness of fit. We note how each pair feels during low and high-intensity exercise, specifically backpacking, hiking, and running over technical and smooth surfaces. After taking on challenges that push our physical limits, we lay back and observe which is most comfortable for lounging. Socks that fit well with midweight cushioning and a Merino wool composition are typically the most comfortable around the house or fire. Thick wool winter socks are usually most comfortable for sleeping. Those that are a tube of fabric without strategic architecture are less comfortable for adventuring many miles. This review is for both men and women, so we note which socks are unisex and which have designs that are specific to both men and women.
Cushioning Ample Cushioning
While most hiking socks are designed to be comfortable, some contenders stand out better than others. Those with the highest amount of underfoot cushioning are typically best suited for technical trails or wearing around home/camp after a long day on the trail. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion are a favorite of ours for this application.
Most of the socks we tested fit into this category, but the level of "lightweight" cushioning is seemingly quite variable. For example, the Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew is super thin with hardly any cushioning. In contrast, our favorite for lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew, is stacked with more protection. The Danish Endurance Unisex is a relatively thin sock that is less durable than the Darn Tough Light Hiker but is a cheaper buy and has similar cushioning to keep your feet light on the trail.
For those who love lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is our favorite because the fabric performs well in all conditions and feels good. It provides protective cushioning that's responsive enough to carry a heavy pack and protect through the Achilles.
The Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew is another super comfortable contender that claims a 'medium' level of cushioning but is lighter and more similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. One drawback is that the cushion panels on the top of the foot caused a blister on the top of one tester's foot on a particularly hot day of hiking in boots. Otherwise, these socks would have been best of class for their comfort, fit, and warmth, whether dry or wet.
Fit is another function of comfort. A well-fitted sock that doesn't slip or bunch will help you focus on the long miles ahead. The socks that performed the best have integrated compression stitching and thoughtfully structured toe boxes that don't deform under stress. Relative height and compatibility with different hiking shoes and boots plays into this as well.
Female and male-specific fit are to be considered. Typically, a female-specific sock will have a more narrow profile throughout the toe box and heel. While a sock may be "female-specific" or "male-specific", it's important to look at your foot. If you have a very narrow foot profile and struggle to find a well-fitted sock, consider a female sock option. If you have a wider foot and women's socks don't fit well, consider a male-specific sock.
Most of the socks we tested integrate elastic materials to keep everything in place while on the trail. For example, all the highest performers, such as the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, integrate compression materials around the arch and calf. Darn Tough also uses a more tightly knit design in the fabric that 'hugs' the foot. It's the all-around best option for longer or more technical trails in warmer weather.
The Danish Endurance Unisex also has a snug fit that utilizes a compression panel around the arch to keep the socks in place. The wide elastic cuffs keep the socks up on long days of hiking. This is a great all-around hiking sock that will keep its shape over the miles.
Another favorite for comfort and performance is the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight, a well-fitting sock with superior underfoot protection. It's an excellent option for longer or more technical trails. If lightweight comfort is what you seek, look to this sock or the Danish Endurance Unisex and Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew.
Wicking and Breathability
Wicking and breathability are important to avoid the dreaded swamp foot. A sock that can thermoregulate well and move moisture away from your foot will inherently keep you happy and comfortable for long days on the trail. We ran, hiked, biked, and backpacked over distances ranging from one to 28 miles to test this metric. We also took each sock through a wide range of temperatures and conditions.
Socks with a thinner construction or loosely packed fibers typically breathe better than those that are thicker or have a higher-density construction. The most breathable contenders feature panels and stitching that enhances ventilation. The Darn Tough Light Hiker crushes this category, being a clear choice for hot weather. It integrates a thinner wool blend fabric that is good at wicking and instep ventilation and allows water vapor to escape effectively. Yet the sole still provides ample cushion to help your feet stay happy on the trail. If you're looking for a warm or hot weather sock, this is our favorite. A notable mention is the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew, which scored highly in this category for superior wicking capability and a thinner instep panel that promotes breathability.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a great option for a medium-weight sock with fantastic breathability. The fit is looser, so it doesn't wick as well as the light hiking socks, but the looser knit and larger coils along the interior of the sock grab moisture to move it effectively away from the foot. Unfortunately, this sock loses its wicking power in colder weather, as we observed on a winter camping trip. Luckily, you can fit a liner underneath the sock to help increase its ability to wick, but our scores reflect its performance when liner-free.
The Danish Endurance Unisex is another with a surprisingly breathable Merino wool-synthetic construction. It features a unique ventilation design on the instep and cuff that helps the foot breathe. The Darn Tough Light Hiker and Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight both offer a similar level of breathability that is superior. All utilize ventilation patterns along the upper portion of the foot and throughout the length of the calf, while the Darn Tough Light Hiker is shorter in design. Less coverage makes it a more breathable sock and more suitable for warmer conditions.
The Darn Tough Full Cushion also did well in this category and is incredibly breathable for a heavier sock. It stood up to the hottest days of hiking and work, and there were no hot spots, even in boots. At the end of each day, our feet were surprisingly dry.
Overall, if you're seeking a thinner sock that wicks and breathes the best, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is your best bet. While all the socks we tested breathe relatively well, of the Merino-synthetic blends, the Danish Endurance is our favorite for its thinner materials, followed by the Farm to Feet Damascus.
A good hiking sock will keep you warm when you need it most, whether you are summiting a mountain or curling up in a cozy sleeping bag. When looking at warmth, we considered each sock's wet and dry warmth. To test warmth when wet, we dunked each sock in water, intrepidly bit down on our lower lip, and hiked around in the cold. To test warmth when dry, we hike in cold and remote places like Alaska during early spring or camp out at altitude through the summer months, where temperatures vary from 10°F to 35°F daily. From splitboarding to snow camping, we ultimately rated each hiking sock based on performance in these conditions.
If sublime warmth is your goal, looking for a sock that integrates more wool than synthetic materials is essential. These socks typically offer impressive warmth when both wet and dry. For example, the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion, REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition, and Alvada Thermal Warm Crew offer the best warmth in both wet and dry conditions, with the proportional amount of Merino wool being higher than other materials.
Wool insulates both when wet and dry more effectively than other synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, giving our highest-scoring socks more warmth and a much wider range of thermoregulation. The Danish Endurance Unisex Merino is an example of a Merino wool synthetic blend that isn't as warm as the socks mentioned above. This is because it integrates only 30% Merino wool among other synthetic materials, whereas the other options mentioned offer between 74% and 80% Merino wool in their construction, along with thicker materials.
Synthetic socks, like the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, perform well in warmer conditions but lack warmth when temperatures drop as they tend to lose their wicking properties when wet. That said, they do still insulate well when wet, offering protection in colder weather as long as you stay mobile.
Toe socks like the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew are colder than traditional styles because of their individualized digit design. This keeps toes away from each other, which doesn't enable a 'warming effect,' similar to how mittens are typically warmer than gloves. Of the socks tested, this is the coldest sock in both wet and dry conditions.
Socks really do take a beating while exploring outdoors, but a good one should last you for several hundred miles before failing. Testing durability in a short period can be pretty tough, but we managed to see a difference after putting 60 miles on each model. After years of testing these socks, some have changed very little, while others have disappointed.
In our experience, Darn Tough socks are unparalleled in this category. The materials are tightly knit, the fibers are strong, and we haven't had any bad experiences. Even though the upfront cost is relatively high, we know we are buying a product that will last for hundreds of miles. In some of our testing, we've had the same socks for over five years, logged over 600 miles, and they are still wearable. And even when we have experienced a hole, we rest easy knowing that you can send them back and get a replacement pair.
We also love the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight, which has gone with us over 500 miles while sailing, fastpacking, and running in Iceland, Colorado, and Canada. After years, they are still at work in our sock rotation. The fabrics are starting to thin out, but we still haven't seen a hole. The Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion and Alvada Thermal Warm Crew also rose to the top. Even after hiking shoeless and spending long days in farm boots, these socks showed zero wear. Impressive.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a burly synthetic model that continues to perform after years as well. After 600 miles, it has compacted a little bit but continues to go strong. While the Darn Tough varieties show large amounts of pilling after this amount of time, the Wigwam sock has little to note. After years of testing this sock, we can confidently say it is highly durable.
How should you wash your socks? Simply turn them inside out, machine wash on a gentle setting in cool or warm water using mild soap, and air dry or tumble dry low.
A sock that dries quickly has a large advantage on multi-day backpacking trips, especially in rainy climates or on trails that have seen fresh rain. To test drying speed, we went hiking and backpacking in the field, purposely dunking our feet into streams and rivers along the way. We continued to hike to see if each would dry out on its own. In addition to these subjective field tests, we performed a very precise drying analysis to see how quickly each dry on the line. These two data points help us determine which socks perform the highest in this category.
Most of the socks that we tested are constructed of wool-synthetic blends, and a few are made fully of synthetic materials. We found that while the type of material determines the dry time (synthetics generally dry more quickly), the weight and thickness of the sock is also a primary factor. The Darn Tough Light Hiker and Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew demonstrate excellent drying capabilities. After 100 minutes on the dry line, both were bone dry. The CoolMesh II Crew is a full synthetic construction, while the Light Hiker is a Merino-synthetic blend. Both also dried well on the trail, taking a similar amount of time to dry on foot.
The Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew, Farm to Feet Damascus, and Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion came in next place for dry time. All are made of wool-synthetic blends of about the same thickness, similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. The Darn Tough Full Cushion was the quickest drying of the heavyweight socks, beating the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer and the REI Expedition by 20 minutes on the dry line (180 versus 200 minutes, respectively). Overall, if you're seeking a fast-drying sock, the Light Hiker, CoolMesh II Crew, and Farm to Feet Damascus offer the fastest drying times.
We have taken these socks all over the world and to all manner of climates to test them and learn about their advantages and drawbacks. In these varying conditions, we've been able to identify the best recommendations for practically any trail condition. When you're looking for a superior trail sock, be sure you take into consideration how you need it to perform. There are many options out there, and the perfect one for you is ready to be found.
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