Our team of alpine experts researched 80+ different models before selecting 7 of the best ski socks on the 2019 market for ripping and riding. We tested each comparatively in side-by-side tests for over 150 hours this winter. We skinned up tall mountains, busted down a couloir or two, and rode up chairs lift for hours on end. We traveled from the East coast to the West, hitting resorts in Colorado, California, Ontario, and even alpine glaciers in Alaska. Evaluating each sock under an objective lens, and with the help of an expert panel of testers, we give you our top recommendations to add to your winter gear quiver.
The Best Ski Socks of 2019
|Price||$21.56 at Backcountry|
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|$12.83 at REI|
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|$19.96 at Backcountry|
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|$19.20 at Backcountry|
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|$10.00 at Amazon|
|Pros||Warm, comfortable, durable, reliable||Durable, comfortable, warm||Super durable, great fit, super wicking ability, lifetime guarantee||Quick to dry, comfortable, lighter padded construction||Priced right, warm when dry, comfortable, lightweight|
|Cons||No lifetime guarantee||Lacks lifetime guarantee, expensive||Not very warm, no additional padding||Lacks durability||Cold when wet, durability is so-so|
|Bottom Line||If you're seeking a ski sock for the season, this is the most reliable with the best overall performance.||An industry standard that should be part of everybody's winter wardrobe.||A lightweight sock that will keep your feet dry even on the warmest days of winter.||A quick to dry well-rounded ski sock that can perform in all conditions, wet and dry.||The best valued sock in this review for skiing or snowboarding.|
|Rating Categories||Smartwool PhD Ski Medium||PhD Ski Medium||Over-the-Calf Padded Light||Icebreaker Ski+ Light||Fox River Telluride Medium|
|Comfort & Construction (20%)|
|Drying Speed & Wicking Ability (20%)|
|Specs||Smartwool PhD Ski...||PhD Ski Medium||Over-the-Calf...||Icebreaker Ski+...||Fox River...|
|Material||65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 2% Elastane, Imported Yarn||62% merino wool, 36% nylon, 2% elastane||60% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex||57% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon, 3% Lycra||53% acrylic, 27% nylon, 18% Merino/wool blend, 2% spandex|
|Level of Cushioning||Medium (feels lightweight)||Medium (feels lightweight)||Ultralightweight||Lightweight||Lightweight|
|Weight of both socks||3.15 oz||2.95 oz||2.85 oz||3.15 oz||2.80 oz|
|Overall height||13 inches||13 inches||14 inches||14.25 inches||13 inches|
|Padded area||Shin, underfoot, ankle||Shin, underfoot, ankle||Shin||Shin, calf, foot, ankle||Shin, heel, ankle|
|Warranty or Guarantee||Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee||Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee||Unconditional Lifetime Guarentee||Lifetime Guarentee||One year warranty|
Best Overall Ski Socks
Smartwool PhD Ski Medium
A longtime favorite and classic, the Smartwool PhD Ski Medium continues to be our favorite ski and snowboard sock for both men and women. Loaded with major cushioning underfoot, this sock features compression panels located around the calf and under the arch for a specific fit and great ventilation. Its durable composition is achieved with a tightly knit construction that offers amazing moisture management and warmth, even on the coldest days of winter. The thickness doesn't compromise even the tightest fit of ski boots and is a favorite for its ultra-cushioned shin. If you're searching for an all-around ski or snowboard sock that'll last you for years, this is our top recommendation.
While this product is our favorite go-to and scores well in all categories, the biggest caveat that we've identified is in the fit in the calf of the women's sock. Feeling like a compression sock, it is very tight. While some might prefer this, others can't deal with the tight fit. If you think you might fall into this category, consider looking at the men's version of this sock for a more volume in the calf. The men's version, on the other hand, didn't receive any negative feedback in this area. Aside from that, we're hard-pressed to find anything wrong with this sock. It's pretty perfect for resort skiing and backcountry touring for both men and women — skiers and snowboarders alike.
Best Bang for the Buck
Fox River Telluride Medium
If you're sock hunting on a shoestring budget, the Fox River Telluride offers performance that will last all season for a low price. This high-value performer is primarily composed of a synthetic-wool blend that is comfortable and cozy for all-day wear. The material wicks water vapor well, while the thickness of the sock fits a boot that's not as tight quite well. Our testers (both men and women) love the color options and appreciate its additional padding on the shin, ankle, and heel.While this is a great deal, this sock isn't perfect. Given its synthetic blend composition that only has about 18% merino wool, this sock doesn't insulate very well when wet. If you have a good pair of boots that vents well, this shouldn't be an issue, but if you find yourself with wet feet often, this sock may not be the best choice for you. As a result, this sock is for the average snow slider with dry feet who is trying to save a few bucks.
Read review: Fox River Telluride
Top Pick for Wicking Ability
Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Padded Light
The Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Padded Light stands out as the best option for those who prefer super thin socks that offer amazing wicking powers. It is suited for skiers or snowboards who need a specific fit and light fit (with almost no padding). The merino wool blend hosts a tightly knit with ultra-durable materials that will move moisture efficiently for dry feet all day long. It is super long, offering coverage throughout the leg, almost right to the knee. If you suffer from super sweaty feet, this is the best option out there. Not only that, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Unfortunately, it's not perfect. Given it's thinner design, it doesn't offer the most warmth or comfort. While its wicking power helps to keep feet dry on the hill, we notice the lack of insulation left our feet feeling colder than other options. It is a favorite amongst skiers that prefer a thin sock to sit underneath ski boots with a super specific and tight fit, but it isn't a favorite for those that don't need a niche performance. As a result, we can't recommend it for the coldest days on the hills, but it still performs well when the sun shines, and temps are moderate. Perfect for those looking to break a sweat.
Read review: Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light
Why You Should Trust Us
We put together a bad-ass team of male and female testers that don't just ski, but snowboard too. We spent over 100 days skiing this year in these socks, and our team has over 40 years of collective sliding experience. Our main tester, Amber King, is a dedicated explorer of backcountry terrain and has been adventuring on a splitboard for the last six years. She brings over 15 years of snowboarding experience to the table. With a deep love for really seeing what gear can do, she has spent over 150 hours researching ski socks, testing them objectively in places all over the world. The long and beautiful couloirs of Colorado, the remote glaciers of Alaska, and resort slopes of Quebec, Ontario, Vermont, and California are just a few.
Bryce Foster has seven years of skiing experience as a resort and backcountry skier and has worked in the outdoor industry for over five years. For these five years, he's worked as a professional boot fitter and typically gets at least 75 days of skiing in each season. He works for Rainer Mountain Inc. (RMI) Expeditions as a guide in the summer, and for Silverton Mountain in the winter. Given his extensive experience playing with people's feet and descending on snow sticks, he represents a key voice of feedback in this review.
Joanne Marczk works at the Telluride Ski Resort as a ski guide, riding the slopes every day, teaching people how to ski. When she's not working, she's out seeking backcountry stashes in some of the tallest and steepest terrains in Colorado. She has been skiing for over 20 years, making her an expert at providing comprehensive and comparative feedback that's been pivotal in this review.
Not only did we find three super qualified experts, but we also gave out each product to friends and family members without as much experience. This gave us a full look at how many different types of people from different walks of life might view the performance of each sock. With all this feedback, in addition to many objective tests, we've gathered important feedback to provide you with our best recommendations.
Related: How We Tested Ski Socks
Analysis and Test Results
With scores of ski socks on the market today, it can be hard to find a good place to start your search for a good pair. After hours of sifting through more than 80 products, we selected top models to put to the test. We set up a comparative and objective system to assess them all fairly, choosing five metrics to focus on including; comfort, warmth, wicking & breathability, fit, and durability. We weigh each equally (as we believe they are all equally important) to provide you with an overview of which socks perform the best. While the top scorers typically do well across all metrics, some products are better suited for a specific purpose.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Socks
High performing ski socks can surprisingly cost a pretty penny, so it's important to decide what you're willing to pay. The highest performers out there will cost over twenty bucks. For example; both our Editor's Choice winner SmartWool PhD Ski Medium and Top Pick for Wicking Ability, the Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light, fit into this category. For some, these prices might be too high, which is why a lower-priced option may seem more attractive. The trade-off is durability and construction that integrates less expensive materials like acrylic or synthetic polypropylene. While these materials do insulate when wet and still perform well on the slopes, they don't thermoregulate as well, and in some cases, the fit is questionable.
However, in the case of our Best Buy Award winner, the Fox River Telluride, we are surprised by the level of performance for 50% of the cost. It's warm, well-fitted, and offers a high level of comfort under the foot and at the shin. While isn't as high performing as best out there, it is certainly a fine option for those on a shoestring budget.
Comfort & Construction
The construction of a ski sock is what dictates its overall comfort. A comfortable ski sock features compressional paneling and strategic cushioning to provide ventilation and support where it's needed. In addition, a comfortable sock shouldn't slip out of place or deform throughout the day. It sucks to take off your ski or snowboard boots to adjust a sock bunched up at the toes.
In this metric, we look seriously at sock construction and its relative comfort on the slopes. Socks that scored the best are thoughtfully constructed with compression paneling in "sweaty" areas like around the arch and at the ball of the foot. In addition, the most comfortable socks have additional zones of padding in potential pressure points like the shin and ankle bones, and at the toes. The socks the scored the lowest lack these features and are more like long tubes of fabric without thoughtfully engineered architecture.
The SmartWool PhD Ski Medium is hands-down the most all-around comfortable sock because of its additional cushioning construction that intersperses breathable paneling for both warmth, coziness, and breathability. Like the Fox River Telluride, Darn Tough Over-the-Calf, and Icebreaker Ski+ Light , it has ample cushioning at the shin with a stretch band at the top with elastic materials throughout to ensure it doesn't slide down. Of all the socks in this review, it offers the most cushioning making it a super cozy option for wear on and off the slopes. It is unlike the lightweight Darn Tough, which offers no padding underfoot or around the ankle or top of the foot. The Fox River offers a little bit around the heel of the sock, but not much else. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light scores a little higher than these other options because of it's padding that's a little thinner than the Smartwool PhD throughout the underfoot, toe box, and ankle.
Despite this level of cushioning, we didn't notice our feet getting wet or a lack of breathability in the Smartwool PhD. This is attributed to the compression paneling that lives under the arch of the foot, on the top of the foot and throughout the back of the calf. This helps to promote a more specific fit and ventilation to keep feet warm and dry on the slopes. All socks mentioned above also feature areas of compression paneling around the arch of the foot. The only one that offers a little less compression is the Fox River Telluride which doesn't have much around the top of the ankle.
In terms of construction, the Icebreaker Ski+ Light stands out for its padding that is a little thinner than the Smartwool PhD. It also has an additional panel of padding right behind the ankle in the Achilles area for added support and comfort. This is one of the reasons it earns a high score in this category.
While the Wigwam Snow Sirocco and Burton Weekend Sock are great options for wearing after a long day of skiing, these less expensive options are more like big tubes of fabric than a well-engineered skiing option. Neither have compression paneling and have thicker paneling throughout. As a result, we'd opt for the Fox River Telluride if you're seeking a less expensive but comfortable ski or snowboard sock option.
Overall, if you're seeking the best in comfort, check out the Smartwool PhD for both men and women. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light is a close second that offers a thinner design with additional padding throughout. The Darn Tough Over the Calf offers the least amount of padding, but still has great compression paneling and fit to make it a comfortable sock.
Ensuring that your feet are warm is of huge importance. You don't want to come back from a day on the slopes with numb feet or early signs of frostbite. To ensure your warmth on the slopes, first; buy a good pair of socks that you can wear with your boots. Second; make sure your boots have good liners that will vent moisture. While it's nice to think just a pair of socks will keep you warm, boot fit and construction is also important. Many boot fitters will tell you that you should try on your ski boots with the socks you plan on wearing because boots are supposed to fit tightly. If you do these two things, you'll be warm on the slopes.
When comparing sock warmth, we look at the relative warmth while skiing and snowboarding at the resort and in the backcountry through all sorts of cold and raunchy conditions. First, we evaluate the materials used in construction. Then, we wear each pair throughout the winter. Often, we wear a different one on each foot to see how each compared to the other. We also observed which socks held moisture, and which felt the warmest…even when wet.
The Smartwood PhD Medium is by far the warmest sock tested. With ample cushioning underfoot that provides an additional layer of insulation from the cold, our feet are happy all day long. Utilizing 67% and 65% merino wool in the men's and women's models respectively, this sock has the highest proportion of wool to other blending materials of any sock tested. Also, the wool is packed together in an insulating and durable package that provides warmth even when temperatures dip into the double negatives. Even though it is thicker underfoot, we didn't have wet feet…even on warmer days. And when the sock did retain moisture, it stayed warm.
A close second is the Icebreaker Ski+ Light. While it doesn't utilize materials as thick as the Smartwool PhD, it does a fantastic job thermoregulating. None of our testers complained of cold feet. But, since insulation isn't as thick underfoot, we found our feet a little chillier than the Smartwool, but not by much. The Fox River is nice and warm when dry, but as soon as it gets wet, the chill seeps in. This is most probably attributed to a large amount of acrylic used in its construction.
The Darn Tough provides a surprising amount of warmth for its thin design. While it's not the warmest sock to don around the house, it thermoregulates so well that it's never wet and doesn't hold moisture. If you own a pair of tight ski boots and want a sock that wicks super well to provide better overall warmth, this is our top recommendation. However, for those who don't necessarily need a thin sock, we wouldn't recommend it for ultra-cold weather.
The Burton Weekend Sock and Wigwam Snow Sirroco both provide great warmth when dry and not in ski boots. In a snowboard boot, our testers felt comfortable and warm, even on a super cold during the winter. However, our ski testers felt that their thickness impeded fit and overall warmth throughout the day. There were times they had to switch them out midday simply because they didn't insulate on the mountain. That said, both are awesome options for wear after skiing, when you're hanging out in front of a fire with friends.
Overall, the Smartwool PhD is our go-to for cold weather wear for the average skier or snowboarder. If you're not into ample padding, the Icebreaker Ski+ Light is a great secondary option. The Darn Tough is warm when combined with a well-insulated and tight-fitting ski boot as it doesn't hold moisture and wicks water away quickly.
Drying Speed & Wicking Ability
Wicking ability and drying speed are important for keeping feet dry. A drier foot is a warmer foot. When skiing, you move, generating heat through muscle activation. But when you stop, for example, to sit on a chair lift, the water vapor that was generated along with the heat from your skiing downhill begins to condense. If it condenses on your skin as a liquid, it can get cold, making your feet cold. A good sock is made of materials that will transport that water vapor from the surface of your skin to the outside of your sock. A boot liner that vents well transports the moisture out and away from the sock. In the case of wicking ability and drying speed, thinner is better.
In this metric, we look at how well each sock kept our feet dry. We hiked uphill in touring mode for hours on some days, breaking a sweat on the way. We would ski for hours. To look at this metric in the field, we would wear different socks on each foot to compare the amount of moisture held to determine wicking ability and drying speed. We would also note if our feet were "clammy" and then cold on the hill. To finalize this metric, we subjected each pair of socks to an objective drying speed tests at home to truly see which fabrics dry the fastest.
The Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light is our Top Pick for its super thin construction and exceptional breathability. Breathability comes in the form of a thin design throughout the body of the sock that extends from the calf to the foot. The only area of padding is on the shin, making it bare bones and fast to dry. While both the Smartwool PhD Medium and Darn Tough share a similar construction in the materials (60-65% merino wool and 33%-36% Nylon), the biggest difference is in density. In a cubic centimeter, the Smartwool has much more material whereas the Darn Tough is constructed of exceptionally tightly woven fibers that wicking away moisture effectively. When taking this sock out backcountry touring, both split boarders and skiers mentioned their feet were never wet and always dry.
Second to the Darn Tough for exceptional drying speed and wicking power is the Icebreaker Ski+ Light . While it's materials are thicker than the Darn Tough Over-the-Calf, it is thinner than the Smartwool PhD, holding less moisture underfoot as a result of less cushioning and material. Even though the Icebreaker doesn't wick moisture or dry as quickly as the Darn Tough option, our testers didn't notice wet feet while skiing at either the resort or in the backcountry. Overall, if you're seeking a sock that dries quickly and wicks well, these options are your best bet.
A good fit is pertinent to warmth and comfort on the mountain. When you slip your foot into your boot and buckle up for the day, you don't want to waste time dealing with socks that bunch of deforming. While rating fit, we look at a few important details. We note sock height to ensure it does provide the needed coverage. The level of stretchiness and elasticity is also important to ensure the sock doesn't deform when wet or while under stress. We also consider seam construction and relative thickness. Finally, we note how much volume and stretch is found in the sock to accommodate thicker calves. Overall, we rated each sock on how well it performed when stuck inside a boot for hours on end. Great performance, after all, can be chalked up to the combined success of a well fitting boot and sock.
All the socks tested have seamless construction without any odd pinch points of constrictions that would cause chaffing. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light and Smartwool PhD (men & women) provide the best and most versatile fit. Both come with thoughtfully placed points of compression paneling that keeps the sock in place. The use of elastane and lycra spandex provides additional stretch while the high-quality merino wool feels soft (not itchy) against the skin.
The reason the Icebreaker earns a higher score is because of its higher level of versatility. It features thinner padding which allows for a more specific boot fit. The wider hem at the top of the sock is a little more comfortable than the Smartwool which the length is also longer. Most importantly, it has more volume throughout the body of the sock. Many online reviews report the women's version of the Smartwool PhD to be too tight if you're blessed with bigger calves. When looking at the relative stretch between these two contenders, it's true that the Smartwool PhD functions more like a compression sock, whereas the Icebreaker offers a little more room throughout the leg. As a result, we'd recommend the Icebreaker if you're looking for a longer sock with a little more volume throughout the calf. But if you prefer a sock that fits snug, the Smartwool is our favorite choice.
Other contenders that do well include the Fox River Telluride and Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Padded. The Fox River is pretty standard with some compression, a good level of stretch, and some cushioning. The Darn Tough, on the other hand, is the thinnest sock tested and does an alright job of staying on the foot. One tester did note some stretch from wash to use, but it didn't create any serious issues on the mountain.
The Burton Weekend Sock provides a more snug and specific fit than the Wigwam Snow Sirocoo. In fact, given the Wigwam's thicker construction, we found that it would bunch at the top of our boot, causing fit and ride issues throughout the day. Between these two, the Burton performed much better. However, in comparison to the rest, it doesn't stand up given its lack of compression paneling and features.
Overall, our go-to favorite choices are the Icebreaker and Smartwool PhD. Both provide a snug fit that works well with both tight-fitting ski and snowboard boots. If you're seeking a super thin option, either look for these same socks in a thinner weight or check out the Darn Tough.
It's important to know that the sock you buy will last you more than just a few days on the hill. In this metric, we look at overall construction quality, level of wear and tear after a winter of use, and the type of manufacturer guarantee that comes with the product. All products did okay in this metric, with no products showing major failure or flaws through our testing period.
The most durable and highest quality products in this review prove (so far) to be the Darn Tough and Smartwool PhD. True to its name, we put the Darn Tough Over the Calf through the wringer and it still looks like a brand new sock. No signs of wear and tear after wearing for over 100+ hours in ski and snowboard boots! In awesome addition, it comes with a lifetime quality guarantee that allows you to return your socks if you find a hole or torn seam, even after years of use. With this type of guarantee, we can count on this product, and so far it proves to be super durable. It also makes this one of the highest value products that cost on the upper end of the ski sock spectrum.
Another great contender is the Smartwool PhD (women's & men's). Two of our main testers have used these socks for over six years. In those years, both testers have put in over 100 days of use during the winter, and they are still going strong after four to five years! While we did observe a little pilling after the first wash and a tiny bit of shrinkage, this small detail is a minor issue in comparison to the level of quality and craftsmanship it brings to the table. Unfortunately, Smartwool does not offer a guarantee for life. Instead, they offer one that lasts for two years.
The Fox River Telluride, Wigwam Sirroco, and Burton Weekend sock all showed some packing out and wear after just a few runs. Of the three, the Wigwam proved to bounce back the best after a wash and hasn't demonstrated any compaction or major issues so far. While we noticed this wear and tear in these products, we'd be confident to say these would still last for a season or two.
If you're looking for the most durable and thus, high-value option for its price, the Darn Tough is definitely our go-to. If you're not interested in this sock, but prefer an option that's been field tested for many years and offers a thicker construction, the Smartwool PhD Medium is perfect. Both are great options for anybody, whether you're skiing every day or once a year.
Choosing a ski sock might take a little time and research, but we've taken the time to do the leg work for you. Say good-bye to cold feet this winter and welcome a few brand spanking new pairs of ski socks to your outdoor wardrobe. We hope this has been helpful in your search for a pertinent piece of winter gear.
— Amber King