I am obsessive about the socks I wear when hiking. These small bits of fabric can make or break a decent hike. In 2004 at the start of my first 30 day hike along the Camino, I discovered blisters, unlike blisters I have ever known. A change of footwear from boots to lightweight hiking shoes and buying the best hiking socks I could afford at the time making all the difference for the next 27 days. Now I own socks for every different weather condition and season.
What do you need to make a long-distance hike enjoyable?
The promise of good company is one vital factor and the right equipment is certainly another. You will have sourced the most comfortable and appropriate walking boots or hiking shoes, (see here for hiking shoes for women), a decent summer sleeping bag rated for the conditions you are going to be hiking in, the best hiking shirt, and a tent light enough to carry if you are planning on camping in the wild. These – as well as a good backpack, changes of clothing, and perhaps a set of trekking poles – are among the essentials, but have you thought about your hiking socks?
Think of it like this: you wouldn’t pull a regular pair of work boots out of the wardrobe for hiking any long distance trail, so why would you wear regular socks? You need specifically designed hiking socks, and I have taken a look at ten of the best hiking socks available, so you can choose those that suit you best. Let’s have a look at them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Hiking Socks Reviewed
- 1.1 1: Darn Tough Micro Crew Men’s Socks
- 1.2 2: Darn Tough Vermont ¼ Merino Socks
- 1.3 3: Icebreaker Merino Hiking Crew Socks
- 1.4 4: Rockay Accelerate Running Socks
- 1.5 5: Smartwool Men’s PHD Crew Hiking Socks
- 1.6 6: Darn Tough Vermont Women’s Crew
- 1.7 7: Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew
- 1.8 8: Randy Sun Waterproof Breathable Ski Socks
- 1.9 9: FITS Medium Hiker Crew Socks
- 1.10 10: Darn Tough Hiker Cushion Sock
- 2 Best Hiking Socks Buying Guide
Top 10 Hiking Socks Reviewed
1: Darn Tough Micro Crew Men’s Socks
This pair of socks, from the Darn Tough brand – still made as they always have been made, in Vermont, USA – is a very nice starting point, as it ticks all the boxes. Available in sizes from small to XX-large – so catering to most– these are quality socks at a price that reflects this fact. Made from the finest Merino wool, which you will remember has certain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are important for this sort of footwear and long-term use, in a fine gauge, they are supremely comfortable, and are designed to fit perfectly, so no slipping or blistering. These also feature cushioning along the bottom of the foot for added comfort.
2: Darn Tough Vermont ¼ Merino Socks
Another sock from the Darn Tough range – this brand is one of the market leaders in hiking socks, so I will make no excuse for featuring their products more than once – this is a men’s design, but is a short sock which will come up to the ankle. Made from a combination of 61% Merino wool with 37% nylon and 2% lycra, they provide a high level of comfort and protection from bacteria, the knitting is the high density for durability, and they are designed for a performance fit and are very comfortable. They come with the Darn Tough lifetime guarantee which is an added bonus.
Key Features – ankle socks, Merino, nylon, lycra mix, high density, performance fit
3: Icebreaker Merino Hiking Crew Socks
These crew socks – that’s standard length above the ankle to you and me – come from Icebreaker, another US brand. Made in the USA, these socks are sculptured to fit – they are men’s socks – and are made from a combination of Merino wool with nylon and spandex for a more comfortable fit. They are designed to be non-slip and an excellent fit, and are a quality item that I think comes at a very competitive and sensible price. Available in four sizes from small to XL, these socks also come in a bewildering choice of colors and patterns, so you can choose one that you like. Fully cushioned on the foot, they also have a seamless toe closure for added comfort.
Key Features – Merino wool mix, small to XL, seamless toe, crew style, many colors
4: Rockay Accelerate Running Socks
Beautifully made from organic Merino wool sourced from South America (the socks themselves are made in Europe), these boast the best moisture wicking and antibacterial properties of any sock of this type, and are a high quality item. Available for men and women and in a full range of sizes from Extra Small to Extra Large, these quality socks feature an elastic closure to keep out dirt and are designed for maximum insulation. They have padding in the heel and toe where blisters most commonly occur, and are also available in a great range of colors. Great socks at a sensible price.
Key Features – ankle socks, pure Merino, men and women, all sizes, padded
5: Smartwool Men’s PHD Crew Hiking Socks
A great pair of crew-style socks from Smartwool, everything you expect is featured here. Made from quality Merino mixed with nylon and elastane, they provide all the protection you need. These socks are available in a range of sizes, from medium to X-large and are designed for a performance fit for non-slip and anti-blistering. Made in the USA, they come with adequate padding and a virtually seamless toe for greater comfort and can be found in a selection of colors. Decently priced mid-quality hiking socks. Read our in-depth comparison of Smartwool vs Icebreaker.
Key Features – merino mix, seamless toe, crew style, three sizes, many colors
6: Darn Tough Vermont Women’s Crew
These women’s socks from the Darn Tough range come in some very nice colors and in sizes ranging from small to large. Made from a Merino mix – 67% Merino with 29% nylon and 4% lycra – they provide an excellent fit and comfort as well as moisture wicking and anti-bacterial protection, so are suitable for long hikes. The performance fit means no slipping and fewer blisters, and they have the usual padding in the right places. They come with a lifetime guarantee but note that you will pay a higher price for this brand’s items.
Key Features – women’s crew style, great colors, three sizes, Merino mix, performance fit
7: Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew
Another brand that makes its products in the USA, Injinji has a wide variety of socks and other hiking essentials. These socks are crew style and come in all sizes and are made from Merino ‘NuWool’ fiber mixed with the usual nylon and spandex for all the required properties. They are a performance fit, designed to be comfortable and non-slip, are a midweight knit so not as heavy as some, but not too light either, and are nicely made. Not quite the quality of some of the big brands on this list, but not quite the price either, so worth a look.
Key Features – US made, Merino NuWool mix, great colors, comfortable, the price is good
8: Randy Sun Waterproof Breathable Ski Socks
Designed for skiing, these socks could also make a viable hiking pair, so I’ve included them for comparison. Made from a three layer construction, the outer is a mix of nylon, lycra, and elastane which provides excellent waterproofing qualities, (read: best waterproof socks). They are available in a full range of sizes for both men and women and are comfortable on the foot. Durable and designed for long use, they are cushioned and have a reinforced heel for added longevity. They are very good, but you might be more inclined to go for dedicated hiking socks as there are many at a similar price.
Key Features – ski socks, unisex, breathable, waterproof, durable, padded
9: FITS Medium Hiker Crew Socks
These socks are a Merino mix – 70% wool and a mix of nylon, polyester, and lycra for the rest – which the maker claims offers the ultimate comfort. They also make claims for them being non-slip, thanks to a performance fit and clever design. High-impact cushioning around the foot means added comfort with these socks, while patented ‘Full Contact Fit’ technology ensures the best fit available. You can get them in sizes from small to XXL and they are designed for unisex use. At the price, these are quality hiking socks that would be ideal for long trails.
Key Features – patented technology, unisex, Merino mix, all sizes, comfortable, tight fit
10: Darn Tough Hiker Cushion Sock
My final choice takes us back to Darn Tough, the brand from Vermont with a lifetime guarantee. This pair of socks is the shorter version and comes with cushioning all around for added comfort and a better fit. They are a performance fit, so non-slip, and are also truly seamless, so you have less chance of getting blisters. The material is a Merino mix – with nylon and lycra – and they come in a full range of sizes from small to XX-large, and a choice of three different colors. As usual, the quality shines through and the price reflects that.
Key Features – Darn Tough brand, short design, cushioned, Merino mix, all sizes
That’s my list of the top 10 hiking socks for long trails complete, but which is for you? Let’s quickly recap some of the considerations you need to make when choosing the right socks for your future hiking exploits.
Best Hiking Socks Buying Guide
This is a very important consideration when choosing hiking socks. For many people, the material of choice is Merino wool, and this is largely because it insulates well and has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Some are a mix of Merino and nylon plus either lycra or elastane for added protection and durability.
Thickness/ Insulation of Hiking Socks
You will find different thicknesses among my choice of socks and, therefore, different levels of insulation. I advise you to check the manufacturer specifications carefully before making your choice.
There’s a distinction here between the ‘crew’ style – this is the standard length above the ankle height that we think of with socks – and the lower ankle high designs, which are suitable for shoes rather than boots.
The comfort of Hiking Socks
Some factors are a personal choice, and this is one; I am talking about the overall fit of the hiking socks you choose, as some are more defined than others. For the highest level of comfort, look for ‘performance fit’ in the description as this distinguishes socks that are designed to be fitted to as high a degree as possible. Also, check for cushioning and seamless construction for added comfort.
Hiking Socks Durability
You want to buy quality socks that will last a long time, and remember they are going to come in for some arduous and prolonged use. If you want a recommendation, the Darn Tough brand offers a lifetime guarantee on its socks.
How to Care for Hiking Socks
Hiking socks, like all footwear, will need the regular care that normal socks get, but check the manufacturer specs for details on how best to wash and care for your socks, but most of the ones on this list are machine washable.
That’s my checklist of things to consider, so which of the above socks is for you? Let’s see if I can help you choose.
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- Merrell vs Keen: Shoes & Sandals
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- Salomon vs North Face
- Smartwool vs Darn Tough
I have picked the 10 products listed because I believe that they give you a good indication of what to expect when looking for hiking socks suitable for long trails. You will also have noticed that I kept coming back to one brand – Darn Tough.
There are good reasons for this, and while the other products mentioned are all a decent quality, there is no doubt this is the brand that offers the best quality products of this type. They also offer a lifetime guarantee, which is practically unheard of in this day and age.
The only thing I will say about Darn Tough socks is that you will pay more for them than for any of the other brands featured here – indeed you can have some of these for bargain prices – but this is a product where the economies of scale come very much into the picture.
For long trail walking on potentially arduous terrain, you want the very best in comfort and fit that you can get, and socks that will be comfortably worn for long periods, that can be washed and used over and over again, and that are durable and warm. You get all of that with any of the Darn Tough socks on this list, so my suggestion is that you take your pick from those.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.