A pair of high-quality hiking socks is one of the most important pieces of outdoor gear you can invest in.
While they might seem benign and simple, picking the right pair of socks is critical for preventing blisters and for keeping your feet comfortable throughout a hike.
Although you could just wear any pair of cheap socks on your next walk, hiking-specific socks are specially designed to wick moisture, pad the underside of the foot, and reduce friction on the sock-boot interface to prevent blisters.
But how do you choose a pair of hiking socks?
To help you in your search, we’ve created this hiking sock buying guide and review with all the information you need to decide which socks are right for you.
Our top pick: Icebreaker Merino Hike+ Medium Crew
Materials: 65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 2% LYCRA
Pros: Lightweight, very comfortable, won’t slip down, odour-resistant, lifetime guarantee
Why we chose them: These have been our go-to hiking socks for many years and we’re yet to take Icebreaker up on their lifetime guarantee offer. They are a lightweight, durable and odour-resistant hiking sock that offers maximum comfort.
These premium hiking socks are ideal for long hikes and multi-day backpacking trips because of their anatomical toe box and unique left and right fit. They also have sculptured cushioning in the heel and toe to provide support and comfort on your journey.
They come with reinforced heel and toe to prevent wear, along with ankle support to enhance fit and stability. The seam-free toe closure prevents blisters while the instep support provides stability.
Materials: 50% Merino Wool, 35% Nylon, 15% Elastane
Pros: Ergonomic design, seamless toe closure, strategic cushioning
Cons: May have more stretch than other options
Why we chose them: These Kathmandu hiking socks are a fantastic addition to any hiker’s kit. They’re constructed with an ergonomic design that fits your left and right feet to maximise comfort and performance.
The tops of these socks feature cushioned protection for your instep and help blood flow, which can be especially helpful if you’re on a long hike and want to avoid swelling or blisters. The seamless toe closure also reduces the chance of blisters while adding extra comfort.
These socks feature strategic cushioning in key places to give you extra support when you need it most. They’re made from a combination of merino and synthetic materials, so they wick moisture away from your body and dry quickly.
Materials: 26% New Wool, 18% Merino Wool, 38% Nylon/polyamide, 17% Polypropylene
Pros: Crew height, padding underfoot, mesh above
Cons: Could be too thick for very hot weather
Why we chose them: Made in the UK with some of the highest-quality materials around, the Bridgedale Hike Midweight is one of the most popular socks amongst hikers around the globe.
It is a crew height sock made with merino fusion technology. This fusion mixes merino fibres with synthetics for a perfect balance of insulation and comfort.
With light padding underfoot and mesh above, this sock combines the benefits of cushion with the breathability of a lighter sock.
It wicks moisture incredibly well and is perfect for warm and cold weather hikes, making it one of our picks for the best hiking socks available in Australia.
Materials: 85% acrylic, 9% nylon, 6% elastic
Pros: Padding under ball and heel, low compression top, affordable, made in the USA
Cons: No merino
Why we chose them: These Thorlos socks are a great choice for anyone who wants to hike with comfort and protection. They have moderate cushioning, which will protect your feet from friction and impact, so you can trek for miles without feeling any discomfort.
The padding under the ball of your foot and heel will also help reduce pain from pressure points that might build up over time.
The low compression top promotes circulation, which will keep your feet feeling fresh throughout the day.
Materials: 60% Merino, 30% Nylon, 5% Acrylic, 2% elastic
Pros: Full cushion support, virtually seamless toe closure
Cons: Could be too thick for very hot hikes
Why we chose them: Wigwam didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here with this modern take on a classic hiking sock, but they’ve done it really well and provided a great quality, affordable option.
Made of medium-weight merino wool and nylon, the Comfort Hike Socks are very durable with full cushion support underfoot.
These crew-length socks are no-itch and have a virtually seamless toe closure for reduced friction. A great sock at an affordable price, the Comfort Hikes would be great for hikers who value simplicity over flashy technology.
Materials: 70% NU wool, 25% Nylon, 5% Spandle-flex
Pros: Very light and breathable, reduces inter-toe chafing and rubbing
Cons: Toe socks aren’t for everyone, less padding than other options.
Why we chose them: The only toe socks in this review, this pair from Injinji uses an anatomical design to mould to the shape of your foot to prevent rubbing and chafing between toes.
While this may seem odd to non-converts, the toe sock effectively separates your toes to allow them to breathe using a thin anti-friction fabric.
These high-quality toe socks are made from some of the finest materials around which wick moisture in the hottest conditions. The seamless construction prevents uncomfortable rubbing in the toe area, too.
Not a believer yet? Consider this: toe socks allow toes to separate and be biomechanically correct with your shoe for a more natural stride. While they’re certainly not for everyone, toe sock enthusiasts will really appreciate this great hiking option from Injinji.
If you are new to the toe sock world, you’ll find them quite odd when you first put them on. Those brave enough to try them out – stick with them for a few weeks before you declare your verdict. They really are great!Gaby Pilson – Professional Mountain Guide
Materials: 19% Merino Wool, 53% Coolmax/polyester, 27% Nylon/polyamide, 1% Lycra
Pros: Lightweight and breathable, light cushion underfoot
Cons: Wouldn’t be warm enough for cold-weather adventures
Why we chose them: Another great option from Bridgedale, these socks integrate all the features of their classic design into a more lightweight option.
This sock is designed to be worn with hiking boots and combines a range of materials to keep your feet cool and dry, while a flat toe seam adds to comfort and reduces the chance of blisters.
Made for performance, these socks are durable and abrasion-resistant to keep you moving. They’re moisture-wicking and have light padding underfoot and mesh above. This keeps them light and breathable without sacrificing cushioning.
We’d recommend these socks for people who prefer lightweight and breathability over extra cushion and insulation.
Materials: 98% nylon, 2% elastic; Inner sock: 70% bamboo rayon, 30% nylon
Pros: 100% waterproof, anti-bacterial
Cons: Expensive, bulky
Why we chose them: The only waterproof socks in this review, this option from Antu uses a three-layer construction to keep your feet dry in wet conditions. On the outside, you have a nylon shell that protects the waterproof/breathable membrane below. The inside of the sock is made from bamboo rayon fibres, which are naturally anti-bacterial.
This 100% waterproof and breathable sock is great for wet hikes with non-waterproof or low-cut hiking shoes. If you really hate having wet feet, these may be the socks for you!
Many people love waterproof socks because they keep their feet dry when boots fail. It’s important to note, though, that if you’re doing large river crossings where the water goes over the top of the sock, you’ll likely end up with some water next to your foot, where it’ll get trapped by the waterproof membrane.
Also, some people have found that these socks are bulky and can be uncomfortable in somewhat tightly-fitting footwear.Gaby Pilson – Professional Mountain Guide
Hiking socks buying guide
Unlike cheap everyday socks, hiking socks are created with innovative technologies to make walking over rough terrain both comfortable and enjoyable. But, there are many socks out there today, each with its own set of features.
Here’s what you need to look for when buying hiking socks:
Most casual socks are made of some sort of cotton blend while nearly all hiking socks are wool or synthetic.
Regular cotton gets very cold when it’s wet and can cause a lot of friction underfoot.
Wool socks, particularly of the merino variety, can keep your feet warm even when wet, to reduce that clammy feeling.
Synthetic materials provide a similar amount of warmth when wet with the additional advantage of drying a bit more quickly than wool can.
At home, sock length is often a matter of style and personal preference.
However, if you choose socks that are too short when you’re hiking, you’ll likely experience some discomfort as the sock slips into the boot.
Choose a sock that’s slightly longer than your footwear and you can prevent this scenario.
Some socks come with built-in cushion underfoot. This can make long walks on rough terrain, especially on the downhill, much more comfortable.
The trade-off? They can be quite warm and a bit bulkier, so they’ll take up more space in your boot, which can be uncomfortable.
Although they’re all great options, only one sock can be a winner here in this head-to-head review.
Our top choice: the Icebreaker Merino Hike+.
These socks combine a great set of breathability, anti-friction, and cushioning into one comfortable package. They’re simple, yet effective for keeping you moving each step of the way.
But, above all, remember this: whichever socks you decide on, be sure to try them on with your boots to ensure a proper fit and no problem areas when you walk. Happy hiking!