Buying Guide: How To Pick Your Ideal Hiking Socks

Your feet are the most impor­tant part of any hik­ing set­up, and you should use the same atten­tive care that you apply when select­ing the right pair of hik­ing shoes or boots as you do for select­ing your hik­ing socks. The fol­low­ing top­ics will help you learn how to choose the best hik­ing socks for your next trip down the trail.

person sitting in tent with hiking socks

Hav­ing the right weight, mate­ri­als, and length for the activ­i­ty you’re doing makes all the dif­fer­ence. It deter­mines whether you’ll have red-blis­tered bark­ing feet and hap­py feet. Of all the choic­es you’ll come across, what you’re tru­ly look­ing for is the pre­ferred bal­ance of all these options list­ed below:

Choos­ing a Sock Weight

Lin­ers:

If you’re hav­ing prob­lems with blis­ters, lin­ers might solve them. This extreme­ly thin silk or syn­thet­ic polypropy­lene sock wicks mois­ture away from your feet there­by remov­ing the blis­ter-caus­ing agent. Wear the lin­er alone on the hottest days or pair them with anoth­er light­weight sock for a ter­rif­ic hik­ing set­up.

Light­weight:

Qual­i­ty light­weight hik­ing socks are an essen­tial com­po­nent of your hik­ing gear. Built to wick mois­ture and keep your feet cool and dry, these are the socks best fit for warm-weath­er hik­ing, and can safe­ly be worn with­out lin­ers.

Mid­weight:

These heav­ier socks pro­vide warmth and com­fort. They typ­i­cal­ly fea­ture addi­tion­al cush­ion­ing in the ball of the foot and in the heel of the sock. This is use­ful for extend­ed days on the trail or for climb­ing moun­tains that require hik­ing across talus scree fields.

Heavy­weight:

These are the warmest, heav­i­est, and most cush­ioned socks avail­able. Their intend­ed pur­pose is for alpine pur­suits and moun­taineer­ing expe­di­tions, but they are great to bring along as your cozy camp socks on any trip.


Best Mate­ri­als Avail­able (in Alpha­bet­i­cal Order)

A sec­ond fac­tor to keep in mind: Dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als have dif­fer­ent wick­ing, dry­ing, and heat holding/dispersing prop­er­ties. Here are the options you want to con­sid­er.

Alpaca wool:

It’s less itchy than ordi­nary wool because the indi­vid­ual fiber length is much short­er– mak­ing it soft and com­fort­able against your skin. If you have sen­si­tive skin you might pre­fer this option since this hypoal­ler­genic mate­r­i­al that con­tains no lano­lin. It’s a ter­rif­ic insu­la­tor and wicks mois­ture well, so it’s a ver­sa­tile fab­ric.

Bam­boo:

Because of the hol­low struc­ture of the fibers, which makes it super-absorbent, anoth­er pop­u­lar mate­r­i­al on the rise is bam­boo. This mate­r­i­al effec­tive­ly wicks mois­ture away from the skin, offers breatha­bil­i­ty com­pa­ra­ble to cot­ton or wool.

Cot­ton / Cot­ton Blends:

Cot­ton is one of the most com­fort­able all-nat­ur­al fab­rics in the world, but because it absorbs mois­ture, dries slow­ly, and pro­vides no insu­la­tion when wet, 100% cot­ton is a poor choice for the out­doors. Many socks, how­ev­er, do take advan­tage of the com­fort and pro­vide blends. The wet­ter or hot­ter it’s going to be, the low­er you’ll want the cot­ton ratio.

Meri­no Wool:

The unique mate­r­i­al comes from a spe­cial­ized New Zealand sheep that has soft­er wool than ordi­nary wool. It has the same insu­lat­ing and water repelling qual­i­ties as ordi­nary wool, but the soft­er feels tend to cre­ate less hot spots on your foot while hik­ing.

Silk / Silk Blends:

Silk is an advanced nat­ur­al fab­ric. It’s lux­u­ri­ous­ly com­fort­able while also capa­ble of wick­ing mois­ture away from your foot. It also has nat­ur­al insu­lat­ing prop­er­ties that make it a great choice for warm weath­er hik­ing or as the main mate­r­i­al in a sock lin­er.

Syn­thet­ic Blends:

The mod­ern hik­ing sock is typ­i­cal­ly a weave of mul­ti­ple nat­ur­al and syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als. Cool­max and polypropy­lene increase the mois­ture-wick­ing capa­bil­i­ties of cot­ton or wool socks. Nylon and span­dex are added to many hik­ing socks of all kinds to pro­vide a fit­ted design. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for main­tain­ing the socks’ shape, which pre­vents it from slid­ing on your foot, there­by reduc­ing blis­ter-caus­ing fric­tion. Oth­er syn­thet­ic options include poly­ester and ray­on.

Wool (Clas­sic):

Wool is the most com­mon fab­ric for hik­ing socks. It’s insu­lat­ing and mois­ture-wick­ing capa­bil­i­ty is top notch, and over the years it’s ragged, rough tex­ture has been great­ly min­i­mized in high-end gar­ments by using soft meri­no wool or weav­ing it with oth­er syn­thet­ic fab­rics.


The Pre­ferred Length

Most hik­ing socks come in a stan­dard crew-style length, so there’s no need to stress on this deci­sion. If you do have the option though, opt­ing for a mid-length sock is usu­al­ly best, as it’ll help pro­tect your ankles from dirt, bugs, and branch­es while out on the trail.

If you’ve gone on a few hikes and feel like your ankles need to be free, you can always pick up some no-show or ankle socks.

Shop The Clymb hik­ing socks here.