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.
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 or 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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’s hiking socks here.