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How To Choose
The Best Hiking Socks

Hiking socks are as important as your boots, backpack and trail food. Use these Hiking For Her tips to choose a perfect pair of hiking socks for your feet.

Wow, what a boring topic: hiking socks.

Wait a minute! I heartily disagree.

Socks are one of the fundamentals of hiking.

Ignore them at your peril!

If you asked me to list the most important gear a hiker must get right on every hike, guess where they would be on that list?

  • Number one, right along with hiking footwear.


OK, I know what you're thinking.

  • Socks and boots - that's TWO items on the list.

Nope, not the way I think of it.

Ready for all the details on how a veteran hiker chooses the best hiking socks?

I must warn you, sox rock!! (Too bad Dr. Seuss didn't write a "sox rox on fox" book...)

Hiking socks can make or break your ability to reach your destination.


Hiking socks for your precious feet

Your feet are one of your most precious assets as a hiker.

They bear your weight, your pack's weight, sometimes the weight of your child or puppy or a really cool rock you found or your trail buddy's extra weight from an ill fitting pack... you get the idea.

To thank your feet for their endless duty on the trail, you must provide them with fantastically fitted boots

or trail shoes (depending on the terrain and your hiking plans),

AND hiking socks.

Notice the word  "hiking" in front of the socks.

You need socks that can stand up to the friction, heat, stress, and swollen feet generated by a hike.

Your $1 bargain bin special won't cut it. Or will cut it for just long enough to usher you into the wonderful world of blisters.

Enter the wonderful universe of how to choose hiking socks.

Hiking socks: 2 pairs please

The basic fact is this: you need two pairs.

And they need to be two different types.

What?? Two stinkin' pairs? (NOTE: They should NOT stink when you take them home from the store. That comes later.)


Yes, I kid you not.

You need an inner and an outer pair.

Here's why.

Inner pair

Sock liners, they're called.

Put these on first, because they have lots of responsibilities.

  • They need to conform to the contours of your foot without sliding around.
  • They must wick your sweat away from your skin, to prevent your epidermis from losing contact with your dermis (OUCH - a blister!).
  • And they should make a reasonable attempt at absorbing foot odors. (Have you smelled your boots lately? I'll be here when you come back.)

Outer pair of hiking socks

These are probably what you think about when you hear "hiking socks".

They are a bit thicker, a bit sturdier, than every day socks you would wear to work or school.

These socks for hikers come in all sorts of colors and varieties, which makes sock shopping lots of fun.

However, avoid getting sucked into sock overload by focusing on the main thing:

  • Will they pad your heels and soles from the wear and tear created by putting all of your weight on your feet, hour after hour, day after day...
  • and will they not wear out after a few trips?

Not a bad bottom line, but believe me, many, and I mean many, sock brands fail this simple test.

You would do well to avoid them if you plan to hike in all seasons, for many reasons.

What about the fabric?

What about the material?

  • Nylon and spandex will ensure a well fitted shape.
  • Merino wool has good moisture wicking properties.
  • Polyester is sometimes blended in to enhance thermal regulation.

See? You have lots of options.

So for your first pair of socks, pick a pair that feels nice on your skin, in case you violate my "liners first" rule.

(I'm not the sock police, but I speak their language.)


Get serious about
naming some names

Have I convinced you that you need socks that are specific to hiking?

In case you are coming here out of despair created by ill fitting socks, prepare to let go of your despair!

I'm about to name names.

To achieve the ideal condition of liner socks playing nicely with outer socks, and both pairs playing nicely with your hiking footwear, you have to shop around a little.

And ask your hiking buddies.

And borrow some socks from your significant other or room mate.

I'm not kidding! I take sock picking very seriously, and you should, too.

Tried & true sock brands for hikers

I am a loyal fan of the brands which have served me well over the years.

I humbly offer them as a place to start, if you don't have any sock lending buddies to turn to for advice.


For a good deal on my favorite liners, try these:

Fox River Wick Dry CoolMax Liner Socks

For an outer pair, try Thorlo or Smart Wool.

Here are the Thorlos I recommend (because I wear them myself, as you can see in the photo below):

Thorlos Women's Hiking Socks


Lightweight Thorlos are also a good choice for moderate dayhiking.


The SmartWool socks that I love are these:

SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Hiking Socks
  • For a review I did of SmartWool medium weight women's crew hiking socks, read this.

Seems too bulky with 2 pairs?

If two pairs of socks seems like too much bulk, please try the combo at least once on a long hike.

Then you'll have the data to make a decision: one pair, or two.

If you always wear lightweight hiking shoes, and stick to well maintained trails, maybe one pair is the way to go.

But if you have any inkling of a blister forming, try two!

Two pairs of hiking socks in these trail shoes



How to choose the best socks
for your hiking plans

Be careful here - you want to pick the right type for your style of hiking.

Socks designed for hikers will be labelled to indicate how much wear and tear they will stand up to, and how much cushioning to expect.

Look for the tell tale words "light" or "heavy" or "expedition".

Also look for these features

Remember the features you are looking (and paying) for:

  • adequate cushioning,
  • heel and toe reinforcement,
  • moisture, friction and heat control, plus
  • durability.

Personally, I choose the "trekking" variety of socks because they're built to take what I dish out inside my boots.

And even so, I replace my socks every other summer because the heels and toes wear out.

So don't expect miracles!


And my apologies in advance for sticker shock.

  • Activity specific socks might seem a bit overpriced, but go back to first principles:

Your feet qualify as your most important hiking gear.

I beg you, skimp somewhere else if you have to, but never on your feet!

Even more options!

Want another opinion on how to choose trail socks?

And here's something a bit different: alpaca fiber socks.

I love 'em for their softness and trail performance, and because alpacas are so very cute.

Prone to blisters?


Who knew??


Who knew exploring the wonderful world of socks for hikers could be so much fun?

Now that you have the right socks, turn your attention to the best hiking boots!


Home page > Best Hiking Gear > Hiking Socks



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