Best Hiking Socks In 2020
For Every Type Of Hiker

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

Choose the best hiking socks for your unique feet and type of trail with these Hiking For Her tips. #besthikingsocks #hikingsocks #technicalsocks #footcare #hikingforher


What are the best hiking socks?

Well, that's a matter of opinion.

Allow me to share my favorite socks for the trail. I'll back up my opinions with technical details and lots of trail experience.

We'll focus on REI Co-op as our source for the best hiking socks, for all these reasons:

  • They've been in business since 1938 (not a typo), with their roots in climbing and backpacking. Now they cater to all types of hikers.
  • They carry a great line of hiking socks, with top brands including their own to choose from.
  • They've improved their own socks for 2020. How? By using Responsible Wool Standards (RWS) and recycled materials to keep landfills emptier.
  • The Co-op has great customer service. Plus generous discounts, like 10% off when you buy three or more pairs of socks.
  • As a member of the Co-op, you're rewarded in many ways. Fair pricing, an annual rebate on your purchases, free shipping on orders over $50, and so much more. HFH has been an member since 1977!

Hiking For Her is proud to be an REI Co-op affiliate. When you purchase through this website, your total price is not affected. HFH may earn a small commission for showing you the best of the best hiking socks.


Your trustworthy guide to 
the hiking sock universe

Socks are one of the few hiking apparel choices which can be considered unisex.

But for the best fit and performance, I recommend women's hiking socks because the sizing is more exact.

  • All the examples in this sock guide, with one notable exception, will be true to the Hiking For HER name ;)

If you're a guy reading this, you can still buy these socks in versions that will fit your feet. 


What problems can your feet
encounter on a hike?

  • Blisters
  • Chafing
  • Overheating
  • Sliding around in your footwear
  • Odors

That's why you need technical hiking socks!

To get into the details which matter most to a hiker, let's focus on the type of hiking you're doing.

That in turn dictates which sock choices you'll make.

Your goal: to keep your feet as comfortable as possible inside your trail footwear.

  • The cut of the socks, their fit, the amount of cushioning, and the fabric all play a role in your choice.

Here's what we cover in this
Best Hiking Socks Guide

Click to skip down to the details for each type of hiking socks:


Best hiking socks for day hikers

A dayhiker has a light load and covers fewer miles, compared with a long distance backpacker.

Yet a day hike demands good socks to fight the friction and to wick up moisture. Hey, it happens to all hiking feet!

To choose the best hiking socks for day hikes, match them to your footwear. 

If you prefer low cut trail runners or trail shoes, these are one of your best choices for socks:

Darn Tough Hiker No-Show Light Cushion Socks

If you stick to well packed trails without a lot of irritating debris, give these a try.

55% Merino wool, 42% nylon with a bit of Lycra spandex for comfort.

Do you prefer a bit more ankle protection with your trail shoes? I hear you! You need slightly higher hiking socks.

These Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion Socks are a versatile option when you wear mid-cut shoes and boots.

  • They also work with low cut shoes on trails with lots of debris: pine needles, grit and mud.

60% Merino wool, 38% nylon, with 2% spandex give you cushioning and protection.

Sizing tips:

Hiking socks should fit the contours of your foot.

Too much fabric leads to bunching and chafing, possibly even blisters.

Too little fabric creates pressure on your skin. The sensation of tightness will be distracting as you hike.

Make sure the heel cup lines up with the heel of your foot and you have a bit of wiggle room in the toe area.



Beginner hikers, take note

Just getting started as a hiker? You'll notice that hiking gear and women's outdoor clothing can get expensive in a hurry.

And what's up with the price tag on hiking socks?

One word: performance.

Technical socks are made of natural and created fabrics. Various blends deliver a lot for your money. 

  • Merino wool regulates temperature and cuts down on odors. Human made fabrics like nylon and polyester dry fast and are durable.

As you can see, hiking socks need a bit more technology than your basic cotton socks for daily wear.

So start with the basics for your day hikes:

  • Choose a sturdy pair of footwear.
  • Add a pair of crew hiking socks that will last for a long time and give you comfort and light cushioning.

Your feet are worth it!

Why choose crew style hiking socks?

A crew sock is versatile, which saves you money. 

Roll them down when you're wearing low cut trail shoes so you'll feel cooler.

Wear them pulled all the way up for more ankle coverage in scratchy and insect intense terrain.

  • This up and down system works well for spring through fall hikes when temperatures vary by the hour.

Fold them over liner socks (see below) when you want a two layer hiking sock system to prevent blisters.

Lots of mileage out of one pair of hiking socks!

Here's a great choice of beginner hiking socks.

These Smartwool Crew Hiking Socks check all the right boxes:

cushioning, good fit, durability, moisture wicking, breathable and odor control.

Wow!



Best hiking socks for
short backpacking trips

Can you wear the same socks on a weekend backpacking trip that you use for day hikes?

Yes!

So let's look at more hiking socks with light density cushioning.

You also want a good fit to prevent slipping and friction, and some odor control from the right materials.

And rest assured.

"Light cushioning" doesn't leave your heel and ball of the foot without protection.

REI Co-op Merino Wool Lightweight Tech Crew Socks

The blend of 79% RWS Merino wool, 20% nylon and 1% Lycra spandex gives you moisture and odor control and a good fit.

Just the right socks for a short trip!

Want to go even lighter?

REI Co-op Merino Wool Ultralight Tech Crew Hiking Socks flip the ratio.

Nylon predominates:

53% nylon, 45% RWS Merino wool and 3% Lycra spandex for more "give".


Looking for more cushioning
for your backpacking feet?

It's possible that you want a bit more cushioning than your day hike socks can give you.

After all, your backpack will be heavier with camping and backpacking kitchen gear.

So keep reading for medium cushion socks that can stand up to backpacking loads.



Best hiking socks for
multi-day and weeks long
backpacking trips

When you're going for the long haul (literally) you can't bring along lots of socks unless you want to leave something else at home. 

So make your sock choices with care.

You're looking for technical hiking socks that can stand up to the grit and abrasion of the trail. 

Along with friction and moisture control, you also want odor control.

Fast drying materials enhance your nightly sock washing ritual, too.

Can one pair of socks do all that? 

Oh yes, and here they are.

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Socks have high density cushioning beneath your feet.

Wide ribs hold them up but don't dig into your legs.

Check out the reinforced heels and toes.

Elastic support around the arch add to your comfort as well as the lifetime of the socks.


That's a lot of sock love right there!

Backpacking socks tip #1:

Keep a dedicated pair of socks in your sleep system. It feels luxurious to slip on clean socks after a hard day on the trail!


Backpacking socks tip #2:

How many pairs of socks should you bring on a multi-week or months long backpacking trip?

  • One to wear on the trail, one to sleep in, and one to hang off the back of your backpack as it dries is what I bring.

If you want a "safety" pair of backpacking socks, and can manage the volume and weight of it, I won't tell ;)

Ultralighter backpackers will cringe.

  • Only 2 pairs of socks. Suck it up.



Best hiking socks for
cold weather hiking

Thick cushioning will keep your feet warm. Soaking up the moisture generated inside your boots, no problem!

REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Hiking Crew Socks feature 79% RWS Merino wool for warmth, 20% nylon for durability, and 1% Lycra spandex.


Waterproof socks are also a good choice for cold wet weather.

These Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Socks aren't the cheapest socks you've ever owned.

But they are 100% waterproof, windproof, breathable and comfortable.

Thanks to their 3 layer system, that is!

These are technical socks at their finest, and a great investment in your safety.




Best hiking socks
for wet conditions

Sealskinz is a well known brand for waterproof hiking socks, and we took a look at a cold weather pair above.

Hiking in mild and wet conditions? Consider these Sealskinz Waterproof Warm-Weather Mid Length Socks.

Same 3 layer system, with a bamboo lining for comfort.

Flat toe seams, so no rubbing or chafing as your feet stay dry within your footwear.




Best mountaineering socks

Headed into tough conditions?

One of the most important pieces of clothing you will wear are heavy duty, extra thick mountaineering socks.

Not only will your feet face cold temperatures in high alpine. You will submit them to the shock of variable terrain: snow, ice, rocks over and over again.

You want need thick socks!

Ditto for your snowshoeing adventures.

These Smartwool Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks are 80% Merino wool.

Warmth and cushioning!

One caution: They are unisex, so the sizing will not be as exact.

Be careful  to look at the sizes when you order.

Here's another full cushion choice, with the same caveat for lack of women's sizing:

Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks

Note the thickness. These socks give you lots of cozy warmth.

They also absorb jarring impacts on frozen ground inside your weatherproof boots.

Heavenly!

  • Tips for winter boots here


Best compression socks for hikers

Sometimes the best hiking socks are long.

Compression socks cover your feet and calves up to the knees.

They are useful for hikers who want to maximize circulation on long hikes.

They're also used for prolonged periods of inactivity in daily life.

  • Sitting during travel, school or work

So you can get a lot of mileage out of buying one pair of compression socks.

Sockwell Ascend II Knee-High Compression Socks are reasonably priced for hikers.

They give you moderate, graduated compression: support without a lot of pressure except where it's needed.

If you're a backpacker, consider adding a pair of these socks to your gear list.

For detailed tips on how to choose the best compression socks for hiking, go here.



Best hiking socks for kids

You want your children to have a great experience when they take a hike with you, right?

Then pay close attention to their feet.

Give them medium cushioning hiking socks like yours.

Example:

  • REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks, designed to fit and cushion smaller feet.

Note how these hiking socks have reinforcement at the wear points: toes, heel, and foot bed.

Ribbed cuffs keep them up.

The seamless toe area prevents chafing.

More comfortable feet per mile + less chance of a blister on those tender little feet = a great hike.

You can feel good about putting these hiking socks on your kids. They're compliant with Responsible Wool Standards (RWS) for humane treatment of sheep.



Best hiking socks
playing a supportive role: liners

Some hikers use a second pair of thin socks called liner socks to wick moisture away from skin and direct it into technical hiking socks.

They're not meant to cushion your feet.

Their purpose is to give you a barrier against chafing before you pull on your outer pair of socks.

Many hikers skip liners, while others like an extra thin layer between skin and footwear.

Personal choice! 

REI Co-op offers you two good choices for thin liner socks.

REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner Crew Socks are your first choice.

64% RWS Merino wool for softness, 34% nylon for durability, and 2% spandex for a comfortable fit.

Choose these as stand alone socks for day hikes in hot weather.

Layer them under technical hiking socks for multi-day trips and tough day hikes.

Your second choice for good liner socks:

REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Liner Crew Socks are a delight on your feet. Moisture wicking but light as a feather!

50% polyester, 49% nylon, 1% spandex.

Now that's a cool way to re-use plastic bottles!

(One reason they're my personal favorites.)



Have some fun with hiking socks!

Sometimes a girl just wants to have fun.

No, wait!

That's all the time on a hike.

So these are the socks to shove into your boots and take out at a rest stop to make your trail buddies smile. 

Still technical hiking socks with all the bells and whistles.

But in fun patterns like these:

Express yourself in Smartwool Hike Light Margarita Crew Socks



The best hiking socks
are the ones you reach for
over and over again

Every hiker has an opinion about which hiking socks are best.

Now that you've seen all your choices it's time to build your own opinion.

Use this best hiking socks guide to enjoy a little experimenting.

Soon enough you will find the best socks for your unique feet.

A few more hiking sock tips for you

  • Don't forget to take advantage of REI Co-op's deal: 10% off three or more pairs of socks. 
  • Be sure to read the REI Co-op customer reviews of socks. They're a great resource for dialing in your perfect fit and cushioning level.
  • You're going to need a dedicated hiking sock drawer as you sample new types of hiking!

It's been my pleasure to welcome you into Hiking Sock World.

You're gonna love it here ;)

Craving more best hiking sock tips? Here they are.


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Best Hiking Socks For 2020



About the author

Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.

She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.


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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.


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