Hiking and sweating kinda go hand in hand. This is particularly true as regards the body part tasked with transporting the rest of us all of those miles on steep, sultry, perspiration-provoking trails: our feet.
Having sweaty feet can have far more irksome consequences than an icky feeling in our tootsies, however. Blisters, skin irritations, and fungal infections are also on the cards.
Given that each of these ailments could prevent us getting in our trail time, getting our hands on a pair of socks that can deal with all of the above is every bit as important as selecting the right boots, jackets, pants, or any other items many peeps are apt to deem higher-priority.
To help you pick the best hosiery for your hooves, in this article we’ll take you through all the ins and outs of socks that specialize in shedding sweat and introduce you to 5 of the best options out there in 2023.
Table of Contents
- Editor’s Choice
- The Problem With Sweaty Feet
- Why Cotton is Rotten
- What Kind of Socks Keep Feet From Sweating?
- The Best Socks for Sweaty Feet Reviewed
Smartwool PhD Pro Crew Sock
Smartwool’s PhD Pro Crew is a true all-rounder that looks good and leaves your feet feeling and smelling great even after the longest of days on the trails.
The Pro Crew win our vote on account of packing all the features vital for hikers with hyperhidrosis.
This sock combines the anti-microbial properties and natural breathability of merino with mesh vents for added airflow and fungus-free freshness. It also uses achilles straps and flex zones at the ankle joints that minimize blister-causing bunching and ensure a snug, supportive fit.
This high-performing, odor-and-sweat-resistant sock also provides awesome ankle and sole support and uses thin, light-to-midweight fabric that’s ideal for three-season hiking.
Bottom line: A stylish but performance-oriented sock that can work wonders for sufferers of sweaty feet and throws in all the add-ons needed to optimize comfort and support.
The Problem With Sweaty Feet
Excessive foot sweat can be caused by several things. First off, it could be a bona fide medical condition. Yes, you read that right. Hyperhidrosis is when you sweat profusely regardless of your current environment’s temperature and the activity that you’re doing.
Primary focal hyperhidrosis can be observed on focused areas of the body like hands, feet, underarms, and the head. Secondary, generalized hyperhidrosis happens in larger areas of the body and is often a side-effect of medication or other conditions like heart disease and obesity.
The other main cause of excessively sweaty feet is, simply, wearing the wrong socks.
But what’s the definition of “wrong” when it comes to hiking?
Well, the best advice we can offer here is to wear a pair of socks that are suitable for the conditions in which you’ll be hiking.
In warmer conditions, this means a lightweight, high-wicking sock that prioritizes breathability. In colder months, this means a sock that insulates without sacrificing its ability to wick sweat and let your feet breathe. At any time of year, highly breathable, high-wicking fabrics like merino, bamboo, and merino-nylon blends are the way to go.
Sweaty feet can cause a variety of problems. The most common are foot odor, blisters, chafing, peeling of the skin, and, worst of all, fungal and bacterial infections. Water also conducts heat away from the body much faster than air, so having sweat-soaked feet could also leave you with a very cold pair of walkers if temperatures drop, during your descent, or in camp at night.
Why Cotton is Rotten
So what are the best socks for sweaty feet? Well, it’s definitely not cotton. That’s for sure.
Cotton and hiking just don’t mix. Not only does it do nothing to prevent perspiration, it actually worsens the problem.
Cotton fibers don’t wick moisture. They don’t push sweat and water off the skin to dry the fabric. Instead, they accumulate water and hold on to it. In fact, cotton can soak up as much as 2,700% of its own weight in water.
This high absorption rate results in long drying times, makes the socks heavy and cumbersome, and increases the risk of blisters, chafing, and odors.
Further reading: If overly sweaty feet aren’t such an issue and you simply want the best hiking socks, then check out our parent guide.
What Kind of Socks Keep Feet From Sweating?
The best socks for sweaty-footed hikers have three things in common: they’re breathable, high-wicking, and odor-resistant.
A fabric’s breathability depends on how much it allows air and moisture to pass through it. Sweat-resistant socks let air circulate freely to regulate temperature, reduce sweat, and shorten drying time.
Socks with this capacity are typically thinner and made from finer yarns with looser weaves.
To test the above, you can either hunt down the specifications online or, if shopping in a store, simply hold the socks up to a light source. While the light test doesn’t account for the type of fabric used, it does let you see how much light passes through the fabric, which will give you a better idea of how loose, thin, and—hence—breathable they will be.
A breathable sock will also have strategically integrated vents and mesh panels to encourage airflow. And in terms of fabric, the best “breathers” out there are made with blends of merino wool, bamboo, rayon, nylon, and polyester.
Highly breathable socks are also effective at wicking away moisture. Socks that “wick” moisture simply absorb moisture from the skin and conduct to the fabric’s surface, where it can then evaporate. This allows the sock to dry faster and leaves your feet feeling cool and dry.
Again, the best moisture-wicking socks out there use natural fabrics like merino wool and bamboo, though synthetics like polyester, TENCEL, spandex, and polyamide are also good options.
Stinky feet are caused by the buildup of bacteria on your skin and socks. As you probably already know, bacteria’s favored environments are damp ones. Since breathable and wicking fabrics dry fast and wick-sweat away from the body, they create a less hospitable environment for bacteria to do their proliferating and lingering in, thus reducing the emanation of odors.
If you want to feel fresher longer, socks that use wool blends are the way to go. Wool wins the anti-odor category by a landslide. Not only is it naturally antimicrobial, it also manages moisture far more efficiently and effectively than other fabrics and can leave your feet smelling fresh even after days of use.
A 2018 study even proved that a fabric has significantly less odor even with as little as 20% wool content when compared to fabrics made from 100% polyester.
The Best Socks for Sweaty Feet Reviewed
Danish Endurance Bamboo Sock
Best for Daily Use
The Danish Endurance Bamboo dress sock marries athletic prowess and everyday comfort. Even though this is technically a dress sock, it packs more than enough in the way of performance to make it a perfect pick for demanding physical activities like hiking.
Made from 69% bamboo viscose, this sock boasts the unique, silk-like softness that you can only get from bamboo fibers.
In addition, the eco-friendly fabric is as effective at moisture control as any sock from big-name brands. And with its 30% polyamide and 1% elastane blend, it’s also stretchy, durable, dries as quickly as any other product in our review, and is remarkably comfortable for such a lightweight and minimally cushioned sock.
If considering these socks, however, it’s worth noting that they tend to stretch out after repeated use and their sizing runs small, so it’s best to go 1 to 2 sizes bigger when buying.
Fun fact: These men’s cooling socks are worn by Anders Hofman, the Danish ironman and entrepreneur who completed the first-ever ironman distance triathlon in Antarctica.
- Soft and comfortable
- Fast drying
- Sizing runs small
- Stretch out over time
Bottom-Line: The Danish Endurance is a high-performing, superbly comfortable sock that’s perfect for both hiking and everyday use.
Smartwool PhD Pro Crew Sock
Best for Extra Support
Smartwool’s PhD Pro Crew is a performance-oriented sock that excels at providing support for your ankles and soles as well as at keeping your sweaty feet in check.
These socks are made from 49% merino wool and add 48% nylon and 3% elastane for enhanced durability and flexibility. The high percentage of merino wool coupled with mesh ventilation zones maximizes breathability and significantly reduces the sock’s drying time.
But what really sets this sock apart are its trail-specific details. It uses achilles straps and body-mapped flex zones to give some support and eliminate annoying bunching when you flex your feet. This comes in handy when you wear trail shoes as, with other socks, their low-cut openings often end up rubbing against your ankles.
While the Danish Endurance Bamboo dress socks are apt to stretch out over time, the PhD Crew tend towards the opposite – they shrink, in some cases up to a size smaller. Though the care instructions do say it’s okay to wash the socks in warm water, it’s best to use cold water to ensure they still fit your feet after laundering.
- Highly breathable
- Ankle joint support
- High-wicking and fast-drying fabric
- Can shink in the wash
- A little light on cushioning
Bottom-Line: Smartwool has a rep for producing almost peerlessly practical outdoor garments, and their PhD Crew Socks are no exception. They’re light, breathable, provide extra support in the soles and ankles, and are about as durable and comfy as they come.
Farm to Feet Greensboro Multisport Sock
Best All-Season Sock
The Greensboro Multisport Sock is the most versatile sock on our list, combining outstanding breathability with ample warmth for wintertime wandering and wear-anywhere kinda ruggedness.
Weaved from a combination of 50% merino wool, 4% lycra spandex, and 46% nylon using a terry knit loop for every interior stitch, this sock is a winner for year-round adventurers. Its high-wicking and breathable merino-rich fabrics help to keep your feet cool in summer and provide enough insulation to keep them toasty in the winter.
Unlike the Smartwool PhD Pro Crew Socks, the Greensboro Multisport doubles down on cushioning by including beefy panels of padding in the ankle, heel, and toe areas. The terry knit loops also provide full-density cushioning throughout the sole, which translates into solid shock-absorption on rougher, bumpier trails.
Another noteworthy feature is the Multisport’s seamless toe closure, which provides a flat, smooth finish in the toe box that reduces the risk of blisters and irritating rubbing.
The only slight question mark hanging over this sock regards its durability. Though it feels robust and chunkier than most lightweight socks, it is prone, like many multisport socks, to developing holes after a few months of regular usage.
- Effective temperature control
- Seamless toe closure
- Nicely cushioned
- Too warm for high temps
- More prone to holes
Bottom-Line: Despite a slight durability issue, this supportive, sweat-resistant sock is a great pick for buyers keen to procure a sock that’s good to go wherever you might be planning on taking it—at any time of year.
Wigwam Men’s At Work Double Duty
Best for Winter
If you’re looking for socks that are equally equipped to deal with cold weather and sweaty feet, the Wigwam At Work Double Duty Sock is a great choice. It’s a warm, fuzzy, and comfortable sock that’s also hardwearing and odor-resistant, making it ideal for demanding winter hikes.
This sock is made from 35% wool, 35% acrylic, 23% extra stretchy nylon, and 7% olefin. It’s thick, insulating, and comfortable enough despite a lack of significant added cushioning on the sole.
Although the wool’s texture is a fraction coarse and won’t be everyone’s liking, it does wick well, and, like merino, is breathable, naturally antimicrobial, and impressively odor-resistant. And, true to the name, the Double Duty’s high acrylic and nylon content make it outstandingly durable and rugged, but also surprisingly supple given its beefy construction.
- Feels slightly coarse
Bottom-Line: An extra-warm, odor-resistant, and hard-wearing sock that’s ideal for wintertime wanders both above and below the snow-line.
Best for Trail Running
The Rockay Accelerate is a highly breathable, competition-grade sock that’s specifically designed for ultra trail running and is made with entirely recycled materials.
Though a running sock, like most socks of its kind, the Accelerate is ideal for certain hiking styles, particularly if your backcountry MO involves traveling fast and light. It wicks well and features several ventilation zones to aid airflow and, though light on cushioning, uses a tighter fit that feels more supportive when moving fast in rocky, bumpy terrain.
The Accelerate is made from Econyl, a new type of nylon that comes from recycled ocean and landfill waste, and also includes polygiene to keep odor to a minimum and help keep the sock’s overall structural integrity in the long term.
For some users, the Accelerate will feel a little closer to a compression sock than a regular hiking sock. While this added tightness might strike some as a little too constrictive, others will appreciate the added support this styling provides in the arch, heel, ankle, and calves.
- Highly breathable
- Keep your feet dry and cool in high temps
- Sizing runs small
- Tighter fit
Bottom-Line: Although a little on the tight side fit-wise, this well-ventilated, lightweight, and very supportive sock is a solid option for those who prioritize performance and temperature control over cushioning and warmth.