Tired of blisters, bunions, trench foot, abrasions, and/or athlete’s foot caused by less-than-perfect hiking socks?
If, like many hikers, you’re apt to overlook the importance of wearing a great pair of hiking socks, then you’re likely already familiar with all of the above foot problems.
If you’d like to ensure they never blight your backcountry escapades again, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’re going to school you in the wisdom of wearing wool on your walkers. Not only that, once we’ve converted you to our wooly ways, we’ll play matchmaker by introducing you to nine pairs of the awesomest woolen socks we’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing.
Table of Contents
- Best Overall
- Why Choose Wool Socks
- Features to Consider When Buying Wool Socks
- 9 Best Wool Socks for Hiking
Darn Tough Micro Crew
The Darn Tough Micro Crew win our vote as the best performers out there in 2023. These socks are true all-rounders. They boast great breathability, high-wicking fabric, and use plenty of springy cushioning. Together, these attributes ensure your feet will stay cool, dry, and comfortable even when your mileage on the trail hits double digits.
But what makes the Darn Tough such a standout compared to their competitors?
Well, more than anything else, the most appealing things these socks bring to the table are their versatility and durability.
This is a medium-weight sock that offers enough insulation for cool conditions but enough breathability to keep things cool and sweat-free in warmer conditions.
They’re also made with a winning blend of 61% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, and 3% Lycra Spandex. Unlike many other blends we’ve tried, this three-fabric combo delivers on all fronts, making them durable, odorless after long days on the trail, comfy as hell, and stretchy enough to maintain their shape after multiple washes.
Bottom line: A versatile and high-performing sock that excels in a wide range of conditions, the Darn Tough Micro Crew is our go-to garment for three-season hikes come rain, sun, or snow.
Why Choose Wool Socks
There are several reasons why wool is the way to go when it comes to your hiking socks. Here are a few of them.
- Wool is a great insulator.
- Wool socks are highly breathable and have excellent moisture-wicking qualities.
- Natural wool fibers have antibacterial properties that reduce odors.
- Wool helps with thermo-regulation.
- Wool dries quicker compared to other materials.
For more reasons why they’re awesome, check our post on the many benefits of wool socks.
Features to Consider When Buying Wool Socks
Weight is vitally important when you’re going trail running. A few grams might not seem likely to make a big difference, but over a distance of many miles, it can add to leg fatigue. As such, low is the “weigh” to go.
The other important factor to consider is cushioning and padding. Because impact is greater for runners, we recommend opting for socks with plenty of padding around the ball of the foot and heel for better impact absorption.
The ideal weight and thickness of your socks will depend on the conditions you’re hiking in. Lightweight socks are, of course, the best bet for warm weather, but you might want to go for a beefier pair with more cushioned soles if hiking in rougher terrain. In cooler conditions, midweight or even heavyweight socks will provide the insulation needed to keep your toes toasty.
Whatever the case, breathability, high-wicking capability, and quick-drying capacity should remain at the top of your list of priorities when choosing your hosiery.
Again, ambient temps play a key role in determining suitability. As a general rule, however, socks for serious peak-bagging should be thick enough and tall enough to protect the shins from the cuff of your boots and provide enough insulation to keep feet warm if walking in snow or at higher, cooler altitudes.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that higher wool composition means better quality. By blending in materials like spandex, nylon, and rayon, manufacturers are able to create socks that are stronger, more durable, and more stretchable than pure merino wool.
Just remember that a high percentage of merino wool will feel softer and more comfortable for your feet.
Wool socks are usually categorized into specific weights. These are divided into lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight.
Lightweight: Relatively thin socks that prioritize wicking moisture away from your skin and providing comfort rather than warmth. They’re also scantly cushioned at best in key areas like the balls and heels of your foot.
Midweight: Thicker than lightweight socks and a good fit for hikers with narrow feet or those whose feet have a low instep. Compared to their lighter counterparts, these socks provide decent padding in the heels and balls of the feet as well as scuff protection on top of the foot and leg.
Heavyweight: As the name suggests, these socks are the thickest and heaviest option out there. This translates into both added warmth and more cushioned impact areas. These socks are made with long trips, tough terrain, and low temperatures in mind. As such, they’re usually overkill for backpacking or hiking in warm weather.
No-show: These are meant to be worn with low-cut footwear like trail-running shoes and hiking approach shoes. In most cases, they provide minimal protection against skin-to-shoe abrasion and, of course, zero protection for the ankles.
Ankle: Just a little higher than no-show socks, ankle socks typically cover your ankle bone for more protection and several varieties offer more in the way of impact-absorbing padding in the soles.
Crew socks: Usually reach midway between your ankle and knee. They protect against scuffs from both the collars of boots and undergrowth on trails. The most versatile option out there, these can be worn with low-cut hiking shoes, mid-cut boots, and high-cut hiking boots alike.
Knee-high: These socks are best suited to mountaineering or winter hiking. They offer the coverage needed to keep your lower legs warm and ensure there’s no gap for cold air to sneak in at the base of thermal pants. They also provide added protection for your shins that are needed when wading through deep snow.
ProTip: On well-maintained trails, you can get away with ankle or no-show socks. Off-trail and in thick brush, crew cut, or knee-high socks will provide the protection your legs need, especially if you’re wearing shorts.
Finally, it’s well worth bearing in mind that some brands make gender-specific socks. This is because women’s feet tend to be lower volume than men’s. As such, a pair of wool socks for men are likely to be too loose for women and vice-versa.
9 Best Wool Socks for Hiking
SmartWool Trekking Heavy CrewBest Socks for Winter
If itch-free comfort, warmth, and high impact-absorption are your thing, then the SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks might just be the perfect option for you. These socks’ high merino wool content and chunkiness make them ideal for three-season conditions, keeping you warm when temps are low and wicking well when you’re working up a sweat.
The SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew are made with 70% merino wool and 29% nylon, making them both super soft and comfy and highly durable. The 1% spandex content is a little lower than others in our review, but provides enough stretch for different foot sizes and for the socks to maintain their shape long term.
A heavy crew cut, this sock is ideally suited to hiking or backpacking in rugged terrain in cooler conditions. Its thickly cushioned sole also makes it highly efficient in absorbing impact, while the high merino content fends off odors and wicks amazingly well for such a beefy sock.
All that merino also makes this sock an excellent insulator that will keep your feet warm on winter/shoulder season hikes without compromising on breathability.
While these socks don’t dry as quickly as others in our review, they do include one highly endearing, non-standard feature – arch support. While not a deal-maker, this add-on helps your gait and posture, keeps the sock in place, and provides additional support when carrying heavy loads.
- Warm and Comfortable
- Cushions even when wet
- Elasticized arch support
- Loses shape over time due to low elastane content
- Slow drying
- Shows some pilling after a while
Bottom-Line: With an elasticized arch brace and plush padding, the SmartWool Trekking merino wool socks are the best backpacking socks and one of the best socks for cold weather we’ve ever had the pleasure of putting our feet in.
Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC SocksBest for Support
If you’re planning on going on long backpacking trips and want optimal support for your feet, the Icebreaker Hike + Compression OTC should be on your shortlist. These socks offer all the benefits of merino wool while throwing in the added benefit of a compression-style fit and a more anatomical design.
The socks’ fabric is a combo of 49% merino wool, 44% nylon, and 7% lycra. This blend makes the Icebreaker Hike + Compression OTC far stretchier and more durable than other socks in our review and provides a snug, tighter fit around your feet all the way to the calf.
What we love most about these socks is their “graduated compression” design, which helps encourage good circulation and enhances recovery whenever you stop for a rest.
The padding is a little on the light side, but this minor failing is made up for by a unique anatomical design that provides ample support in all the right places without ever being too bulky.
Let’s not forget that the sock is still able to retain significant qualities of merino wool so it is still highly breathable and warm. It is also outstanding in moisture-wicking and good at preventing odor.
- Warm and comfortable
- Provides decent support without being bulky
- Compression design promotes fast recovery
- Cushioning a little on the light side
Bottom-Line: Breathable, warm, high-wicking, odor-resistant, and supportive to boot, the Icebreaker Hike + Compression OTC is ideal for buyers prone to foot or leg cramp who need extra support in their soles, arches, and calves.
Darn Tough Micro CrewBest Overall
The Darn Tough is a versatile sock that can be worn year-round in varying conditions. It combines comfort, style, and performance as well as providing plentiful cushioning in all the right places.
The Darn Tough MC is made from 61% merino wool, 36% nylon, 3% Lycra spandex. This blend delivers on all fronts, bringing outstanding breathability, durability, support, and shape-maintaining stretch to boot.
Though classed in the lightweight category, this sock offers good cushioning from the toes all the way up to the calves. This, simply put, translates into simply oodles of comfort, and makes it ideal for day hiking, thru-hiking, and trail running alike.
The thinner fabric used in this sock means it’s more capable of shifting sweat and keeping feet cool in warmer weather, even in intensive activities like fastpacking or trail running. This thin construction also provides decent ventilation in the underfoot area and gives the sock the ability to dry quicker than most woolen competitors.
- Excellent support and ventilation in the underfoot area
- Cushioned toes, heel, and Achilles
- Too thin for winter hiking
- Lower height makes it incompatible with high-cut hiking boots
Bottom-Line: This superbly versatile sock pips its peers to the post as the best three-season sock out there on account of its outstanding performance in every metric.
Injinji 2.0 Midweight CrewBest Toe Socks
The Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew’s unique toe-sock design might not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s ideal for feet prone to blisters and avoiding chilly toes.
This sock is made with 64% NüWool, 33% nylon, and 3% lycra. Although marketed as a midweight, its thin design and lack of padding actually makes it closer to the lightweight. Performance-wise, however, this thin design is a winner for warm temps, making the Injinji 2.0 highly breathable, quick-drying, and among the highest-wicking in our review.
In terms of durability and drying speed, this sock rank slightly above average, with only a few pilling problems a few months down the line detracting from its otherwise “steady-seven” report card.
And the downsides?
Well, the NüWool fabric used in this sock provides decent comfort but is not quite as soft to the touch as merino. Also, the Injinji 2.0 is not a warm sock. Though the individual toe pockets do bring added insulation to this frequently cited cold spot, they’re just a little on the skinny side to keep the rest of your foot warm in cooler conditions in the shoulder seasons.
- Reduces chances of getting blisters
- No toe seam
- Great wicking properties
- Light on insulation
- Not as soft as other wool socks in our review
Bottom-Line: A quirky looking, comfortable wool sock that’s perfect for feet prone to blistering but a little short on comfort compared to its pricier peers.
People’s Socks CrewBest Value
The People Socks Merino Wool Crew is the perfect option for hikers looking to stock up on their supply of high-performing woollen socks without breaking the bank.
This cozy crew sock offers all the best things that merino brings to the table with very few of the downsides. It’s high-wicking, fast-drying, breathable, and just about as comfortable as they- come.
This sock is made with 71% merino wool, 21% nylon, 7% polyester, and 1% spandex. This combo makes it not only soft and stretchy, but also a little more hard-wearing than many of its more expensive competitors.
As a midweight sock, the People’s Socks Crew provides decent underfoot cushioning, while the concentration of elastane material near the arch and the heel ensure that it maintains its shape over time and isn’t prone to slipping around inside your shoe.
The sock also excels in terms of warmth, packing more than enough insulation for three-season hiking in most parts of the globe. It doesn’t dry quite as quickly as other socks in our review, but this is a very minor failing given its solid performance in other metrics and friendly price tag.
- Not a standout in any performance category
- Slower-drying than other options in our review
Bottom-Line: A budget-friendly sock that gives many more expensive options a good run for their money.
Danish EnduranceBest for Summer
The Danish Endurance Men’s Wool Socks provide the perfect combo of breathability, comfort, and wicking capacity needed for hiking in higher temps.
The sock’s fabric consists of 33% merino wool, 33% acrylic, 33% polyamide, and 1% elastane. This lower merino content means these socks aren’t quite as soft to the touch as others in our review. It does, however, make them far more durable, rugged, and more likely to keep their shape in the longer term.
This sock’s mid-calf length makes it ideally suited to hiking, backpacking, and even warmer-weather adventures above the snowline. It also boasts plenty of cushioning and compression along the arch and calf areas and has enough stretch to cling to your skin and prevent falling while you’re on the move.
One of the most appealing features of this sock is the integration of “breathing” panels on top of the foot and along the front of the legs. This means that, even though it’s beefier than other mid-weights on our list, it still provides plenty of breathability and ventilation on warm days.
- Highly breathable
- Integrated ventilation panels
- Not as soft as socks with higher merino content
Bottom-Line: A solid three-season sock that lacks the insulation and comfort of options with higher merino content but breathes well, is highly durable, and offers great overall value for money.
Hike Light Margarita CrewBest Lightweight
The Hike Light Margarita Crew Sock is a high-quality, high-performing sock that’s ideally suited to summer and shoulder-season hikes and backpacking adventures.
This sock uses a blend of 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, and 2% elastane content. It is very soft to the touch and has an elasticized arch brace that ensures a nice, snug fit.
While it has the word ‘light’ in the name, the Margarita is a fraction thicker and heavier than others in its weight class, meaning it’s perfectly well-suited to summer, spring, and hall hiking alike.
While a little light on padding and cushioning, the Margarita is a very comfy sock that scores highly in every other metric. It breathes and wicks well, offers outstanding durability, and dries just as quickly as any other sock in our review.
- Warmer than other lightweights
- Short on cushioning
Bottom-Line: A super-comfortable lightweight socks that lacks cushioning but bests most other socks in its price range as regards performance in warm weather.
KOLD FEET Women’s MerinoBest Multi-Purpose Sock
The KOLD FEET Women’s Wool Socks are a highly versatile option that work well in a wide variety of weather and trail conditions.
With a fabric blend of 57% Polyester, 19% Acrylic,12% Wool, 11% Nylon, and 1% Spandex, one might argue that this sock is more of a synthetic than a woolen product. But don’t be fooled by the specifics of the blend. Although low in merino content, this sock brings all the benefits inherent to merino—breathability, wicking, warmth—while adding the durability and resilience of non-natural fabrics.
One of the things most likely to endear buyers to this sock is the super-soft, terry-cloth feel to the interior fabric. It also provides plenty of cushioning throughout the sole and ankle area and is beefy enough to feel vaguely slipper-like in terms of both comfort and insulation.
There, are, however, a few downsides. The KOLD FEET’s low merino content might not detract from its performance in most respects, but it does mean it’s a little slower-drying than other socks in our review, and also less odor-resistant.
- Versatile (suitable for hiking and everyday wear)
- Soft feel
- Great compression
- Warm and thick
- Not suitable for long hikes in wet conditions
Bottom-Line: A superbly comfortable sock that isn’t quite as trail-specific as other items in our list but is worth a try for those who prioritize coziness and durability.
PhD Pro Light CrewMost Comfortable
If you want to have a sock that offers both immense comfort and impressive durability, then it’s hard to go wrong with the PhD Pro Light Crew.
The PhD Pro Light Crew are made with a combination of 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, 2% elastane. The synthetic-natural blend makes it very elastic and allows it to hold its shape well. The merino wool, as ever, gives it a soft texture that feels great against your skin and regulates foot temperature well throughout your hike.
Despite the name, the cushioning in this sock approaches the midweight level. It’s very plush, pillow-like, and covers a wide area from heel to toe. It also features a compressive elastic band around the arch to help keep the sock in place and prevent any slippage.
The Pro Light uses less material over the top of the shaft to promote ventilation in high temps. It also wicks well and provides more than enough insulation for three-season hiking in most locations.
While this sock continues to insulate when wet, however, it does take a little longer to dry. As such, it’s not the best bet for hiking in heavy rain or backpacking trips where you’ll be hanging your socks in your gear loft to dry overnight.
- Nicely cushioned
- Superb thermo-regulation
- One of the warmest socks for winter wanders
- Slow to dry
Bottom-Line: One of the most high-performing socks available, the PhD Pro are socks made with the needs of the year-round hiker in mind. All told, one of the best winter socks out there.