Nothing can put a damper on an otherwise awesome hiking adventure like hotspots, blisters, or other foot ailments on the trail. While a solid pair of hiking boots that are properly broken in is key to comfort, a quality pair of hiking socks comes in at a close second.
We get it: Trail socks feel like an afterthought when you're first starting out as a hiker. But once you've hit enough long day hikes or backpacking trips, you'll realize the best hiking socks can make or break your time on the trails. Yes, the best hiking socks at REI will cost you more than that basic value pack at Costco. But the superior cushioning, breathability, fit, and technical materials make pretty much all the difference between tired, sweaty, blister-covered feet—which in turns makes all the difference between a fun or frustrating adventure.
As an avid hiker and hunter I've logged hundreds of miles trekking through national parks and state forests. These are the four best hiking socks I've found to keep feet dry, cozy, and free of adventure-ending blisters.
What to Look for When Buying Hiking Socks
Features to Consider
I stick exclusively to merino wool blends for all my hiking socks. While synthetics like acrylic or lycra spandex can dry quickly and come at a lower price point, merino wool gets top marks for temperature-regulating, moisture-wicking, blister-controlling quick-drying, and odor-controlling performance. This comfortable natural fiber can be more of an investment, but if properly cared for, will last you years.
When choosing a pair of merino hiking socks, don't fall for the bargain buys that only include a minute percentage of merino wool. Instead, choose a blend that features at least 40% merino wool along with other fabrics such as spandex nylon and elastane for added stretch and support.
Look for design elements such as flat-knit seams, elasticized arch support, and reinforced fabric on high-wear areas to ensure long-lasting comfort and durability.
Compression socks can be nice if you struggle with muscle cramping or limited blood flow. One other type of hiking sock some people like are toe socks, like that from Injinji, which a lot of trail runners swear helps prevent blisters by eliminating friction.
Hiking socks should also come in multiple sizes, rather than One Size Fits All, to ensure the best fit possible.
Finally, consider the footwear you'll be wearing. You want enough coverage underneath your boots or hiking shoes.
Ankle socks won't work for hiking boots, but you can get away with them for low-cut hiking shoes. However, I still recommend something higher, like a hiker micro crew or hiking crew socks to keep dirt, dust, and pebbles from falling into your shoe and causing irritation.
In general, when in doubt, crew socks pairs well with most hiking shoes or boots.
Socks are typically organized by weight—or, more specifically, cushioning level. If you have sweaty feet, you might think ultralight options are going to keep your feet cool. But the reality is your material of choice is going to be the biggest factor in sweaty feet (opt for wool socks, like merino), and you definitely want more than minimal cushioning for hours of stomping trail.
Different brands have different names for their cushioning scale, but generally look for a medium cushion or midweight hiking sock.
Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks
Constructed with a blend that includes 56% ZQ-certified merino wool and 31% recycled nylon, Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Socks ($22) are as responsibly sourced as they are comfortable on long hikes in both warm weather and cold weather.
With extra cushion running the entire length, flat-knit toe seams, and an elasticized arch brace, these are not only one of the best hiking socks but also the comfiest on this list. Even with a lack of padding on my feet that typically leaves my feet aching after a couple miles, with this midweight pair I know I'll still be feeling good after a full day of hiking.
Knitted in the United States, these socks come in a variety of colors in sizes S-XL.
This Smartwool style is also available with circular yarn through the company's Second Cut program, which repurposes donated socks into recycled apparel for the most sustainable gear. And if you prefer a little less cushion, Smartwool offers Light Hiker Cushion Socks.
Bombas Merino Wool Hiking Socks
Featuring an impressive 62% merino wool along with a blend of nylon and elastane, Bombas Merino Wool Hiking Socks ($26) are warm, odor-resistant, and quick-drying.An arch design that cradles the foot, secure cuff fit, and stitching that cups the heel create an incredibly supportive fit that won't slide down, bunch, or cause hot spots on the trail. I've invested in multiple pairs of these socks because they provide excellent low-profile comfort for every kind of outdoor adventure.
Bombas Merino Wool Hiking Socks are available in sizes S-L in a variety of vibrant colorways.
And best of all, Bombas donates a pair of socks to someone in need for every pair purchased.
Voormi Light Hike Sock
Voormi's proprietary Dual surface precision-blended wool combines high-quality merino with performance wicking fibers to wick moisture from the body and push it to the outer-facing surface of the socks. The result is dry, comfortable, and thermoregulated feet in a variety of conditions.
The Voormi Light Hike Sock ($40) also features high-strength reinforcements for enhanced durability (read: they won't come apart at the seams as easily), mesh under the arch for reduced bulk and increased breathability, and a seamless toe closure for minimized friction.
I've donned these socks on dozens of hiking and hunting trips over the past few years, and they're still holding up great. I keep going back to them because they keep my feet drier than any other socks I've tried and they stay stink-free after multiple days in the field.
The Voormi Light Hike Sock is available in three sizes and four colorways.
Voormi Light Hike Sock
KUIU ULTRA Merino Crew Sock
Engineered with patented Nuyarn technology, KUIU's ULTRA Merino Crew Sock ($30) offers superior stretch, recovery, warmth, and moisture management for a design that can stand up to the rigors of backcountry hunting or backpacking for days at a time.
The shock-absorbing sock sports a shin protection pad, extra thick ankle protection, Achilles cushioning, and Paladin protection pad to relieve boot lace pressure and promote blood flow.
I didn't understand just how much the quality and performance of merino wool can vary until I got hooked on KUIU's Nuyarn pieces, but now I'm obsessed with the uniquely soft, comfortable stretch the technology offers. And this sock is no exception.
Every element of this sock is built to withstand tough terrain while keeping feet dry, protected, and blister-free. For a versatile merino sock that can do it all, the KUIU ULTRA Merino Crew Sock leads the pack.
KUIU Ultra Merino Crew Sock