How to Choose Hiking Socks

Nobody likes to spend money on socks! You can probably get away with wearing cheap socks to the office, but you don’t want to cheap out on hiking socks.

They aren’t just another gimmick designed to siphon out your hard earned cash. High quality socks will not only make your hike more comfortable, you’ll be able to hike farther with less stress on your feet.

Hiking Socks Make a Big Difference

On average, it takes 2000 steps to walk a mile on a flat surface. Throw in obstacles on the trail and those numbers will likely get even higher. With every step your socks and boots play an important role in keeping your feet comfortable and preventing blisters.

  • Hiking socks cushion your feet without causing your feet to sweat. Thin cheap socks cause blisters, callouses and sore toes.
  • Designed to wick moisture away from your feet.
  • Your feet will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer
  • Less friction so you won’t get blisters and callouses
  • Fill in your boots without feeling overcrowded

Different Types of Hiking Socks

In the past 10-20 years hiking socks have made a major transformation. Hikers have shifted from wearing their classic wool style socks towards new composite blends.

Modern hiking socks use different types of material throughout the socks. You’ve got cushioning in the heels and toes without unnecessary bulk throughout the rest of the sock.

Best Hiking Socks

  • Darn Tough Hiking Socks: Darn tough hiking socks are some of the most durable socks on the planet. They’re extremely comfortable and will last for years. You won’t have to worry about blisters, bunching or slipping.
  • SmartWool Hiking Socks: SmartWool socks are made out of a wool/nylon/elastic blend. They are the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn, but they don’t have the same durability as Darn Tough Socks.
Sock Cushioning

The amount of cushioning in the sock is going to tell you how comfortable the sock is going to be. As you increase the cushioning the socks will be warmer. In the summer months it’s a balancing act between additional padding and warmth.

  • No Cushioning: Socks without cushioning should only be used during the warmest weeks of summer. They are going to be very breathable, but they offer very little padding. Designed to wick moisture away from your feet these socks will keep your feet dry.
  • Light/Medium Cushioning: Light and medium cushioning socks are going to be used throughout most of the year. Wear your light socks(these are perfect during the summer) during the warmer summer months and a medium cushioned socks(My spring/fall socks) in the spring/fall.
  • Heavy Cushioning: Only wear socks with heavy cushioning during the coldest months of winter. These are made for long trips in tough winter conditions. Wear them on mountaineering and winter backpacking trips.

Hiking Sock Fabric

Hiking socks aren’t normally made out of a single type of fabric. Most of the time they’ll be a blend of wool and synthetic fabrics. Wool is going to be used to regulate temperature and increase padding while synthetics wick moisture and dries quickly.

  1. Wool: Wool is the most popular hiking sock material among specialists. They are great for regulating temperature in the cold and providing cushioning.
  2. Nylon/Spandex: Most hiking socks will include a small amount of spandex or nylon in the blend. It adds durability to the socks and helps them hold their shape.
  3. Polyester: Hiking socks are normally a blend of wool, polyester and spandex. Polyester will help insulate the sock while still wicking away moisture.
Never Wear Cotton Socks

When choosing hiking socks never use cheap cotton socks. Cotton is going to absorb moisture and take forever to dry. Cotton socks won’t dry until they’re taken off at the end of the day.

Instead of cotton stick to a wool and synthetic blend. Wool socks are great for keeping warm while still wicking away moisture. Switch to the synthetics if your feet sweat a lot because they wick moisture.

Hiking Socks Need To Be Stretchy

Hiking socks need to have a little bit of elastic on the ankle so they stay put. You don’t want to have your socks slipping down into your boots. The fit should be snug without being too tight.

Bagginess is going to cause friction issues and blisters over a long hike(check out my post on blister prevention).

Get The Perfect Fit

Finding socks that fit right isn’t going to be easy. Socks that fit right are going to keep your feet comfortable on a long trip. Socks that are too big will rub and cause blisters, too small and they’ll start to slip down.

Before buying socks look at the size chart on the package. Remember that most of us buy shoes that are larger than your actual foot size.

When trying on socks you want them to feel snug without causing indents in your ankles. The heel cup needs to properly align with the heel of your foot.

Caring For Hiking Socks

Hiking socks aren’t cheap so you want to make sure they last as long as possible. Since they’re made out of synthetic material you’ll want to wash them inside out. You have to get off all those skin particles, salt and sweat.

Don’t wear your hiking socks doing everyday activities. Why wear a 20 dollar pair of socks when you’re just sitting around the office.

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