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The 6 Best Hiking Socks of 2024

We walked hundreds of miles in all conditions to test the best hiking socks from Darn Tough, Smartwool, REI, and more
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Best Hiking Socks Review (Dry test 2022 hiking socks lineup)
Dry test 2022 hiking socks lineup
Credit: Jon Oleson
By Amber King and Jon Oleson  ⋅  Apr 12, 2024

The Best Hiking Socks for 2024


Our hiking enthusiasts have tested dozens of the best hiking socks over hundreds of miles in the last 11 years. This update features 16 of the market's top options that we've compared side-by-side, trekking the globe for the most epic outdoor adventures. Our test socks get soaked, compressed, wrung out, smashed with dirt, and washed in rivers. After hundreds of hands-on testing hours and thorough assessments, we hope to help you find the best hiking socks for your performance needs and ambitions.

We've been testing footwear for well over a decade now. From the best hiking boots and best hiking shoes to grippy trail runners, we know a thing or three about keeping feet happy. We've put every pair up to rigorous testing to find the best shoes and boots, so no matter what kind of excursion you're heading out on, we can help you choose the right gear for the job and the right companion for your new socks. If you're just in need of the best socks for causal wear, check out our best socks for men and best women's socks reviews.

Editor's Note: Our hiking sock review was updated on April 12, 2024, to expand on our testing process and offer readers a detailed buying guide.

Top 16 Hiking Socks - Test Results

Displaying 6 - 10 of 16
 
Awards Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price Check Price at Backcountry
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Pros Inexpensive, hugs foot and toes, warm for a thin sock, can be worn alone or as a linerQuick drying, superior breathability, lifetime warrantyGreat value, nice cushioning, soft on the skin, good thermoregulation, unique ventilation stitchingCompression fit, breathable, warm even when wetQuick to dry, accommodates a liner, comfortable cushioning
Cons No cushion, less durableThin cushion, not warmLess wool content, deforms when wet, lacks stand alone warmthCushion compresses easily, not as durableLoose fit, lacks compression paneling, loses wicking capabilities in cold weather
Bottom Line If you're looking for an ultra lightweight liner, this comfortable toe sock comes highly recommendedA highly breathable, quick drying sock well suited for warm weather, low impact activitiesThese Merino blend hikers come in a value pack with 3 pairs, giving you more mileage for your money than pricier optionsA higher wool content makes this a good lightweight hiking sock for wetter conditionsA synthetic full-length sock with decent durability and a drying speed that excels in wet weather
Rating Categories Injinji Liner Crew Darn Tough Hiker Qu... Danish Endurance Un... Icebreaker Hike+ Li... Wigwam Hiking Outdo...
Comfort (25%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Wicking and Breathability (25%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
5.0
2.0
5.0
7.0
8.0
Durability (20%)
3.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
7.0
Drying Speed (10%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Injinji Liner Crew Darn Tough Hiker Qu... Danish Endurance Un... Icebreaker Hike+ Li... Wigwam Hiking Outdo...
Material 75% Coolmax EcoMade polyester, 21% nylon, 4% Lycra spandex 61% Merino wool, 37% nylon, 2% spandex 30% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 33% acrylic, 1% elastane 61% wool, 37% nylon, 2% Lycra spandex 40% Olefin, 36% X2O acrylic, 20% stretch nylon, 4% spandex
Sock Thickness Lightweight Midweight Midweight Lightweight Midweight
Tested Length Mid-calf Quarter Mid-calf Lower calf Lower calf
Time to Dry 60 min 100 min 140 min 120 min 160 min


Best Overall Hiking Socks


Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 7.0
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Durability 10.0
  • Drying Speed 4.0
REASONS TO BUY
Well-fitted and sleek
Unmatched durability and lifetime warranty
Excellent wicking capabilities
Thicker padding and comfort
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the best in hot weather
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Midweight
Material 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% Lycra spandex
Tested Length High calf
Time to Dry 180 min
The Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion is thick and cushiony but not too thick, providing excellent protection for your feet on the trail. It's also incredibly durable and will last years of hiking and backpacking. The tall, boot-compatible cut is perfect for hiking boots, and the soft, comfortable fibers feel great on your feet. The attractive design is just a bonus. And, of course, Darn Tough socks come with a lifetime warranty, so you can be sure you're making a wise investment. The men's and women's specific fits are true to size and feel great on a wide or narrow foot. This sock is the clear choice if you're looking for a top-of-the-line hiking sock, and it's our go-to for long backpacking trips, especially since it can also double as a cozy pair of sleepers.

Unfortunately, extra padding means less breathability, and this design does not incorporate a breathable instep like most lighter hiking socks. This isn't our top choice for the warmest weather, though it wicks sweat very well. We like Darn Tough's thinner version, the Light Hiker Micro Crew when the temps rise. Some may find that the upfront cost is steep, but given the excellent warranty that allows you to exchange them if they ever wear out, it is a worthwhile purchase. If you're looking for a boot-capable, durable, cold-weather sock with excellent underfoot cushioning, get the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion.

Read more: Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion review

Breathability testing using a fog machine with the Darn Tough Hiker.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Best Bulk Value


Danish Endurance Unisex Merino 3-Pack


69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 9.0
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Durability 6.0
  • Drying Speed 7.0
REASONS TO BUY
Fantastic value
Comfortable and cozy
Great breathability
REASONS TO AVOID
Fabric can bunch at toes
So-so durability
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Midweight
Material 30% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 33% acrylic, 1% elastane
Tested Length Mid-calf
Time to Dry 140 min
The Danish Endurance Unisex Merino 3-Pack is a Merino-synthetic blend sock that comes in a three-pack. It is comfortable, performs well across most metrics, and is compatible with boots or shoes. Breathability is at the top of the class due to a unique venting stitch design that runs across the ankle and up the shin. The cushioning underfoot is sufficient for longer multi-day hikes, trail runs, or day hikes over tough terrain. It also comes in a unisex fit that our male and female testers found snug and true to size.

While this sock is priced well, its performance doesn't stand up to that of the premium socks we tested. It contains less Merino wool than the top performers, and the increased amount of synthetic material just doesn't thermoregulate as well as socks with a higher wool percentage. Additionally, the toe box isn't well fitted for those with narrow feet and bunches up, especially when wet (though our testers with wider feet had no complaints). While these concerns are valid, it's hard to find a Merino-synthetic blend sock that matches value with performance. The Danish has shown pilling, compaction, and thread wear after two years of use, but it's still usable. Additionally, the three-pack means you get each pair for less than half the price of other socks, extending your mileage. For the fashionable, they also come in multi-color packs so you can color coordinate with your favorite outdoor threads. Another low-priced competitor we like is the Injinji Liner Crew. Although we know toe socks aren't everyone's preferred fit, we found them quite comfortable, and they work well as a standalone sock during warm weather and under a thicker sock in the cold.

Read more: Danish Endurance Unisex Merino 3-Pack review

Comfort and breathability are the highlights of this 3-pack Merino sock.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Best Cold Weather Sock


Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 7.0
  • Warmth 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Drying Speed 3.0
REASONS TO BUY
Max cushioning
Plush
High wool content
Built for freezing temps
REASONS TO AVOID
Slow to dry
Too warm for summer hiking
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Heavyweight
Material 74% Merino wool, 17% recycled nylon, 8% nylon, 1% elastane
Tested Length Upper calf
Time to Dry 200 min
We had to get out of the heat to test these warmest socks. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion is built for cold, wintry weather. It features one of the highest wool contents of anything in our lineup and plenty of thickness to keep your toes toasty when the temps turn frigid. We are highly impressed by its ability to keep feet warm, wicking, and breathability. We tested this sock in boots on a hot (90°s F) workday and were blown away that our feet never felt sweaty. When it was time to kick back and take off our boots, our skin was warm but surprisingly dry.

This sock kept our feet comfortable in various conditions — we even hiked shoeless in the rain! Our feet got wet for sure, but they stayed warm and comfortable. At the end of a long day hiking, the Mountaineer also helped maintain warmth in our sleeping bag and quickly became our favorite warm sleeping sock. This attribute can also be a drawback, however. When we tried to hike in even moderately warm weather, our feet quickly felt overheated and our calves itchy. Because of their thickness, we recommend this sock primarily for cold weather pursuits. Also, there is no elastic around the arch or heel to hold the sock in place so that it may move around. Due to the plushness, this didn't cause any issues with blistering. But cramming all that plushness into a tight hiking shoe can be an issue. While these socks will fit into shoes, we find them much more comfortable in boots. Bottom line, the Mountaineer is a thick sock that will keep you comfy on all your wintry adventures. We also like the similar REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition, when you want to save a few bucks.

Read more: Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion review

hiking socks - the smartwool mountaineer proved even a bit warm for fall evenings...
The Smartwool Mountaineer proved even a bit warm for fall evenings. We recommend that you keep this sock in your winter bag, where it will perform splendidly to keep your feet warm in the coldest of conditions.
Credit: Jon Oleson


Best Lightweight Hiking Sock


Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 9.0
  • Warmth 3.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Drying Speed 9.0
REASONS TO BUY
Snug fit
Superior breathability and wicking power
Quick to dry
Excellent durability
REASONS TO AVOID
Not a lot of standalone warmth
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Lightweight
Material 54% nylon, 43% Merino wool, 3% Lycra spandex
Tested Length Lower calf
Time to Dry 100 min
The Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew offers a thinner, more breathable construction well suited for the warmer months of the year. The high concentration of nylon provides powerful wicking power while the breathable stitching on the instep keeps your foot ventilated. This is the sock to wear if you're prone to sweaty feet or frequently hike in hot climates. The height is compatible with low or mid-calf hiking boots or running shoes, making it suitable for various applications. Its drying speed is impeccable, keeping feet dry on long adventures.

This sock will offer plenty of warmth while in motion (given its high proportion of Merino wool), but it won't offer the same warmth while standing still or sleeping. We would not choose the Light Hiker for winter camping or standing around in the cold. However, if breathable and durable construction is what you seek, then you'll be a happy camper in these socks. Those seeking a bit more warmth in a lightweight sock should take a look at the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew. We didn't find it quite as comfortable as the Darn Tough, but it's a worthy alternative in every other way.

Read more: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew review

hiking socks - the darn tough light hiker fits snugly and doesn't slip or slide...
The Darn Tough Light Hiker fits snugly and doesn't slip or slide around while hiking. They're tall enough for hiking shoes but won't accommodate tall boots. Keep these socks in your warm weather drawer, as they are not quite warm enough for wintry weather unless you're staying very active.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Best Liner


Injinji Liner Crew


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 9.0
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Durability 3.0
  • Drying Speed 9.0
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
Hugs foot and toes
Warm for a thin sock
REASONS TO AVOID
Versatile
No cushion
Less durable
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Lightweight
Material 75% Coolmax EcoMade polyester, 21% nylon, 4% Lycra spandex
Tested Length Mid-calf
Time to Dry 60 min
The Injinji Liner Crew is a new competitor in our lineup, and we were thoroughly impressed with the comfort, breathability, and warmth of this ultra-lightweight liner sock. The design hugs the feet and all the toes, wicking away any moisture from the skin. One drawback of synthetic socks can be the “plastic bag” feel that tends to create toe sweat, but the design of these socks allows for wicking, even between the toes. While these wouldn't be our first choice by themselves for cold weather hiking due to the thinness of the material, they are still surprisingly warm when the weather turns cool. We also enjoyed wearing them around the house as a barrier to the cold floor.

Again, this is not a standalone cold-weather sock. It also lacks any sort of cushioning, so it isn't the best choice for long distances where you're carrying weight. As far as durability goes, you're going to find more money for your miles in other, more robust options. And due to the lack of cushion and less durable materials, this isn't likely to be your one and only hiking companion. However, if you're looking for a cold-weather liner that will keep your feet comfortable, dry, and warm under a thicker sock, this is our first choice for the gear bag. Another excellent light hiker that offers all the same comfort and breathability but runs even a bit cooler is the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew. It's a smart choice for warm summer days and is a nice option for those who prefer a more classic toe box style.

Read more: Injinji Liner Crew review

hiking socks - putting the injinji liner crew to the wet hiking test on a dewey...
Putting the Injinji Liner Crew to the wet hiking test on a dewey morning on the North Country Trail.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Best Synthetic Design


Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro


64
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Wicking and Breathability 6.0
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Drying Speed 6.0
REASONS TO BUY
Ample cushion
Soft and breathable
Quick to dry
REASONS TO AVOID
Less snug fit
Wicking ability drops in cold weather
SPECIFICATIONS
Sock Thickness Midweight
Material 40% Olefin, 36% X2O acrylic, 20% stretch nylon, 4% spandex
Tested Length Lower calf
Time to Dry 160 min
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is one of our longest-tested socks and has proven its longevity and breathability in warm weather. We've tested this sock for over seven years, and it is still strong. After hundreds of miles, some of the fabric is thinning, but remarkably, we haven't torn through. The 100% synthetic construction provides excellent breathability with durable fibers. It'll dry relatively quickly on the trail (compared to other medium-weight socks), making it a good option for both wet and dry environments.

This tried and true hiking sock does have some drawbacks. It isn't the warmest sock in the lineup; once the mercury drops close to freezing, it loses its wicking power. Also, the fit is less snug than other options. This isn't a deal breaker, but it's a consideration when choosing a sock to slip into a pair of boots for a long trek. The design lacks compression paneling, which sometimes causes it to bunch in the toes if the fit isn't just right. All that aside, it comes highly recommended if you're seeking a synthetic design with good durability for warmer-weather adventures (e.g., shoulder season hiking). When winter hits, you may want to consider the warm-wicking breathability of a wool sock, like our favorite cold weather option, the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion.

Read more: Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro review

hiking socks - the wigwam outdoor pro is a midweight sock that offers more...
The Wigwam Outdoor Pro is a midweight sock that offers more breathability due to the looser construction. While it doesn't have compression panels around the arch and ankle to keep the sock in place, we found that they were a comfortable warm weather hiking sock.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
78
Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion
Best Overall Hiking Socks
$28
Editors' Choice Award
75
Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion
Best Cold Weather Sock
$26
Top Pick Award
74
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew
Best Lightweight Hiking Sock
$24
Top Pick Award
74
Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew
$25
72
REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition
$23
70
Injinji Liner Crew
Best Liner
$12
Top Pick Award
70
Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion
$22
69
Danish Endurance Unisex Merino 3-Pack
Best Bulk Value
$48
Best Buy Award
65
Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew
$23
64
Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
Best Synthetic Design
$19
Top Pick Award
61
Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion
$24
55
Alvada Thermal Warm Crew 3-Pack
$16
45
REI Co-op Lightweight Merino Crew
$18
44
Balega Blister Resist Crew
$24
43
Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew
$17
40
APRIME Eco-Cafe Crew
$19

hiking socks - backpacking into the grand canyon on the new hance trail is one of...
Backpacking into the Grand Canyon on the New Hance Trail is one of the many reasons you might want to get a great performing hiking sock.
Credit: Amber King

How We Test Hiking Socks


Our hunt for the best hiking socks began by combing the market to find potential candidates. We then selected the top models to purchase, compare, and wear side-by-side. We considered the most important functions of a hiking sock and designed tests to compare performance. We then wore each sock for at least 60 miles while hiking or running on trails. We test throughout the seasons, wearing each sock almost daily throughout the year, updating our findings as we gather new information. We have traveled worldwide, exploring remote locations like the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve in Iceland and the Santa Cruz trail in Peru. We've also put the socks to rigorous use in farm boots during long, hot days. All this ensures we have the most comprehensive review of the best hiking socks for any environment. After field testing, we meticulously compare details and perform a series of objective tests to compare performance. Learn more about our in-depth testing process here.

Our testing process is broken down into five metrics:
  • Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Wicking and Breathability (25% weighting)
  • Warmth (20% weighting)
  • Durability (20% weighting)
  • Drying Speed (10% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


This review is brought to you by Amber King and Jon Oleson. Amber is a scientist with a B.S. in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph, a B.Ed from Lakehead University, and many years of fieldwork as an aquatic biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service, and the Division of Wildlife in Utah under her belt. It's safe to say she knows a thing or two about research, testing, and tromping through the outdoors. She is also an endurance athlete who loves to trail run, splitboard, hike, and backpack – all activities that demand high-quality socks! She spends most of her free time exploring places in the remote, trail-less tundra and rocky, exposed areas surrounding Ouray, Colorado, or off on fastpacking adventures to one of the world's remote 100+ mile trail systems.

Jon has spent a lifetime in the outdoors. He grew up hunting, fishing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, climbing, and camping across the state of Utah. After earning a BA in Middle East Studies and Arabic from the University of Utah, he took off to see the world, living, working, and exploring the Middle East in addition to embarking on outdoor adventures across nearly every other continent. He is well familiar with extreme weather and knows there's no limit to the true value of a good sock. These days, Jon spends much of the year farming and gardening in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. When his hands aren't in the soil, he loves to journey to wild, remote places to explore and sleep in the vast tranquility. His adventures now often revolve around his two young kids, who enjoy getting out to play in the woods and rivers with their dad.

The Darn Tough Light Hiker provides plenty of cushioning to...
The Darn Tough Light Hiker provides plenty of cushioning to comfortably carry heavy loads over miles.
We test hard. Here is the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew with a hole...
We test hard. Here is the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew with a hole in its sole.
Testing hiking socks took us to a lot of beautiful locations.
Testing hiking socks took us to a lot of beautiful locations.

How to Choose The Best Hiking Socks


We have compiled four important buying considerations, including size, thickness, and fabric, to help you decide on the best hiking socks for your needs.

What Height Should You Look For?


Hiking socks are offered in various heights, such as quarter, lower calf, mid-calf, and high calf. If you plan on hiking through thick vegetation, a taller sock can provide more protection and typically fits best with hiking boots. A shorter sock will be ideal for hotter temperatures and work well with hiking shoes, but offers minimal coverage and is less compatible with boots.

Is Weight Important?


Deciding on the right sock thickness for your adventures will keep your feet happy while in the elements. Sock thickness ranges from ultralight to heavyweight. Essentially, the thicker the sock, the more warmth and cushioning it will provide, but lighter socks will provide more breathability for high-intensity activities and hot days. When deciding on sock thickness, consider the climates you plan on hiking in and the length of trips, and determine if extra cushioning is needed for longer hikes.

hiking socks - from day hikes to large excursions, finding a sock that works well...
From day hikes to large excursions, finding a sock that works well and keeps your feet happy is important.
Credit: Amber King

What Fabric is Best?


Hiking socks are generally offered in a blend of wool and synthetic materials, including nylon and polyester. Typically, a higher wool-to-synthetic blend will offer a warmer sock and provide natural anti-microbial properties, while a higher synthetic-to-wool blend will provide more breathability and quicker drying. For those looking at hiking socks, fabric type and sock thickness tend to go hand in hand. When looking at the material ratio, consider the climate and intended activity level.

Do You Need Quick-Drying Socks?


If you foresee river crossings or rain in the forecast, it's a good idea to consider drying capabilities. Along with material type, the thickness and weight will also play a large factor in dry time. For those planning multi-day trips, a quick-drying pair of socks can save an otherwise uncomfortable day. Wool retains its insulating qualities when wet, so in the event that your socks do get wet, your feet will stay warm.

hiking socks - no better way to test drying capabilities than in the field.
No better way to test drying capabilities than in the field.
Credit: Amber King

Analysis and Test Results


This review compares lightweight, medium, and heavy cushion hiking socks with functionality for all adventures. We consider options suitable for different seasons, with varying levels of protection. We evaluate each using five core metrics, comparing each sock against the different metrics to help you find exactly what you're looking for.


Value


Getting a durable sock that won't break down after minimal use is important. Some socks offer better durability and, thus, more mileage for your money. Others are low-priced or sold in bulk to increase their value.

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a synthetic sock that provides good cushioning and breathability for warmer weather pursuits. While it isn't as warm as wool socks of comparable thickness, this can be a benefit in the right conditions. Bottom line is that this is a good general trekking sock if you're on a budget.

We also like the Danish Endurance Unisex Merino. These socks come in a three-pack, making them one of the lowest-priced pairs that we've tested. They are durable enough and have a unique, breathable design that keeps your feet feeling dry. These are great socks if you're looking for some general hiking/work socks that won't break the bank.

The Injinji Liner Crew is also notable here for its low price. While it's very thin and not an overly durable option, it offers a lot of versatility. It can be worn alone in warm weather with shoes or your favorite flip flops (yay toe socks), and it can be used as the name implies: as a liner. If you use it as a liner, it will last a lot longer, and for the excellent price, you could easily grab a few pairs to have for all kinds of use cases.

Darn Tough brand socks are our favorite for value. Even if they're initially more expensive, each pair is backed by a lifetime guarantee that allows you to exchange the socks if you wear a hole — we've used and verified this guarantee, and yes, it's for real. No surprise, this brand offers the best when it comes to durability — Darn Tough socks have consistently outlasted the competition during our decade of testing. When looking at value, don't just consider the initial price, but also how long the sock will last.

hiking socks - a solid hiking sock is integral to any backpacking or hiking...
A solid hiking sock is integral to any backpacking or hiking adventure on your itinerary. Be sure you buy a pair that works for you and one that has a reputation for great performance.
Credit: Amber King

Socks on Sale
Strategically shopping for socks can pay off. Colors are often updated once or twice per year, and when this happens, the older colorways are usually available at a steep discount.

Comfort


When testing this metric, we considered many variables that contribute to comfort. This includes panels of cushioning, relative thickness, and snugness of fit. We note how each pair feels during low and high-intensity exercise, specifically backpacking, hiking, and running over technical and smooth surfaces. After taking on challenges that push our physical limits, we lay back and observe which is most comfortable for lounging. Socks that fit well with midweight cushioning and a Merino wool composition are typically the most comfortable around the house or fire. Thick wool winter socks are usually most comfortable for sleeping. Those that are a tube of fabric without strategic architecture are less comfortable for adventuring many miles. This review is for both men and women, so we note which socks are unisex and which have designs that are specific to both men and women.


Cushioning
Ample Cushioning

While most hiking socks are designed to be comfortable, some contenders stand out better than others. Those with the most underfoot cushioning are typically best suited for technical trails or wearing around home/camp after a long day on the trail. The Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion is a favorite for this application.

hiking socks - here's a comparison of the full cushion pairs that we tested. on the...
Here's a comparison of the full cushion pairs that we tested. On the top is Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion. In the middle we have the REI Merino Expedition, which are similar to the Mountaineer but are not quite as thick. On the bottom is our number one sock, the Darn Tough Full Cushion. While it's not as thick as the others, it offers better all around performance.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Lightweight Cushioning

Most of the socks we tested fit into this category, but the “lightweight” cushioning level is seemingly quite variable. For example, the Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew is super thin with hardly any cushioning. In contrast, our favorite for lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew, is stacked with more protection. The Danish Endurance Unisex is a relatively thin sock that is less durable than the Darn Tough Light Hiker but is cheaper and has similar cushioning to keep your feet light on the trail.

hiking socks - here's a comparison of the cushioning and breathable panels on the...
Here's a comparison of the cushioning and breathable panels on the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight (bottom), Danish Endurance Unisex Merino (middle), and the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew. The Danish Endurance and Darn Tough have more ventilation on the instep (top of foot) so they rate higher in the wicking and breathability category.
Credit: Jon Oleson

For those who love lightweight cushioning, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is our favorite because the fabric performs well in all conditions and feels good. It provides protective cushioning that's responsive enough to carry a heavy pack and protect through the Achilles.

hiking socks - flipping your socks inside out will you give you some idea of how...
Flipping your socks inside out will you give you some idea of how they'll perform. Here the Darn Tough Light Hiker is shown inside out (left), where you can see the ample padding, breathable panels on top of foot, and compression stitching that keeps everything in place.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew is another super comfortable contender that claims a 'medium' level of cushioning but is lighter and more similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. One drawback is that the cushion panels on the top of the foot caused a blister on the top of one tester's foot on a particularly hot day of hiking in boots. Otherwise, these socks would have been best of class for their comfort, fit, and warmth, whether dry or wet.

hiking socks - running through mountain streams wearing the farm to feet damascus...
Running through mountain streams wearing the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Fit

Fit is another function of comfort. A well-fitted sock that doesn't slip or bunch will help you focus on the long miles ahead. The socks that performed the best have integrated compression stitching and thoughtfully structured toe boxes that don't deform under stress. Relative height and compatibility with different hiking shoes and boots also play into this.

Female and male-specific fit are to be considered. Typically, a female-specific sock will have a more narrow profile throughout the toe box and heel. While a sock may be “female-specific” or “male-specific,” it's important to look at your foot. If you have a narrow foot profile and struggle to find a well-fitted sock, consider a female sock option. Consider a male-specific sock if you have a wider foot and women's socks don't fit well.

Most of the socks we tested integrate elastic materials to keep everything in place while on the trail. For example, all the highest performers, such as the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, integrate compression materials around the arch and calf. Darn Tough also uses a more tightly knit design in the fabric that 'hugs' the foot. It's the all-around best option for longer or more technical trails in warmer weather.

hiking socks - the light hiker micro crew is snug, durable, and breathes well due...
The Light Hiker Micro Crew is snug, durable, and breathes well due to the stitch design on the instep.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Danish Endurance Unisex also has a snug fit with a compression panel around the arch to keep the socks in place. The wide elastic cuffs keep the socks up on long days of hiking. This great all-around hiking sock will keep its shape over the miles.

Another favorite for comfort and performance is the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight, a well-fitting sock with superior underfoot protection. It's an excellent option for longer or more technical trails. If lightweight comfort is what you seek, look to this sock or the Danish Endurance Unisex and Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew. Additionally, if your needs or preferences call for an ultralightweight sock that may feel like you're wearing nothing at all, our favorite liner sock is also really comfortable. The Injinji Liner Crew doubles as both a warm-weather standalone sock and as a super comfortable liner under a heavier sock for when the temperature drops.

hiking socks - danish endurance socks are designed for three-season comfort...
Danish Endurance socks are designed for three-season comfort, keeping your feet happy in spring, summer, and fall. While they provide warmth, they are better suited for milder temperatures and might not be ideal for the coldest winter days.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Wicking and Breathability


Wicking and breathability are important to avoid the dreaded swamp foot. A sock that can thermoregulate well and move moisture away from your foot will inherently keep you happy and comfortable for long days on the trail. To test this metric, we ran, hiked, biked, and backpacked over distances ranging from one to 28 miles. We also took each sock through a wide range of temperatures and conditions.


Socks with a thinner construction or loosely packed fibers typically breathe better than those that are thicker or have a higher-density construction. The most breathable contenders sport ultralight construction or feature panels and stitching that enhances ventilation. The Darn Tough Light Hiker crushes this category, being a clear choice for a cushioned sock in hot weather. It integrates a thinner wool blend fabric that is good at wicking and instep ventilation and allows water vapor to escape effectively. Yet the sole still provides ample cushion to help your feet stay happy on the trail. This is our favorite if you want a warm or hot-weather sock. If you want the same superior breathability with a lighter cushion, check out the Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion. We recommend this quick-drying model for lower-impact activities in hot weather. A notable mention is the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew, which scored highly in this category for superior wicking capability and a thinner instep panel that promotes breathability.

hiking socks - putting the darn tough quarter cushion to the test in hot, wet...
Putting the Darn Tough Quarter Cushion to the test in hot, wet, tropical conditions.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The thinnest and most breathable sock we tested was the Injinji Liner Crew. This contender scored highest in this category due to the superior blend of synthetic fibers and an ultra-lightweight design. It's not the best option if you need more cushion underfoot, though, as this sock has zero padding. But if you need a liner to help wick away moisture and prevent blisters under a thicker sock, this is a clear choice.

hiking socks - here you can see why the injinji liner crew is so breathable. this...
Here you can see why the Injinji Liner Crew is so breathable. This sock is thin without any sort of cushion.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a great option for a medium-weight sock with fantastic breathability. The fit is looser, so it doesn't wick as well as the light hiking socks, but the looser knit and larger coils along the interior of the sock grab moisture to move it effectively away from the foot. Unfortunately, as we observed on a winter camping trip, this sock loses its wicking power in colder weather. Luckily, you can fit a liner underneath the sock to help increase its ability to wick, but our scores reflect its performance when liner-free.

hiking socks - the wigwam outdoor pro's construction features a thinner instep...
The Wigwam Outdoor Pro's construction features a thinner instep fabric for breathability and large thread coils that help move moisture away from the foot.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Danish Endurance Unisex is another with a surprisingly breathable Merino wool-synthetic construction. It features a unique ventilation design on the instep and cuff that helps the foot breathe. The Darn Tough Light Hiker and Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight both offer a similar level of breathability that is superior. All utilize ventilation patterns along the upper portion of the foot and throughout the length of the calf, while the Darn Tough Light Hiker is shorter in design. Less coverage makes it a more breathable sock suitable for warmer conditions.

hiking socks - danish endurance unisex merino socks boast an innovative ventilation...
Danish Endurance Unisex Merino socks boast an innovative ventilation stitch that enhances breathability.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Darn Tough Full Cushion also did well in this category and is incredibly breathable for a heavier sock. It stood up to the hottest days of hiking and work, and there were no hot spots, even in boots. At the end of each day, our feet were surprisingly dry.

hiking socks - jo tests the darn tough full cushion sock while trying to tag a peak...
Jo tests the Darn Tough Full Cushion sock while trying to tag a peak close to 12,000 feet. On the way, we encountered big snowfields that totally drenched the sock. Luckily, it offers great wicking power to keep her foot dry.
Credit: Amber King

If you're seeking a thinner cushioned sock with superior wicking and breathability, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is your best bet. All the socks we tested breathe relatively well, but of the Merino-synthetic blends, the Danish Endurance is our favorite for its thinner materials, followed by the Farm to Feet Damascus.

hiking socks - hiking and running in wet climates demands a sock that will wick and...
Hiking and running in wet climates demands a sock that will wick and breathe well. Here we run it out at the start of a 20-mile day on the remote island of Hornstrandir in Iceland. Through this run, we encountered wet, sandy beaches, tall grass, and heavy rain. Through it all, the Farm to Feet Damascus kept our feet relatively happy and warm.
Credit: Amber King

Warmth


A good hiking sock will keep you warm when you need it most, whether summiting a mountain or curling up in a cozy sleeping bag. We considered each sock's wet and dry warmth when looking at warmth. To test warmth when wet, we dunked each sock in water, intrepidly bit down on our lower lip, and hiked around in the cold. To test warmth when dry, we hike in cold and remote places like Alaska during early spring or camp out at altitude through the summer months, where temperatures vary from 10°F to 35°F daily. From splitboarding to snow camping, we ultimately rated each hiking sock based on performance in these conditions.


If sublime warmth is your goal, looking for a sock that integrates more wool than synthetic materials is essential. These socks typically offer impressive warmth when both wet and dry. For example, the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion, REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition, and Alvada Thermal Warm Crew offer the best warmth in both wet and dry conditions, with the proportional amount of Merino wool being higher than other materials.

hiking socks - here you can see the thick, densely packed 80% wool loops that give...
Here you can see the thick, densely packed 80% wool loops that give the Alvada socks their superior warmth. In all honestly, these socks were too warm to use in all but the coldest conditions. You may want to look into these if you're searching for a sub-zero sock.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Wool insulates when wet and dry more effectively than other synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, giving our highest-scoring socks more warmth and a much wider range of thermoregulation. The Danish Endurance Unisex Merino is an example of a Merino wool synthetic blend that isn't as warm as the socks mentioned above. This is because it integrates only 30% Merino wool among other synthetic materials, whereas the other options mentioned offer between 74% and 80% Merino wool in their construction, along with thicker materials.

hiking socks - we pitted rei's merino wool expedition socks (left) against...
We pitted REI's Merino Wool Expedition socks (left) against Smartwool's Classic Mountaineer in a head-to-head test. Both options boast thick cushioning and exceptional warmth for frigid conditions, but the Smartwool emerged victorious in padding and overall heat retention.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Synthetic socks, like the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, perform well in warmer conditions but lack warmth when temperatures drop as they tend to lose their wicking properties when wet. That said, they still insulate well when wet, offering protection in colder weather as long as you stay mobile.

hiking socks - a look at the plush padding on the wigwam outdoor pro that offers...
A look at the plush padding on the Wigwam Outdoor Pro that offers decent warmth in most conditions.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Toe socks like the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew are colder than traditional styles because of their individualized digit design. This keeps toes away from each other, which doesn't enable a 'warming effect,' similar to how mittens are typically warmer than gloves. Of the socks tested, this is the coldest sock in wet and dry conditions.

hiking socks - pictured on the left is the injinji toe sock with an older smartwool...
Pictured on the left is the Injinji toe sock with an older Smartwool on the right. Toe socks have many advantages but are typically not as warm as traditional styles.
Credit: Amber King

Durability


Socks do take a beating while exploring outdoors, but a good one should last you for several hundred miles before failing. Testing durability in a short period can be pretty tough, but we managed to see a difference after putting 60 miles on each model. After years of testing these socks, some have changed very little, while others have disappointed.


In our experience, Darn Tough socks are unparalleled in this category. The materials are tightly knit, the fibers are strong, and we haven't had any bad experiences. Even though the upfront cost is relatively high, we know we are buying a product that will last for hundreds of miles. In some of our testing, we've had the same socks for over five years, logged over 600 miles, and they are still wearable. And even when we have experienced a hole, we rest easy knowing that you can send them back and get a replacement pair.

hiking socks - a look at the darn tough hiker full cushion inside out shows the...
A look at the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion inside out shows the thick cushioning that provides warmth, comfort, and durability.
Credit: Jon Oleson

We also love the Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight, which has gone with us over 500 miles while sailing, fastpacking, and running in Iceland, Colorado, and Canada. After years, they are still at work in our sock rotation. The fabrics are starting to thin out, but we still haven't seen a hole. The Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion and Alvada Thermal Warm Crew also performed well in this metric. Even after hiking shoeless and spending long days in farm boots, these socks showed zero wear. Impressive.

hiking socks - the smartwool performance light hike cushion didn't score highest in...
The Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion didn't score highest in every category, but one thing that it does have is endurance. This showed to be one of the most durable socks, looking totally unphased and like new after all our durability tests. Here we see the Smartwool keeping our tester's feet comfortable while fast packing in the Sierras.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a burly synthetic model that continues to perform after years as well. After 600 miles, it has compacted a bit but continues to go strong. While the Darn Tough varieties show large amounts of pilling after this time, the Wigwam sock has little to note. After years of testing this sock, we can confidently say it is highly durable.

How should you wash your socks? Turn them inside out, machine wash on a gentle setting in cool or warm water using mild soap, and air dry or tumble dry low.

Drying Speed


A sock that dries quickly has a large advantage on multi-day backpacking trips, especially in rainy climates or on trails that have seen fresh rain. We went hiking and backpacking in the field to test drying speed, purposely dunking our feet into streams and rivers. We continued to hike to see if each would dry out on its own. In addition to these subjective field tests, we performed a precise drying analysis to see how quickly each dry on the line. These two data points help us determine which socks perform the highest in this category.


Most of the socks we tested use wool-synthetic blends, and a few are made fully of synthetic materials. We found that while the type of material determines the drying time (synthetics generally dry more quickly), the weight and thickness of the sock is also a primary factor. The Injinji Liner Crew, Darn Tough Light Hiker, and Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew demonstrate excellent drying capabilities. The Injinji Liner dried the quickest, in under an hour, with the Darn Tough Light Hiker and Wrightmesh CoolMesh II following second at around 100 minutes. The Injjinji and CoolMesh II sport full synthetic construction, while the Light Hiker is a Merino-synthetic blend. All these contenders dried well on the trail, taking a similar amount of time to dry on foot.

hiking socks - our side-by-side drying test is key to assessing moisture management...
Our side-by-side drying test is key to assessing moisture management in our hiking socks.
Credit: Jon Oleson

The Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew, Farm to Feet Damascus, and Smartwool Performance Light Hike Cushion came in next place for dry time. All are made of wool-synthetic blends of about the same thickness, similar to the Darn Tough Light Hiker. The Darn Tough Full Cushion was the quickest drying of the heavyweight socks, beating the Smartwool Classic Mountaineer and the REI Expedition by 20 minutes on the dry line (180 versus 200 minutes, respectively). Overall, if you're seeking a fast-drying sock, the Light Hiker, CoolMesh II Crew, and Farm to Feet Damascus offer the fastest drying times.

hiking socks - hiking provides you with the opportunity to see and connect with the...
Hiking provides you with the opportunity to see and connect with the most remote and beautiful places in the world. A good pair of hiking socks will provide you with the means to do that in a comfortable way.
Credit: Amber King

Conclusion


We have taken these socks all over the world and to all manner of climates to test them and learn about their advantages and drawbacks. In these varying conditions, we've identified the best recommendations for practically any trail condition. When you're looking for a superior trail sock, be sure you take into consideration how you need it to perform. There are many options out there, and the perfect one for you is ready to be found.

hiking socks - lounging in the rei merino expedition socks after a long day of...
Lounging in the REI Merino Expedition socks after a long day of hiking in the Sierras
Credit: Jon Oleson

Amber King and Jon Oleson