Best Ski Socks of 2021
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|Pros||Comfortable and warm, good moisture management, durable, great fit, well-rounded appeal||Quick to dry, comfortable, lighter padded construction||Snug fit, wicks moisture, quick drying, great for tight fitting boots||Top of foot ventilation, strategic cushioning, breathable||Very breathable, thin yet durable|
|Cons||No lifetime guarantee||Lacks durability||Lacks cushioning, outside of boot warmth||Price||Niche use, not warm|
|Bottom Line||If you're seeking a ski sock for the season, this model is the most reliable across the board||A quick to dry well-rounded ski sock that can perform in all conditions, wet and dry||Our favorite model for our performance fit boots and for high output activities like touring||This sock is a great middle-ground between zero and full cushion options to provide a comfortable, breathable fit in tight-fitting ski boots||A strong contender for anyone looking for the thinnest ski sock for high output skiing endeavors|
|Rating Categories||Smartwool Ski Full...||Icebreaker Ski+ Light||Smartwool Ski Zero...||Smartwool Targeted...||Darn Tough Pennant...|
|Comfort & Construction (25%)|
|Specs||Smartwool Ski Full...||Icebreaker Ski+ Light||Smartwool Ski Zero...||Smartwool Targeted...||Darn Tough Pennant...|
|Material||66% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% elastane||57% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon, 3% Lycra||55% Merino Wool, 41% Nylon, 4% Elastane||59% Merino Wool, 38% Nylon, 3% Elastane||60% Nylon 35% Merino Wool 5% Lycra Spandex|
|Level of Cushioning||Midweight||Lightweight||Ultralightweight||Lightweight||Ultralightweight|
|Weight||3.1 oz||3.2 oz||2.1 oz||2.5 oz||2.3 oz|
|Overall height||14 inches||14.25 inches||14 inches||14 inches||14 inches|
|Padded area||Cushioned throughout||Shin, calf, foot, ankle||Zero Cushion||Toe, heel, shin||Zero Cushion|
Best Overall Ski Socks
Smartwool Ski Full Cushion
If you're a powder hound who gets out in all conditions, resort or backcountry, then the Smartwool Ski Full Cushion is the sock for you. This fully cushioned sock uses medium-thickness padding to provide enhanced comfort and warmth. It balances ample cushioning and compression features to provide a comfortable and secure fit around the foot and calf. The midweight construction is quite breathable, with ventilation points right where you need them, and they offer fantastic moisture management and warmth, even on winter's coldest days. We found the medium thickness doesn't compromise our tight-fitting ski boots. This sock also performs exceptionally well in our durability tests, thanks to its tightly knit wool construction.
This sock is hard to find issues with. It is worth noting that this sock has broad appeal for many users, but may not be the best choice for people who run hot or are seeking a zero cushion option for the best fit in their boot. Its price also makes it more challenging to own multiple pairs for avid skiers and riders. This model is for individuals looking for a warm, breathable, and cushioned ski sock that works well in and out of bounds for most skiers and riders.
Read review: Smartwool Ski Full Cushion
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Powderbound Midweight
For those looking to update and improve their ski sock collection for a bit less money, the REI Powderbound Mid-Weight is the sock for you. It is made using almost 50% wool for less money than its similarly constructed, more expensive counterparts. This sock offers a good amount of warmth and even maintains most of its warmth when wet. It is a medium-weight (or midweight) sock that provides even cushioning throughout its profile and uses a reinforced toe and heel area to increase the expected life of the sock. It fit very well in our snowboard boots and comfortable ski boots. We appreciate this model for its ability to provide top-tier features at a reduced price.
This value-based sock offers some premium features but does not provide the same amount of breathability and ventilation as other premium socks. We found they would get damp slightly faster and take longer to dry than other models. So, it wouldn't be our top pick for multi-day backcountry skiing trips. Additionally, the ankle and toe areas have moderate levels of compression, which provides a good fit, although we experienced a small bit of stretching in this region that might allow the sock to shift after a couple of seasons of use. Despite this, the price point and overall performance of this sock make this an appealing option for those who want a comfortable, warm, and affordable sock.
Read review: REI Co-op Powderbound Midweight
Best for Tight Budgets
Fox River Telluride Medium
If you're sock hunting on a shoestring budget, the Fox River Telluride offers excellent performance that has lasted us for over three years. This high-value performer is primarily composed of a synthetic/wool blend that is comfortable and cozy for all-day wear. The material wicks water vapor well, while the thickness of the sock fits a boot that's not as tight quite well. Our testers (both men and women) love the color options and appreciate its additional padding on the shin, ankle, and heel. It's very warm when dry and has kept our feet cozy, even on the coldest days of winter.
While the Telluride is a great deal, some caveats come with a lower price. Given its synthetic blend composition (only 18% merino wool), it doesn't insulate as well as other merino wool contenders. When wet, the plush underfoot material holds the moisture and doesn't vent as well as other contenders. While it still breathes on most days, if you easily get sweaty feet, this isn't the one we'd recommend. However, for the level of comfort it offers and its warmth when dry, it's a great budget option for resort skiers that don't have super sweaty feet.
Read review: Fox River Telluride
Best Ultralight Sock
Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion
The SmartWool Zero Cushion is our favorite zero cushion sock because of its materials and fit quality. This sock uses 55% merino wool to maximize the warmth that this thin sock can retain. It is also made with nylon and elastane, which maintains a compressive fit across the entire profile of the sock. Its thin nature and wicking materials create breathable socks suited for multi-day trips and performance-fit alike. This thin sock has a reinforced toe box to increase durability alongside the two-year warranty. We feel the Zero Cushion is among the best choices for touring as it regulates temperature well, especially during longer springtime missions.
This sock is designed to be a zero cushion and thin sock, which inherently reduces the amount of warmth and cushion provided. This is expected when you purchase a sock of this type. Naturally, it is a bit less comfortable and less durable than thicker socks. For those looking for a sock to provide the best fit in the boot for the subsequent performance and sensitivity benefits, this one is a great option.
Why You Should Trust Us
We put together a ripping team of male and female testers that don't just ski, but snowboard too. We spent over 100 days this year skiing in these socks, and our team has over 40 years of collective snow sliding experience. Our primary tester, Amber King, is a dedicated explorer of backcountry terrain and has been adventuring on a splitboard for the last seven years. She brings over 16 years of snowboarding experience to the table. Bryce Foster has eight years of skiing experience as a resort and backcountry skier and has worked in the outdoor industry for over six years. For these years, he's worked as a professional boot fitter and typically gets at least 100 days of skiing each season. Joanne Marcyzk works as a ski guide, riding the slopes every day, teaching people how to ski. She has been skiing for over 22 years, making her an expert at providing comprehensive and comparative feedback that's been pivotal in this review. Isaac Laredo spends over 130 days a season in ski and snowboard socks. Isaac works as a Ski Guide in the Sierra Nevada region, guiding people to the best snow and providing product recommendations to help his clients get the most out of their experience.
Our field testing involves finding a team of testers, both male and female, that snowboard and ski. We test socks while sitting on lifts, hiking up mountains, and charging through powder stashes. We've tested across America, including areas like the iconic Telluride Ski Resort, surrounding San Juan mountains, and the world-class Sierra Nevada range. In addition to field testing, we evaluate each sock comparatively. We wear each on a different foot, not just while skiing and snowboarding, but also while running and hiking, to see how each breathes and insulates. Each sock sees at least 100 days of use, with some that we've been testing for years. Yes, we are sock geeks.
Related: How We Tested Ski Socks
Analysis and Test Results
We chose ski socks that are high quality and top performers for both skiing and snowboarding men and women. We test for both backcountry and resort skiing conditions. After testing each in the field, we assess them across five important metrics. We hope our rating metrics and comparative evaluation helps you find the best ski sock for your needs.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Socks
Ski equipment isn't known for being cheap, but it may come as a surprise that high-performing ski socks can cost a pretty penny, too. It is important to decide what you're willing to pay. There are some lower-priced options that perform nearly as well as their higher-priced counterparts. The Fox River Telluride is one of the lowest-priced options out there with a technical performance build. These socks represent the lowest price option that we recommend. Spend less, and you're not likely to get a ski sock that's worth taking to the slopes. With a mid-range price tag, the REI Powderbound Midweight is a sock that presents great value because it uses premium materials and good construction, with a supportive arch band, seamless toes, and reinforcement and cushioning in higher impact and wear areas. This model saves you a few bucks by still feeling very close to being a top-tier ski sock.
Keep in mind that if you drop even further in price, those very low-priced ski socks are often simple tubes of fabric that don't have a precise fit or wick moisture well. They are typically thicker in construction and offer nice warmth when dry, but as soon as you start moving, they don't breathe well. These are not high-value products, so be sure to avoid them if you know you're going to be moving as well as standing still, as one does on the ski hill.
Comfort & Construction
The construction of a ski sock is what dictates its overall comfort. A comfortable ski sock features compression paneling and strategic cushioning to increase comfort and support. In addition, a comfortable sock shouldn't slip out of place or deform throughout the day. It's no fun to take off your ski or snowboard boots to adjust a sock bunched up at the toes, ankle, or midfoot.
In this metric, we take a serious look at sock construction and its relative comfort on the slopes. Socks that scored the best are thoughtfully constructed with compression paneling in "sweaty" areas like around the foot arch and at the ball of the foot. The most comfortable socks also have additional zones of padding in potential pressure points like the shin, ankle bones, and at the toes. The lowest-scoring socks lack these features and are more like long tubes of fabric without thoughtful engineering.
The Smartwool Ski Full Cushion is hands-down the most comfortable sock because of its additional cushioning and construction that intersperses breathable paneling for both warmth and breathability. Like the Smartwool Ski Targeted Cushion, Fox River Telluride, Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Lightweight, and Icebreaker Ski+ Light, it has ample cushioning at the shin with a stretch band at the top and compression throughout to ensure it doesn't slide down. Of all the socks in this review, the Ski Full Cushion and REI Powderbound provide the highest levels of cushioning and make a comfortable sock for on the hill or hanging by the fireplace. Conversely, the Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion lacks padding except for a small section located in the toe box. A zero cushion sock may be more ideal for some users seeking the most precise fit in a tight boot. Fox River offers a little cushion around the heel of the sock, but not much else. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light scores a little higher than these other options due to its thinner padding underfoot and throughout the toe box and ankle.
All socks mentioned above also feature areas of compression paneling around the arch of the foot. The only one that offers a little less compression is the Fox River Telluride, which doesn't have much around the top of the ankle.
In terms of construction, the Icebreaker Ski+ Light stands out for its padding that is a little thinner than the Smartwool Ski Full Cushion. It also has an additional panel of padding right behind the ankle in the Achilles area for added support and comfort. This is one of the reasons it earns a high score in this category.
While the Wigwam Snow Sirocco and Burton Weekend Sock are great options for wearing after a long day of skiing, these less expensive options are more like big tubes of fabric than a well-engineered skiing option. Neither have compression paneling, and they are generally thicker throughout. As a result, we'd opt for the Fox River Telluride if you're seeking a less expensive but comfortable ski or snowboard sock option.
Overall, if you're seeking the best in comfort, check out the Smartwool Ski Full Cushion and the Smartwool Ski Targeted Cushion. The Ski+ Light is another notable competitor as it has a thin profile with additional padding. The Darn Tough Over the Calf lightweight offers the least amount of padding, but still has great compression paneling and is fit to make it a comfortable sock.
Warm feet are an essential part of a good day on the mountain. You don't want to come back from a day on the ski hill with numb feet or early signs of frostbite. To ensure your warmth on the slopes, first buy a good pair of socks that fit well with your boots. Second, make sure your boots have good liners that will vent moisture. While socks are important for warmth, a majority of the warmth will come from your boot. Many boot fitters will tell you that you should try on your ski boots with the socks you plan on wearing because boots are supposed to fit tightly. If you do these two things, you'll greatly increase your chances of having warmer feet.
When comparing sock warmth, we look at the relative warmth while skiing and snowboarding at the resort and in the backcountry through all sorts of cold and wintry conditions. First, we evaluate the materials used. Then, we wear each pair throughout the winter. Often, we wear a different sock on each foot to directly compare their performance. We also observed which socks retained moisture and which felt the warmest, even when wet.
The Smartwool Ski Full Cushion is one of the warmest socks that we tested. With ample cushioning underfoot that provides an additional layer of insulation from the cold, our feet are happy all day long. This sock uses the highest proportion of merino wool when compared to other socks in the review, thus increasing its warmth potential. Even though it is thicker underfoot, we didn't have wet feet, even on warmer days. Even if the sock did retain moisture, it stayed warm.
A close second is the Icebreaker Ski+ Light. While it doesn't utilize materials as thick as the Smartwool Ski Full Cushion, it does a fantastic job of thermoregulating. None of our testers complained of cold feet. But, since insulation isn't as thick underfoot, we found our feet a little chillier than the Smartwool, but not by much. The Fox River is nice and warm when dry, but as soon as it gets wet, the chill seeps in. This is most likely due to the significant amount of acrylic used in its construction.
The Darn Tough Pennant RFL Ultralight and Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion maintain warmth because of the wool and wicking properties of the sock. When you go from high-intensity activities that build up heat like skinning or carving groomers to the chair lift, these socks keep your feet warm and dry. They are recommended if you own a pair of tight ski boots and want a sock that wicks super well to provide better overall warmth.
The Burton Weekend Sock and Wigwam Snow Sirroco both provide great warmth when dry and not in ski boots. In a snowboard boot, our testers felt comfortable and warm, even on a super cold winter day. However, our ski testers felt that their thickness impeded fit and overall warmth throughout the day. There were times they had to switch them out midday simply because they didn't insulate on the mountain. That said, both are awesome options for wear after skiing when you're hanging out in front of a fire with friends.
Wicking ability and drying speed are important for keeping feet dry. A drier foot is a warmer foot. When skiing, your movement generates heat through muscle activation. But when you stop, for example, to sit on a chair lift, the water vapor that was generated along with the heat from your downhill skiing begins to condense. If it condenses on your skin as a liquid, it can get cold, making your feet cold. A good sock is made of materials that will transport that water vapor from the surface of your skin to the outside of your sock. A boot liner that vents well also transports the moisture out and away from the sock. In the case of wicking ability and drying speed, thinner is better.
In this metric, we look at how well each sock kept our feet dry. We went ski touring and would ski at the resort for hours on end for testing purposes. To look at this metric in the field, we would wear different socks on each foot to comparatively assess wicking ability and drying speed. We would also note if our feet were "clammy" and then cold on the hill. To finalize this metric, we subjected each pair of socks to objective drying speed tests at home to truly see which fabrics dry the fastest.
The Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion is our favorite for its lightweight construction. This sock uses a thin wool construction to provide even more wicking power than the Darn Tough OTC light and the Darn Tough Pennant. Each sock offers great breathability, but the lighter and tighter fit of the zero cushioned socks is simply better.
The Icebreaker Ski+ Light is another sock that offers impressive breathability. Even though the Icebreaker doesn't wick moisture or dry as quickly as our ultralight favorites, our testers didn't notice wet feet while skiing at either the resort or in the backcountry. Overall, if you're seeking a sock that dries quickly and wicks well, these options are your best bet.
A good fit is pertinent to warmth and comfort on the mountain. While rating fit, we look at a few important details. We note sock height to ensure it does provide the needed coverage. The level of stretchiness and elasticity is also important to ensure the sock doesn't deform when wet or under stress. We also consider seam construction and relative thickness. Finally, we note how much volume and stretch are found in the sock to accommodate thicker calves. Overall, we rated each sock on how well it performed when stuck inside a boot for hours on end.
All the socks tested have seamless construction and are free of problem areas that might contribute to blistering or chafing. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light, Smartwool Ski Full Cushion, Ski Targeted Cushion, Ski Zero Cushion, and Darn Tough Pennant provide the best and most versatile fits. Every sock above incorporates compression panels and elastane or spandex to provide a supportive and snug fit that stretches and maps the foot very well.
The reason the Ski+ Light earns a higher score is because of its higher level of versatility. It features thinner padding, which allows for a more specific boot fit. The wider hem at the top of the sock is a little more comfortable than the Smartwool, while the length is also longer. The Smartwool Ski Full Cushion functions more like a compression sock, whereas the Icebreaker offers a little more room throughout the leg. As a result, we'd recommend the Icebreaker if you're looking for a longer sock with a little more volume throughout the calf.
The REI Powderbound sock offers a decent fit with a good shape and adequate compression, which are design elements often found lacking in lower-priced ski socks. Still, we feel this model would benefit from more compression zones to provide an even more snug and truly non-bunching fit.
It's important to know that the sock you buy will last you more than just a few days on the mountain. In this metric, we look at overall construction quality and level of wear and tear after a winter of use. All products did okay in this metric, with no products showing major failure or flaws through our testing period.
Years of experience have shown us, anecdotally, that Darn Tough socks tend to last the longest. We have also personally utilized their lifetime warranty, where we returned socks with a hole or torn seam, even after years of use, for a new pair. It also makes them one of the highest value products despite being on the upper end of the ski sock price spectrum.
The Smartwool Ski series also stands out for its durability. Two of our main testers used previous iterations of these socks for several ski seasons before they gave out. In those years, both testers have put in over 100 days of use each winter, and they are still going strong after several years. While we did observe a little pilling after the first washes and a tiny bit of shrinkage, this small detail is a minor issue in comparison to the level of quality and craftsmanship it brings to the table. The brand also backs up its sock with a two-year warranty. We appreciate comprehensive warranties but prefer the lifetime guarantee provided by other manufacturers.
The Fox River Telluride, Wigwam Sirroco, and Burton Weekend sock all showed some packing out and wear after just a few runs. Of the three, the Wigwam proved to bounce back the best after a wash and hasn't demonstrated any compaction or major issues so far. While we noticed this wear and tear in these products, we'd be confident to say these should still last for a season or two.
Choosing a ski sock might take a little time and research, but we've taken the time to do the leg work for you. Say goodbye to cold feet this winter and welcome a brand new pair of ski socks to your outdoor wardrobe. We hope our review has been helpful in your search for this important piece of winter gear.
— Amber King and Isaac Laredo
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