Best Ski Socks of 2020
Best Overall Ski Socks
Smartwool PhD Ski Medium
A longtime favorite and classic, the Smartwool PhD Ski Medium continues to be our favorite ski and snowboard sock for both men and women. Loaded with major cushioning underfoot, it features compression panels that hug the calf and support the arch for a specific fit with great ventilation. Its durable composition is achieved with a tightly knit construction, offering amazing moisture management and warmth, even on the coldest days of winter. The thickness doesn't compromise our tight-fitting ski boots and is a favorite for its ultra-cushioned shin. It also performs exceptionally well in our durability tests, still going strong after four years of use.
The biggest caveat we've identified is the super tight fit around the calf of the women's sock. If you're a lady with larger calves, consider the men's version that will offer a little more volume. Aside from that, we're hard-pressed to find anything wrong with this sock. It's the one we like most for resort skiing and backcountry touring for both men and women — skiers and snowboarders alike.
Best Bang for the Buck
Fox River Telluride Medium
If you're sock hunting on a shoestring budget, the Fox River Telluride offers performance that will last all season. 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.
While this is a great deal, it's not perfect. Given its synthetic blend composition, of which only 18% is merino wool, it doesn't insulate very well when wet and pills after just a few washes. As a result, this option is best for the average snow slider who doesn't sweat too much and would rather save on their ski sock purchase.
Read review: Fox River Telluride
Best for Ultralight Construction
Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski
The Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski features an ultralightweight construction that boasts the best in breathability, earning a favorable nod from our ski touring testers. Lighter and thinner than any sock tested, it has just the right amount of cushioning in the shin and heel for our testers. It's built for skiers and snowboarders who don't want additional insulation or cushioning, with a greater focus on breathability. If you have tight boots and don't want anything to compromise fit, this sock is one of our top recommendations.
Since this is a thin option, don't expect it to be loaded with cushioning or warmth. It's also not the most comfortable in comparison to highly cushioned options. It also proves to be less durable than thicker contenders, with some noticeable pilling, but continues to provide us with excellent performance after two years of use. For the hard-chargers and the turn-earners, this is a fantastic, ultralight pair.
Read review: Smartwool Phd Pro Free Ski
Best for Synthetic Construction
Darn Tough ThermoLite OTC
The Darn Tough ThermoLite OTC is a highly durable synthetic sock that's made without merino wool. It provides ample cushioning in the shin and throughout the bed of the foot. It has options for both men and women and provides good breathability. It comes with a lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer and burly construction that still looks like new after we skied in it for 100+ days in extended testing.
While it is comfortable, moisture does collect in the super plush footbed. We also noted that the toe box has a rather specific fit that bunched for some and felt good for others. Aside from these small caveats, this synthetic sock is just as soft as it's merino wool competitors but offers better durability. It's a great fit for those that don't love merino wool on their feet.
Read review: Darn Tough ThermoLite OTC
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 skiing this year in these socks, and our team has over 40 years of collective sliding experience. Our main 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 five years. For these five years, he's worked as a professional boot fitter and typically gets at least 75 days of skiing in each season. He works for Rainer Mountain Inc. (RMI) Expeditions as a guide in the summer, and for Silverton Mountain in the winter. Joanne Marczk works at the Telluride Ski Resort as a ski guide, riding the slopes every day, teaching people how to ski. When she's not working, she's out seeking backcountry stashes in some of the tallest and steepest terrains available in her neck of the woods. She has been skiing for over 21 years, making her an expert at providing comprehensive and comparative feedback that's been pivotal in this review.
In addition to our field testing, we evaluate each sock comparatively with specific tests. We wear each on a different foot, not just while skiing and snowboarding, but also while running and hiking to really test performance limits. In addition to our three experts, we hand them out to friends varying in expertise from professionals to entry-level skiers to hear the voices of all the people on sock performance. 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 set up a comparative and thorough system to assess them as fairly as possible, choosing five metrics to focus on; comfort, warmth, breathability, fit, and durability.
Related: Buying Advice for Ski Socks
High performing ski socks can surprisingly cost a pretty penny, so it's important to decide what you're willing to pay. While all the socks we've tested have proven to be quite durable with great performance, there are some lower-priced options with a decent value. Socks built by Darn Tough all come with a lifetime guarantee that allows you to trade them in if performance starts the wane throughout their lifetime. This is a massive value and well worth the initial cost. The Fox River Telluride is one of the lowest-priced options out there with a technical performance build. While it does pill after a few washes, it does a great job on the hill. Keep in mind that if you drop even further in price, these very low-priced socks on the market are often simple tubes of fabric that can't wick 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 compressional paneling and strategic cushioning to provide ventilation and support where it's needed. 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.
In this metric, we look seriously 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. In addition, the most comfortable socks have additional zones of padding in potential pressure points like the shin and ankle bones, and at the toes. The socks that scored the lowest lack these features and are more like long tubes of fabric without thoughtfully engineered architecture.
The SmartWool PhD Ski Medium is hands-down the most all-around comfortable sock because of its additional cushioning construction that intersperses breathable paneling for both warmth, coziness, and breathability. Like the Darn Tough Thermolite, Smartwool PhD Pro, 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 with elastic materials throughout to ensure it doesn't slide down. Of all the socks in this review, it offers the most cushioning making it a super cozy option for wear on and off the slopes. It is unlike the Smartwool PhD Pro, an ultralightweight sock that offers no padding underfoot or around the ankle or top of the foot. It only has padding at the heel. The Fox River offers a little bit around the heel of the sock, but not much else. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light scores a little higher than these other options because of its padding that's a little thinner than the Smartwool PhD throughout the underfoot, toe box, and ankle. It is a lot like the Darn Tough Thermolite, which comes plush with synthetic cushioning throughout.
Despite this level of cushioning, we didn't notice our feet getting wet or a lack of breathability in the Smartwool Medium PhD. This is attributed to the compression paneling that lives under the arch of the foot, on the top of the foot, and throughout the back of the calf. This helps to promote a more specific fit and ventilation to keep feet warm and dry on the slopes. 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 Medium PhD. 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 have thicker paneling 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 Medium PhD for both men and women. The Ski+ Light is a close second that offers a thinner design with additional padding throughout. The Darn Tough Over the Calf lightweight offers the least amount of padding, but still has great compression paneling and fit to make it a comfortable sock. The Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski has a little more cushioning than the OTC Light, but the materials are much lighter and compressive. Overall, the PhD Pro is more comfortable than the OTC light because of this little extra cushioning.
Ensuring that your feet are warm is of huge importance. You don't want to come back from a day on the slopes with numb feet or early signs of frostbite. To ensure your warmth on the slopes; first, buy a good pair of socks that you can wear with your boots. Second, make sure your boots have good liners that will vent moisture. While it's nice to think just a pair of socks will keep you warm, boot fit and construction is also important. 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 on the slopes.
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 raunchy conditions. First, we evaluate the materials used. Then, we wear each pair throughout the winter. Often, we wear a different one on each foot to see how each compared to the other. We also observed which socks held moisture, and which felt the warmest, even when wet.
The Smartwood PhD Medium is by far the warmest sock tested. With ample cushioning underfoot that provides an additional layer of insulation from the cold, our feet are happy all day long. This sock has the highest proportion of wool to other blending materials of any sock tested. Also, the wool is packed together in an insulating and durable package that provides warmth even when temperatures dip into the double negatives. Even though it is thicker underfoot, we didn't have wet feet, even on warmer days. And when 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 PhD Medium, it does a fantastic job 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 probably attributed to a large amount of acrylic used in its construction.
The Darn Tough OTC Light and Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski both provide a surprising amount of warmth for its thin design. While they are not the warmest socks to don around the house, it thermoregulates so well that it's never wet and doesn't hold moisture. When you go from high-intensity activities like skinning or hitting the moguls where your feet might sweat, then to the chair lift, these socks keep your feet dry. This ultimately offers better warmth than those with a ton of insulation simply because they breathe well. 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. However, for those who don't necessarily need a thin sock, we wouldn't recommend it for ultra-cold weather.
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 during the winter. However, our ski testers felt that their thickness impeded fit and overall warmth throughout the day. This is because neither sock breaths well and holds moisture after sweating, which cools when standing around in the snow, ultimately leading to less warmth. 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.
Overall, the Smartwool PhD Medium is our go-to for cold weather wear for the average skier or snowboarder. If you're not into ample padding, the Icebreaker Ski+ Light is a great second option. The Darn Tough OTC Light and Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski models are warm when combined with a well-insulated and tight-fitting ski boot as both don't hold moisture and wicks water away quickly.
Wicking ability and drying speed are important for keeping feet dry. A drier foot is a warmer foot. When skiing, you move, generating 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 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 hiked uphill in ski touring mode, breaking a sweat on the way. We would ski for hours on end for testing purposes. To look at this metric in the field, we would wear different socks on each foot to compare the amount of moisture held to determine 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 an objective drying speed tests at home to truly see which fabrics dry the fastest.
The Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski is our favorite for its lightweight construction. This sock is light with a fabric knit that does a better job than the Darn Tough OTC light at wicking away moisture from the foot. Both offer great breathability, but the lighter and tighter fit of the PhD Pro socks is simply better. The padding on the shin has breathable vents throughout with large loops of fabric in high sweat zones, offering more wicking power than the Darn Tough OTC light.
The Icebreaker Ski+ Light is another sock that offers impressive breathability. While its materials are thicker than the PhD Pro and OTC light, it is thinner than the Smartwool PhD Medium, holding less moisture underfoot as a result of less cushioning and material. Even though the Icebreaker doesn't wick moisture or dry as quickly as our favorites for their ultralight construction, 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. When you slip your foot into your boot and buckle up for the day, you don't want to waste time dealing with socks that bunch of deforming. 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 is 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 without any odd pinch points of constrictions that would cause chaffing. The Icebreaker Ski+ Light and Smartwool PhD Medium provide the best and most versatile fit. Both come with thoughtfully placed points of compression paneling that keeps the sock in place. The use of elastane and lycra spandex provides additional stretch while the high-quality merino wool feels soft (not itchy) against the skin.
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. Most importantly, it has more volume throughout the body of the sock. The women's version of the Smartwool PhD is a little too tight if you're blessed with bigger calves. When looking at the relative stretch between these two contenders, the Smartwool PhD Medium 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.
Other contenders that do well include the Fox River Telluride, Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Padded Light,Darn Tough Thermolite, and Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski. The Fox River is pretty standard with some compression, a good level of stretch, and some cushioning. The Smartwool PhD Pro, on the other hand, is the thinnest sock tested and has a tight and compressive fit. Both the Darn Tough options have a really tall fit, best for those with longer legs. Though, the Thermolite has a much more padded construction with a less specific fit than the OTC Light.
The Burton Weekend Sock provides a more snug and specific fit than the Wigwam Snow Sirocoo. In fact, given the Wigwam's thicker construction, we found that it would bunch at the top of our boot, causing fit and ride issues throughout the day. Between these two, the Weekend Sock performs much better. In comparison to the rest, it doesn't stand up given its lack of compression paneling and features.
Overall, our favorite go-to choices are the Icebreaker and Smartwool PhD Medium and Smartwool PhD Pro Free Ski. Both provide a snug fit that works well with both tight-fitting ski and snowboard boots. The PhD Pro is much lighter similar to the Darn Tough OTC Light, offering just a wicking layer to go with a tight-fitting ski boot.
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, level of wear and tear after a winter of use, and the type of manufacturer guarantee that comes with the product. All products did okay in this metric, with no products showing major failure or flaws through our testing period.
The most durable and highest quality products in this review prove (so far) to be the Darn Tough Thermolite and Smartwool PhD Medium. True to its name, we put the Darn Tough Thermolite through the wringer, and it still looks like a brand new sock. No signs of wear and tear after wearing for over 100+ hours in ski and snowboard boots. The Thermolite does better than the OTC light simply because of its ultra-durable synthetic construction, but both are options that'll last you for many years. Both also come with a lifetime quality guarantee that allows you to return your socks if you find a hole or torn seam, even after years of use. It also makes this one of the highest value products that cost on the upper end of the ski sock spectrum.
Another great contender is the Smartwool PhD (women's & men's). Two of our main testers have used these socks for over six years. 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 wash 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. Unfortunately, Smartwool does not offer a guarantee for life. Instead, they offer one that lasts for two years.
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 would still last for a season or two.
If you're looking for the most durable and thus, high-value option for its price, the Darn Tough Thermolite is our go-to. If you're not interested in a synthetic sock, but prefer an option that's been field-tested for many years and offers a thicker construction, the Smartwool PhD Medium is a very solid choice. Both are great options for nearly anyone, whether you're skiing every day or once a year.
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 good-bye to cold feet this winter and welcome a brand new pair of ski socks to your outdoor wardrobe. We hope this has been helpful in your search for a pertinent piece of winter gear.
— Amber King