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Are you here to find the best ski sock for your needs? Our ski and snowboard experts have tested dozens over the last 8 years, with 11 in our current lineup. Our diverse test team can be found from Colorado to Alaska, lapping the resort in chilling temperatures and navigating ski traverses in the High Sierra. Our testing allows us to evaluate each model based on its comfort, fit, durability, breathability, and overall warmth. Whether hiking uphill or taking cold lift rides to get your turns, we've got advice to help you find the best sock for your needs.
Editor's Note: We updated the lineup in this ski sock review on February 8, 2023. We added new socks from Smartwool, Darn Tough, and Fox River. Additionally, we retested some old favorites to update our findings and comparisons.
The Smartwool Ski Intraknit OTC is our go-to ski sock. This lightweight targeted cushion model provides padding where you need it without influencing the overall fit of your boot. The thickness of this sock is most appropriate for boots that have yet to or are just starting to pack out. The overall fit is snug in key areas like the toe box, arch-heel cup, and upper cuff. Each one of these zones uses compression to ensure the sock will not bunch. Built-in mesh zones also improve breathability, particularly in the instep. Don't be fooled by the lightweight and woven mesh instep; it's kept us warm on cold Sierra ski days. The enhanced fibers of the Intraknit OTC are designed for increased breathability and high-intensity use, and we could tell.
Compared to its competition, the main drawbacks of the Intraknit OTC are its higher price and lack of a lifetime warranty. The price could be prohibitive to some users, especially those looking to have multiple pairs of the same sock. Smartwool does offer a two-year warranty; if you are unhappy with your products, they will work to get you into new gear. Some manufacturers, like Darn Tough, offer lifetime warranties on their socks and even cover holes. Still, Smartwool is a top name for a reason, and this particular sock is best for dedicated skiers and riders looking for a spectacular fit and breathability to keep their feet happy and warm.
Toes, instep, heel, and upper cuff could have more compression
Breathability is so-so
The Fox River Chatter Ultra Lightweight is a well-rounded performer to fit the needs of most skiers at an approachable price. While nothing blew us away, the Chatter delivered reliable performance. Our feet were warm and dry for most days, ranging from 15 to 40 degrees. The fit was far superior to models of a similar price point but less refined than its high-priced competitors. Beyond its impressive performance and price, this sock is made in the USA and backed by a lifetime warranty. The company states that if you are unsatisfied with the socks' quality, you can return them for a replacement.
The Chatter Ultra performed well across each category but has shortcomings compared to other models. While the fit is generally good, it could be improved with a more discreet toe seam and more compression zones. The toe seam was more noticeable than on other models when wearing tighter-fitting ski boots. We also noticed the sock's tendency to slide down thinner calves, and the fit of the heel and instep can become loose over a riding day. The full-synthetic construction has slightly less breathability than full wool models as well. These things aside, the Chatter is an excellent selection for anyone looking to enter the ski sock world or continue to build their quiver with a smaller financial burden.
The Dissent GFX Compression Hybrid DLX-Wool is an all-around great sock due to its quality of fit, targeted cushion, and calf-to-foot compression. This sock maps your foot to provide a snug and nearly mirrored fit, and it kept its fit when wet throughout a 5-day ski traverse. The Dissent was also able to dry out rather quickly, thanks to its lightweight and targeted cushion design. The cushion allows it to maintain a low profile that's compatible with performance-fit boots while offering protection and added comfort to the user. Many athletes have been transitioning to compression socks for their stated recovery benefits, such as increased circulation (i.e., warmth), decreased swelling, and injury prevention. We found ourselves reaching for these socks for our biggest days in the mountains because of their added benefits and reliable fit that resists bunching when wet or dry. The model features top-tier construction and has withstood dozens of washes without pilling or changing its shape.
The Dissent GFX minimizes disadvantages. The biggest is the price barrier, as it is one of the most expensive socks we've ever reviewed. However, you get a quality product for your investment. We have multiple ski patrol friends that have reported three seasons of heavy use before a hole began to develop in the heel. That said, a minor drawback of all compression socks is that they are noticeably harder to put on than a traditional ski sock. Overall, the Dissent is best for avid skiers and riders looking to experience the benefits of compression that require a reliable fit when using low-volume boots for ski touring or resort riding.
The Smartwool Ski 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 the thin material can retain. Nylon and elastane create a compressive fit across the entire profile, and the thin nature and wicking materials promote breathability that's well-suited for multi-day trips and high performance. This thin sock has a reinforced toe box to increase durability alongside a 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 ultralight and foregoes cushioning, which reduces the warmth that padding can help provide. Naturally, it is less durable than thicker socks, and comfort depends on whether you're using the Ski Zero in the settings it's designed for. Bottom line, this is a great option for those looking for a sock to provide the best boot fit for the subsequent performance and sensitivity benefits.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our field testing involves finding the right team and then doing market research. We purchase our entire test fleet at full retail and analyze our chosen socks while sitting on lifts, hiking mountains, and charging through powder stashes. We've tested across America, including the iconic Telluride Ski Resort, the surrounding San Juan mountains, and the world-class Sierra Nevada range. In addition to field testing, we evaluate each sock comparatively performing tests like wearing each on a different foot for true side-by-side analysis. We also wear these socks while running and hiking to see how each breathes and insulates.
Our testing of ski socks is divided into five rating metrics:
Comfort and Construction (25% of overall score weighting)
Warmth (25% weighting)
Breathability (25% weighting)
Fit (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
We assembled a ripping team of male and female testers who ski and snowboard hard. Our primary tester, Isaac Laredo, spends over 130 days a season in ski and snowboard socks and 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. Amber King also helped set the stage for this review as a dedicated explorer of backcountry terrain who has been adventuring on a splitboard for the last decade. She brings over 16 years of snowboarding experience to the table.
Analysis and Test Results
We chose ski socks that are high quality and top performers for both skiing and snowboarding and tested in both backcountry and resort skiing conditions. After testing each in the field, we assess them across five important metrics: comfort and construction, warmth, breathability, fit, and durability. We hope our rating metrics and comparative evaluation helps you find the best ski sock for your needs.
Ski equipment isn't known for being cheap, but it may be a surprise that high-performing ski socks can cost a pretty penny, too. It is important to decide what you're willing to pay. Some lower-priced options perform nearly as well as their higher-priced counterparts. The Fox River Chatter Ultra Lightweight is one of the lowest-priced options with a technical performance build. These socks represent the lowest-priced option that we recommend. Spend less, and you're not likely to get a ski sock worth taking to the slopes. The Smartwool Ski Intraknit OTC took home our top award for its overall performance and build. It does have a higher price tag but still provides good value because of its warmth, profile, and high-quality materials. As you climb the price ladder into the category of compression socks like the CEP Ski Merino Tall Compression and Dissent GFX Compression Hybrid DLX-Wool, the value statement becomes more personalized and budget-based. These high-quality products should last and keep your feet happy, but the cost is significantly higher. Ski patrollers, instructors, and guides stand by both these products and often find the price tag worth it for the performance they receive.
Socks are a quick way to improve or degrade your ski experience. 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 and Construction
The construction of a ski sock is what dictates its overall comfort. A comfortable model 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. Taking off your ski or snowboard boots to adjust a sock bunched up at the toes, ankle, or midfoot is no fun.
In this metric, we take a look at sock construction and its relative comfort on the slopes. Socks that scored the best are thoughtfully constructed with ventilation paneling in "sweaty" areas like around the arch and at the ball of the foot. The most comfortable socks also have additional padding zones in potential pressure point areas like the shin, ankle bones, and toes. The lowest-scoring socks lack these features and are more like long fabric tubes without thoughtful engineering.
The Smartwool Ski Intraknit OTC is a comfortable sock because of its additional cushioning and construction that intersperses strategic paneling for breathability. Like the Smartwool Ski Targeted Cushion, Dissent GFX, and Icebreaker Ski+ Light, the Intraknit has light cushioning at the shin with a stretch band at the top and compression throughout to ensure it doesn't slide down. The Icebreaker also has an additional padding panel directly behind the ankle in the Achilles area for added support and comfort. Conversely, the Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion and Darn Tough Solstice OTC Lightweight lack padding except for a small section in the toe box. A zero-cushion sock may be ideal for some users seeking the most precise fit in a tight boot, but it won't be for everyone.
The CEP Compression and Dissent GFX Compression are standout products in this metric due to the highly effective compression zones around the midsole, toes, ankle, and calf that ensure the sock does not move throughout the day. We had both of these socks quite wet and escaped any blistering thanks to the sock not shifting inside our boots — an appreciated feature when spring ski touring. Additionally, both maintain a low profile feel with effective and strategic padding at the toebox, Achilles, arch, heel, and shin.
Of all the socks in this review, the Wigwam Snow Sirocco and Eurosock 1112 Ski Zone Medium provide the highest levels of cushioning. While the Snow Sirocco is a great option for wearing after a long day of skiing, these less expensive options are more like big tubes of fabric than well-engineered skiing options. They lack compression paneling and are generally thicker. The Eurosock is also a great après sock primarily because it lacks a snug fit around the ankle, heel, midsole, and toes. The medium weight of this sock is relatively thick and would change the fit of low or medium-allowance boot fits. As a result, we'd opt for the Fox River Chatter if you're seeking a less expensive but comfortable option.
Many beginner and recreational skiers expect that thicker socks are more comfortable because they feel better when worn in the store. However, on the slopes, thicker socks can compromise the fit of a tight boot, making a day at the resort rough on the feet. We strongly recommend socks that are midweight to ultrathin. Don't double sock your foot, and avoid heavyweight socks for skiing or snowboarding.
Warm feet are an essential part of a good day on the mountain. You don't want to return from a day on the ski hill with numb feet or early signs of frostbite. Socks are the foundation of warmth. But the 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, and often, we wear a different sock on each foot while riding to directly compare their performance. We also observed which socks retained moisture and felt warm, even when wet.
The Icebreaker Ski+ Light is the warmest sock we tested — it does a fantastic job of thermoregulating, and our feet stayed happy all day. The Icebreaker, Darn Tough, and Smartwool socks use high percentages of Merino wool to increase their warmth potential. The Dissent and CEP socks maintain warmth through their wicking properties, which help keep the sock drier overall. The compressive nature of these socks should also increase your blood flow and help keep your feet warmer. One tester with circulation issues in his feet rarely had cold feet when using these socks on multi-day winter tours. The CEP is slightly warmer than the Dissent, likely due to a higher percentage of wool.
The Darn Tough Pennant RFL Ultra-Lightweight and Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion maintain warmth because of their wool and wicking properties. These socks will keep your feet warm and dry from high-intensity activities that build up heat, like skinning or carving groomers, to the chair lift. 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 Wigwam Snow Sirroco both provide great warmth when dry and not in snow boots. In both ski and snowboard boots, the thickness impeded the fit and subsequent overall warmth throughout the day. Sometimes we had to switch them out at midday simply because they limited circulation in normal-fitting boots. That said, this is is still a great option for wear after skiing when 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 generated along with the heat from your downhill skiing begins to condense. If it condenses on your skin as a liquid, it can make 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 looked at how well each sock kept our feet dry after touring and skiing at the resort for hours. We wore different socks on each foot to comparatively assess wicking ability and drying speed. We also noted if our feet were "clammy" and cold on the hill. To finalize this metric, we subjected each pair of socks to objective drying speed tests at home to see which fabrics dry the fastest.
The Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion is a favorite for its lightweight construction. This sock uses a thin wool construction to provide extra wicking power. The lighter and tighter fit of a zero-cushioned sock is ideal for breathability.
The Smartwool Ski Intraknit OTC, Darn Tough Pennant RFL, and the Smartwool Ski Targeted Cushion are cushioned socks that offer impressive breathability. All three models have woven-in mesh paneling on the instep to increase breathability. The CEP and Dissent are other targeted cushioned models that are close behind. Even though none wick moisture nor dry as quickly as our wool ultralight favorites, we didn't notice wet feet while skiing at 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 essential for warmth and comfort on the mountain. While rating fit, we look at a few important details. We note sock height to ensure it provides 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 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 its performance when stuck inside a boot for hours.
All the socks we tested have seamless construction and are free of problem areas that might contribute to blistering or chafing. That said, the Dissent GFX provided the best fit of any sock within our review. The compressive nature allows the fit to almost identically map to the foot. The socks never bunched or bound up throughout long days in the mountains, even if they got wet. The overall hold and tight nature of the socks are impressive. The CEP Compression sock is not far behind as it provides a tight and mirrored fit with just a bit more room in the toe box. The targeted cushion on both models allows for a great fit in performance or particular boot fits.
The Icebreaker Ski+ Light, Smartwool Ski Intraknit, Ski Targeted Cushion, Ski Zero Cushion, and Darn Tough Pennant provide great and versatile fits. They all incorporate compression panels and elastane or spandex to provide a supportive and snug fit that stretches and maps the foot. The Icebreaker uses thinner padding, allowing for a more specific boot fit. The Smartwool models fit 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 upper cuff would sometimes slide down on our testers with skinnier legs. The Fox River Chatter offers a decent fit and good shape, but the lack of distinct compression zones in the toe, instep, heel, and shin means the fit is less snug and more prone to movement.
It's important to know that the sock you buy will last you more than just a few days on the mountain. This metric looks at overall construction quality and level of wear and tear after a winter of use. All products did okay in this metric, with none 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. This 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 durability. Two of our main testers have used previous iterations of these socks for several ski seasons before they gave out. In those years, both testers 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 compared to the quality and craftsmanship Smartwool brings to the table. To lessen pilling and shrinkage, air-drying wool or partial-wool socks is recommended.
Both the CEP and Dissent socks are very well made; the inner side is neat with no loose ends, and both models have been washed dozens of times and have shown no signs of pilling.
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.
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