A pair of good hiking socks is often the only thing preventing sweaty feet, foot odor, and painful blisters. Regular socks lack the construction and wicking properties that your feet need to stay comfortable on the trail. Hiking socks offer effective moisture-wicking, odor resistance, blister prevention, and cushioning to take better care of your feet under all conditions.
In this guide, I’ll review the 9 best hiking socks to keep your feet happy and keep painful blisters at bay.
My Review Process
I’ve spent decades hiking and have experienced just about every kind of foot pain that exists. To this day, I still hate blisters the most. They not only cause a surprising amount of pain while you’re on the trail, but they can even ruin future adventure plans.
After suffering through years of foot pain, I made it my mission to find the best hiking socks available. Here, I’ve put together a list of the 9 best hiking socks to prevent blisters. These socks are comfortable, durable, practical, and, when worn correctly, will stop blisters in their tracks.
The Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion is my choice as the best overall hiking sock. This workhorse is durable and exceptionally comfortable. The wicking properties are also phenomenal. The socks effectively wick moisture (draw it away from your skin) and push it to the outside of the fabric.
One of the downsides to these socks is their thickness. The socks provide a lot of cushion, but they can feel overly hot on extremely warm days. These socks are also best worn with a larger pair of hiking boots.
Thanks to its comfort, wicking ability, versatility, durability and warmth, the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion is a great choice. Darn Tough also offers a helpful lifetime guarantee for these socks for extra peace of mind.
Coming in just behind the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, the Smartwool Performance Hike socks are my runner-up pick. They’re comfortable, wick moisture effectively, and are made from odor-resistant merino wool. The newest generation (3rd) is also much more durable than previous iterations.
Smartwool socks are expensive. Between budget options and our best overall performers, Smartwool is just a hair behind in price and performance. The company’s 2-year limited replacement policy is also nowhere near as good as the lifetime guarantee offered by Darn Tough.
However, if you’re looking for a pair of durable hiking socks that perform well across the board, Smartwool won’t disappoint.
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro socks are the perfect summer socks and my pick as the best Women’s hiking socks to prevent blisters. Their thin, highly breathable fabric can keep your feet dry through some of the hottest days of the year.
These socks offer comfort, excellent wicking properties, and impressively fast drying. All of that combined makes them a great anti-blister candidate.
Predictably, since these socks are designed with warm weather in mind, they’re less than ideal for cold weather. If you use the Light Hiker Micro for summer hikes and the thicker Hiker Full Cushion for the fall, winter, and spring, you can adventure comfortably all year.
Like the Hiker Full Cushion, these socks will last hundreds of miles without noticeable wear and tear. If you’re looking for great lower-cut women’s hiking socks that can get you through the summer, look no further.
Icebreaker’s Hike + Light Crew socks are the best hiking crew socks of 2023. The fantastic design includes ventilated mesh areas to keep your feet cool and dry. The fit of these socks is also remarkably comfortable, and I like that the merino wool construction is naturally odor-resistant.
One downside to these socks is that they’re not the most durable. They tend to show signs of wear and tear after a couple hundred miles. They are also not great for colder temperatures due to the thin construction.
Icebreaker does offer a lifetime guarantee for these socks, which is awesome. Another plus is that the production of these socks is very eco-friendly. Icebreaker even releases a transparency report to highlight how they're making the merino business sustainable and regenerative.
Boasting a unique individual toe design, the Injinji Liner Crew is my pick for the best hiking liner. Hiking sock liners go in between your regular hiking socks and your feet and are supposed to help prevent sliding and blister formation. The Injinji Liners do all that and more.
The fit is nice and the comfort is noticeable. These socks are also odor-resistant. The liners have good moisture-wicking properties and allow your toes to splay out in your boots for a more natural feel.
Because these socks are liners, they can have some durability issues. If you wear them without thicker socks, they’ll wear down faster. However, I’ve found that they hold up pretty well for many miles on the trail.
Double-layer socks act as both a liner and a hiking sock. Two layers of material work together to reduce blister formation. I don’t always love double-layer socks, but the Wrightsock Coolmesh II Quarter knocks this design out of the park.
The extra layer helps prevent blisters while the synthetic material these socks are made from is ultra-breathable. The socks are also quick to dry, which is perfect if your trip involves stream crossings or thunderstorms. Even in the sweltering heat, the Cool-mesh technology keeps your feet dry and cool. So, these socks are perfect for summer hikes.
Like other thinner socks, the synthetic material is functional, but not very warm in cold weather. While the socks aren’t as comfortable as others on this list, the Cool-mesh technology, anti-blister design, and breathable fabric are convincing reasons to give them a try.
Smartwool has long been known for its great socks, and the Run Targeted Cushion Low is true to form. This pair of socks is fantastic for trail runs, city runs, or short, non-strenuous hikes. The variable padding is perfect, the socks wick moisture effectively, and the fit is extremely comfortable.
Being low-cut socks, these aren’t the best for long-distance hikes or multi-day adventures. They are also not particularly durable and will wear down quicker than options like the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion.
If you’re looking for great training socks that feel good and offer effective moisture-wicking, the Smartwool Run Target Cushion Low socks are a good buy.
My choice for the most comfortable pair of hiking socks is the Farm to Feet Damascus. These fantastic and versatile socks are great for anything from short to long adventures. The socks fit well, are highly breathable, wick away moisture well, dry quickly, and offer lush padding.
As is the case for most larger socks, the length and thickness can be drawbacks during the hottest months of the year. For winter, autumn, and spring, however, the versatility of these socks outweighs all heat-related concerns.
If you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades pair of hiking socks that work with low-cut and high-cut hikers, the comfy Farm to Feet Damascus socks should be at the top of your list.
Wigwam has made budget-friendly hiking socks for years, and this is a pair I’ve used regularly.
These tough socks have a quick dry time, are durable, and are comfortable to wear despite being cheaper than other socks. For these reasons, the Hiking Outdoor Sock is my pick for the best budget hiking sock of 2023.
While the durability of these socks is great, it’s worth noting that the fit is a bit loose. This can be fixed easily by wearing a liner sock with them.
If you’re looking for cheap but effective hiking socks, Wigwam delivers.
Types Of Hiking Socks
Hiking socks come in a few different varieties based on the style and materials used.
Some of the most popular styles include:
- Crew socks: Very common. These are thick, mid-calf-length socks, usually ribbed at the top.
- Liner socks: Liners are usually worn under a thicker pair of socks. They work by wicking away moisture that causes friction. You can wear liners on their own in warmer conditions.
- Double layer socks: These are very thick socks that have a built-in liner. They add comfort and blister prevention, but run very warm and are best suited for shoulder seasons.
- Trainer socks: Trainer socks are thin and easy to slip on for shorter walks in warm conditions. They don’t hold up well for long or intensive hikes.
Some of the most common sock materials include:
- Merino wool: Merino is a natural fiber known for its warmth and soft feel against the skin. Merino socks are usually odor-resistant and do a good job of wicking away moisture.
- Cotton: Try to avoid purely cotton socks. They don’t wick moisture well, end up stinking, and don’t do much to prevent blisters.
- Combination: Socks made from a mix of wool and synthetic materials are usually lighter and less expensive than full wool socks. They also do a decent job of providing comfort and warmth.
Hiking Sock Buying Guide
When buying hiking socks, there are a few points to keep in mind.
Generally speaking, a pair of hiking socks is not expensive. However, for a really good, long-lasting pair of hiking socks, you could be paying over $20 per pair. Look for package deals and pad your hiking sock drawer with some budget pairs.
Some sock makers employ a series of design flourishes that help keep your feet cool. This is especially useful for people with sweaty feet.
Cooling technology is especially critical for hot summer adventures. Be aware that cooling technology usually means the socks will not work well for cold weather excursions.
If you’re wearing taller hiking shoes, you want socks that can extend above that. Low-cut socks in big hiking boots increases your chance of getting blisters. Low-cut socks work best with lower-cut shoes like trail runners or trainers.
The most common sock height is 6-8 inches and is called crew cut. There are also low-cut socks, no-show socks (lower than low-cut), over-the-calf socks, and quarter socks.
What socks are made of can impact how it feels and performs. Most socks are made from a blend of different materials. Merino wool provides anti-odor properties, while synthetic materials offer stretch and moisture wicking.
Be sure to check what percentage of merino wool is used in a pair of stocks and what other materials are used alongside wool. Generally, there are wool blends, nylon blends, and synthetic blends. Some progressive manufacturers have also started using recycled material, which is great!
Thicker socks are better at providing warmth and an added layer of protection in cooler climates. Thicker socks may also be double-layered, which can eliminate the need for a liner. However, thick socks may not be as effective at moisture wicking or resisting odor.
Lightweight socks built with thinner fabric and increased breathability are ideal for summer hiking. However, these socks may break down faster than thicker socks.
A little extra padding can go a long way. Socks generally don't come with a lot of padding, but a select application on your foot pad and heel can really ratchet up the comfort of hiking socks.
Cushioned socks with added padding can also help prevent the development of hot spots, which lead to blisters.
3 Tips For Avoiding Blisters
- Tip #1: Use Moleskin or blister prevention tape. Hiking blister tape works best before a full-on blister develops, so stop and apply it early rather than waiting. These little bandages are great for hiking blister prevention and stop excess rubbing on blister-prone areas.
- Tip #2: Bring a small towel for wet trails. If your feet get wet, you can use the towel to dry them off. Putting damp or wet feet back into socks and hiking boots is a surefire way to develop blisters.
- Tip #3: Bring an extra pair of hiking socks. They don’t weigh much and could save you a ton of pain later. If you start feeling rubbing or moisture around your feet that isn't wicking away, take a break, dry off your feet, and put on a fresh pair of socks. You can strap the wet socks to your pack to air dry them while you hike.
If you're looking for the best hiking socks to prevent blisters, the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion socks are an excellent option. If you want a cheaper pair of socks, I recommend the Wigwam Hiking Socks.
For comfort, the Farm to Feet Damascus socks are a great buy. While they’re a bit too thick for summer temperatures, the double-layer Wrightsock Coolmesh II is another good choice. Darn Tough's Light Hiker Micro is the best option for women and anyone looking for a breathable sock for hot weather hikes.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.