Hiking sock liners are a fantastic way to reduce the chances of blisters and discomfort. Made of thin and stretchy material, liners form a tight fit around your feet. That means they move when your feet move, which minimizes rubbing, hot spots, and foot pain. If your hiking socks are giving you blisters and friction burns, it’s time to get sock liners.
My Review Process
I’ve been hiking for a long time. For years, I didn’t think liners were all that important. However, my feet rebelled against my outer sock mentality. When the blisters became unbearable, I started looking for solutions. Since then, I think I’ve tested just about every sock liner I could find. I’m here to pass my knowledge on so you can avoid preventable foot pain.
When analyzing liners, there are a few qualities I look for like overall fit, comfort, material quality, and odor-controlling capabilities. The best options are made with sweat-wicking fabrics or sport merino wool for odor control. It’s also important to match the liner to the weather and the type of terrain you plan to hike in.
With all those things in mind, let’s see which hiking liners made the cut.
Because of their moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities, I chose the Fox River Alturas as the best overall hiking sock liners. Say goodbye to hot spots and blisters when you wear a pair of Alturas. These polypropylene sock liners are also constructed with flat toe seams, which helps create a glove-tight fit.
The sizing tends to run a tad large, which is arguably the only downside. It may be worth sizing down to get the blister-free tight-fit that liners need to work their magic.
For the bargain price, quick-drying, moisture-wicking properties, and flat toe seams for extra comfort, the Fox River Alturas are a wonderful companion for your hiking feet.
FoxRivers’s Dry Coolmax Ultra-Light Liner Socks are my choice for the best women’s hiking sock liners. They’re made from comfortable Coolmax Polyester and do a fantastic job of regulating temperature and wicking away moisture. They’re also very comfortable to wear for long stretches of time.
The white color of the socks gades pretty rapidly once you start adventuring in them. They still work well but won’t look as good the more you use them. Options with more color variety tend to avoid this fate a little longer. However, it’s a pretty small downside considering their excellent performance.
All-in-all, these comfortable, odor-fighting, flat-seamed liners are a great way to help your feet stay pain-free on the trail.
The Danish Endurance Liners are my choice for the best Merino wool hiking liners. These are durable socks with a high Merino content (nearly 60%), giving them superior odor-fighting capabilities. They also have an arch brace and are thicker than other liners, which pair perfectly with colder hikes.
The thickness of the socks is both positive and negative. On the negative side, they may be hard to layer with other hiking socks. They may also not be the best choice for hot days. However, on colder days, it’s hard to find a better temperature-regulating liner.
If you’re looking for odor-fighting control, I recommend checking out these Danish Endurance Merino Wool Hiking Liner Socks.
The Kenetrek Ultimate Lightweight Liners are my choice for the best over-the-calf sock liners. These durable options sport effective moisture-wicking abilities and can be worn with hiking socks, or in some cases, on their own. The versatility and over-the-calf design are notable highlights.
On the downside, the construction doesn't feature any Merino wool, so the odor-fighting properties are less. However, the durability is excellent, so you can run them through the wash without worrying about the fabric wearing down.
If you're a fan of an over-the-calf liner style and value durability, as I am, give these liners a shot.
Wigwam’s COOLMAX liners are my choice for the best temperature-regulating sock liners. They are quick-drying, have great moisture-wicking properties, and are very comfortable to wear. The lightweight profile and COOLMAX polyester do a fantastic job of regulating the temperature of your feet.
The only problem with these socks is that they come in one color: white. So, with a bit of foot sweat and dirt, the white color will fade into something a little less appetizing.
However, with exceptional performance, breathable fabric, and a nice tight fit, these high-quality liner socks are the perfect choice for hot summer hikes.
The Minus33 Mountain Heritage Boot Wool Liners are my pick for the best sock liners for cold weather. These burly offerings have increased padding on the heels and toes to increase warmth. But they also have extra venting mesh on the liner to increase airflow. Like others, they have an elastic arch support brace to make the fit of the liner better.
These aren’t the thickest liners and durability issues may crop up over time. Read the wash and care instructions thoroughly to get the most out of these options.
If you’re venturing into colder terrain, I highly recommend this pair of Merino wool sock liners. They’ll keep you warm and comfy, and the merino will keep your feet from smelling funky.
These Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool Socks are my choice for best toe sock liners. Their patented five-toe design keeps your feet comfy and dry while reducing skin-on-skin friction. You can use them by themselves as summer hiking socks or pair them effectively with thicker hiking socks. The COOLMAX polyester effectively wicks away moisture and increases breathability.
These lightweight sock liners are thin and will wear down faster if it’s used as your primary outer sock. However, if you use them as liners, they’ll accompany you on many outdoor adventures.
If you love to rock the trail in 5-toe socks, I’d definitely recommend giving the Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool Socks a try.
Why Wear Sock Liners When Hiking?
It may seem silly to wear two outdoor socks while hiking, but liners have a very important function: blister prevention. When worn correctly, a pair of liner socks becomes a form-fitting extra layer designed to prevent hot spots or unwanted friction. They also have ancillary benefits, like extra warmth during cold hikes and, with Merino wool, odor control.
Sock Liner Buying Guide
The best sock liners help you avoid preventable foot pain like unwanted friction, rubbing, toe bruises, sliding, and more. However, not all liner socks are built the same.
Take a look at the important factors below to make sure your next pair of sock liners can match your outdoor endeavors.
The cost of liner socks generally falls within the $8-45 range. The higher end comes from more well-known and tested brands but all the liners in this list performed exceptionaloy well on various hiking adventures.
Hiking sock liners are made from various materials, namely polyester, merino wool, nylon, and spandex (or some type of elastic). Fox River's Alturas are unique in that they use polypropylene, which is a plastic material.
In general, merino wool is more sustainable and has odor-resistant qualities. However, synthetic fabrics are better at wicking away sweat and moisture. The elastic or spandex is important for a snug fit.
Sock liners should closely match the contours of your feet. Liners with a good percentage of spandex or elastane will be able to stretch around your foot and then snap into a tight fit around them. Loose liners could add to blisters, so the fit must stay tight. Liners with arch braces take an extra step to match the shape of the sock to your foot's profile.
Cushioning & Comfort
Most sock liners don’t come with much cushioning. However, exceptions to the rule include the Minus33 Heritage Boot Wool Liners. There are liners that emphasize an arch brace for an ergonomic fit, which increases comfort.
Feet sweat, so moisture and sweat-wicking abilities are important. Polyester is a great moisture-wicking synthetic fabric, especially when coated with quick-drying materials. It’s important to keep your feet dry because even a form-fitting liner will begin to slide around, creating hot spots if they get very wet.
Breathability & Durability
These two categories are nearly always related.
Sock liners are thin to allow for a good amount of breathability. This is a great way to increase quick-drying and moisture-wicking properties while keeping your feet cool. However, it doesn’t do much to keep your feet warm. If you're hiking in the shoulder seasons (Spring and Autumn), it may be worth getting a thicker pair. But in the middle of the summer, breathability is king.
Durability comes from tightly woven fabrics and thicker materials. The durability is nice because liners are generally thin and break down over time. Again, though, the thicker the sock, the higher the chances for sweaty feet sliding around in your hiking boots. Seasonality has a big role to play in which option you should put more focus on.
If you're looking for the best naturally odor-free option, I'd zero in on the Danish Endurance Merino Wool Hiking Liner Socks. And, owing to its unique design and lightweight comfort, I'd also consider the Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool Socks.
Yes, sock liners are especially useful for warmer weather hikes when the chances of foot sweat increase. If your feet are wet, they’ll slide around in your outer hiking socks and develop hot spots. Liners help keep everything dry and in place. You should also get a pair of the best hiking socks to go with them. Regular socks can also increase blister creation when hiking.
Thinner liners that emphasize breathability won’t add much warmth. However, there are liners with extra padding and thicker fabric. These are perfect for colder weather hikes where you can still layer them below a primary hiking sock.
In my experience, polyester and merino wool are the best fabrics for sock liners. I love the moisture-wicking properties of polyester. But the socks can gradually become smelly, which is where merino wool’s odor-fighting attributes bring merit.
Neither of them are great options. However, if you can dry your feet and you don’t have far to go, I'd choose no socks over wet socks.
Follow these three steps to layer socks for hiking.
1. Make sure your feet are dry.
2. Put a form-fitting sock liner on both feet.
3. Add your outer hiking socks to the mix and make sure there aren’t any sock bubbles or bunches.
When everything fits smoothly on your feet, put your hikers on.
*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.