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How Do I Choose the Best Hiking Socks?

Hiking boots.
Lightweight hiking socks are usually adequate for short walks in warm weather.
Cotton socks are not ideal for hiking.
Moisture wicking socks may help prevent blisters from developing on feet.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2014
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The best hiking socks will be the ones that keep your fot comfortable and dry throughout the hiking experience. Wool socks are a great choice because they will keep your feet warm even if they get wet, whereas cotton socks will get cold and heavy when wet. Hiking socks need to feature appropriate cushioning, refrain from bunching up and causing blisters, and feel comfortable against the skin. Some hiking socks can be quite expensive because they are made from synthetic materials or high quality wool that is not scratchy against the skin, but they are often considered to be worth the investment considering how crucial they are to foot comfort throughout a hike.

Synthetic liners are very thin hiking socks that wick moisture away from the skin. They are not designed for warmth, so when hiking in cold conditions, you may want to consider a different sock or combining the liner with a heavier weight sock. These are great for people whose feet tend to sweat a lot, and when combined with another sock, they can encourage warmth by keeping moisture away from the skin. Synthetic materials do tend to smell after use, so they will need to be washed regularly.

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The thickness of the hiking socks you choose will also have an impact on your comfort level. For short trips in warm weather, a lightweight hiking sock will work just fine, but for colder conditions or longer hikes, a thicker, more cushioned sock will be necessary. Determine what kind of hiking you will be doing and choose your socks based on your activity level. Remember that the thickness of the sock can also affect how the hiking boot fits your foot; a very thick sock may make the boot feel too tight, and a thin one may cause it to feel too loose. If your boot is too tight or too loose, you may end up developing hot spots that can lead to blisters.

Natural fibers such as wool are a great choice for hiking socks because they are warm even when wet, but there are disadvantages. Wool is very slow to dry, and it can be scratchy when placed against the skin. Some socks counter these problems by combining natural wool fibers with synthetic fibers that will dry quickly, improve comfort, and improve the durability of the sock. Fully synthetic socks are available as well, and they will wick moisture well and provide warmth almost as well as natural wool socks will.

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andee
Post 8

@Mykol - Have you ever tried smart wool socks? I love these socks and they make the best hiking socks.

They do have some wool in them, but are not 100% wool, as they are also made with nylon. I have never had any problem with them being itchy like regular wool socks are.

The best part is they are also machine washable and you can put them in the dryer. All I do is throw them in the wash and they are ready to go for the next time.

Another thing I love about them is they come in a lot of color choices. You don't have to stick with gray or black socks, but have choices of pink, blue, purple and green.

Even if I am going hiking, I like to put on a pair of socks with a pretty color that keep my feet cool and dry too.

Mykol
Post 7

While I realize the benefits of wearing wool socks when hiking, they just don't work for me.

For one, I am usually hiking in the summer, and they are too hot. They are also too itchy. They do a good job of keeping my feet dry, but I constantly feel like I have to scratch my feet.

I usually wear wigwam socks when I am hiking or participating in other sports. They have a wide selection of sports socks to choose from.

If you like wool socks they have a nice selection of them, but what works best for me are those that are a combination of nylon, cotton and spandex.

They are lightweight, keep the moisture off my feet, and best of all, they don't itch!

drtroubles
Post 6

I love Thorlo hiking socks because they do a great job of providing enough added cushioning to keep blisters at bay. I have noticed a lot of hiking socks don't offer enough padding to make them stand apart from other socks, but Thorlo socks actually live up to their claims.

Also, I wouldn't be scared off by the price tag. My Thorlo hiking socks have lasted me two years and are still going strong. If you buy a couple of pairs you shouldn't have to invest in new hiking socks for ages. Another bonus for those that are environmentally conscious is that theses socks are vegan friendly.

wander
Post 5

@Sara007 - I love going hiking in the summer and socks that can keep your feet cool and dry are worth their weight in gold. The Coolmax socks do live up to their claims, but if you still want to get a little more feedback I would look up some hiking socks reviews online. You would be surprised at the amount of effort goes into reviewing all sorts of hiking equipment by the diehard enthusiasts.

As hiking socks can get expensive I suggest buying your husband a pair to start and let him tell you what he thinks. He may not give you a detailed review, but maybe he will feel enough difference to say he likes them.

Sara007
Post 4

I am thinking about picking up some hiking socks for men for my husband's birthday and I am wondering if the Coolmax hiking socks are as good as their advertisements make them sound?

Right now I am looking at the Thorlo CoolMax Light hiker socks which are designed for hiking in hotter climates. My husband loves hitting the harder trails when it's is hot out so I really want to find him some socks that keep his feet dry and cool. I hate the idea of him getting blisters just because he wasn't wearing the right equipment. I know he hates shopping so he just wears his regular socks usually.

strawCake
Post 3

The article is right-getting a good pair of hiking socks can make a big difference on a hiking trip. How do I know? Well, I used to be a Girl Scout!

When I was younger, I used to take a lot of camping trips with my Girl Scout troop. I had a hiking sock/boot disaster during one of my first camping trips.

My mom got me a pair of nice hiking boots and some walking socks. Unfortunately, the socks were way too thick for the boots. By the end of the first day of camping, my feet were covered in blisters and I was totally miserable!

Now, whenever I buy hiking stuff, I take along the socks I want to wear when I buy boots. That helps me make sure I get a hiking boot/sock combination that works!

KaBoom
Post 2

@SZapper - Have you ever considered socks made of a bamboo blend? Bamboo is supposed to be great for wicking moisture away from the body and have some antimicrobial properties. I think this would be ideal in a sock!

Anyway, I've never worn hiking socks, but my stepfather swears by this "smart wool" socks. He uses them for biking, but I think they make hiking socks also. So I would probably start with that brand if I were looking for hiking socks.

SZapper
Post 1

This article confirms what I already thought-wool hiking socks are the best. I'm always hearing about what a great fiber wool is, so I figured wool would be ideal for hiking socks.

This is unfortunate for me, though, as I'm highly allergic to wool! I'm planning a hiking trip with my friends, and I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do for hiking socks.

I have hiking boots that will accommodate a sock of medium thickness, so that shouldn't be a problem. I just have to figure out what type of sock I should get, since I can't use wool.

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