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Hiking Socks: How to Choose the Perfect Pair for Your Next Trek

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If you plan on going out on treks, trail running, or camping, you will most definitely encounter some tough terrain from time to time. In order to make your trip a great encounter, you will have to plan accordingly and find out the best and most essential things to bring with you. In this case, you will have to find out which type of hiking shoes and hiking socks are suitable for your hike, provide the necessary support and comfort that you require when on the trail, and are durable enough to last longer than a few months. Instead of trying out the regular cotton sock, you will require something more sturdy.

Read on to learn about what to look for in a pair of good hiking socks.

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What to Look For in Hiking Socks

Since you continued reading that means you are definitely on the path of finding the perfect hiking socks. The first aspect to consider is the features of the sock like material, weight, and style. Although there are thousands of sock brands available in the market today, not all of them are suited to hiking or camping lifestyle activities. There are specific differences in the socks that make them better for tougher conditions than most and with this guide you can differentiate the two.

1. Types of Socks

Even though hiking is your activity of choice, you should stop and think about whether this type of sock is the one or whether there are some alternatives that you could use instead. Weighing your options is the best possible way to find the right sock for you. It is not necessary that a hiking sock is what suits your situation best. Socks that are designed for various sports may also be appropriate for your treks or camping trips. Read our list of socks and the activity that each goes well with to determine which is the best sock for hiking.

  • Hiking Socks

These socks keep the hiker's comfort, warmth and flexibility in mind when they were designed. Most of the socks in this category are high ankle or mid-calf as they are intended to be worn with boots. This range of socks are meant for long trips on rocky terrain and they ensure protection with extra padding and tougher material. The weight of the socks depends on the environment that the hiker is in and the weather conditions of the area. For areas that are warmer, then lightweight hiker socks are most appropriate. The thicker types are best suited to cold climates.  

  • Skiing/Mountaineering Socks

These socks are usually very long and come up to just below the knee. They come in sleek or thick and can be worn under skiing boots. They are very versatile and great for comfort and warmth.

  • Liners Socks

It is typical to use these socks in tandem with your skiing socks or mountaineering socks to add that extra warmth and protection to your feet. The best part about liners is that they help fight against the cold and prevent blisters or chafing. This thin material acts as a barrier between the skin and sock and this way there is reduced friction and the skin stays abrasion free. They allow perspiration from the skin to go through the liner and let the skin breathe. Since the material is thin and adds a layer of protection from the cold, it is not used with running or tight hiking socks. 

hiking socks
Choose socks based on your hike

2. Sock Material Texture

The material of the sock you choose is very important. As to how the sock will act when you wear it on a hiking or camping trip. You should first look at a good wool sock or synthetic polymer. Wool hiker socks have properties to insulate and are water resistant. If you happen to get your socks wet in a stream or puddle then your socks will wick the water away and use the water as an insulation pack. The same cannot be said of cotton socks. For good camp socks, you should avoid cotton and cotton blends. Cotton will not keep you warm if you get your socks wet, and you can run the risk of hypothermia. These are the fabrics that you should stick to when shopping for hiking socks:

  • Merino Wool: This is your perfect hiking socks for high altitude. The material is extracted from a special New Zealand sheep and it gives the right amount of insulation. Also, it has great water repellent quality and is softer in nature which will ward away the chances of blisters. 
  • Nylon: Many hiking socks come blended with the lightweight synthetic material such as nylon, spandex. Nylon provides the perfect fit, thus protecting your leg from hot spots, blisters. Also, due to its amazing durability quality, it will last you for a lifetime!
  • Silk: The smooth feel of silk won't only give a soothing effect to your legs, but even is a great choice for moisture wicking and insulation. 
  • Wool: If Merino Wool is high for your budget, then pick the versatile wool socks. It has features like moisture wicking, warmth, durable and antimicrobial (socks would stink less). These are definitely the best companion for high altitude hiking. 
socks material
Features of hiking socks (source)

3. Sock Material Weight

Hiking socks come in four different categories that are determined by the thickness of the sock. You will have to check out the temperature and weather forecasts of the area of your hike to decide which sock material weight to buy. After figuring out the conditions and the corresponding sock weight then you can start looking at various brands. These are the material sock types.

  • Ultra-lightweight

Climate: Warm to Hot Weather
Best Suits: Hiking, Hot temperatures, Fast Runs 

This is one of the best socks for hiking till date. These socks are especially helpful in warm to hot climates as they focus on making the sock more breathable and thinner with lesser padding as compared to other socks. A good example of the lighter sock types is the Darn Tough Ultralight running sock.

  • Lightweight 

Climate: Warm Weather
Best Suits: Hiking, Backpacking

Lightweight socks are great for warm climates and high intensity runs or hikes. To go hiking or backpacking wearing these socks you do not need to use a liner. The Darn Tough Light Hiker is a good example of this type of socks as it is light, durable and has a little cushioning on the sole.

  • Midweight 

Climate: Warm to Cold Weather
Best Suits: Hiking and backpacking, Most climates and activities

This wool hiker socks material weight can endure most climates and are perfect for long trips with high-intensity activities. They provide better protection and durability as compared to lightweight material socks. The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew is a good example of this type.

  • Heavyweight 

Climate: Cold Weather
Best Suits: Winter or Cold weather Sports

These wool hiking socks have heavy padding to focus on giving you optimal warmth, protection, and comfort. These camp socks are less breathable due to its thickness and also do not wick water away as well as lighter sock materials. If you use a liner then you can improve wicking and also prevent getting blisters and chafing.  

4. Sock Length

The best hiking socks can come in many different lengths or sizes. Most wool hiking socks will reach up to your ankle or until your calf. That way they can protect you from wind, shrubbery, snow, or from chafing. Hiking boots help to support your trek but a better option would be hiking shoes as they go best with the hiking socks. Depending on the type of terrain you are trekking on you should adjust the length of the socks. If there are tall grasses and overgrown areas or snow and rocky plains then you should be prepared and have longer socks to protect you from the cold. If you are running on flatter and less obstructing ground then you can use shorter socks.

different length of hiking socks
Length of your socks matters

5. Sock-Fit

A very important aspect of finding the right socks for you is that they fit you correctly. On most sock packaging or in the store itself there will be size guides so that you can get the right fit. There are different charts for both men and women so make sure you check them out accordingly. When trying on the socks or finding your size make sure the socks are neither too big nor too small. If you accidentally buy socks that gather at the ankle and are slightly too loose for you then you could risk getting blisters from the friction. Similarly, socks that are too tight will cut off blood circulation and bruise your feet. Keep in mind that an ill-fitting sock has the potential to ruin your trip and try out the socks properly. If you are buying them online then you can find websites which allow you to return the pair if it is ill-fitting or test them out before purchase.

6. Comfort

You should never compromise on your comfort especially when it comes to going on long hikes and camping trips where you won’t be able to change pairs or walk without sock and shoes. When purchasing your socks look at the type that provides cushioning at the heels and toes. If you can get socks with passing at the arches that will even more beneficial to your trek. To have more comfortable socks will go a long way when you can not afford to get cramps or blisters ruining your trip. If you are looking for the best socks for hiking or shorter trips in mildly warm weather, then the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew or SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Sock would be good choices. 

7. Insulation

Wool is the best choice for you if insulation is your priority during long hikes in colder conditions. Woolen socks make great socks for hiking and are especially good at keeping you warm when you get your feet wet. Wool does take longer to dry than most materials but it will keep you warmer than if you wore cotton or synthetic material socks. If you are going into extremely cold temperatures or wet conditions on your treks then we advise you wear liner socks underneath the woollen socks. This is even more important if you happen to wear mid to heavyweight socks as the liner socks will help wick away moisture and water and keep you warm.

hiking socks insulation
For high altitude pick insulated socks

8. Wicking Ability

If you are looking for summer hiking socks then you may not be too concerned with the wicking ability of the material of the socks you choose. However, if you are venturing into the cold temperate climates then you will need to be prepared in case you come into contact with water. Socks that have a mix with nylon in them are better at wicking water away than socks of only woollen material. The loophole to better wicking and insulation would be to wear liner socks under the woollen ones in order get the best of both as liner socks are great at wicking water away.

9. Durability and Lifetime Guarantees

In theory and practice, the best socks to use over a long period of time is a merino wool and nylon mix. They prove to be most durable and can last a long time for you to go on multiple treks and camping trips. When you are looking at different sock materials and brands, try to figure out what they guarantee when you purchase their socks. Some brands that guarantee lifetime warranty or lifelong durability can restitch or fix your socks if they get damaged despite the guarantee. You should invest in buying a pair of durable and guaranteed socks that will last you a lifetime instead of replacing socks every month or so.

Bottom Line

Whether you have to get socks for hiking or walking socks, you need to be aware of the pros and cons. What you need is a good pair of socks that will protect you, provide comfort, and durability for more than just a few usages. Depending on whether you buy women’s hiking socks or men’s, you will need to know the best features to look for in a sock. After reading this article you will be better equipped to understand the features of various socks and how they will benefit you. By going online and finding a good hiking socks review you can determine which socks are worth investing in and which you should definitely stay away from. 

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and you can find the perfect pair of hiking socks that will last a lifetime of trips! Let us know in the comments below if this article helped and which brand you prefer buying.

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