What is the best hiking sock for men and women? We thoroughly researched over 50 different options for both men and women and chose 9 all-stars to test ourselves. Over months of testing, we evaluated each contender in all sorts of weather ranging from the cold Arctic Spring of Alaska to the warm desert trails of Utah. We've worn each continuously while day hiking, backpacking, fast-packing, ultra trail running, biking, and working in the office. With our in-depth, rigorous, and objective field and in-lab tests, we evaluated each via a series of metrics. Based on our experiences, we've observed apparent differences in performance giving us great data to provide you with the best hiking rock recommendations for your next outdoor adventure.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated December 2017
Winter is slowly encroaching upon us all, and we've updated our review to prepare you for sparkly beautiful winter hikes through the white stuff. We've added four new products and provided you with options that are specific to men and women. The best part is our ultra-cheap (but high quality) recommendations for those on a shoestring budget.
Best Overall Hiking Sock for Men
Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion
The Darn Tough Full Cushion Hiker hit the top of our testers' scoring sheets for its outstanding performance across the board. It features a 66% merino wool blend with full cushion. The designers at Darn Tough managed to blend warmth, comfort, and breathability into one quick drying, boot compatible hiking sock. With its full cushion, it's easy to assume that this sock will be built with thick material, but it's surprisingly thin. A superior construction means that this model highs higher-than-average durability, and our testers felt that these socks could hold up mile after mile. Plus, they're backed by Darn Tough's lifetime guarantee, so even if something goes awry, you can get them replaced. If you seek superior performance, this Editors' Choice award winner is the solution. If you're someone who needs a full cushion boot sock in the middle of summer, check out the Coolmax Boot sock, a much cooler sock option from Darn Tough.
Great temperature regulation
Not ideal for hot temperatures
Longer to dry
Read review: Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion
Best Overall Hiking Sock for Women
Smartwool Hike Medium Crew - Women's
The Smartwool Hike Medium Crew is our Editors' Choice winner for women. It provides unbeatable four-season warmth and cushioning that will keep you hiking for miles. With a 66% merino wool, 33% nylon, and 1% elastin make-up, this hiker provides a looser women's specific fit, narrowing in the heel and throughout the forefoot. During a fall hike, we took it in the river to test its warmth capabilities. After immersing the boot in water, the wool used the water to insulate our feet and (as long as we kept hiking) they stayed super warm. While this is a great option that does well hiking in the Fall and Spring, it's also a great Winter option. That said, on super hot days, we'd recommend a more breathable sock with a light-weight construction. Our female testers love this sock for its traditional design, warmth and on-trail comfort. We think it's a perfect option for all sorts of outdoor excursions. From backpacking to climbing to day hikes at your favorite outdoor venue, this Editors' Choice will keep you going mile after mile.
Cozy and warm
Great temperature regulation
Warm when wet
Quick to dry
Not compatible with tight-fitting footwear
Read review: Smartwool Hike Medium Crew
Best Bang for the Buck
Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
Not only is the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro the burliest and most durable sock tested, but its synthetic construction makes it quick to dry and super breathable. That, in combination with an affordable price of $14, makes it our Best Buy award winner. The polypropylene makeup keeps the fabric from absorbing water - while the fabric construct provides great breathability. Even though the fit is a little loose, it's optimal for a dual-sock liner system. The performance in combination with its low price makes this sock a high-value contender that will last you for years to come.
Lacks compression paneling
Loses wicking capabilities in cold weather
Read review: Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
Top Pick for Warm Weather for Women
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion - Women's
The highly durable Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew for Women stands out for its thin and breathable merino wool construct. The crew-length makes it perfect to couple with a sturdy pair of hiking or running shoes. The lighter weight construct makes it a great summer-hiking option that will keep your feet drier and cooler than most other contenders. Also, we loved its women-specific fit that fits tightly in the heel and around the arch of the foot. The color patterns are super cute while durability is outstanding. This is our Top Pick for warm weather because it's incredibly breathable and perfect for high-intensity activities (like trail running) or warm summer days on the trail. Our female testers love this sock for warm weather, and we think you will too.
Fitted with compression paneling
Quick to dry
Awesome durability and lifetime guarantee
Not as cushioned as heavier-weight contenders
Read review: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew - Women's
Top Pick for Warm Weather for Men
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew
The Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew is great warm weather hiking option for men. With a men's specific design that features a wider heel and forefoot than the women's specific option, our testers loved wearing this sock while trail running and hiking during warm days of summer. Its one of the most breathable socks tested that is quick to dry. The compression paneling along the arch of the foot provides a snug fit that doesn't slide underfoot. The only thing it doesn't boast is ample cushioning (to be expected) and a calf-length design. That said, it's great to wear with a pair of hiking shoes. If you're in the market for a well-fitted, highly durable sock that provides great breathability, this men's Top Pick is a great option!
Men's specific fit
Quick to dry
Read review: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew
Best On a Tight Budget
Danish Endurance Unisex Merino Wool
The Danish Unisex Merino Wool Socks are a steal of a deal if you're looking for a calf-length sock that is affordable and high value. This sock stands-out for its outstanding performance that will keep you comfortable mile after mile. Sold as a package of three, this sock cashes in at about $10 per sock (depending on the deals online), making it one of the cheapest and highest performing hiking sock options tested. We like that it is easily compatible with a pair of hiking boots and provides more warmth during the colder months. It boasts great breathability and wicking capabilities. Also, it is the second quickest to dry. Take it with you camping, backpacking, day hiking and more during inclement weather or blue-bird days. It will continue to perform for many miles.
Great warmth and comfort
Quick to dry and wick
Bunches at the toes
Read review: Danish Unisex Merino Wool Socks
Best On a Tight Budget
People's Merino Wool
The People's Merino Wool Hiking Socks are a super cheap, high-value hiking sock that offers an ankle-length cut providing great performance on warmer hiking days. Sold as a package of four, each works out to roughly $9 per sock! This is the cheapest sock option offered in this review. Durability is decent showing only minor pilling after 40 miles of hiking. During cold fall nights, we learned that this sock is not as warm as other contenders (especially after being worn all day), but it does offer great breathability on warm hiking days on the trail. If you prefer to wear a pair of Hiking Shoes instead of boots, this is a great option for those on a shoestring budget.
Light and breathable
Not compatible with traditional hiking boots
Some pilling after 60 miles of use
Read review: People's Merino Wool Hiking Socks
Notable Mention for Comfort & Versatility
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew
The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks is among our tester's favorite for both men and women because of its plush design that makes slipping a pair on feel like warmth on a cold day. Now updated, the PhD has a redesigned construction and a new color scheme with a desire to improve comfort and durability. The original model already managed to blend warmth, comfort, and wicking ability into one of the best mid-weight models out there, so this update is exciting. It was able to keep our feet warm in the coldest temperatures but was beat out for breathability by the Darn Tough Full Cushion. Its great performance in combination with its wide temperature regulation range makes it Notable Mention for comfort and versatility.
Warm and comfortable
Great compression and fit
No itch guarantee
Not as breathable as other lightweight contenders
Read review: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
Notable Mention for Five-Finger Construction
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool
If you're in the market for a sock that provides you less cushioning and a more intimate trail experience, the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool is a unique option. These five-fingered socks encapsulate each toe allowing your toes to spread out, providing better stability and intimacy with the trail. Besides, we didn't get any blisters even after a 26-mile trail run! The only downside is that this sock doesn't provide much in the way of warmth and cushioning, though it does breath and wick well. We recommend it for hikers that are looking for a barefoot hiking experience in the Spring, Fall, or summer.
Close-to ground feel
Great breathability and wicking capabilities
Slower to dry
Read review: Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew Nuwool
Analysis and Test Results
A good hiking sock is key to ensuring your day on the trail will be a good one. One that fits right will enable your feet to stay dry and will prevent blisters that might otherwise slow you down. Having the proper thickness and correct materials will ensure your feet won't freeze if temperatures plummet. Finally, a durable sock is of utmost importance when it comes to your wallet and long days. With so many options out there, it's no wonder that selection can be difficult. Which weight, length, and style will you need? Which do you prefer? In this review, we focus on mid-weight hiking socks intended for single to multi-day hiking trips. We discuss the importance of hiking socks and how each comparatively performed, all the while providing recommendations for both men and women.
During our testing, we looked at five core metrics that we evaluated each sock with. After speaking with numerous hikers, backpackers, fishers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, we learned that comfort, warmth, drying speed, breathability, wicking, and durability were all important metrics. In our scoring, we weighted comfort, warmth, and breathability/wicking with 25%, durability with 15%, and drying speed with 10%. We then scored each sock comparatively out of ten using a basic rubric. We were then able to determine award winners and provide you with sock recommendations for all sorts of conditions.
When testing this metric, we considered many variables that contribute to the comfort of the sock. We looked at fit, cushioned panels, level of cushion, thickness, and areas of compression. We looked at how the sock felt on foot during low and high-intensity exercise - specifically hiking and running. We also noted whether or not ever sock was unisex or specific to men or women. After a hard day of exercise, we compared each sock to see which was the most comfortable to just relax with. Socks that fit well with mid-weight cushioning and a merino wool composition were the most comfortable, while those that did not mold to the foot, made of thin materials, or deformed in water were not scored high.
Fitted designs are becoming increasingly common these days, and no fitted model performed better than the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks. With aggressive paneling and cushioning on the toes and heel, this sock was perfect while fast packing 28 miles through aggressive terrain on the Santa Cruz trail in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. Composed of 66% merino wool, 31% nylon, and 2% elastane, this sock is very fitted and hugs tightly to the foot. The extra padding helps to protect the foot from rocks and other trail hazards.
Also scoring a solid nine of out ten in this category is the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew, our Editors' Choice award winner. This sock has a less fitted design than the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew with a more cushioned and protective platform. The 66% merino wool blend has a women's specific fit that hugs the heel, arch, and forefoot nicely without movement. Of all the socks tested, this is one of the thickest out there making it a perfect option for long hikes in any environment. Not only is it great for on the trail, but it makes an ideal sock to pull on at the end of a challenging hiking day.
Coming in a close second is the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, our Editors' Choice. The Darn Tough hosted a similar fiber composition (66% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% elastane) but wasn't as tightly woven as the SmartWool PhD. Some of our testers thought the longer sock was a little more comfortable while hiking in boots while most of our testers liked, the shorter sock better for hiking in shoes.
The Darn Tough Light Hiker is quite fitted and stayed entirely motionless on foot - a real advantage when traversing hillsides or hopping on talus. The Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew for women is our top recommendations for warmer weather because of its thinner design. However, because of the lightweight design in both socks, the level of cushioning in both isn't as ample as other socks like the Smartwool Medium Crew Sock. Therefore, these contenders did not score very high for comfort and coziness. That said, every tested LOVED its super soft fabrics and high levels of compression that stayed on foot. So if you're in the market for a lightweight, less cushioned ankle-height sock, the Darn Tough Light Hiker is best for men or women with wide feet, while the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew is best for women.
The least fitted option in this review is the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro. Given that it is composed of polypropylene and acrylic, it is quite durable but not nearly as comfortable as Merino wool contenders. The materials used weren't nearly as plush, and it lacked compression panels that we loved with all other socks tested. We also didn't like that it would slide down our leg while hiking. As a result, it earned a lower score (five out of ten) for comfort in comparison to the rest.
Of all the contenders, the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool proved to be the least comfortable sock amongst our testers. While we loved that our toes could wiggle and move around the NuWool material was not as soft as other contenders. It was also one of the least cushioned socks tested with the least amount of compression paneling. That said, it's an excellent option for those in the market for a true close to the ground feel with minimal cushioning.
Overall, if you're in the market for a comfortable and cozy sock option, be sure to check out our Top scorers. For men, be sure to check out the Darn Tough Full Cushion (Our Editors' Choice for Men) or the SmartWool PhD Crew Sock (A Notable Mention for Comfort and Versatility. For women, check out the Smartwool Medium Crew Sock (Editors Choice for Women) or the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew (Our Top Pick for Warm Weather).
Whether you're looking for a sock that keeps your feet warm while hiking, standing, or sleeping, warmth is of the utmost importance. If you accidentally dunk your foot in a stream or get caught in a rainstorm, you don't want cold feet. Or if an unforeseen storm rolls in, and the temperature plummets, you want to make sure your sock, in addition to a good pair of Hiking Boots, will keep your feet warm.
While testing this important metric, we considered the warmth of each sock when wet and dry. To test warmth when wet, we dunked the socks in water, intrepidly bit down on our lower lip, and walked around with them on in cold temperatures to see which were the warmest. To test warmth when dry, we flew ourselves to the Ruth Gorge glacier (in Alaska) in early Spring where temperatures varied from 10F to 35F daily. There we took tested each while splitboarding during the day, sleeping at night, and while walking around our snow-camp. The sock that kept our foot the warmest scored highest in this category. In the end, we combined scores from both wet and dry tests to see which ones performed the best. We found that socks with a higher percentage of merino wool provided us with the most warmth and most enormous range of thermoregulation. Synthetic socks got cold after not too long. Also, toe socks were much colder than traditional styles because of their individualized digit design. Overall, all socks kept our feet warm when wet and dry, but there are some stark differences that we will outline below.
In a competition for pure insulating ability, nothing beats a wool-blend option. Socks that did best in this category (nine out of ten) were made up of more than 60% merino wool. The two Editors' Choice winners, the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion(for men) and Smartwool Hike Medium Crew (for women) are both composed of a 66% merino wool blend that does a fantastic job insulating when wet. While hiking through rain storms and slushy snow, our feet were kept warm, and toes did not go numb (while hiking)…even when the wind picked up, and our hands lost feeling first.
The Smartwool PhD and the People's Merino Wool Hiking sock (Our Best on a Budget) both scored an eight out of ten because of their significant insulating properties. The Smartwool has a 67% merino wool blend while the People's features a whopping 71% merino wool blend. Both didn't do as well as the Editors' Choice winners while wet, but both provided ample warmth while hiking through a cold, wet river in late fall. They scored a little lower because the sock length is lower than the Editors' Choice and therefore didn't provide as much warmth when wet.
Both light hiking socks (the Darn Tough Light Hiker (men) and Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew - Women) did great at insulating feet when wet, but weren't as warm as other contenders. For example, our Editors' Choice winners and the Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock are both examples of heavier weight options that insulate a little better. That said, while hiking on cool days in the fall, we accidentally dunked out feet in a stream while on a trail run. Not once did our feet get cold while in motion, given the 40% (DT Light Hiker) and the 50% (DT Hiker Micro Crew - Women's) merino wool blends in both. Both will keep your feet warm when wet.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Injinji Midweight was the coldest of all tested. We learned that the material itself keeps the feet warm when wet as long as you are in motion, but as soon as one stops, it cools down pretty quickly. This left us shaking in our boots. In all, the best sock for wet conditions is the Darn Tough Full Hiker (for men) and Smartwool (for women).
All models performed pretty well when dry, but the warmest was the Smartwool Ph.D. and the Smartwool Medium Crew. The Darn Tough Full Cushion was a close second but didn't keep us warm for as long. All socks keep feet warm in temperatures between the mid-10s and 20s (degrees Fahrenheit). The People's Merino Wool and Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock also did well in this category, providing ample warmth during a cold fall night when the mercury dipped in the thirties.
Providing an average level of insulation is the Darn Tough light hiking options and the Wigwam synthetic sock. The Darn Tough options are just thinner making them better suited for colder weather. The Wigwam does a great job insulating when completely dry and a perfect night time sleeper option. That said if you've been hiking all day we learned quickly that the moisture trapped in the boot and sock cools and does not insulate as well as other contenders. As a result, all three earned a six out of ten in the warmth category overall. The contender to do the worst in this class is the Injinji Outdoor Crew as a result of its five-fingered design that is not conducive to heat generation. That said, all of the socks mentioned above are great if you're not looking for the warmest option out there!
Wicking and Breathability
When considering wicking and breathability tested each in a wide range of conditions to determine which kept our feet dry and which didn't. We put each sock through both high and low-intensity activities - ultra-distance running and hiking. Our running days ranged from distances of 5-28 miles in a wide range of temperatures and conditions. Through this process, we learned that thinner materials and breathable panels with a "stretch" component (either lycra or spandex) element did very well in this category. Also, we found that fitted socks with compression paneling wick more efficiently than those without. Those with a tightly knit pattern were not as breathable as those with a loosely knit construction. Overall, each sock had some level of wicking and breathability, but none were perfect in this category.
Of all the socks tested, the thinnest socks were the most breathable, while the thicker socks were less breathable. The Darn Tough light hiking options for both men and women felt the airiest on hot days and proved to be the best options for warm weather (both are Top Picks for warm weather!). This airiness is due to their lighter weight construct and lower concentration of wool than thicker (less breathable) contenders like the Darn Tough Full Cushion for men or Smartwool Hike Medium Crew for women. We especially liked using these sock options for running, hiking, and camping in the summer, fall, and spring.
The Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool also provided superior breathability, though some of our testers mentioned that it deteriorated between the toes in comparison to traditional options. As a result, it did not score as high as other options in this category. The Darn Tough Full Cushion did well in this class and proved to be more breathable than thicker socks like the Smartwool PhD. The Smartwool still breathed well, but because of the tightly packed wool layering but it wasn't as airy as other loosely woven fabrics like the Wigwam Hiker Pro or the Danish Unisex Merino Wool.
If a thicker hiking sock is unable to wick well, use a wicking liner for a dual-sock system. This ensures moisture is transported away from the foot, keeping your feet drier longer.
Both the Injinji and the Darn Tough light hiker options did a great job at keeping feet dry because of their tight fit and thinner material. Of the thicker socks tested, the Danish Unisex Merino wool, Smartwool PhD and Darn Tough Full Cushion hiker proved to wick the best. The Smartwool PhD's tight fit, can wick better than the Darn Tough Full Cushion through a wide range of conditions. We wished we could use these hikers with a liner, but they were incompatible; the only socks compatible with a liner is the Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro and the Smartwool Hike Medium Crew - Women's because of its less fitted and looser design.
Testing durability in a short period can be pretty tough, but we managed to see a difference after three months of continuous high-intensity use. In this metric, we looked at overall wear and tear of the sock after putting approximately 60 miles of use into each. We tested all sorts of weather conditions and temperatures with varying terrain while noting the condition of the sock before and after use. Wear and tear became apparent for each sock and the level of wear and tear after approximately 60 miles. We could see which looked like they were worn, and which looked brand new. We also noted if any socks stretched or changed shape while hiking or after cleaning.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro is a super burly synthetic that will last for years to come! After 60 miles of use, it still looks brand new with very little noted wear and tear. In comparison, the Darn Tough Full Cushion Hiker showed minor pilling, but not much more. The Darn Tough light hiking options also showed some wear, with just slight pilling, while the Injinji showed close to none! The Smartwool PhD and Smartwool Hike Medium Sock (Women's Editors' Choice winner) scored the lowest in this category because we noted pilling, cushion compaction, and some thread fly-aways.
Of our top recommendations for those on a shoestring budget, we are happy to announce that both low-priced options are pretty durable. We noticed some packing out of the material in both the Danish Unisex Merino Sock and the People's Merino Sock after about two months of use, though the fabric hadn't worn through even after logging 60 miles in each (while running, hiking, and standing around at work). That said, we didn't have more time to test for a more prolonged testing period - so time will tell!!
Overall, the Darn Tough Products and Wigwam did the best in the durability category. Other brands like the People's and Danish were also surprisingly durable for their ultra-low price tags. The Smartwool brands showed the most wear and tear during the testing period.
An important note is that all Darn Tough products come with a lifetime guarantee. This means that if you get a hole in the sock (during your lifetime), you can send it in for a new pair. Darn Tough does honor this policy. That said - if you are happy with their products we urge that you just buy a new pair to support their company. Our main tester put holes through a super lightweight pair of running socks. She logged over three hundred miles in these socks over a few years and decided to buy a new pair instead of sending them in. It's important to support the companies that make a good, solid product! No other companies provide a product guarantee like this one — it's a huge selling point.
A sock that dries quickly is a huge advantage on multi-day backpacking trips. Imagine hiking through the North Pacific in rainy conditions. Your socks are drenched, and you have about three more hours of sunlight. A sock that dries quickly will prevent you from wearing your cold, clammy socks the next morning. As a result, it's an important metric we considered in our testing.
To test drying speed, we first went to the field and hiked through rivers, drenched our socks, and continued to hike to see if each would dry out on their own. In addition to these subjective field tests, we performed a very specific and precise drying analysis using set temperature settings and a dryer. To test drying speed, first, we weighed each sock to find its dry weight. Then we drenched each model in the sink. We then wrung each out as best we could. We then weighed the wet weight (grams) of each contender.
Following this, we put each sock in the dryer at medium heat. We let the dryer run and every ten minutes we weighed each sock to determine the relative water quantity retained in the sock. We kept doing this until each sock was back to its original dry weight. This provided us with objective data on which socks dried out the fastest, which held the most water, and which took the longest to dry.
This year we had a gauntlet of new contenders that demonstrated impressive drying capabilities. All socks dried in our dryer tests within thirty minutes of the other. However, the differences in those thirty minutes are what determined which had the best drying capabilities; our field test data was confirmed by these objective tests. The fastest drying socks featured less merino wool and a higher concentration of synthetic materials.
The Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro synthetic was the fastest sock to dry, thoroughly drying after just 90 minutes. In the field, we found that this sock dried out quickly in the air as well. Therefore it earned a 10 out of 10 in this category. Following this is the Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock that showed the fastest initial rate of drying within the first ten minutes, and ultimately dried out after 100 minutes.
The Smartwool Hike Medium Crew - Women's and the People's Merino Socks dried out after 110 minutes giving them a score of eight out of ten in this category. Following this was the Smartwool PhD Medium Crew and Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew - Women's (~120 minutes). All these are great options for hiking in wet conditions as they will dry out relatively quickly. The sock that took the longest to dry is the Darn Tough Full Cushion that took ~140 minutes to completely dry. That said, we attribute this to the fact that it also absorbed the most water in the initial dunk tests. Our field testing also confirmed these in-lab tests. Therefore, if you're in the market for a quick-to-dry sock, the Wigwam is our top recommendation.
After hiking through a plethora of conditions throughout the world, we've determined key award winners and recommendations for both men and women. If you're looking for an all around bomber hiker with a great warranty, choose the Darn Tough Full Cushion for men or the Smartwool Hike Medium Cushion for women. If you're looking for the best deal out there, check out the ankle-length People's Merino Sock (unisex) or the full-length Danish Unisex Merino Wool Sock. If you want a super durable and affordable sock, check out the Wigwam Hiker Pro. If you're looking for a sock that will just keep you comfortable, be sure to look at the Smartwool PhD Crew. If you're still unsure about what to consider in a hiking sock, our Buying Advice article can help you to determine which best suits your needs. Choose your hikers wisely and enjoy all your adventures to come.
— Amber King
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.