It doesn’t take a genius to know how the right (or wrong) pair of socks can make or break your walk. If you are planning on going for any decent length of hike then choosing the right socks will be crucial to make sure that you can enjoy the walk to its fullest. In saying that, even those of you that are better suited to a short walk around the park will benefit from knowing which socks to wear and when.
Our buyer’s guide has considered the best hiking socks that are available on the market at the moment, and pinpointed all those key features that you need to look out for when making your purchase. There are so many pairs of hiking socks available for sale it can be difficult to know what to look for – but we are here to help!
Features of the Best Hiking Socks
There are some crucial things to look out for when buying the best hiking socks for your walk, such as breathability and linings. These features, plus many more, will help to avoid you ending your walk with blistery, sweaty feet or frozen, stiff feet! Let’s be honest no one wants that!
The material that you socks are made from will be crucial in affecting the quality and breathability of your socks. Most hiking socks will be made from a combination of materials including polyester and nylon.
Wool is one of the most common types of materials for hiking socks, probably because they are anti-bacterial, wick away moisture/sweat and will offer padding for comfort and protection. However, they can be too warm and thick, offering reduced breathability which can lead to them having an odour after walking. Look out for socks that are made with Merino wool as this is a very breathable material that is also quick-drying. Merino wool is also much more naturally breathable, making for a more comfortable feel that will help to reduce any odours.
Cotton hiking socks will be a cheaper option and also thinner so better suited to summer walks or if your feet are prone to getting too warm when out walking. However, they struggle to wick away sweat and other moisture in the way other materials will and can also be less comfortable, causing rubbing.
You will also usually find a certain amount of “elastic” materials in your hiking socks, such as elastane, lycra or spandex. The more of these types of fibres that you find in your socks the easier they will be in to put on. If for any reason you have reduced mobility in your feet then a sock with more elastic will help you along the way to putting them on, and offer you more support and cushioning when out walking.
The thickness of the sock is important for both comfort and warmth when out walking. A thicker sock will be better for those winter walks when the weather is colder, whereas a thinner sock is more suited to summer walks when you will need to keep cool. However, bear in mind that there are now cleverly designed thinner socks that have insulative layers. This means that you will have all the benefits of warm feet with the flexibility needed to do long days walking!
Fit and Height
Socks rarely come in individual sizes so you usually have to go for a “best fit” situation. If you are on the edge of two different size brackets then we would always recommend going for the bigger size as your feet often swell slightly throughout the day when you are walking. However, bear in mind that you do want a sock with a relatively snug fit to stop them from sliding down in your boots when you are walking.
The height of your sock is also going to be important, and this largely comes down to personal preference and the hiking boots that you wear when out walking. Most hiking socks will come up to your mid-calf so that they can protect your foot and ankle from any rubbing from your shoes. However, in summer opting for mid-calf hiking socks could leave you feeling pretty warm (and with a bit of a questionable tan line if walking in shorts!). So, during summer months it is much better to opt for ankle socks and a smaller walking trainer if possible!
The cushioning that your socks can offer will have a big impact on the fatigue felt in your feet when out walking. It will often determine whether you can go walking for 1 hour or 5 hours! Look out for socks with moderate cushioning and these will keep your feet warmer and help to avoid any discomfort when walking on rocky ground.
It is worth mentioning though that cushioning that is thicker will make your walking boots tighter, so may be restrictive if you have a smaller pair of books. Also, they could make your feet warm and increase the chance of blisters in summer!
We have all been in the situation where we get half way round a walk and realise that we have a hole in the heel from where our hiking boots have rubbed, or a hole in the toe that causes that uncomfortable feeling while out walking! Some pairs of hiking socks struggle to even survive one walk before they are ready for the bin! So how can you make sure that your socks and going to last? This really comes down to both the quality of the material and also how close the weave of the material is. Choose thick, closely weaved material that is made out of polyester and synthetic materials if you want them keep going for as long as you can!
Additional Features of Hiking Socks
As well as the main features that we have mentioned above, there will be some smaller points that may be worth looking out for when you are purchasing hiking socks. We’ve listed these below to help you split the wheat from the shaft!
- Seamless toe sections – this will help to avoid rubbing in your socks, particularly when out walking for longer periods of time
- Ventilation zones – some socks will have “Zones” that are made out of a slightly different material to increase ventilation, such as over the arch of your foot. This means that your feet are still protected but that there is more opportunity for sweat to wick away while you are walking.
- High-impact areas – Similar to the ventilation zones but found in different places, high-impact areas will usually be found in the toe and heel of your socks. These will be made out of the most durable of materials so that your socks are less likely to wear and form holes while you are out walking.
- Antibacterial materials – perfect for if you are out walking for any length of time as they will help to keep your feet feeling (and more importantly smelling!) fresh.
- Double thickness socks – these are perfect for if you are out walking in winter because they are extra thick so will keep your toes toasty and warm! However, remember to consider that they are a lot thicker so may reduce the flexibility that you have in your foot when you are walking if your hiking boots were already on the tight side!
- Liner socks – If you are serious about hiking then it may be worth considering liner socks for under your hiking socks. These are lightweight, thin socks that will help to keep your feet comfortable and avoid them overheating when out walking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use heatable socks as hiking socks?
Heatable socks appear to be one of the latest trends at the moment. Simply put them in the microwave and then once activated they will release heat and keep your feet warm for at least a couple of hours. Although an amazing idea – you will tend to find that these socks are made purely of thermal insulating materials, so you could actually find your feet getting TOO warm when out walking if they are used for hiking! They also don’t usually have the breathability of other socks so can lead to sweaty feet – which of course increases the chance of dreaded blisters!
Can you buy waterproof hiking socks?
Yes! There are now clever waterproof hiking socks available on the market that will be able to keep your feet dry no matter what comes their way. These are perfect for if you are walking in particularly damp conditions as they will protect your feet from any excess water that gets down the side of your boots or (in worst-case scenarios) will protect your feet if your boots develop a crack part way round a walk!
Why do people wear toe socks for walking?
As hard as this may be to believe – toe socks are actually incredibly popular for anyone going hiking (particularly those designed as hiking socks). They offer increased flexibility in the foot to reduce fatigue when walking and allow for greater arch support.