The main aim of this blog post is simple: giving you the most valuable information there is to help you choose the best summer hiking socks for your next travel adventure.
In this in-depth guide, we highlighted our top hiking socks for the summer of 2020. We reviewed socks for all budgets, conditions, and styles of travel. Similarly to our post about the best winter socks, here you will also find a sock comparison table with clear and concise information about the top summer and hot weather socks on our list, namely the most important characteristics, pros, and cons of each pair of socks.
Most of our favorites are made with a combination of synthetic fibers – COOLMAX (polyester), nylon, acrylic, and spandex – and merino wool. In addition to the main materials used, we also summarized the other most important factors to consider when choosing summer hiking socks – breathability and wicking properties, drying speed, designs and constructions, fit, comfort, cushioning, prices, etc. In other words, we tried to explain clearly everything you need to know about summer and hot weather hiking socks. If interested in knowing more about the different types of hiking footwear, we recommend our in-depth post on this topic as well as our article about summer footwear where we reviewed the top hiking boots and shoes for the summer of 2020.
Quick answer: BEST SUMMER & HOT WEATHER HIKING SOCKS FOR 2020
1. Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion View on Amazon
2. Cloudline Hiking Light Cushion Unisex View on Amazon
3. Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion View on Amazon
4. Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini View on Amazon
5. Farm to Feet Damascus Light Targeted Cushion View on Amazon
6. Wigwam Cool Lite Hiker Crew View on Amazon
7. Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew View on Amazon
8. Smartwool Hiking Light Crew View on Amazon
9. Thorlos Unisex ULHX Hiking Lite Cushion Crew View on Amazon
10. Icebreaker Hike+ Light Mini View on Amazon
11. Wrightsock Escape Crew Unisex View on Amazon
12. GermaPro Hiking Boot Sock View on Amazon
Best overall summer hiking socks
Height: Micro crew
Price: $$* (the usual price is $21)
Materials: 37% Nylon, 34% COOLMAX polyester, 26% acrylic 2% Lycra (men’s); 39% nylon, 34% COOLMAX polyester, 19% acrylic, 5% polyester, 3% Lycra (women’s)
- With COOLMAX for better moisture management in warm environments and conditions
- Undetectable toe seam for a smooth and seamless feel on and off the trail
- Special knitting for durability, comfort, and excellent performance fit
- COOLMAX is great for summer pursuits but it can also be worn in various environments and conditions (COOLMAX is a modified polyester engineered to meet the performance needs of the wearer)
- Durable, built for high-performance
- Medium cushioning helps to maintain all-day comfort even during long hikes
- Fit snug without restricting the circulation
- Prone to retain more odor than socks with merino wool
- Limited color options
Best for: Technical trails and tough terrain in warm conditions
Price: $$ (usual price: $18.99)
Materials: 63% Ultra soft merino wool, 31% nylon, 6% spandex
- Ultrasoft merino wool with anti-microbial abilities
- Reinforced heel and toe provide durability
- With ultra-light cushioning (except for the underfoot, which comes with medium cushioning)
- A great mix of cushioning and breathability for a more enjoyable experience on the trail
- Able to keep the wearer’s feet cool and dry all day long in predominantly warm conditions but can also work well in not-so-warm temperatures
- Relatively high merino wool content for soft, itch-free, and odor-free experience
- Well-made, these socks are suitable for three-season hiking and backpacking
- Run a bit too tight
- Light cushion but not the lightest socks
Best for: Thru-hiking in warm weather. For really hot days, you may wish to check out the Cloudline Hiking Ultralight. The manufacturer sacrificed cushioning for breathability.
Height: Micro crew
Price: $$ (the usual price is $23)
Materials: 61% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 3% Lycra (men’s); 59% merino wool, 39% nylon, 2% Lycra (women’s)
- Built to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter
- Fine gauge knitting for durability and performance fit; undetectable seam fusion
- Guaranteed for life
- Premium quality and functionality: excellent cushion, breathability, wicking and quick-drying abilities
- Great style and softness make them suitable for various activities including as everyday wear
- Lightweight and comfortable – these socks feel great on the feet, keep them dry, and stay in place
- Lifetime warranty
- Sizing problems – run small
- These are not built for really hot weather; better for cool summer days
Best for: High-intensity outdoor activities in not-so-warm temperatures
Price: $$ (the usual price is $16.95)
Materials: 48% Merino wool, 48% nylon, 4% elastane (men’s); 51% Merino wool, 45% nylon, 4% elastane (women’s)
- Mesh ventilation zones help for better and more effective ventilation and moisture management
- Virtually Seamless toe reduces rubbing and chafing for enhanced comfort
- Shred Shield technology in the toe box area for reduced wear and tear
- These great performance socks built for adventures in hot climates are versatile: hiking, running, kayaking, fishing or everyday wear
- Excellent breathability for dry and cool feet; dry out quickly
- Soft and comfortable, they fit very well and stay in place
- Really thin and lightweight but also fairly durable
- Too thin for extended trips and thru hiking
- A bit tight
Best for: Short and mid-range hikes in hot humid weather
Price: $$ (the usual price is around $24)
Materials: 51% Merino wool, 46 % nylon, 3% Lycra
- High-density cushioning at critical performance areas throughout the sock
- Seamless toe closure reduces wear and tear and provides a blister-free experience
- Reinforced construction with super-fine merino
- Sturdy and hold up well in various conditions
- Extra padding in the right places (including ribbed padding on the top of the foot) and snug fit make these socks very comfortable and prevent them from sliding around for a real blister-free experience
- Incredible moisture management properties thanks to the fine-gauge merino wool
- Good design; cool color combinations
- Pricey – Farm to Feet Damascus are the most expensive socks on our list
- The length is a bit too much for most summer pursuits
Best for: Thru-hiking
Price: $ (come at around $15)
Materials: 37% Polyester, 33% X2O acrylic, 23% stretch nylon, 6% Tencel, 1% spandex
- Mesh instep and shin for enhanced breathability
- Ultimax moisture management gets the moisture out of the sock effectively
- Cushioned sole and supportive arch
- Excellent cushioning – medium thickness; suitable for year-round use
- Fit snug, prevents the formation of blisters; yet, provide enough breathing room
- Breathable material wicks moisture and keeps feet cool – a good choice for warm days
- Decent durability + lifetime warranty if something happens to the socks
- Not as good as merino wool socks in odor control
- Not the most comfortable fabric
Best for: Hiking in not-so-hot (cool) summer days
Price: $ (the usual price is $15)
Materials: Inner Layer: 70% Dri-Wright II polyester, 26% nylon, 4% Lycra; outer layer: 71% Dri-Wright II polyester, 24% nylon, 5% Lycra
- Dri-WRIGHT II performance fibers for effective moisture management and increased durability
- Mesh panel ensures better air circulation and extra ventilation
- Stabilizer Zones in arches to prevent the sock from slipping
- Lightweight double layer sock
- Cool and comfortable; so comfy that it can be worn daily
- Breathable and quick-drying fabric reduces the chance of hot spots and blisters
- Best for warm weather but can be used in all seasons
- Not the most durable sock given its price
- Tend to pill and shrink after washing over time
Best for: Warmer climates
Price: $$ (the usual price is $18.95)
Materials: 69% Merino wool, 30% nylon, 1% elastane (men’s); 67% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 1% elastane (women’s)
- Flat knit toe seam without bulk for better fit and comfort
- Soft and no-itch merino wool for better odor control
- Elasticized arch brace adds support and helps holds the sock in place
- Well made socks; great value for the money
- Can be worn for days without bad odor (fantastic odor control properties) during a wide range of activities
- Snug fit and offer great comfort in both warm and cold conditions
- Durability + 2-year guarantee if something happens in the first two years
- Fit smaller than expected
- Too thick for hot weather; better for cool days
Best for: Extended trips, thru-hiking
Price: $$ (come at around $15.99)
Materials: 75% THOR•WICK COOL, 17% stretch nylon , 8% elastane
- THOR•WICK COOL fibers (modified polyester) wick moisture for dry feet
- Padding in the ball and heel, as well as cushioned arch, provide support and comfort
- Low profile toe seam reduces rubbing/abrasion
- Lightweight comfort for enjoyable hiking trips during the warmer months
- Excellent moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties for dry feet
- Hold up reasonably well thanks to the reinforced heel and toe areas (keep in mind that the sock is quite thin so you can’t expect to last for years)
- Versatile: good quality socks for hiking but can also be used for other activities or as everyday wear
- Almost no padding on the bottom; those who need more support won’t like it
- The hardcore Thorlos fans will be disappointed because they’re used to thicker and more supportive socks from Thorlos
Best for: Day hikes and casual wear
Price: $$ (the usual price is around $20)
Materials: 61% Merino wool, 37% nylon, 2% Lycra
- Breathe zone for improved ventilation
- Anatomical toe box for unique left and right fit
- Reinforced heel and toe for durability and strength; seamless toe for blister-free experience and comfort
- Solid good quality socks; do not retain odor
- Anatomical socks with seamless toe reducing chafing and rubbing to minimize the formation of hot spots and blisters
- High-quality materials; excellent breathability and quick-drying abilities for dry and fresh feet
- Suitable for year-round hiking and backpacking
- Good length for summer but a bit too thick and warm for hot days
- Tend to pill after some time
Best for: Extended trips and thru-hiking in various conditions
Price: $$ (come at around $18)
Materials: Inner: 70% polyester, 26% nylon, 4% spandex; outer: 68% polyester, 24% nylon, 8% spandex
- Double layer system with Stabilizer Zones in arches to prevent sliding and falling
- Light terry cushioned footbed in inner layer provides shock absorption without increasing bulk or shear against the skin
- Mesh panels across the top of feet for increased breathability
- The double-layer construction reduces friction and provides a more comfortable fit
- The all-synthetic fabric wicks moisture and is quick to dry
- Do a great job of protecting the feet and ensuring a blister-free experience
- Though best for warmer temperatures, they are suitable for all-season use
- The boot-sock combination may not work because of the idiosyncrasies of double-layer socks; check it out in advance to make sure you got it right, especially before longer trips
- The two layers sometimes tend to bunch up
Best for: Cooler summer days
Height: Boot height (mid-calf)
Price: $ (come at $13.99 per pair or 23.99 per 2 pairs)
Materials: 42% Polyester (Germanium infused), 30% COOLMAX fabric with All Season Technology (50% cotton – 50% polyester), 22% nylon, 6% elastane
- Germanium semiconductor infused yarn with antibacterial properties & ultra-breathable COOLMAX
- Ergonomically constructed 3D multi-cushion
- Targeted Multi-Area Active Protection (reinforced heel and toe + seamless toe for reduced friction and abrasion)
- Can be used year-round in all types of weather
- With antibacterial properties
- Great fit and feel – hugs the foot well; extra padding and support for all-day comfort
- Wick away sweat for dry and cool and happy feet; no rubbing and chafing
- Durability issues
- Quite tight and constricting on the calf
- Not for very warm weather
Best for: Day hiking
Table 1: Best summer hiking socks – comparison table
Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion
#1 Best overall summer hiking sock
Cloudline Hiking Light Cushion
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini
Farm to Feet Damascus Light Targeted Cushion
Wigwam Cool Lite Hiker Crew
Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew
Smartwool Hiking Light Crew
Thorlos Unisex ULHX Hiking Lite Cushion Crew
Icebreaker Hike+ Light Mini
Wrightsock Escape Crew Unisex
GermaPro Hiking Boot Sock
Choosing the best hiking socks for hot weather – what to consider
Many popular materials for summer socks include either polyester or modified polyesters such as COOLMAX and THOR•WICK COOL. Polyesters are so popular for summer and hot weather sports socks because of their excellent moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities guaranteeing cooler days on the trail. Moreover, polyester is hydrophobic with the lowest moisture regain value (used for determining the commercial weight of a fiber as well as the linear density of yarn) than any other major textile fiber. Its moisture regain of less than 1% (the exact number is 0.4%) and easy-care properties make it preferred material for making high-performance outdoor clothing and gear.
Polyester is also quite cheap in comparison to other major fibers used for making hiking socks such as wool and nylon. It’s also durable, has high abrasion, mildew, wrinkle resistance, has the ability to retain its size and shape, and can be readily modified in order to gain certain performance enhancements. To summarize, polyester is an ultraefficient fabric that has one big weakness only – it retains odor following intensive exercise.
For more information about the characteristics and properties of polyester, see our article where we compare polyester and cotton. We also recommend you to check out 10 Polyester FAQs, another useful post about this highly functional fiber.
The first commercially successful synthetic polymer was developed in the 1930s. It was called nylon (in the US) or polyamide (in Germany). A very popular man-made fiber for performance outerwear and technical fabrics, nylon is used for manufacturing hiking socks because of some of its most important properties and characteristics (both inherent and acquired/modified by the presence of other fibers): low weight, high tenacity and abrasion resistance, and good elastic recovery (the ability to recover its size and shape after deformation). Nylon does not wrinkle easily, which is especially important when making products where continual stretching at the knees and ankles is typical (socks, stockings, tights). Contrary to what many people think, nylon is a hydrophilic fiber that can absorb some water within its structure. However, it dries relatively fast.
A common substitute for wool, acrylic is another man-made fiber used extensively for making socks. It can be found in blends with other synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon (Thorlos Unisex ULHX Hiking Lite Cushion Crew) as well as wool and other natural fibers. Its most important physical properties include resilience, durability, wool-like softness, moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties, high resistance to staining, low water absorption, and low specific gravity (high bulk to weight ratio). The main drawback: acrylic fiber is a poor insulator, i.e. it can conduct heat in summer and hot conditions.
Synthetic socks work well in hot conditions on the trail and in the mountain
Elastane or spandex fiber is a generic name that’s generally used in the textile and clothing industries. Keep in mind that there are many trade names denoting the same fiber – Lycra, Numa, Dorlastan, Spandelle, Stretch ever, etc.
Spandex’s main role is to provide recoverable stretchability to the final product. Because of its exceptional elasticity, the spandex content in a pair of good summer socks for backpacking rarely exceeds 10%; often it’s less than 5%.
Soft and comfortable natural material providing no-itch feel. Famous for having many of the characteristics of synthetic fibers, merino wool is an excellent natural fiber for making socks as well as other high-quality performance and casual wear. It’s main advantages: fine, soft, cozy feel; good breathability; excellent moisture wicking and transportation; antimicrobial properties; doesn’t retain odors; feels warm when wet; has excellent insulative abilities and does not lose them when wet; blends well with other fibers for increased functionality, etc.
The main drawback to merino wool is its price (merino is considered luxury yarn), which is typically 3-7 times as big as the price of polyester, nylon or acrylic. Merino is not among the most resilient or abrasion-resistant materials either (the main reason to blend it with sturdy abrasion-resistant synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester). Because of this, you’ll rarely find high-performance outdoor socks made with 100% merino wool. Wool/nylon blends are quite commonly used in socks, while wool/polyester blends are usually found in trouser fabrics.
There’s a range of blends suitable for summer backpacking trips (with different wool/synthetics ratios). Most of these blends use a combination of merino wool and various man-made fibers (usually nylon or polyester, and spandex) such as Cloudline Hiking Light Cushion and Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini. Nylon is added to improve the abrasion resistance of a 100% wool product while elastane improves elasticity and adds good recovery properties. There are also models that employ a combination of wool and three or more synthetic fibers yet these are more popular for winter than summer.
100% synthetic socks are a good alternative to wool/synthetic blends for hot weather hiking and backpacking. They have certain advantages over wool/synthetic socks. For example, all-synthetic blends need a relatively short period of time to dry as some models (Wrightsock Coolmesh II Crew) require no more than an hour or so at low heat to dry completely.
Most popular all-synthetic blends for summer hiking include polyester/nylon/spandex (Wrightsock Escape Crew Unisex, GermaPro Hiking Sock) and polyester/nylon/acrylic/spandex (Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion).
Fit, cushioning & comfort
Cushioning usually is not as important function of summer socks as it is of winter socks. However, for multi-day trips and thru-hiking, it is recommended to choose socks that provide better cushioning and more support and protection through extra padding in strategic locations of the sock (usually in the heel and sole). This padding reduces plantar pressures and friction between the foot and the inside of the shoe upper and contributes to the long-lasting trail comfort. Thin and lightweight socks usually have light or no cushioning at all. They work best for day hiking and when backpacking in the hot. Socks with extra padding are more comfortable, protect the feet better, and stand a much better chance of reducing the chances of blister formation. However, they’re usually thicker, warmer, and not as breathable as thin socks with light/no cushioning.
Good fit is essential for trail comfort. Socks should stay in place without falling because each sliding movement between the textile and the skin causes friction, which leads to discomfort and blisters. Good fit depends to a large extent on the knitting machine, density of the fabric, and the padding. Seamless toe usually reduces the risk of developing pressure at the toe area of the foot.
Breathability and wicking
It’s absolutely essential for hot weather socks to provide enhanced temperature management and thermoregulation. Look for socks that breathe well and have good moisture-wicking abilities. Extremely important for summer backpacking, these two play a major role in moving moisture from the skin of the foot and its transportation to the outer layer of the sock. The presence of moisture is one of the main reasons for the formation of hot spots and blisters. So, you’d like to avoid socks that don’t breathe well and have poor moisture management properties.
Depends on the fabric(s) and thickness of the sock. As a general rule, thinner socks have better drying capabilities. Also, all-synthetic socks dry out faster than wool/synthetic blends and socks made with 100% natural materials.
Generally, socks that dry quickly are much better for summer trips in the countryside. The quick-drying capability is a very important characteristic of quality socks for summer, especially during multi-day backpacking trips. The reasons: fast drying speed reduces the chances of wrinkles (true for socks made with materials that lose their shape when damp), which is uncomfortable and can cause blisters.
Drying speed is an important factor for summer trips Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Sock style (height)
Sock styles depend on the height of the upper. Here are the most popular types of sock heights for summer backpacking (the figure to the right shows Darn Tough sock sizing and is included for easy reference; note that sock sizing can vary significantly among manufacturers):
These are also known as ankle socks. The length is short, which works well for summer/hot weather. Models such as the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini and Icebreaker Hike+ Light Mini are a great example of functionality and comfort.
A little longer than mini socks, micro crew options such as our favorite Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion and the third-ranked Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion are more versatile and offer superior comfort and functionality for various summer pursuits.
Classic height for socks, the crew (lower-calf) design is universal length compatible with different hiking shoes and boots for both cold and hot weather conditions. Many great models for summer hiking such as the Cloudline Hiking Light Cushion Unisex are crew height.
A little longer for summer, socks with boot height work best with boots but can also be combined with shoes.
The prices vary a lot but a pair of high-quality summer hiking socks usually costs in the range of $15-$25 (the majority on our list are between $15 and $20). Of course, there are also less expensive options that perform well. Price differences depend on several factors. Among them:
- The features and overall functionality of the sock – functional socks with more technical features cost more.
- The materials used, the quantity and the quality of the materials – high standards of craftsmanship as well as the use of high-tech fibers and yarns will translate into higher prices.
- Brand popularity and brand loyalty – top quality socks are being sold at a premium (but also some not-so-good models; higher price does not always mean top-notch quality). Generally, people are prepared to pay premium prices for renowned brands such as Darn Tough, Smartwool, Icebreaker, Thorlos, Farm to Feet. Loyal fans are also willing to pay more.
- Product lifetime and guarantee – the longer the useful life of the product including the guarantee it comes with, the higher its price.
Nobody wants to pay for socks that will break down after minimal use. Many manufacturers (Yes, there are also some that are obviously not familiar with this simple fact!) know it and make socks that hold up fairly well. As a rule, durability is brand and even model specific. Darn Tough are famous for the toughness of the socks they make, for instance. Smartwool, Farm to Feet, Thorlos, and Icebreaker are just a small fraction of the companies that make relatively durable socks. In addition, you can find socks with satisfactory product lifetime made by not-so-popular companies. Having said that, it is unrealistic to expect your summer socks to last as much as some sturdy winter socks with reinforced constructions.
Sock durability depends on many factors. Among them:
- Materials and technologies used – synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon are used for reinforcing constructions, especially those made with natural fibers such as merino wool
- Proper/improper care and maintenance – the best way to maximize the useful life of your socks (and to avoid damages) is to read the care labels and follow the instructions
- Frequency and intensity of use – more frequent use and high-intensity activities can dramatically reduce the expected lifetime of a sock construction
Summer sock warranties
Vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as different manufacturers have established different policies related to the warranties they offer. Here’s what you can expect:
- Lifetime guarantee: unconditional (Darn Tough) or satisfaction guarantee (Farm to Feet).
- 1 to 2 years guarantee: Smartwool’s return policy comes with a set timeframe of 2 years, while the REI Co-op’s satisfaction guarantee is valid for one year.
- Shorter warranties: the majority offer more limited policies, usually standard 30 or 60-day warranty.
Lifetime guarantee may sound exciting but keep in mind that, in order to be eligible for a replacement pair or a refund, you must often satisfy certain conditions.
Socks aren’t just an accessory. They’re an important part of the wardrobe of every smart outdoorsman. When looking for summer and hot weather socks for backpacking, look for socks that breathe well, wick moisture, dry quickly, fit well and do not slide, keep the feet at the right temperature, reduce abrasion from your shoes, and can survive more than a couple of trips. In summary, look for socks that provide all-day comfort on the trail reducing the risk of blisters and other foot injuries.
Drop us a line in the comments section below and tell us what’s your favorite choice for summer. Why do you prefer this model/brand/style? Your remarks and opinions will be welcomed.
* We classified the prices in $-$$$ scale in the following manner:
- usual price is between 0 and $15 -> $
- price is between $15.01 and $25 -> $$
- usual price is above $25 -> $$$
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