Best Winter and Cold Weather Socks of 2021 (Buying Guide)

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The main aim of this blog post is simple: giving you the most valuable information there is to help you choose the best winter socks for cold-weather pursuits. We reviewed socks for all budgets, seasons, and styles of travel, and highlighted our top socks for 2021. We also assembled a sock comparison table with the most important characteristics, pros, and cons of each of the 18 contenders on our list to help you get a quick review of the essentials.

Most of our favorites are made with merino wool and a combination of synthetic fibers, most often nylon, polyester, acrylic, and spandex/elastane/Lycra. There’s also one model with the more exotic alpaca wool. Materials, designs and constructions, thickness, cushioning, prices, etc. are essential elements in choosing socks and performance outdoor apparel. Hence, we tried to explain everything you need to know about socks and their features, characteristics, and properties.

For those interested in hiking footwear, we recommend reading our articles about hiking boots and summer footwear for hiking.

Winter wool socks

Quick answer: BEST WINTER & COLD WEATHER SOCKS FOR 2021

1. Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion                                     View on Amazon              View on REI

2. Carhartt Arctic Wool Sock                                                          View on Amazon

3. Darn Tough Mountaineering OTC Cushion                       View on Amazon              View on REI

4. Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC               View on Amazon              View on REI

5. Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Knee                       View on Amazon              View on Backcountry

6. Cozia Merino Wool Socks                                                            View on Amazon

7. Darn Tough Hunter OTC Extra Cushion                              View on Amazon              View on Backcountry

8. Heat Holders Thermal Socks                                                      View on Amazon              View on CampSaver

9. Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool                                                             View on Amazon              View on REI

10. Patagonia Heavyweight Merino Performance              View on Patagonia

11. REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Crew                       View on REI

12. Thorlos EXCOU Extreme Cold Maximum Cushion    View on Amazon

13. J.B. Field’s Icelandic -40 Below Wool Socks                    View on Amazon

14. Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion             View on Amazon              View on REI

15. Danish Endurance Unisex Premium Merino Wool      View on Amazon

16. Farm to Feet Cedar Falls Full Cushion                                View on Amazon

17. Farm to Feet Denali                                                                       View on Amazon

18. Warrior Alpaca Socks Toasty Toes Comfort                    View on Amazon

 

Best overall winter socks

#1 Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion

Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion

Height: Boot height (sits mid-calf)

Category: Midweight

Price: $$$ (come at around $27)

Materials: 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% Lycra (men’s); 69% merino wool, 27% nylon, 4% Lycra (women’s)

Notable features:

  • Performance fit: knitting techniques for the finest fitting performance
  • Fine gauge knitting guarantees comfort and durability
  • With a flat toe seam

Pros:

  • Top-quality hiking socks with great cushion
  • Tough and comfortable: can be worn year-round for just about everything
  • Great performance in line with the Darn Tough’s reputation as one of the leading manufacturers of hard-wearing and functional socks
  • Very warm – perfect for winter adventures

Cons:

  • A bit pricey though the premier quality is worth it
  • Run small, can shrink further after washing

Best for: Cold weather hiking and extreme pursuits in the backcountry

Women’s Version: Available -> Amazon | REI | Backcountry

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

Best socks for extreme cold

#2 Carhartt Arctic Wool Socks

Carhartt Extremes Arctic Wool Sock

Height: Crew (Lower calf)

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$ (usually come at 17.99)

Materials: 74% wool, 10% polyester, 9% nylon, 6% acrylic, 1% spandex

Notable features:

  • FastDry technology is sweat-wicking (providing better thermal regulation) and odor-fighting
  • Reinforced heel and toe for increased durability
  • Ribbed cuff and non-binding stretch top to keep the sock in place

Pros:

  • Built for harsh conditions (extreme cold) that’s why they can be a bit thick and bulky for regular boots
  • Thick cushioning for support and comfort
  • Great for any indoor or outdoor activity – walking, fishing, hunting or work or just being outdoors in the cold
  • A good quality sock that’s comfortable and super warm

Cons:

  • Not the most durable socks
  • Quite thick in the ankle and calf areas but the top part is a bit loose (unless you have big calves)

Best for: Sub zero temps

Women’s Version: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best mountaineering socks

#3 Darn Tough Mountaineering Over-the-Calf Extra Cushion

Darn Tough Mountaineering OTC Extra Cushion

Height: Over the calf

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$$ (the usual price is $30)

Materials: 73% Merino wool, 25% nylon, 2% Lycra (men’s); 72% Merino wool, 26% nylon, 2% Lycra (women’s)

Notable features:

  • All-weather performance + custom fit without slipping and bunching: fast-wicking, fast-drying
  • Extra cushioning
  • High-density knitting for unprecedented durability and comfort

Pros:

  • Top-quality winter and cold weather socks for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering expeditions as well as a range of sports and activities
  • Heavy-padded
  • Very comfortable and very warm (though not hot), they thrive in harsh environments and cold weather conditions
  • Durable but if something happens, you can still rely on the lifetime warranty to fix it

Cons:

  • The hefty price tag of $30 may seem a lot but with these socks, there is a big payoff
  • A little tighter for those who are not used to wearing sock like this
  • Only one color available (one for the men’s version and another for the women’s)

Best for: Mountaineering and backpacking in cold temperatures

Women’s Version: Available -> Amazon | REI | Backcountry

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

Best socks for winter sports

#4 Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC

Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC

Height: Over the calf

Category: Midweight

Price: $$$ (the usual price is $27)

Materials: 64% Merino wool, 34% nylon, 2% elastane (men’s); 63% Merino wool, 35% nylon, 2% elastane (women’s)

Notable features:

  • Targeted cushioning for protection and mesh ventilation zones for optimum moisture management and maximum breathability
  • 4 Degree™ Elite Fit System: performance-oriented fit with flex zone at ankle joint
  • Indestructawool™ technology features a patent-pending construction method for exceptional durability and comfort

Pros:

  • Well-made high-performance socks
  • Excellent craftsmanship (we like that the Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC come in cool camo patterns too) and high-quality fabric that breathes well and feels very comfortable
  • Not too cushy but provide enough padding for support and comfort during skiing, snowshoeing, and other snow sports
  • Stay in place and don’t slip down

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not very warm but considering the intended use of these socks, it’s fully justified

Best for: Skiing

Women’s Version: Available -> Amazon | REI | Backcountry

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

Best waterproof socks for cold weather

#5 Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Knee Socks

Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Knee Sock

Height: Knee-length

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$$ (come at around $55)

Materials: Inner Layer: 35% Merino wool, 35% acrylic, 23% polyester, 3.5% nylon, 3.5% elastane; Outer Layer: 90% Nylon, 10% elastane

Notable features:

  • Waterproof breathable membrane with Hydrostatic Head of >20,000mm
  • Durable nylon blend exterior with 4-way stretch
  • Extra layer of terry-loop knitting for added warmth

Pros:

  • Fully waterproof thanks to the 100% hydrophilic membrane placed between the inner and outer layer
  • Really thick, heavy-duty knee-high socks designed for colder temperatures and wet weather; for a wide range of activities such as hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking
  • Hand made and hand-tested to ensure they work as intended and do not leak
  • Flat seams along the toes for blister prevention

Cons:

  • Cleaning can be laborious especially after getting muddy; slow to dry
  • Though you’ll never need to re-waterproof, this kind of socks still need special care
  • Very expensive, cost top dollar

Best for: Wet weather outdoor adventures

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Backcountry

 

Best casual winter socks

#6 Cozia Merino Wool Socks

Cozia Merino Wool Sock

Height: Crew

Category: Midweight

Price: $ (the usual price is $19.96 for 3 pairs)

Materials: 80% Merino wool: 15% polyester, 4% nylon, 1% elastane

Notable features:

  • Heel and toe support; arch compression support
  • Reinforced toe and heel
  • Ankle ventilation channels

Pros:

  • Affordable with good price/quality ratio
  • Soft material, warm and comfy, no-itch feel (work well at wide temperature range, still midweight so they’re better at lower temps)
  • With high merino wool content making them warm in cold environments, cool in warm temperatures and conditions (wool should be washed at low temperature to avoid shrinkage)
  • Wash and dry nicely

Cons:

  • Run small
  • Durability issues as the toe and heel areas are among the weakest spots

Best for: Casual use

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best cold weather socks for hunting

#7 Darn Tough Hunter OTC Extra Cushion

Darn Tough Hunter OTC Full

Height: Over the calf

Category: Midweight

Price: $$$ (the usual price is around $32)

Materials: 79% Merino wool, 19% nylon, 2% Lycra

Notable features:

  • Thick and with extra cushioning without being too bulky
  • Extra merino wool for warmth, breathability, and comfort
  • Fine gauge knitting guarantees unprecedented durability and happy feet

Pros:

  • High-quality socks that provide durability, warmth, and comfort
  • Well-padded and supportive for a prolonged time in the outdoors in the cold
  • Fit snug and stay put; don’t bunch up
  • These are the best socks for hunting but can be used for an array of cold-weather activities such as hiking, skiing or work

Cons:

  • A bit pricey, but it’s worth buying them because of their overall quality, warmth, and comfort
  • Warm but not the warmest socks (which is justified as they are made for hunting)
  • They tend to pill a bit too much

Best for: Hunting in cold weather

Women’s Version: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

 

Best non-wool winter socks

#8 Heat Holders Thermal Socks

Heat Holders Thermal Sock

Height: Crew

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$ (the usual price is $15.99)

Materials: 91% Acrylic, 5% nylon, 3% polyester, 1% elastane (men’s); 91% Acrylic, 5% nylon, 3% polyester, 1% elastane (women’s)

Notable features:

  • Specially developed advanced fibers for high-performance insulation: extremely high Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) of 2.34
  • Innovative long looped thermal pile knitting technology
  • Brushed inside for soft and smooth feel

Pros:

  • Warm and comfortable in very cold environments; they can also be worn year-round
  • Thick socks that ensure a snug fit
  • They look and feel good thanks (in part) to the smooth and soft lining
  • Diabetic-friendly and provide relief for cold feet due to circulation problems

Cons:

  • Biggest downside is that they don’t feature merino wool
  • Durability issues – these socks wear out quite fast especially in the heel area

Best for: Those with cold feet even when it’s not that cold outside

Women’s Version: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon | CampSaver

 

Best liner socks

#9 Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool

Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool

Height: Crew

Category: Lightweight

Price: $ (the usual price is $13)

Materials: 41% NuWool™, 41% acrylic, 15% nylon, 3% Lycra

Notable features:

  • Patented anatomic 5-toe design
  • NüWool blend for added odor resistance and thermoregulation
  • 200-needle-count construction

Pros:

  • Streamlined design allows for foot-hugging fit preventing slipping in shoes and easy layering underneath a thicker pair of socks
  • Toesock blister protection (keep the toes separated reducing skin-to-skin friction; less sweating as each toe is wrapped in sweat-wicking material) and freedom thanks to the five-toe design
  • Soft and super light sock; excellent breathability; dry really fast
  • No bunching or tightness: provide top-notch comfort

Cons:

  • As with most Injinji models, these socks wear down too fast and are too flimsy especially when not wearing perfectly sized shoes
  • Too thin: works great as a sock liner, but not so well when worn alone
  • The individual toes widen your foot

Best for: Pairing with thicker socks

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Moosejaw

 

Best of the rest

#10 Patagonia Heavyweight Merino Performance Knee Length

Patagonia Heavyweight Merino Performance Knee Length

Height: Over the calf

Category: Midweight

Price: $ (the usual price is $28)

Materials: 57% RWS merino wool, 40% nylon, 3% polyurethane worsted sock yarn

Notable features:

  • 2-ply for added warmth
  • Airy mesh arch brace provides a snug fit
  • Half-terry construction with a soft terry-loop footbed

Pros:

  • Extra insulation for cold weather: great for keeping your feet warm during the winter at work, hiking, running, skiing, and snowboarding
  • No bulk, provide adequate warmth given their relatively low weight for winter socks
  • Nice cushion: cozy and snug enough so that they do not slip down
  • Good breathability means dry and fresh feet

Cons:

  • Durability could be a bit better
  • Not very interesting color combinations

Best for: Winter sports

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Patagonia

 

#11 REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Crew

REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Crew

Height: Crew

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $ (the usual price is $20.95)

Materials: 79% RWS merino wool, 20% nylon, 1% Lycra

Notable features:

  • RWS-certified merino wool (RWS is a rigorous animal-related standard)
  • Heavy plush cushioning with reinforcement at heels, toes, footbeds, and Achilles
  • Seamless toes prevent chafing

Pros:

  • No sacrifice of warmth and comfort: the heavy cushioning works perfect for long hikes in the winter
  • Natural odor control because of the high percentage of wool content; not itchy
  • Versatile and multifunctional sock that can be used for a multitude of activities or around the house
  • Can be used alone or layered above a pair of liner socks

Cons:

  • Used to be thicker and warmer
  • Decent quality but not among the most durable winter socks

Best for: Long hikes and cold, snowy trails

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

REI

 

#12 Thorlos EXCOU Extreme Cold Maximum Cushion

Thorlos EXCOU Extreme Cold Thick Cushion

Height: Over the calf

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$ (the usual price is $24.99)

Materials: 60% Worsted wool, 26% Exclusive THOR•LON Acrylic, 12% nylon, 2% elastic

Notable features:

  • Exclusive Thor-Lon and natural wool construction with unique padding designed for extreme cold
  • Ventilation panel provides extra moisture control and allows for increased breathability
  • Cushioned arch for a better fit and more support; low profile toe seam for comfort

Pros:

  • High-quality winter and cold weather socks, these work well even in very low temperatures
  • Effective moisture management for dry feet
  • Thick, cozy, toasty, and super comfortable no matter the weather
  • The extra padding in the heel, ball, and toe help keep your feet comfortable while walking or sitting in the woods

Cons:

  • A bit itchy
  • Fit snug but it may be too tight to those who need circulation

Best for: Extended cold weather activities

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#13 J.B. Field’s Icelandic -40 Below Arctic Trail Crew

J.B. Field’s Icelandic -40 Below Arctic Trail Wool

Height: Crew

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $ (come at $28 for 2 pairs)

Materials: 85% PreShrunk wool, 15% nylon

Notable features:

  • Suitable for weather up to -40
  • High wool content for better regulation of the body temperature, to prevent blisters, and for odor control
  • X-Hi Cushion insulates from the cold, protects and cushions

Pros:

  • Very thick, soft, and warm – suitable for harsh winters and snow – maybe the warmest socks you’ve ever worn
  • Do their job without making sacrifices on comfort
  • High wool content ensures excellent moisture management, odor-resistance, hypo-allergenic, and insulating properties
  • Stay rugged without losing their shape and thickness

Cons:

  • Very bulky and heavy – they are so thick that you have to get a size or two bigger boot to accommodate your feet – so consider shoe fit prior to purchase
  • Not very comfortable on bare skin; it’s much better if you wear these socks with a pair of liner socks underneath

Best for: Extreme cold temperatures

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#14 Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew

Height: Crew

Cushion: Heavy

Price: $$ (the usual price is $23)

Materials: 56% Merino вool, 31% recycled nylon, 11% nylon, 2% еlastane

Notable features:

  • Heavy cushioning absorbs impact for a more comfortable experience
  • Elasticized arch brace holds the sock in place and ensures the sock doesn’t slip down the leg when on the trail or anywhere else you go
  • Flat knit toe seam for additional comfort

Pros:

  • Great craftsmanship
  • Sturdy construction built for enduring hard conditions
  • Soft, cushioned, breathable, and very comfortable
  • Thick and insulate very well (even when wet) thanks to the high percentage of merino wool; the Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew will warm your feet in all conditions

Cons:

  • A bit bulky but considering the intended use of these socks, it’s not that surprising
  • The wool is a bit slow to dry

Best for: Winter and cold weather

Women’s Version: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

#15 Danish Endurance Unisex Premium Merino Wool

Danish Endurance Unisex Premium Merino Wool

Height: Crew

Category: Midweight

Price: $ (come at 19.95 for 2 pairs)

Materials: 38% Merino wool, 35% polyamide (nylon), 24% polypropylene, 3% elastane

Notable features:

  • Crafted in CLIMAYARN, a special merino wool blend engineered to regulate the temperature effectively by reducing the chances of heat accumulation
  • Anti-blister cushioning insulates and ensures a more comfortable experience on and off the trail
  • Ventilation for dry and well-ventilated feet

Pros:

  • Warm, sturdy, and comfortable socks made from a blend of merino wool, nylon, and polypropylene to keep your feet warm and dry in less than ideal conditions (they’re also very effective in warmer climates as the fabric helps keep the feet cool in such conditions)
  • Cushy; the fit is also very good (the essential element of preventing blisters during long hikes and walks)
  • Fantastic price/quality ratio – these socks come at roughly half or even a third of the price of other popular cold-weather sock brands/models
  • Eco packaged (OEKO-TEX certified materials)

Cons:

  • The merino wool content could’ve been higher for cold weather socks
  • The top of the sock is a bit too tight, which restricts circulation

Best for: Hiking and backpacking in cold temperatures

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#16 Farm to Feet Cedar Falls Full Cushion

Farm to Feet Cedar Falls Full Cushion

Height: Over the calf

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$$ (the usual price is $26)

Materials: 76% Merino wool, 23% nylon, 1% spandex

Notable features:

  • Seamless toe box reduces bulk and eliminates blister-generating friction
  • High-density cushion helps for all-day performance
  • Reinforced construction and low-stress seam placement for better wear and tear resistance

Pros:

  • Constructed with high-quality materials – soft merino and sturdy nylon blend
  • Versatile – fit nicely in all kinds of boots – can be worn with heavy boots in extreme cold or with non-insulated boots in warmer weather
  • Great feeling thanks to the quality materials and heavy cushioning placed wherever needed most without making them look too bulky
  • Offer good snug fit and stay up

Cons:

  • The sock reaches just below the knee, which might seem and feel a bit strange to all those used to wearing OTC socks (it’s longer than most OTC models)
  • Might slide down the leg when worn with a boot with a high ankle cuff that’s too soft

Best for: Hunting in colder conditions

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#17 Farm to Feet Denali

Farm to Feet Denali

Height: Extended crew (to the base of the calf)

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$ (the usual price is $30)

Materials: 91% Merino wool, 8% nylon, 1% spandex

Notable features:

  • High-density cushion (including a 4-ply wool foot bottom) from top to toe for all day performance
  • Seamless Toe Closure: Advanced knitting techniques create a totally flat connection in the toe box, reducing bulk and eliminating blister-generating friction
  • Reinforced construction and low-stress seam placement reduce wear and tear

Pros:

  • Sock engineered for use in extreme cold environments in the mountains
  • Thick, with heavy padding that insulates well and provides more comfort while moving or sitting in the cold
  • Solid, sturdy construction that could withstand some intense activity (for all kinds of cold weather pursuits) and low temperatures
  • Good moisture-wicking properties for dry and happy feet

Cons:

  • A little tight
  • Once wet, the wool inner part of the sock is slow to dry

Best for: Extreme cold environments

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#18 Warrior Alpaca Socks Toasty Toes Comfort

Warrior Alpaca Socks Toasty Toes Comfort

Height: Crew

Category: Heavyweight

Price: $$$ (come at $30)

Materials: 47% Alpaca wool, 38% acrylic, 9% nylon, 6% Lycra

Notable features:

  • Fully lined with terry loops from toe to sock opening for cloud-like softness
  • Fitted toe box and heel; ribbing and a comfort band for a comfortable non-binding fit
  • Reinforced toe, heel and arch support with a smooth toe seam

Pros:

  • With a decent percentage content of Alpaca wool – a soft and silky natural fiber similar to but warmer than sheep’s wool
  • Incredibly soft, warm, and comfortable – those with cold feet will be happy to wear these socks at night
  • Great for those with nerve and temperature sensitivity
  • Well-made, they are perfect for outdoor pursuits as well as casual wear (yes, the Toasty Toes Comfort look stylish and elegant)

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Tight, fit snug and might constrict blood circulation

Best for: Casual wear

Women’s Version: Unisex

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Table 1: Best hiking socks – comparison table

PRODUCTDESCRIPTIONPROSCONS
Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion
Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion

#1 Best overall sock for winter/cold weather



Height -> Mid-calf
Category -> Midweight
Price -> $27
Material -> 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% Lycra


-> Excellent hiking socks with great cushion
-> Tough, comfortable and versatile
-> Performance socks: hard-wearing and functional
-> Very warm


-> A bit pricey
-> Run small

Carhartt Extremes Arctic Wool Sock
Carhartt Arctic Wool Sock

#2 Best sock for extreme cold



Height -> Mid-calf
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $19
Material -> 74% wool, 10% polyester, 9% nylon, 6% acrylic, 1% spandex


-> Built for harsh conditions
-> Thick cushioning
-> Great for any indoor or outdoor activity in the cold
-> Good quality, comfortable, and super warm sock


-> Not the most durable socks
-> Thick in the ankle and calf areas but a bit loose in the top part

Darn Tough Mountaineering OTC Cushion
Darn Tough Mountaineering OTC Cushion

#3 Best mountaineering sock



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $30
Material -> 73% Merino wool, 25% nylon, 2% Lycra


-> Top-quality winter and cold weather socks for a range of pursuits
-> Heavy-padded
-> Thrive in harsh environments and cold weather conditions
-> Great durability plus lifetime warranty


-> Hefty price tag but it's worth it
-> A little tighter

Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC
Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC

#4 Best sock for winter sports



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Midweight
Price -> $27
Material -> 62% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 2% elastane


-> Well-made high-performance socks
-> Excellent craftsmanship and high-quality fabric
-> Provide enough padding for support and comfort
-> Stay in place and don’t slip down


-> Expensive
-> Not very warm

Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather
Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Knee

#5 Best waterproof sock for cold weather



Height -> Knee-high
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $55
Material -> Inner Layer: 35% Merino wool, 35% acrylic, 23% polyester, 3.5% nylon, 3.5% elastane; Outer Layer: 90% Nylon, 10% elastane


-> Fully waterproof
-> Designed for colder temperatures and wet weather
-> Hand made and hand-tested
-> Flat seams along the toes


-> Slow to dry
-> This kind of socks still need special care
-> Very expensive

Cozia Merino Wool Sock
Cozia Merino Wool Socks

#6 Best casual winter sock



Height -> Crew
Category -> Midweight
Price -> $20 for 3 pairs
Material -> 80% Merino wool: 15% polyester, 4% nylon, 1% elastane


-> Good price/quality ratio
-> Warm and comfortable
-> With high merino wool content
-> Easy to wash and dry


-> Run smaller than expected
-> Durability issues

Darn Tough Hunter OTC Extra Cushion
Darn Tough Hunter OTC Extra Cushion

#7 Best cold weather socks for hunting



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Midweight
Price -> $30
Material -> 79% Merino wool, 19% nylon, 2% Lycra


-> High-quality socks that provide durability, warmth, and comfort
-> Well-padded and supportive
-> Fit snug and stay put; don't bunch up
-> Great for hunting and other cold-weather activities


-> A bit pricey, but it's worth buying them because of their overall quality, warmth, and comfort
-> Warm but not the warmest socks
-> Tend to pill a bit too much

Heat Holders Thermal Sock
Heat Holders Thermal Socks

#8 Best non-wool winter sock



Height -> Crew
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $16
Material -> 91% Acrylic, 5% nylon, 3% polyester, 1% elastane


-> Warm and comfortable in very cold environments; they can also be worn year-round
-> Thick socks that ensure a snug fit
-> They look and feel good
-> Diabetic-friendly


-> Don't feature merino wool
-> Wear out quite fast especially in the heel area

Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool
Injinji Liner Crew Nuwool

#9 Best liner socks



Height -> Crew
Category -> Lightweight
Price -> $13
Material -> 41% NuWool, 41% acrylic, 15% nylon, 3% Lycra


-> Easy layering
-> Toesock blister protection
-> Soft and super light
-> Provide top-notch comfort


-> Wear down too fast
-> Too thin
-> The individual toes widen your foot

Patagonia Heavyweight Merino Performance Knee Length
Patagonia Heavyweight Merino Performance

#10



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $28
Material -> 57% RWS merino wool, 40% nylon, 3% polyurethane worsted sock yarn


-> Extra insulation for winter and cold
-> Adequate warmth (no bulk)
-> Thick, cozy
-> Good breathability


-> Durability could be better
-> Not very interesting color combinations

REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Crew
REI Co-op Merino Wool Expedition Crew

#11



Height -> Crew
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $21
Material -> 79% RWS merino wool, 20% nylon, 1% Lycra


-> No sacrifice of warmth and comfort
-> Natural odor control
-> Multifunctional
-> Can be used alone or layered above a pair of liners


-> Used to be thicker
-> Decent quality

Thorlos EXCOU Extreme Cold Thick Cushion
Thorlos EXCOU Extreme Cold Thick Cushion

#12



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $25
Material -> 60% Worsted wool, 26% Exclusive THOR•LON Acrylic, 11% nylon, 3% elastic


-> Work well even in very low temperatures
-> Effective moisture management
-> Thick, cozy, toasty, and super comfortable no matter the weather
-> Extra padding in the heel, ball, and toe


-> A bit itchy
-> Fit snug but it may be too tight to those who need circulation

J.B. Field's Icelandic -40 Below Arctic Trail Crew
-40 Below Arctic Trail Crew

#13



Height -> Crew
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $28 for 2 pairs
Material -> 85% PreShrunk wool, 15% nylon


-> Very thick, soft, and warm - suitable for harsh winters and snow
-> Efficient without making sacrifices on comfort
-> High wool content
-> Rugged; keep their shape and thickness


-> Very bulky and heavy
-> Not very comfortable on bare skin

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew
Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew

#14



Height -> Crew
Cushion -> Heavy
Price -> $23
Material -> 56% Merino вool, 31% recycled nylon, 11% nylon, 2% еlastane


-> Great craftsmanship
-> Sturdy construction built for enduring hard conditions
-> Soft, cushioned, breathable, and very comfortable
-> Thick and insulate very well even when wet


-> A bit bulky
-> The wool need more time to dry

Danish Endurance Unisex Premium Merino Wool
Danish Endurance Unisex Premium Merino Wool

#15



Height -> Crew
Category -> Midweight
Price -> $20 for 2 pairs
Material -> 38% Merino wool, 35% polyamide (nylon), 24% polypropylene, 3% elastane


-> Warm, sturdy, and comfortable socks
-> Cushy; offer good fit
-> Fantastic price/quality ratio
-> Eco packaged


-> The merino wool content could've been higher for cold weather socks
-> The top of the sock is a bit too tight, which restricts circulation

Farm to Feet Cedar Falls Full Cushion
Farm to Feet Cedar Falls Full Cushion

#16



Height -> Over the calf
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $26
Material -> 76% Merino wool, 23% nylon, 1% spandex


-> Constructed with high-quality materials
-> Versatile
-> Quality materials and heavy cushioning without being too bulky
-> Offer good snug fit and stay up


-> Longer than most OTC models
-> Might slide down the leg when worn with a boot with a high ankle cuff that's too soft

Farm to Feet Denali
Farm to Feet Denali

#17



Height -> Extended crew
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $30
Material -> 91% Merino wool, 8% nylon, 1% spandex


-> Engineered for use in extreme cold environments
-> Thick, with heavy padding that insulates well
-> Solid, sturdy construction that could withstand some intense activity and low temperatures
-> Good moisture-wicking properties


-> A little tight
-> Once wet, the wool inner part of the sock is slow to dry

Warrior Alpaca Socks Toasty Toes Comfort
Warrior Alpaca Socks Toasty Toes Comfort

#18



Height -> Crew
Category -> Heavyweight
Price -> $30
Material -> 47% Alpaca wool, 38% acrylic, 9% nylon, 6% Lycra


-> With a decent percentage content of soft and silky Alpaca wool
-> Incredibly soft, warm, and comfortable
-> Great for those with nerve and temperature sensitivity
-> Stylish, elegant, and well-made


-> Expensive
-> Tight, fit snug and might constrict blood circulation

 

Winter and cold weather sock buying advice or what to consider

There are some really important factors to consider when choosing the right winter and cold weather socks for you. Don’t worry, we’ve tried to organize them carefully so that everything sounds logical and learning it is a no brainer. We’d like to begin with the key objective factors. Then, we’d point out the critical subjective factors for choosing winter socks.

Materials

One of the most important factors when choosing a pair of winter socks is the fabric it’s made of. If you’d remember no more than three rules, try to remember these:

#1 Forget about cotton

Cotton is an excellent fiber that has many different applications but it is not a good option for winter socks. In a previous post, we compared cotton with polyester and pointed out the differences between these two fibers. Basically, cotton absorbs a lot of moisture, and when wet it feels cold and clammy. Once wet, cotton takes ages to dry. Moreover, wet cotton loses its insulation abilities and ceases to provide insulation, which might be highly dangerous in cold conditions. Wet cotton also wrinkles easily and softens the skin, which increases the likelihood of the formation of hot spots and blisters. In short, forget about cotton.

#2 Merino wool rocks

A crash course in merino wool:

  • Probably the most popular type of sheep’s wool used in the outdoors industry
  • Generally, finer, softer, more comfortable and retains its shape longer than traditional wool
  • There are different grades of merino wool fineness from 17 to 25 μm – superfine (with a soft texture similar to cashmere) to strong respectively
  • Wicks moisture and transports it to the outer side of the garment so that the wearer might not even feel wet
  • Provides lightweight insulation, retains body heat and feels warm even when wet
  • Dries relatively fast
  • Merino is naturally antimicrobial and is much more resistant than most fibers to odor-causing bacteria
  • It’s much less likely (than traditional wool) to irritate the skin
  • It has many positive characteristics of synthetic fibers
  • Blends well with various man-made materials for increased functionality (durability, moisture management, and thermoregulation, elasticity, etc.)
  • Merino wool is considered one of the luxury yarns; it’s more expensive than other typical fibers used for making winter and cold weather socks such as traditional wool, cotton or basic synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, polypropylene, and elastane

All these characteristics and properties have made merino wool one of the most sought after materials for socks, gloves, and garments worn close to the body.

Pair of blue socks hanging

Contrary to popular belief, wool socks can be used in all seasons    Photo by Susanne Jutzeler

#3 Synthetics are used for improved functionality

While “functionality” often sounds too vague, in the case of winter socks it could be defined easily: durability + wear and tear resistance + insulation + moisture management properties + lower weight + elasticity – shrinkage – pilling.

Man-made fabrics and materials are quite popular among manufacturers of winter socks because they are modified to meet specific requirements of the wearer. For example, polyester and nylon are famous for their durability and high abrasion resistance, acrylic is lightweight and has a wool-like feel, polypropylene is tough and flexible and remains dry while transporting moisture (just like polyester), whereas spandex or elastane or Lycra is used because of its exceptional elasticity and good recovery properties. While man-made materials have many positive characteristics, they do not come without disadvantages. Some of these disadvantages include odor retention (polyester, polypropylene), poor elasticity, pilling (nylon and polyester), low melting point, heat shrinkage, fibrillation (acrylic), poor dimensional stability or elongation at break, etc.

Note that there are various merino and synthetic blends with different wool/synthetics ratios. The manufacturer might have a ton of reasons for manufacturing a particular blend – from lowering the costs to achieving better functionality (increased durability, insulation, elasticity, etc.). So more merino does not always mean better quality product (for instance, more merino wool content means softer and warmer but also less durable garment) just as less merino content does not always mean a poor quality product.

Cushioning

An important function of winter socks is to cushion and insulate the feet. Tightly woven socks provide more support, better cushioning, and feel more comfortable against the skin. It’s important because socks should also reduce friction between the foot and the inside surfaces of the boot. Usually, high-quality socks have different densities of material at different points for more cushioning or warmth or both. Such points with added cushioning are often heels and soles. The density of the fabric within the sock plays a crucial role in the protection of the foot. The extra padding also makes the socks warmer, more comfortable, and reduces the chances of blister formation.

Thickness and warmth

In most cases, there is a strong connection between overall sock thickness and warmth. For winter and especially for extreme cold, heavyweight socks almost always provide more warmth than their lighter counterparts. It’s the same with the cushioning as thick soles are cushier than the lightweight versions. Keep in mind that heavy thickness does not always translate into warmer socks though. There are quite too many examples of thick and heavy socks that failed to insulate well when they were expected to do so. It’s no coincidence that many experienced outdoorsmen prefer wearing two or three pairs of socks inside the boot. Such combinations (a thin synthetic inner layer underneath a merino blend outer layer is classic) reduce the incidence of blisters compared to single-layer sock systems.

Sock height

Many people consider this factor as not-so-important but often wearing the sock with the right height could literally make or break your experience. Sock Sizing TableHere are the most popular types of sock heights (the figure to the right comes from Darn Tough and is included for easy reference; keep in mind that sock sizing can vary significantly among manufacturers):

Micro (mini) crew

Not a very good choice for winter, the micro crew is usually preferred for warm weather. Models such as the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion are a great example of functionality and comfort. However, this length is quite short for cold weather conditions and we do not recommend it for winter.

Crew

Probably the most common height for socks, crew or lower calf (as it ends just below the calf muscle) is a standard height used for all-year-round socks for universal applications. It’s the optimal height for most environments and conditions, which makes it a great option for three-season socks but not-so-great for cold weather, at least not for high-intensity activities such as climbing or skiing. Nevertheless, there are some great models suitable not only for socks for casual use in the cold but also for pursuits where high performance is required.

Boot height and mid-calf

The height of boot socks is somewhere between lower and mid-calf but it’s a bit closer to mid-calf. Many backpackers prefer socks with this height as it somewhat combines well with both hiking shoes and boots. Hunters, backpackers, and professionals from different areas wear mid-calf socks mainly with boots.

Over the calf+

Over-the-calf and knee-length socks rise to (at least) just below the knee. This length is typical for some types of sports socks such as ski, football (soccer), endurance running, and mountaineering socks. Compression and elasticity in the leg or at the top of the sock are important for the over-the-calf design because they keep the legs from sagging and slipping down and may have clinical and performance
benefits for some people. Darn Tough Mountaineering OTC Cushion is a good example of a tough, warm, and comfortable heavy-padded sock suited for various sports and activities.

Price

The prices for good winter socks vary quite a lot – from less than $10 to more than $30 a pair. The main factors behind this disparity include:

  • Brand awareness and popularity – Darn Tough, Smartwool, Thorlos, Farm to Feet are renowned as manufacturers of great socks, which means that many consumers are prepared to pay a premium for their products
  • Features – more technical features usually translate into a higher price
  • Materials and the quality/quantity of insulation used – the utilization of high-tech fibers and yarns such as merino and alpaca wool, modified polyester fibers (COOLMAX, Thermolite, Hollofil) is more expensive than the use of other fibers like acrylic, polyester, and nylon
  • Product lifetime and warranties – the longer the useful life of a pair of socks, the higher its price

While the factors above are more or less objective, some of the most important factors are subjective ones. Here’s what you need to know about three of them.

Durability

There is a huge difference between sturdy winter socks built to last for ages and flimsy constructions that won’t survive their first use. Manufacturers use mainly synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon for reinforcing their constructions. Many popular and not-so-popular companies make socks that hold up fairly well. By this, we mean that good socks can last at least a couple of seasons if properly treated. Nevertheless, Darn Tough are still a mile ahead. Simply, their socks are a symbol of toughness.

Comfort

The perception of the presence or absence of comfort is strictly individual. Comfort depends on fit, sock materials, breathability, price, i.e. on everything that contributes to the overall experience. No single manufacturer makes the most comfortable socks. Some people prefer Smartwool while others swear by Darn Tough or Wigwam. Sometimes comfort is brand specific but more often than not, it isn’t as there are often differences in the level of comfort among different models and designs made by the same manufacturer.

Feet wearing winter socks

No matter how they look, cold weather socks should be warm and comfortable    Photo by Maksim ŠiŠl

Various winter sock warranties

Unfortunately, this is not always an objective factor as different manufacturers have established different policies related to the warranties they offer. For example, Darn Tough offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee for its clients from the US (apparently, the warranty policies for internationals differ). Others such as Farm to Feet offer a satisfaction guarantee so that if you aren’t completely satisfied with the durability or performance of your socks, you can return them for a replacement pair or a refund (with proof of purchase). Smartwool’s warranty policy is very similar to this but it comes with a set timeframe of 2 years. Other companies offer more limited policies like the standard 30 or 60-day return policy.

Generally, be careful when you see something such as “lifetime guarantee” or “lifetime warranty” or “2 years guarantee”, etc. Often, in order to be eligible for a replacement pair or a refund, you must satisfy certain condition(s).

Conclusion

The socks marketplace is a highly competitive field filled with good products. When looking for winter and cold weather socks, look for socks that are comfortable, fit well, cushion feet, reduce abrasion from your footwear, have decent moisture management properties, and can ensure proper thermoregulation for the feet.

What’s your favorite choice for winter socks and why? Drop us a line in the comments section below. 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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Properties of Cold Weather Clothing

Hiking Boots: How to Choose

Best Footwear for Summer

Basic Foot and Shoe Care

Salomon X Ultra Hiking Boots Review

 

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