What Kind of Socks to Wear for Hiking: 10 Hiking Socks FAQs

Camotrek is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. See the disclosure page for more information.

Many people think that hiking socks are unimportant. We don’t. We decided to write up this article to show you why hiking socks should be an essential part of every rational hiker’s wardrobe. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys spending your leisure time in nature, or if you’re simply curious about the best socks for hiking, this article is for you. We believe that it offers valuable insights and information that will be useful to a wide range of people, serving as a quick and handy reference for anyone interested in the topic.

In this post, we address 11 of the most commonly asked questions about hiking and backpacking socks. Our main focus is on what makes certain types or styles of socks suitable for these activities and why. Along the way, we also delve into related questions such as the different styles available, the materials they are made from, and how different features and properties can affect their performance in various environments and conditions. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no, the title isn’t incorrect – we’ve included a bonus question for you!

Summer hiking socks mountain
Wearing the right hiking socks plays an essential role for comfort and protection for the feet

Here are some of the most intriguing frequently asked questions regarding hiking socks:

What kind of socks to wear hiking in the summer?

You have a number of options available but we recommend one of these two options: wool/synthetic blend or all-synthetic blend. Here’s a little more about these two kinds of sock blends and why they work well in the summer:

  • Wool/synthetic blends

These come with different wool/synthetic ratios. The main aim of blending wool and one or more man-made fibers is simple: creating the perfect blend is all about finding the right balance between different fibers and leveraging their unique strengths. It’s not just about combining the best qualities, but also reducing each fiber’s weaknesses. For example, if you have too much wool, you might end up with a material that’s too warm, but too little wool might not provide the key benefits that wool, especially merino wool, is known for – like superior moisture management even when wet, softness, comfort, lightness, and antibacterial properties. It’s all about finding the right balance.

When it comes to summer hiking socks, some of the best options feature a blend of fine merino wool, nylon, and a touch of spandex, elastane, or Lycra. You might see a mix of 50% to 65% super-fine merino wool, 30% to 50% nylon (to enhance the durability of a pure wool sock), and 2% to 5% of stretchy spandex material (for elasticity and to help the socks maintain their shape). There are also other combinations that include wool and multiple synthetic fibers, but these are more commonly used in colder weather. Typically, wool/synthetic blends are more expensive than 100% synthetic blends.

  • All-synthetic blends

Preferred by many for their summer trips. A good alternative to wool/synthetic blends, 100% synthetic socks have certain advantages over wool/synthetic socks for summer hiking, such as being lighter, drier, and less bulky, not to mention more affordable. Some of the most popular all-synthetic blends consist of a mix of polyester, nylon, and spandex, or polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex. Polyester or modified polyesters like COOLMAX, Dri-Wright II, and THOR•WICK COOL, make up the majority of these blends, typically accounting for 40% to 80% of the material. However, these socks are known for retaining odors, which is a drawback for those who want a fresh-smelling hike. Nevertheless, all-synthetic blends remain a popular choice for their many benefits.

When selecting summer hiking socks, there are several other key factors to keep in mind, such as length, thickness, fit, cushioning, breathability, wicking properties, drying time, durability, and cost. The length of your trip, the environment you’ll be in, the expected weather conditions, and your personal preferences are also important considerations that you should factor into your decision. Remember, the life of the socks is a crucial aspect to think about, and choosing a pair that meets your needs and lasts for multiple trips is essential.

Are merino wool socks good for summer?

Contrary to what many people think, merino wool can be an excellent material for summer socks, especially when combined with more durable and abrasion-resistant materials. Socks made from 100% merino wool are known for being soft, comfortable, and free from itching, and they have great moisture management abilities. They also don’t retain odors. However, the downside is that they may not be as durable or resistant to abrasion, which can shorten the lifespan of the socks. Additionally, 100% merino wool can get quite hot in the summer months, which is why many people opt for a blend that includes super-fine merino wool and synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.

What are the best socks for summer hiking?

The best socks for hiking in summer and hot weather are the Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion (for more information on this subject, check out our article on the best summer hiking socks). These socks have numerous advantageous qualities and features that make them an ideal choice for outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking during the summer and hot weather.

Darn Tough Coolmax Hiker Micro Crew MidweightThe Darn Tough COOLMAX Micro Crew Cushion socks are versatile and can be worn in different environments, but they excel in technical trails and rough terrain in warm weather, thanks to the combination of COOLMAX polyester and durable nylon. The COOLMAX allows for breathability and moisture-wicking to keep your feet cool and dry, while the nylon’s high abrasion resistance strengthens the construction. These socks are also made with resilient, durable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying acrylic that doesn’t absorb much water and stretchy spandex for added comfort. They are designed for high performance and feature a seamless toe and medium cushioning to reduce friction and provide long-lasting comfort on the trail. The only drawbacks are the limited color options and a tendency to retain odor (compared to merino wool socks).

If looking for a more generic answer, check out our answer to the question regarding the kind of socks to wear hiking in the summer.

What kind of socks to wear hiking in the winter?

Winter hiking can be a very happy and fulfilling experience but it can be ruined by the choice of the wrong socks. Our recommendation is to look for a durable winter hiking sock with adequate padding that would be comfortable and would insulate your feet well from the cold. The main factors to consider:

  • Materials

Look for a suitable wool/synthetic blend. Something like a blend of 60-80% merino and 20-40% synthetics (nylon, polyester, acrylic, spandex, etc. man-made materials) is a good option because this type of blend can provide the benefits of both natural and synthetic fibers, such as moisture-wicking, warmth, comfort, and durability. It’s important to note that the percentage of each material can vary depending on the type of activity and weather conditions, so it’s important to find the right blend that works for you.

  • Cushioning

Heavy padding provides all-day comfort but also insulation and warmth – extremely important for having a positive winter hiking experience, especially when hiking in harsh, cold weather conditions. However, too much padding can lead to overheating and sweat buildup, so it’s important to find a balance that works for you and your needs.

  • Thickness and warmth

Both are quite important for winter. Usually (but not always), heavyweight socks provide more warmth than lightweight constructions. However, it is also crucial to find a balance between thickness and breathability, as socks that are too thick but do not breathe well can trap moisture and cause your feet to become damp and cold.

  • Sock height (style)

There are several options – from crew length (lower-calf) to boot length (mid-calf), and over-the-calf or knee-length designs. Our preference is for boot socks and over-the-calf designs. Generally, they work better than crew socks in cold weather. Moreover, they could be combined with both boots and shoes.

  • Price

Typically top-quality winter hiking socks cost between $25 and $30 but you can also find good models for as little as $10-$15 (e.g. Danish Endurance Premium Hiking Socks come at $28 for 2 pairs). Keep in mind that the price does not always reflect the quality of the product, so be sure to read reviews and do your research before making a purchase. The best socks for you may be an investment, but it will be worth it at the end when your feet are warm and comfortable on your winter hikes.

  • Durability

Merino is often blended with nylon and/or polyester for increased durability and abrasion resistance. It’s one of the reasons we recommend not 100% merino socks but merino wool/synthetic blends.

  • Comfort

Look for socks that would suit your individual needs. Having the right pair of socks can make a huge difference in your hiking experience, so be sure to choose socks that meet your specific needs and preferences for comfort, warmth, and support. There’s every chance that these socks will make your feet comfortable and happy. Your feet will thank you for it!

  • Warranty

Manufacturers have established different policies regarding the socks they sell. Before you buy, make sure that you know the useful lifetime of the sock and the length of the guarantee. Our advice is to look for an Unconditional lifetime guarantee. It’s the best option in the world of hiking socks. Darn Tough is one of the brands that offer such a warranty for their socks. Most other popular brands offer a Satisfaction guarantee (like the 2-year satisfaction guarantee of Smartwool) and even more limited policies (standard 30 or 60-day guarantee).

Are wool socks good for winter?

Wool is a great option for winter socks, especially merino wool. It’s also one of the best materials for warm socks because of its softness, warmth, insulating and antimicrobial properties, moisture-wicking and relatively quick-drying abilities, etc. One of the best things about wool is its ability to maintain warmth even when wet. Unlike cotton, it doesn’t lose its insulation properties and keeps your feet cozy in all conditions.

Merino wool is a finer, softer, and more comfortable alternative to traditional sheep’s wool, making it less likely to irritate the skin. Alpaca wool is another great option for winter, although it is less commonly used in socks compared to merino wool. Alpaca wool is a soft and silky natural fiber that, like sheep’s wool, provides insulation without adding weight. Additionally, high-quality alpaca wool is even lighter and warmer, making it a good choice for winter hiking.

Winter wool socks
Wool socks have some characteristics and properties that make them an excellent choice for winter

What are the best socks for winter hiking?

Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full CushionThe best socks for hiking in winter and cold weather are the Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion (for more info about the different types of winter socks, their characteristics, features, pros, and cons, etc., check out the article we wrote about the best winter socks). These mid-calf socks are hard-wearing and functional winter hiking socks designed for comfort and performance. They come with top-quality merino wool and great padding for added comfort, insulation, and warmth. What’s best about these socks is that they are so comfortable, breathable, versatile, and functional that they can be worn year-round for pretty much anything. The mid-calf length is easily combined with boots or shoes, which is a good option, especially in the transitional seasons. There are also men’s and women’s options for a better fit. Anything else? Oh, yes, Darn Tough offers a lifetime guarantee. The downside of these socks: top-quality products cost a lot and these socks aren’t an exception. However, we think that the premier quality is worth it.

You may also wish to check out our answer to the question regarding the kind of socks to wear hiking in the winter. Considering all the factors there, you should be able to find the best/right socks for your next winter adventure.

What kind of socks to wear for hiking?

Socks aren’t just one of the hiking accessories. In fact, they should be an important part of the clothing wardrobe of every hiker. But what kind of socks are best for hiking and do you need special socks?

The best socks for hiking should be durable, abrasion-resistant, breathable, with great moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities for rapid moisture transportation from the foot outward. They should be the right length for the season and environment. For example, ankle socks or lower-calf length for summer; mid-calf or over-the-calf length for winter; lower-calf or mid-calf length for spring and autumn. The sock should be breathable enough to keep the feet dry and comfortable no matter the conditions. Tightly woven socks with heavy padding provide more and better insulation, warmth, and comfort in winter. Socks with light/medium cushioning are perfect for summer. Merino/synthetic blends and all-synthetic hiking socks work best for hiking and backpacking.

Should hiking socks be thick or thin?

It depends on the environments and conditions you will be hiking in. For those who go backpacking in cold winter weather, it’s important to have thick socks that offer insulation to keep their feet warm and dry. Conversely, those who prefer summer and hot weather hiking will benefit greatly from thin socks. If you’re going on longer trips or thru-hiking, we suggest using socks that strike a balance between breathability and cushioning. In this case, midweight cushioning usually works best for extended trips.

Thin vs thick hiking sock
Example of thin vs heavy sock: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Lightweight (left) vs Darn Tough Boot Heavyweight Hunting (right)

Another key factor is your footwear. If you prefer sandals or minimalist shoes, a pair of thin hiking socks will be more than enough. On the other hand, thin socks don’t work that well with solid boots.

Should you wear two pairs of socks when hiking?

Layering your socks is a classic way of achieving the optimal performance of hiking socks. Proper layering can do a lot of positive things as it:

  • Provides extra cushioning for longer hikes and helps prevent blisters and hot spots from forming.
  • Reduces abrasion from your boots, which can increase the lifespan of both your socks and boots and keep your feet more comfortable on the trail.
  • Removes excess moisture from your feet, which helps prevent blisters and keeps your feet dry and comfortable during long hikes.
  • Insulates from cold and keeps your feet warmer in winter conditions, making it possible to hike in colder weather without sacrificing comfort.

When done properly, wearing two pairs of socks can lead to better comfort and protection of the foot reducing the chances of blister formation. Just remember that the inner layer (the sock next to your skin, e.g. Injinji Liner Crew Socks – one of the best models on the market) should be thin, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying in order to be able to rapidly wick sweat away from the foot. It should be made of hydrophobic material. The outer layer (the sock between the inner layer and the boot, e.g. REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Hiking Crew – an excellent winter hiking sock with high merino wool content) should provide insulation, cushioning, and abrasion resistance. It should be made of synthetics, wool or a wool/synthetic blend in order to be able to pass the moisture from your foot outward.

Why are cotton socks bad for hiking?

It’s true that cotton can be bad for you on the trail. Cotton socks aren’t a good choice for hiking or other high-intensity activities due to some inherent characteristics and properties of cotton. For example, they absorb a lot of moisture, stick to the feet, lose their insulating properties, and wrinkle easily when wet. All of these factors, combined with cotton’s slow drying speed, make it an unreliable material for hiking socks. Wearing wet socks that easily wrinkle can cause blisters (damp socks soften the skin) or even trench foot if worn for long periods.

Bonus: Why are crew socks so popular?

The crew or lower-calf height is probably the most commonly used sock style and the most popular for hiking (and beyond). This is because the crew is an extremely versatile sock length, with the upper of the sock ending just below the calf. This makes it suitable for wearing in summer, winter, and transitional seasons. However, while it is suitable for year-round trips, the crew length is best for three-season outdoor activities.

Crew vs mini crew sock
Example of sock designs: crew or lower-calf sock (left), quarter crew or ankle sock (right)


What kind of socks to wear for hiking? It’s a simple question requiring a not-so-simple answer. In this post, we’ve attempted to answer not only this question but also ten other closely related questions about hiking socks.

When choosing hiking socks, look for socks made from appropriate materials (and avoid cotton), with the right amount of cushioning, and with the proper length for your particular needs. Additionally, don’t forget to take into consideration the environment and expected weather conditions when making your choice.

We hope that this article has answered some of the most frequently asked questions about hiking socks. If you have any additional questions about hiking socks that were not covered in this article, please feel free to let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you and help provide any further information or clarification you may need.


Related Articles

Best Hiking Socks

Best Hiking Socks Summer

Polyester FAQs

Best Winter Socks

Best Hiking Liner Socks

Popular Inquiries about Rain Pants

Cotton FAQs


Like this post? PIN ME!!

10 FAQs about hiking socks Pinterest Pin

Leave a Comment