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How to Choose Hiking Socks

How to Choose Hiking Socks

How to Choose Hiking Socks

Choosing the right hiking socks is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience. Here are some tips on how to choose hiking socks:

1. Material:

  • Merino Wool: Merino wool is a popular choice for hiking socks. It is moisture-wicking, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant. It also provides good insulation, keeping your feet warm in cold conditions and cool in warm weather.
  • Synthetic Fabrics: Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are often used in hiking socks. They are durable, dry quickly, and provide good moisture-wicking properties.
  • Blends: Some socks combine merino wool with synthetic materials to offer a balance of warmth, moisture management, and durability.

2. Thickness:

  • Lightweight: Suitable for warm weather and low-intensity activities.
  • Midweight: A versatile choice for various conditions and moderate hiking.
  • Heavyweight: Ideal for cold weather and challenging terrain.

3. Height:

  • Ankle Socks: Low-cut socks suitable for warm weather and low-cut hiking shoes.
  • Quarter Crew: Slightly taller, providing some ankle coverage.
  • Crew Length: Standard height that goes above the ankle, offering more protection.
  • Over-the-Calf: Extended height for additional warmth and support, often preferred for cold weather and high boots.

4. Cushioning:

  • Light Cushion: Suitable for low-impact activities and warm weather.
  • Medium Cushion: Offers a balance of comfort and support for various conditions.
  • Heavy Cushion: Provides maximum padding for cold weather and rugged terrain.

5. Seamless Design:

  • Look for socks with flat or seamless toe seams to minimize the risk of irritation and blisters.

6. Moisture-Wicking:

  • Choose socks with moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry and comfortable. This is crucial for preventing blisters and discomfort.

7. Fit:

  • Ensure a proper fit to prevent bunching, sliding, or excessive friction. Socks that are too tight can restrict circulation, while those that are too loose may lead to blisters.

8. Durability:

  • Consider the durability of the socks, especially if you plan to embark on long hikes or challenging terrain. Reinforced heels and toes can enhance longevity.

9. Temperature Rating:

  • Some hiking socks come with temperature ratings, indicating the range of conditions they are designed for. Consider your destination and expected weather conditions.

10. Brand and Reviews:

  • Explore reputable brands known for their quality hiking socks. Read reviews from other hikers to get insights into the performance of specific sock models.

11. Layering:

  • In colder conditions, consider using a two-layer sock system: a moisture-wicking liner sock underneath and an insulating outer sock.

12. Personal Preferences:

  • Ultimately, personal preferences play a role. Some hikers prefer a snug fit, while others like a bit more room. Experiment with different styles and brands to find what works best for you.

Remember that the right hiking sock can vary based on individual preferences, foot shape, and the specific conditions of your hike. It’s a good idea to try out different options before embarking on longer hikes or backpacking trips.

When trekking, the comfort of your foot in each step is decisive; Having good hiking socks is vital to take care of your feet from blisters and give them warmth and comfort throughout the journey.

Did you know that on average, a person takes 2000 steps to walk a mile (1.61km), a figure that can increase due to the type of terrain you travel? In hiking, each route, whether uphill or downhill, is decisive. Rocks, roots, vegetation, unevenness, you can find everything during the tour.

How to choose your hiking socks

When you begin to select the proper clothing to enjoy a hiking excursion, you can consider these key aspects that will help you choose the best socks to practice this activity comfortably.

Consider the texture and weave or fabric.

Hiking socks are usually made of materials that provide balance, warmth, durability, comfort, and quick-drying properties. Although most are made of polyester and nylon, the primary manufacturing material is merino wool since traditional wool is very irritating and uncomfortable to wear.

In general, this type of wool is the ideal material for hiking; It is the most popular and the most recommended by footwear experts for these sports activities. It doesn’t itch and regulates the temperature of the feet very well so that they don’t get sweaty, and by the way, they have good cushioning.

Another advantage is that merino wool is naturally antimicrobial which means it retains less odor than synthetic fabrics. It is made up of curly fiber, containing millions of air pockets that trap body heat and keep you warm.

The Merino is one of the oldest breeds of sheep, and its wool is an input for the manufacture of sports clothing. So when you go to choose hiking socks, check that they are made of this material (in its highest percentage), which will be a guarantee of good thermal capacity, softness in contact with the skin, sweat, and the absence of foul odors because it is an antimicrobial material. -bacterial and protective from UV rays.

Merino wool is biodegradable, recyclable, and renewable.

Hiking socks height

The primary purpose of proper sock height is to protect your foot from shoe abrasion.

The best way to choose the height of the socks is by looking at the shoes you will wear. Hiking socks come in different sizes, from very short that you can’t even see over your boots to high enough that they almost reach your knees.

So, the higher the shaft or back of the shoe, the higher the measurement of the socks should be to protect your skin from rubbing against the shoe when you start the tour.

These are the heights of the hiking socks:

  • Note: These are short socks that provide very little protection against abrasion during skin-to-shoe contact. They are best worn only with low-cut, lightweight walking shoes.
  • Ankle-length: These are a little higher than short socks; they usually cover the ankle bone to provide a bit of protection. They are ideal for use with low to mid-cut shoes and boots.
  • Crew: This is the classic and ideal height for hiking socks. This style reaches a few inches above the ankle bones to protect against abrasion when wearing high-top footwear. You can also use them with low-cut shoes, although if you practice any activity on hot days, they can, in addition to protecting you from abrasion, cause you more heat than usual.
  • Up to the knee: they are typically used to practice mountaineering. High socks protect against abrasion from large boots or high shoes around the calves. These socks can help keep your lower legs warm when you have to climb at night in icy places.

Cushioning and fit

The amount of cushioning in a sock refers to how thick it is and how warm it can get. So the right amount of cushioning depends on the type of ride you’re going to take and the weather you expect to experience.

For example, a little cushioning can protect your feet during high-impact activities like running but keep in mind that thicker socks are warmer, and your feet can get quite sweaty.

The best thing at this point is that you try and experiment until you find the balance between warmth and cushioning, and you can find the socks that offer you the comfort and freshness you are looking for.

There are four types of damping:

  • Non-cushioned: These are ultralight socks designed for hot weather. They are very breathable and have a little padding. A sock model is the liner sock worn by some hikers under a hiking sock as it wicks away moisture and keeps feet dry. Today, many hiking socks work well enough to make a liner sock unnecessary. But if they work for you, nothing prevents you from continuing to use them.
  • Light Padding – Great for warm conditions as they wick away moisture and provide comfort rather than heat. They’re relatively thin but have light cushioning in critical places like the heel and ball of the foot.
  • Medium Cushioning – These socks provide a good amount of cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot, allowing you to walk warm enough in moderate to cold weather.
  • STRONG CUSHIONING – These are the thickest, warmest, and most cushioned socks available on the market. They’re made for long rides, rough terrain, and cold temperatures. They are very thick and warm for excursions in hot climates, but they are handy for mountaineering or on trips and tours in cold climates.

Why are trekking socks important?

There is a multitude of reasons. First of all, wearing the wrong pair of hiking socks is a guaranteed route to acquiring every hiker’s nemesis: blisters. Second, a specific hiking sock prevents feet from getting stinky, another hiking bane, especially in hot weather.

And last but not least, hiking socks provide comfort and cushioning for your feet when going on longer hikes or expeditions due to the importance of hiking socks and preventing hikers from having a miserable hiking experience.

How to choose hiking socks?

How to choose mountain socks? When choosing hiking socks, you must take your time and consider which ones are best suited to the type of hike and the conditions you may encounter. Some of the key features to think about are temperature regulation, shock absorption, blister prevention, and promoting good circulation.

An average person takes about 2,000 steps to cover 2 kilometers. If we add to this the ups and downs of a hiking trail, the obstacles such as rocks that we will find along the way, this figure will increase significantly. With every step, the right hiking socks play a critical role in keeping your feet comfortable and blister-free throughout your trek.

If you want to choose the best hiking socks for your trip, it is essential to consider these four aspects before any of the other features that your hiking socks may offer:

  • The height of the sock: The correct height of the sock protects against abrasion with your footwear
  • Cushioning: The amount of cushioning affects comfort and warmth
  • Fabric: Most hiking socks have merino wool as their main ingredient, but some are made primarily from polyester or nylon
  • Fit: Make sure your socks fit snugly to avoid blisters

Hiking socks height

The height of socks is usually determined by the type of footwear they are worn with. Ankle socks may be suitable for low to mid-height shoes, while calf socks are better with hiking boots to prevent chafing between the boot cuff and the leg.

These are the four heights of socks that you will find when buying hiking socks:

  • invisible
  • to the ankle
  • knee height
  • knee height

Invisible socks for hiking

No-show socks are even lower than quarter-length socks. If you’re wearing soft-top hiking or trail running shoes, the socks should sit just above the collar and still provide padding and protection between the ankle and the shoe.

However, keep in mind that no-show socks are more likely to let in road debris like gravel or dirt, and a poor fit could lead to heel and ankle chafing. We prefer quarter socks for most of our outdoor activities simply for the added coverage. Still, shorter socks are certainly lower profile and appeal to those looking to minimize bulk.

Ankle socks for hiking

Quarter (1/4) socks, or ankle socks as their name implies, cover the heel and ankle but do not extend down the leg as much as mid-calf socks. Minimalist hikers and those heading out in the summer heat may prefer 1/4 socks, which work well as long as you’re not wearing high ankle boots as you may end up feeling some friction and not needing protection from abrasions. This style also works well with running shoes.

Mid-height or mid-calf socks

The most common height of hiking socks is 6 to 8 inches above the heel and at least a couple of inches above any pair of hiking boots. We think this is the optimal height for hiking: mid-height socks don’t give off excessive heat and offer better lower leg protection from brush and rocks. Hiking pants can be pretty thin, so the extra cushioning is helpful, and particularly if you wear shorts on all but the most accessible trails, calf-length socks are the best option.

Knee-high trekking socks

Knee-high socks will be a great addition to your sock drawer. When temperatures drop, a knee sock is essential if you want to continue enjoying the outdoors in winter. In addition, they are extra long and cover the leg below the knee, keeping the legs warm and the feet. As well as keeping your feet warm, these socks are ideal for rough terrain, and these socks will keep your legs protected.

Most hiking socks follow the length types seen above as standard. However, if you have the option, it’s best to opt for a mid-length sock, as it will help protect your ankles from dirt, bugs, and branches while you’re out on the trail.

If you’ve already done a few hikes and feel like your ankles need to be free, you can always buy some no-show socks or ankle socks.

Cushioning and padding in the Trekking Socks

The amount of padding in hiking socks will indicate how thick the socks are and how warm they will be. The proper thickness of cushioning that will be ideal for you will depend mainly on the type of hiking trek you will do and the weather you expect. A little padding can protect your feet during strenuous activities like running or backpacking, but remember that thicker socks are warmer and can make your feet sweat more.

You may have to experiment to find the right balance of cushioning and warmth that works for you. It helps to have various hiking socks to choose from in your sock drawer.

Hiking Compression Socks

Compression is a buzzword among outdoor athletes, lauded for its ability to aid muscle recovery and reduce overall fatigue. In the hiking arena, some hikers find compression socks useful when hiking long distances or traveling in cold weather, as the extra support can help relieve pain and promote blood flow.

We include a pair of compression socks are an excellent addition for those who want a little more comfort and security on the road. Compression models are a bit more expensive and aren’t for everyone, but the potential benefits are worth it for some.

Types of padding for hiking socks

no padding

Non-cushioned trekking socks are ultra-lightweight socks designed for use on hiking trails in hot weather. They are very breathable and have a little padding. Some of the socks in this category are lined socks, which many hikers like to wear under a light, medium, or heavy hiking sock.

Striped socks used to be popular because they wick away moisture and keep your feet dry, but today many hiking socks are so good they don’t need a lined sock. However, if you know that striped socks work for you, you can continue to use them.

light cushioning

These trekking socks are ideal for warm conditions, and the lightly cushioned socks prioritize moisture wicking and comfort over warmth. Its fibers are relatively fine but have a slight softening in critical areas, such as the heel and the ball of the foot.

medium damping

These types of trekking socks provide good cushioning in the heel and sole making them ideal for hiking and backpacking and providing enough warmth for use in moderate to cold conditions.

very padded

This type of hiking sock is usually the thickest, warmest, and most cushioned sock on the market. It is made for long-term hiking trails, rough terrain, and cold temperatures. They are often too thick and warm for backpacking in hot conditions and are best recommended for mountaineering or backpacking in cold weather.

Trekking socks: Type of fabric and materials

Hiking socks are rarely made from just one fabric but a mix that strikes the right balance between comfort, warmth, durability, and quick drying. These are the most common materials you will find in mountain socks:


Wool is the most popular material for trekking socks and the one our shoe specialists recommend above all others. It regulates the temperature well so that the feet do not sweat and provides cushioning. Another advantage is that wool is naturally antimicrobial, so it retains less odor than synthetic fabrics.

Today, most socks are made from merino wool, which is essentially itch-free compared to the old rag wool sock types. Also, most wool socks use blends of wool and synthetic materials for durability and faster drying.


Polyester is a synthetic material that insulates, wicks away moisture, and dries quickly. It is sometimes blended with wool and nylon for a good combination of warmth, comfort, durability, and quick drying.


It is another synthetic option that is occasionally used as the primary material. Increases durability and can improve dry times.


Silk is a material that acts as a natural insulator, and silk is comfortable and light but not as durable as other options. It is occasionally used in trekking sock liners to provide reliable moisture transport.


Many hiking socks contain a small amount of spandex. This stretchy material helps the trekking socks keep their shape and minimizes wrinkles.

Fitting a hiking sock

The correct fit of your trekking socks will help keep your feet comfortable while hiking. If the socks are too big, they can have wrinkles that can rub against you and cause a blister. If they are too small, they can cause pressure points, and the socks can slip off.

Finding the right size helps to know your actual foot size and not your hiking shoe size because sometimes people get the size wrong, which can lead to buying socks that are too big. If you are torn between two sizes, choose a smaller size to avoid excess material that can bunch up and cause blisters.

How should hiking socks fit?

When trying on your hiking socks, make sure they fit snug but not too tight. A sock fits appropriately when the heel counter matches the foot’s heel.

The durability of trekking socks

It’s incredible how many times we’ve put our hiking socks in the washer and dryer, and they’ve come out like new. Durability is brand-specific, and we have seen changes over the years even among the same Mountain Gear manufacturers.

Regardless of the brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long a $20 pair of hiking socks will last. If you have a few pairs to rotate between and not just one or two pairs, you can expect most hiking socks to last at least a couple of seasons, if not more. We have several teams in our drawer of hiking socks that we use for both our 1-day treks and expeditions and rarely need to replace them.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

In recent years, attention to sustainability has increased in the outdoor industry, and hiking socks are no exception. There are currently two key trends in this category: wool certified according to the Responsible Wool Standard ( RWS- ) and the use of recycled materials. The first indicates that the sheep have been treated humanely and by strict animal welfare and environmental standards.

We have also started to see more companies using recycled materials, such as recycled nylon and socks made from CoolMax EcoMade, which is polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. In general, from our Senderos y Rutas community, we appreciate these efforts, and we are eager to see more brands join them.

Specific socks for women

Many companies sell specific socks for men and women, but in most cases, there is not a big difference in performance between the two. Women’s socks often come in different colors and are offered in smaller sizes overall, but otherwise have the same overall design and fit like men’s or unisex trekking socks. In general, it’s best to decide based on size rather than whether the sock is unisex or women’s specific.

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The many benefits of hiking socks

We could probably write a little book on the benefits of wearing hiking socks. However, to save you a lengthy book, we’d instead summarize the benefits that hiking socks provide benefits learned from painful experiences while hiking before genuinely appreciating the benefits of hiking socks.

foot cushioning

Trekking socks are specifically designed to provide additional cushioning to the forefoot and heel. This extra cushioning also has a side effect: it makes the socks more durable. You may think you don’t need extra cushioning. Think again. Try a 10-mile hike over rocky terrain, with some long ups and downs for fun. Every bit of cushioning helps keep your foot from “throbbing” towards the end of a long walk.

prevent blisters

A hiking sock is crucial to preventing blisters. Unlike a thin cotton sock, a hiking sock will not constantly rub against the back of the foot and provides significant protection against rubbing the boot can cause that. A wet foot is a stinky and painful foot. But a damp foot is also prone to blisters. Trekking socks wick sweat away from the foot and draw it into the sock. It keeps the foot dry and goes a long way in preventing blisters.

Warm and comfortable feet

Mountain socks, even the lightest ones, are thick. This thickness keeps your feet warm. However, this leads us to a question. Who needs to have warm feet in summer? Well, a quality hiking sock keeps your feet cool during the summer by preventing outside heat from reaching your foot as it traps external heat in tiny air bubbles. At the same time, the socks wick away the foot’s heat and sweat. One of the reasons we suggest Smartwool socks for summer hiking trips.


Once a person starts wearing good hiking socks, cotton socks are often relegated to a forgotten drawer. Most people who buy quality hiking socks soon find themselves wearing them at home, in the office, and even in bed. The reason for this multitude of uses is simple: trekking socks keep your feet at the right temperature, especially if you have Smartwool socks. In addition, Smartwool hiking socks are very soft and fit perfectly on foot.

Trekking socks care

We recommend washing them in cold water and air drying for most merino wool products (not just trekking socks). Instructions vary by manufacturer, and some claim that merino wool can be tumble dried, but we believe this significantly shortens its shelf life.

However, merino wool hiking socks – along with polyester hiking socks – are one of the few items that we can put in the dryer with our regular clothes. They don’t have the same durability issues as other merino products, and the hot tumble dryer will return the socks to their original shape. We believe that you can opt for iron drying, but keep in mind that it can form more pills and shrink the socks more than in the dryer.

Considerations before buying your next mountain socks

Hiking socks aren’t the most technical piece of equipment; however, here’s a final rundown of things hikers should consider when shopping for a hiking sock.

Select the correct size

It is the usual. But before spending money on a hiking sock, read the “size guide.” For Smartwool socks, most men will want the “large” size, while women will go for the “medium” size. But this is just a general rule. To avoid buying a sock that doesn’t fit you, read the sock’s size guide first.

The thickness of the trekking sock

Hiking socks typically come in three light, medium, and thick thicknesses. Smartwool, and some other sock manufacturers, also make an extra-wide style called the “trekking style.”

The thickness of the socks depends on the weather of your hiking trail and your personal preference. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • For summer excursions, choose a light or medium weight.
  • For more relaxed weather hikes and hikes, choose a medium or heavyweight.
  • And for extreme cold, choose Smartwool heavyweight or “trekking style” socks.

For most hikes, medium-weight hiking socks are the most versatile. The mid-weight sock fits easily in all hiking boots and shoes, including athletic shoes, and provides more cushioning than a lightweight sock. However, the Smartwool trekking line of socks for winter or high mountain hiking will work just fine for winter or high mountain hiking.

Will the sock fit your hiking shoes or boots?

Since hiking socks vary significantly in thickness, the fit of a particular sock to your hiking shoes is variable and largely depends on how snug your shoe or boot is. In general, we have observed the following:

LIGHT TO MID WEIGHT HIKING SOCKS – Fits virtually all types of hiking shoes and boots. Midweight socks can feel a bit tight when worn inside athletic shoes without changing how the shoe is laced.

Heavyweight socks are often “too thick” to wear with sneakers and tight hiking shoes but often work well with hiking boots. Still, if your hiking boot is already tight, a heavyweight sock could pose problems. We have used heavyweight socks in athletic shoes, but this requires a lot of loosening of the shoelace.

High Mountain Socks: These socks are exceptionally thick. They only fit inside hiking boots that are “roomy.” Of course, they also work great at home in the winter.


Trekking socks come in a wide variety of colors. To go on an excursion, choose the colors you like the most. Just remember that darker hiking socks hide dirt better than lighter socks. While this is not a consideration for overnight hiking, the ability to “hide dirt” is often helpful for day hikers.

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