Choosing the right hiking boot for your adventures is only half of what will ensure your comfort, mile after mile, up and down the trails. Combining your boot with the right kind of sock is key. You want to choose either a wool, synthetic, or wool/synthetic blend sock, in the proper size and weight for your intended hiking. Over the several months the Washington Trails
gear team tested the newest in hiking boot models, they also put many of the latest sock brands and styles to the test, including Icebreaker, SmartWool, Teko, Thorlo and a few you may not have heard of. Here's what they recommend.
Icebreaker Light- and Midweight Hikers ($18–$22) scored big with all of our testers in the dayhiking category. Available in a variety of styles, Icebreaker socks are manufactured using the highest quality merino wool for superior comfort and breathability. They provide ample padding in all the crucial areas, offer extra breathability through the use of strategic mesh zones, and provide added support to both your achilles and instep. Other favorites included the Teko Organic Merino Hikers ($20), sporting targeted areas of reinforcement in the arch and heel, and a wool/spandex blend providing a smooth, even fit; the Flaggy Meadow Fiber Works Adventure Hiking Sock ($25) with its unique construction of silver woven in to the alpaca wool to prevent bacteria accumulation; and the Goodhew Taos Crew ($16) with its alpaca and lambswool fiber making it an exceptionally comfortable sock for light hiking.
For those days of longer miles under heavy packs the team stands by some of their tried-and-true favorites. The classic SmartWool Expedition Hiker
($20) continues to prove itself as a go-to sock with its sturdy construction, shock-absorbing cushioning and added arch brace. Another favored model is the Goodhew Hike Medium Crew
($22), with its merino/nylon blend providing lots of cushion and breathability while maintaining their integrity after multiple days on the trail. For those extra-long trips the Thorlo Trekker
($20) was the hands-down winner. The wool and synthetic blend material provides excellent breathability and no odors, while the heavy padding maintains its loft after days of heavy use.
Liners & Insoles
Determined to get the most out of every trail mile, our team doesn't stop with just their socks. Several of them also employ an additional liner and/or insole in their boots to guarantee comfort and avoid any chance of blisters. For liners, the team's selections ranged from the Icebreaker Hike Liner
($16), the SmartWool Merino Liner
($11), and the Bridgedale Coolmax Liner
($20/2). The liner adds a thin, extra layer of wool or synthetic material between your foot and your boot, helping to transport moisture away, and hold your sock in place, reducing friction and bunching.
You can reduce stress on your feet even further by employing a customized insole. Sole Signature Heat-Moldable Footbeds ($45) are custom-formed insoles offering superior support to your feet with a deep heel cup and SOFTEC cushioning on an ultra-breathable EVA base—just put in the for ten minutes, then stick in your boots! Superfeet ($40+) can actually reduce your foot volume in your boots, by raising your arch and pulling back volume from the toe bed. The dense foam padding and additional arch support helps to minimize the impact of being on your feet mile after mile.
When shopping for new hiking socks be sure to select the proper size for your feet and boots. Loose socks will bunch and rub, causing blisters; tight socks could reduce circulation to your feet. Socks that are too light or too heavy for your boot can cause similar problems. If possible, see if you can try the socks on with your boots before purchasing. Your feet are perhaps the most important piece of "gear" you take with you down the trails. Take care of them and they'll take care of you.