Be Kind to Your Feet: Our Favorite Socks
For hikers, there is no more important tool than your feet. You want to take care of them so they can carry you for endless miles. Here are a variety of socks that our staff and gear testing team recommend.
For hikers, your feet are likely your most important tool. You want to take care of them so they can carry you for endless miles. It’s time to give your feet a little love. Here are a variety of socks that our staff and gear testing team recommend.
DARN TOUGH UNCLE BUCK
This pair of thin socks is warmer than they appear, thanks to a nearly equal blend of nylon and Merino wool. Lightweight, colorful and durable, these socks are perfect to use on a midsummer high-country excursion. The seamless construction makes them extremely comfortable, even for long days on the trail or in wet conditions. Made in Vermont for more than 30 years, Darn Tough are designed with longevity in mind, and backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee. If you can put a hole in them, Darn Tough will replace them. $25; rei.com.
Defeet Aireator 6"
Recommended by staff member Andrew Pringle, these lightweight socks "hold up amazingly well for how light they are." Worn by cyclists, hikers and runners, these socks are versatile, lightweight, and allow your feet to breath. The Aireator is an excellent pick for people who prefer thinner socks. $15; rei.com.
This sock is a true hybrid, in several ways. The sock is woven with an equal blend of nylon, merino wool and Endurofil polypropylene fibers, which combine to give the sock warmth, softness, and moisture wicking. The sock also has a unique construction with two levels of thickness. The fabric around the ball of the foot and the heel is slightly thicker than the rest of the sock, to provide cushioning in high-use areas. The result is a sock that has a bit of texture that may take some getting used to, but it’s ultimately very comfortable to wear outdoors on the trail or indoors on hardwood floors. $20.95; backcountry.com.
Sockwell Pulse Firm Compression Socks
Staff member Barbara Budd recommends these compression socks for all types of activities, from hiking to trailwork. "I've gone to using Sockwell compression socks as a liner sock. The compression socks have really helped with the aches of lots of miles and/or trailwork, plus they're thin enough for a liner sock, which keeps me from blistering." $26.95; rei.com.
FEETURES ELITE MERINO
Merino wool blends make great socks, but not all socks are created equal. Feetures! gets it right with their Elite series—the merino is blended with rayon fibers from bamboo along with nylon and spandex to create an ultra-soft sock that stands up to the abuse of long days on trail and a variety of conditions. These socks withstood hundreds of miles of testing without causing a blister, and they maintained their softness after repeating washings. They come in both ultralight and cushioned versions, with stretch panels to help provide arch support and extra cushioning in high-impact areas like the arch, toe box and Achilles tendon area. They are anatomically constructed and have a clearly labeled right and left. They’re marketed to runners, but worked equally well for a long hike or trail run. $15.99; feeturesrunning.com.
INJINJI RUN LIGHTWEIGHT
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that these socks look ridiculous. Don’t let that deter you. For hikers who get blisters between their toes, these socks can change your life, especially on long backpacking trips. They take a bit of getting used to, but once you get moving, you won’t even notice you’re basically wearing gloves on your feet. These socks are especially effective for those with wide feet, giving the toes a chance to spread out. Even over two weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail, our tester didn’t end up with a single blister. One downside: They are a pain to get on, especially if they’re wet. But it’s worth it. These socks were also recommended by staff members Rachel Wendling and Jessi Loerch! Rachel says "there's something so cozy to me about toe socks. Like each of my toes is getting a lil hug." $13; rei.com.
Smartwool PhD Nordic Medium
Recommended by WTA staff member Holly Weiler, these medium weight socks are perfect for winter snow sports and staying warm in cooler temps without getting too warm (who wants sweaty feet?). Holly uses them for nordic skiing in Eastern Washington and highly recommends them! $24.95; rei.com.
Staff sock thoughts
In addition to the recommendations above, staff also shared some tips and other favorites. Here are a few of their sock thoughts:
"My biggest sock tip is to always bring a backup pair. In summer, I swap them out mid-hike to deal with sweat. In winter, I reserve them for if my feet get cold and wet. When backpacking, I keep a pair of sacred socks at the bottom of my bag to be used only for sleeping, and then I wear them on the last day of hiking. I've even used my backup socks as a temporary bandage for my dog's hurt paw." - Loren Drummond
"For longer backpacking trips (week+), I sometimes buy a new pair of socks and save them in my bag until the last day or two, or if I have a really hard day, so I can put on brand new clean socks as a treat to myself." - Kaci Darsow
"I love Injinji's lightweight no-show socks (reviewed above). I am prone to pinky-toe blisters, and Injinji socks are one of the few that keep me blister-free during a long backpacking trip." - Rachel Wendling
"I'm a fan of Darn Tough for most hiking and trail running, Smartwool mountaineering weight for winter (snowshoe & winter backpacking), and Smartwool Nordic medium-weight for Nordic skiing. But I mostly use the Costco merino socks for trail work because I positively destroy my trail work socks." - Holly Weiler
"Darn Tough and From the Ground Up socks hold up extremely well, keep blisters at bay over 30+ mile adventures, and are extremely comfortable." - Grady Olson