Best Hiking Socks 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Hiking Socks 2023

We’ve trekked for miles in the best hiking socks from leading outdoor brands. Here are our top picks for walking and backpacking

Hiking socks may be not the world’s most exciting bit of kit, but if you find the right pair then that can be the difference between excruciating blisters and pain-free hiking. Put simply, finding the best hiking socks equals more comfortable walking. But what makes a good pair of socks?

Brands offer a large and sometimes bewildering range of options. All the socks on test here are designed for hiking, walking and mountaineering, but it’s still important to pick the right sock for you. For year-round walking in the UK for example, we’d go for a midweight hiking sock. If you’re mountaineering at higher altitudes, you may want thicker, heavier weight socks, though your toes still need room to move within your hiking boots.

The Micro Hiker Crew from Darn Tough on test by our review team in Scotland.

The best hiking socks are usually ‘mapped’ or ‘zoned’ in construction. This means there are different weights of fabric for different parts of the foot. The heel and ball of the foot usually has a heavier fabric for cushioning and durability. Thinner areas around the top of the foot allow more breathability. A tighter weave around the arch of the foot adds support and helps to keep the sock in place.

Socks also come in different heights. ‘Crew’ socks are most common, coming an inch or so above the top of a boot, but calf and even knee length socks are also available.

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Most socks are made from merino wool, nylon or polyester (or a blend of these fibres), with elastane for stretch. Nylon and Polyester are synthetic fibres that are quick-drying and hard-wearing. Merino wool is a natural fibre that stays warm even when wet, is naturally odour-resistant and is very comfortable. It wicks moisture away from the skin too. Basically, Merino socks are the best hiking socks. The downsides are that Merino is an animal product, and there are instances of animal cruelty in the Merino wool industry. Fortunately, most products in the outdoor sector now certify their merino wool.

Our Team’s Hiking Sock Picks

With dozens of different hiking socks out there, what should you look for when buying your next pair of socks? This group test highlights the best hiking socks around, comparing features, performance and overall value.

  • Best Overall Hiking Sock: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew

  • Best Sock For Warmth: Helly Hansen Technical Alpine

  • Best Budget Hiking Sock: Craghoppers Explore

  • Best Multi-Sport Sock for Hiking and Running: Inov8 Trailfly

  • Best for Long-Distance Hiking: Falke TK2

  • Best Waterproof Sock: Sealskinz Briston All Weather


The Expert

I’ve been reviewing outdoor gear for various outdoor magazines for over 10 years and in that time I’ve served on the juries for the ISPO Awards, Scandinavian Outdoor Awards and the OIA Awards in the UK. I’m primarily a hiker and got my first gig as an outdoor journalist after writing about one of my first big adventures, walking the 1000-mile perimeter of Wales. I can tell you that I got through a lot of hiking socks on that trip. Since then, I’ve gone on to tread plenty more long distance trails, including the Cambrian Way and West Highland Way, and I dabble in a bit of trail running too. 

How We Tested The Products

I personally tested all of the socks you can see here on this page. There were actually a lot of other socks tested but they didn’t make the cut  – so what you see  here is my curation of the best options I’ve tried. The process of selection goes back about three years, though you can rest assured that all of the socks that have been chosen are still available on the market. 

In my tests, I put numerous days of hiking into each pair of socks, usually with a heavy hiking backpack. The winners, for example, were worn on hikes within the Cairngorms of Scotland. Others were worn on my various adventures in my homeland of Wales and also in the Lake District, Peak District and on dog walks with my Border Terrier on the Wiltshire Downs. I generally wear hiking socks just day-to-day (because why not?) and therefore all of these socks have just been generally lived in over the past few years. 

With each pair I look for comfort, obviously, and I also assess their durability, warmth, wickability, breathability and drying time. Then there’s the smell test too. Fortunately, all of the socks that I selected for this roundup passed there!


Best Merino Wool Hiking Sock

1. Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew

Will testing the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crews in the Cairngorms

Price: £28
Weight: Midweight
Cushioning: 3/5
Warmth: 3/5
Best for: Three-season hiking, backpacking, day-to-day wear

The first and most important thing to know about Darn Tough is that they offer an excellent lifetime warranty on their products. If you have any kind of problem with them, you can simply swap them out for a new pair – no receipt needed. There’s a lot to admire there. 

We’ve tested out a lot of Darn Tough’s socks here at Outdoors Magic over the years and we can confidently say they’re one of the most reliable sock brands out there. Our favourite pick from them chops and changes quite regularly, but right now it’s the Hiker Micro Crew that’s top of the pile. 

It’s the durability, fit and comfort that has impressed us and with its 61% Merino, 36% Nylon and 3% Lycra construction we find it has just about the ideal blend of materials that we look for. Our testers generally find that it’s possible to wear these socks for a couple of days without smell building up. They also dry reasonably quickly.

Having tested the Hiker Micro Crew quite extensively now, it’s remarkable how well the material has held up. After weeks of wear, you genuinely do still get that “new sock feeling” when you pull these on after each time they’ve been in the laundry.

Full Specifications

Micro crew height / midweight / 21.5cm average from heel to cuff / anti-slip fit / Merino wool / made in Vermont / lifetime guarantee / available in men’s and women’s versions and multiple colours.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2023/24. Read our full Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew review.



Best Waterproof Sock

2. Sealskinz Briston All Weather

Price: £23
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: Three-season hiking, backpacking

Sealkinz are one of only a small handful of brands that have managed to crack the art of waterproof socks. We began testing these for our Outdoor 100 back in 2022 and since then we’ve had good use out of them – and the waterproofing has held up. 

They feature a waterproof hydrophilic membrane that’s sandwiched between a durable and insulating nylon and an internal bamboo lining. There’s also a silicone-like gripper at the cuff that keeps the sock up while also blocking out moisture from entering at the top. In our tests, we found the Briston All Weather socks to be comfortable and warm – though not as warm as some of the other socks here in this round up. The inner liner felt comfy against the skin and seemed to wick away moisture well. On hot days, these socks did get a bit clammy, as any waterproof garment would. 

We’ve worn these socks on wet hikes in non-waterproof trail shoes and have found it to be a great combination. The trail shoes keep you feeling light-footed and agile but your feet are kept from feeling cold and soggy.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 90% Nylon, 10% Elastane outer layer /  Aquasealz waterproof membrane / 36% Merino Wool, 36% Acrylic, 18% Polyester, 5% Elastane, 4% Nylon inner layer.

Read our full Sealskinz Bristow All Weather Socks review.



Best Budget Hiking Sock

3. Craghoppers Expert Trek Socks

Price: £13
Weight: Midweight
Cushioning: 4/5
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: Three-season hiking

These socks from travel and outdoor brand Craghoppers are proof that good socks don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. 

With a high Merino content, recycled synthetic fabrics and a lifetime guarantee, there’s plenty to like here. Expect padding across the sole, heel and toes, a seamless toe box to prevent any irritation and strategically placed air channels for ventilation. There’s a good amount of cushioning and plenty of arch support too. 

We’d class these as a good three-season option for anything from country walking and casual use through to hillwalking and long-distance backpacking.

Full Specifications 

Fabric blend: 38% Merino wool, 38% polypropylene Dryarn, 23% polyamide, 1% elastane.



Best Sock For Warmth

4. Helly Hansen Technical Alpine Socks

Price: £30
Weight: Heavyweight
Cushioning: 5/5
Warmth: 5/5
Best for: Mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding

If you’re looking for super warm socks for outdoor use then you won’t find many socks that are warmer than Helly Hansen’s Technical Alpines. 

They feature terry loops throughout the lining. These are raised loops of yarn that provide padding, comfort, and additional insulation, absorbing impact, providing extra cushioning, and enhancing the sock’s overall comfort and durability. 

These really are some very chunky socks that feel luxuriously thick and warm. They’re also long, going right up to just below the knee with padding across the front. This adds comfort in ski, snowboard and mountaineering boots and a big extra boost of insulation up the legs when you’re wearing hiking boots.

In mild conditions, these socks will be overkill for most people, but during our tests during a very cold trip to the Cairngorms – when snow had just arrived for the season – we were very glad to have them. 

Full Specifications

Unisex fit / S-XL / 36% Merino Wool 36% Acrylic 24% Polyamide 4% Elastane / terry loop cushioning / high cut comes up the calf / built-in shin protector.

Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Helly Hansen Technical Alpine review.



Best Multi-Sport Sock For Hiking

5. Inov8 Trailfly

Price: £25
Weight: lightweight
Cushioning: 2/5
Warmth: 2/5
Best for: Trail running, multi-day hiking

The Trailfly is actually designed as a running sock and it’s definitely well-made for that use, but we’ve also found that it possesses some virtues that are useful for hikers too – particularly those who like to feel fleet of foot on the trail.

Many hikers these days, particularly thru-hikers, like to hike in trail shoes as they’re often lighter and less tiring to walk in than hefty boots. They can also allow ventilation in hot weather and will dry faster than boots when wet, making them suitable for environments where you might encounter water crossings or wet conditions. With such an approach, thick walking socks don’t really make sense as once they get wet they can stay wet. These socks from Inov-8, however, are made from a synthetic weave that won’t hold water and that will dry out quickly. During our tests, we also found the Trailflys didn’t feel too hot in warm weather and they had good durability, retaining their shape after many uses. As you might have already gathered, these aren’t socks for cold weather hiking but they’re perfect for summery conditions.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 68% recycled polyamide, 29% polyamide, 3% Lycra.



Best Sock for Long-Distance Hiking

6. Falke TK2 Explore

Price: £28
Weight: Light to midweight
Cushioning: 3/5
Warmth: 3/5
Best for: three-season hiking

These are three-season socks that are quite light and thin, though they’re still nicely padded in the places where you want padding to be. The construction also incorporates handy panels where ventilation is prioritised, meaning hot air can escape.

There’s Merino in these but the content is low at 16, so synthetics make up the bulk of the construction. We found that this made them faster-drying compared to some of the Merino socks in this round up, but they were also slightly less soft and cosy. 

From our experience, these make for a good option for any three-season hikes in cool to warm temperatures. If you like a highly padded sock, you might want to look elsewhere. If lighter socks are your bag, then these are a good option to consider.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 36% Polypropylene, 33% Lyocell / 15% Polyester / 15% Polyamide / 1% Elastane.



7. Quechua SH500

Price: £15 (x2 pairs)
Weight: Mid to heavyweight
Cushioning: 4/5
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: Three-season hiking

This is a good pair of socks from Decathlon’s own brand, Quechua. They’re warm and very supportive and the technical construction brings zoned ventilation and padding in all of the right places. For instance, you’ve got terry looping on the toes, heel and shin and then air channels up the ankle to allow moisture vapour to escape. 

The bulk of the materials are synthetics, with Polyamide and Polyester bringing durability, insulation, a fast drying time and wicking qualities to the table. 28% wool content is quite low and that could be the reason why these come at a fairly modest price. If your feet tend to get quite smelly, you might want to look for socks with a higher wool content as wool has excellent odour-fighting qualities and the same can definitely not be said for synthetics, unless they come treated with a silver-ion treatment such as Polygiene.

Still, these are good value socks for people who want a pair that offer warmth and durability.  

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 40% Polyamide, 28% Wool, 23% Polyester, 6% Silk, 3% Elastane



8. 1000 Mile Fusion Walk Sock

Price: £18
Weight: Mid to heavyweight
Cushioning: 4/5
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: trekking and hiking in spring, autumn and milder winter conditions

1000 Mile’s walking socks feature a unique double-layer design that’s intended to offer superior blister prevention and enhanced comfort for prolonged walks and hikes. We’ve tested these Merino-based socks extensively and can attest to their performance. Do they prevent blisters? Our crew haven’t had any problems. That being said, our feet are used to high mileage and we can’t say whether newbies would be immune to any problems. 

The other thing that’s interesting about these socks is that they have a lining made from a fabric called Tactel. This is a nylon microfiber that we found to be very comfortable against the skin and also excellent at wicking away moisture, keeping your feet feeling fresh over the course of a hike.

Using these socks during a trip to the snowy mountains of the Cairngorms, they performed exactly how we wanted them to and they were perfect for the cold conditions we had. On hot days, they’re a little on the warm side, however. They’re generally quite bulky and heavy socks, so bear in mind that a couple of pairs will take up a fair bit of space in your hiking backpack or travel luggage.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 30% Merino wool, 46% nylon, 23% cotton, 1% elastane.



9. Smartwool Hike Full Cushion

Price: £27
Weight: Midweight
Cushioning: 4/5
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: Three-season hiking

Smartwool’s popular Hike collection has socks of various different thicknesses. These are the thickest and most cushioned. From our experience using them over the last few months, we’ve found these to be excellent for hikes in cooler weather, particularly in spring and autumn and on bad weather days in summer. On hot summer days, they can get a bit warm due to their thickness, while they’re also not quite thick enough for full blown winter conditions either (you’d want the Mountaineer Max for that kind of stuff). Having tested these, we’d say they’d be an ideal companion on an alpine trek where you’ll want warmth and moisture wicking performance but also good cushioning and padding. 

Said cushioning and padding is excellent. In our tests, these were very comfortable to wear and made hikes over hard and rocky terrain just that bit easier. There’s terry looping throughout most of the sock which creates a very cosy feel. It’s only absent on the top of the foot where ventilation is, quite rightly, prioritised over padding. 

The Merino content is high at 63% meaning that you get a silky soft feel when you pull these on – plus all the other benefits of Merino. We’ve used a number of Merino socks and baselayers from Smartwool and we’re always left impressed by the material quality.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 63% Merino,  7% Nylon, 28% recycled Nylon, 2% elastane.



10. Bridgedale Midweight Merino Endurance

Price: £23
Weight: Midweight
Cushioning: 4/5
Warmth: 4/5
Best for: Three-season hiking, backpacking

Bridgedale are out and out sock specialists. In fact, they’ve been making socks from their factory in Northern Ireland since the First World War. This pair from them, the Merino Endurance (formerly known as the Trekker) stands as one of their best sellers. Here at Outdoors Magic, we’ve become well acquainted with them and have many years of use in them. Our verdict? They’re good, reliable hiking socks that hold their shape and padding over time extremely well. The Merino content in them isn’t as high as some of the other socks in this round up, but they do still feel comfortable. One of our testers hiked the Beacons Way switching between two pairs of these socks and he reported that no blisters were had. They did, however, get a little bit smelly after being worn while wet – as most socks will. 

Although Bridgedale describe these as “all-season” we’d say they’re not quite warm enough for winter mountain use. We’ve found they’re warm enough for low level hiking in winter but you’ll want something burlier if you’re heading high up onto frozen mountains.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 26% wool , 18% Merino Wool , 38% Nylon polyamide, 17% polypropylene , 1% Lycra.



How to Choose a Pair of Hiking Socks

The ultimate hiking socks blend quality materials that strike a balance between comfort and performance. They’re all about cushioning in the right places, seamless toes to prevent blisters, and clever ventilation for breathability on the trails. A snug fit and arch support keep feet happy, while top-notch moisture management ensures dryness, making these socks the go-to choice for seasoned hikers tackling challenging terrain.

The Best Material For Hiking Socks

Material choice significantly impacts hiking experiences, determining whether feet endure discomfort or enjoy support and ease during outdoor adventures.

Merino wool offers excellent breathability, moisture-wicking properties, and natural odour resistance, ensuring feet stay dry and comfortable across various temperatures. Synthetic blends like nylon and polyester bring durability and quick-drying features to the table, maintaining resilience throughout extended hikes. 

The finest hiking socks often boast a blend of Merino wool and synthetic materials. Brands like Smartwool, Darn Tough, and Icebreaker excel in creating socks that combine the natural benefits of Merino wool—such as breathability and odour resistance—with the durability and quick-drying properties of synthetics like nylon or polyester. This blend provides the best of both worlds: the comfort and temperature regulation of Merino wool coupled with the added strength and moisture management of synthetic fibre. The best hiking socks, from our experience, tend to have about 60% Merino Wool with Polyester/Nylon and elastane making up the rest of the materials. 

Cushioning & Thickness

Considering sock thickness is crucial as it directly impacts foot comfort and protection: thinner socks provide breathability and are ideal for warmer conditions while thicker ones offer enhanced cushioning and insulation for rugged trails and colder climates. When shopping online for socks, check the product description for terms like “ultralight” or “heavyweight” indicating thickness.

Will testing out a pair of waterproof socks by Sealskinz.

If you like thick socks, 1000 Mile is a good brand to consider. They’re renowned for their unique dual-layer construction, designed to reduce friction and prevent blisters by effectively moving moisture away from the skin. On this page, the Helly Hansen Technical Alpine is another good example of a thick, heavyweight sock. If you like hiking socks that are thin, the Inov8 Trailfly socks in this round up should suit. Want something in-between? Darn Tough are a safe bet there. 

Seamless Construction

Opt for socks with seamless toe closures. Trust us, your toes will thank you later after a long day of hiking. It reduces the risk of blisters and hot spots, ensuring a smoother, more comfortable experience during extended wear, especially on long hikes where foot friction can lead to painful rubbing and blisters.

Will testing out Darn Tough’s Hiker Micro Crew in Scotland.

Examining the sock closely is the best way to determine if it has a seamless toe closure. Look for a lack of visible stitching or a smooth, uninterrupted finish at the toe area. Seamless socks often have a rounded or slightly tapered appearance at the toe, without any raised seams that might cause friction or irritation. Some brands might also explicitly mention “seamless toe” in the product description or in the features list. All of the socks in this round up have seamless toes. 


The best hiking sock manufacturers have machinery that lets them construct socks with variations in their weave right across the foot. This means they can create more padding and protection in certain places and more ventilation in others. Ventilation panels are commonly found on the top of the foot, around the instep, and sometimes on the sides or at the arch. 

The areas that typically benefit most from padding in hiking socks are the heel and the ball of the foot. These regions endure the most impact and friction when wearing hiking boots, especially when traversing uneven terrain or downhill sections. 

You sometimes also see arch support typically applied through specialised knitting techniques or added fabric density in the sock’s arch region, providing a snug yet comfortable fit that helps distribute pressure more evenly across the foot.


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