Best Hiking Socks 2019 | Top 10 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Hiking Socks 2019 | Top 10

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

Walking socks may be not the world’s most exciting bit of kit, but they are actually essential items of outdoor clothing. A decent pair of socks can make 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 mid-weight hiking sock. If you’re mountaineering at higher altitudes, you may want thicker, heavier weight socks, though your toes still need room to move.

“A decent pair of socks can make the difference between excruciating blisters and pain-free hiking”

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.

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.

Best hiking socks on test

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 BUY: Darn Tough Hiker
Micro Crew Cushion Socks

Price: £18
darntough.com

 The quality of these socks is apparent even before you put them on. Turning them inside out, we noticed how tidy the stitching and finish was compared with the others on test. The area under the heel and ball of the foot is a super-dense weave, and there is a tight elasticated section across the arch of the foot. These sections are fused together – not stitched – using Darn Tough’s ‘True Seamless’ construction. In terms of cushioning, we’d class them as mid-level. The micro crew cut sits just above the top of a standard hiking boot. If you have a higher pair of boots, you may want to go for the crew style.

They are incredibly comfortable and we didn’t suffer a single blister, even when wearing them with wet boots. The care and detail that goes into these socks is quite remarkable. They even come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee, and for that reason we can’t think of a reason not to buy them, despite the higher price. For us, these are the best hiking socks around, and get our best buy pick.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 61% merino wool, 36% nylon and 3% Lycra spandex

 

Bridgedale Storm Socks

Price: £32
bridgedale.com

Uniquely among the socks on test here, these Storm Socks from leading sock brand Bridgedale are fully waterproof. They use a three-part construction to achieve this. First is the inner lining, which is made with a 60/40 merino/synthetic blend, chosen for its mix of smooth comfort and anti-odour properties as well as its wicking abilities. A stretchy ‘HydroTech’ waterproof membrane is then laminated to the inner layer. Finally, a tougher nylon outer protects the membrane. Added lycra keeps the sock tight all around. In hot, summery conditions they are too warm and sweaty to wear all day, but they’re a great option to pull on when you get to boggy sections of a walk, or perhaps if you’ve got a river crossing. In wet weather, these are certainly the best hiking socks to wear.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: Outer 95% nylon, 5% elastane; Inner 45% merino wool, 45% polyester, 7.5% nylon and 2.5% elastane

Read our full review of the Bridgedale Storm Socks here

Stance Hike Lite Socks

Merino wool is the perfect material for temperature regulation and comfort. Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £18.99
stance.eu.com

Stance is a relatively new company from California, USA. They have quickly established a reputation as makers of some of the best hiking socks out there. The brand’s ‘Feel360’ fabric blend is all about balance, offering a good mix of warmth, durability and comfort. It works well in the Hike Lite socks, which keep the feet warm in cold temperatures while also being able to let them breathe when things heat up. They wick away sweat well and have anti-microbial properties too, reducing the effect of odour-causing bacteria.

In terms of construction, the Hike Lite socks have a fairly thin and stretchy weave, with added heel and toe reinforcement. A terry loop weave has been used to achieve this, adding that extra bit of soft cushioning where it’s needed. The toe box has a completely seamless closure. Overall the Hiker Lite isn’t a sock to call upon for winter hiking – it’s not made for that kind of stuff. But, for summer, when you want ventilation, quick drying and all-round comfort, a pair of these would serve you well.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 32% merino wool, 43% nylon, 20% polyester and 5% elastane

Read our full review of the Stance Hike Lite Sock here

 

Stance Bezel Outdoor Socks

Price: £18.99
stance.eu.com

Another offering from Stance, these women’s-specific socks are made from a comfortable merino wool blend. They have a reinforced heel and toe to increase the lifespan of the socks and also to protect your feet from blisters. The seamless toe closure is a secondary design technique that helps to prevent any rubbing. A tighter fabric weave around the arch also provides compression and support where it’s needed. The ankle cuff is a medium length so it will come just over your boot. It’s high enough to tuck your socks into but not so high that it will give too much coverage for hot days. They also come in a refreshingly on-trend range of colours and designs.

Full Specifications 

Fabric blend: 42% merino wool, 32% polyester, 12% nylon and 3% elastane

Read our full review of the Stance Bezel Outdoor Sock here

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew Socks

Price: £20
smartwool.com

Smartwool were pioneers in the use of merino wool for outdoor clothing, recognising early on that animal welfare should be a priority. Their socks tend to be excellently made and pretty long lasting. These PhD Outdoor Light Crew socks are no exception, though we did notice that the outer pilled more than previous versions, and after only a couple of wears. They are exceptionally comfortable though. Turning them inside out, the finishing is also very tidy – a good sign. They have a reinforced heel and toe, as well as an elasticated arch. Over the top of the foot, there’s a lighter and stretchier weave. Our only real concern was the seam between the toe and the upper, which looks as though it could be a weak point.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 56% merino wool, 41% nylon and 3% elastane

 

Stance Perrine Hike Socks

Price: £18.99
stance.eu.com

The Perrine Hike socks are a stretchier fit than most of the other socks on test, though the design is similar, with a reinforced toe and heel, stretch around the arch, and a lighter weave on the upper. There’s no seam around the toe, which helps eliminate a possible hotspot. Past the calf, the socks are quite thick, though the weave is a little looser. We had concerns that this could snag, but it did not prove a significant issue. Overall, these are still a great pair of hiking socks that come in some great colours too.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 42% merino wool, 32% polyester, 12% nylon, 8% combed cotton and 6% elastane

1000 Mile 3 Season Walk Socks

Price: £13
1000mile.co.uk

This excellently-named British brand makes socks that will last. They’re also particularly proud of their double layer anti-blister system, described as ‘a sock within a sock’. The idea is that the inner layer of the sock stays on your foot while the outer layer moves with your shoe. This eliminates skin friction, the cause of blisters. In our experience, it worked well and our feet certainly remained blister-free.

These have the highest merino wool content of all the socks tested here. Zoned construction provides cushioned areas at the toe, ankle, ball and heel that also extend over the Achilles tendon. Inside out, the stitching is definitely not as tidy as others, and the fabric is stretchier too, though that’s not necessarily a criticism. The brand also makes lighter and heavier weight hiking socks.

Another excellent pair of socks that should last the distance, with a ‘no blister’ guarantee to boot.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 80% merino wool, 19% nylon and 1% elastane

 

Bridgedale Hike Midweight Endurance Socks

Price: £18
bridgedale.com

The Bridgedale Hike Midweight Endurance socks are designed for long or multi-day expeditions. We liked the fact that they felt like new after every wash, remaining as soft and fluffy as when first worn. Although they contain only only a small percentage of merino, this is blended with regular wool and synthetic fibres to create a good balance of durability, warmth and comfort. Lycra also helps the socks to retain their shape. The socks use a zoned construction, with padding across the bottom of the foot and an elasticated arch. Turning them inside out, the finishing is not very tidy, though this had no detrimental effect. They do seem more likely to snag when you pull them on though. These socks also feel quite warm, so look for one of the company’s lighter socks if you suffer from hot feet.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 26% wool, 18% merino wool, 38% nylon/polyamide, 17% endurofil/polypropylene and 1% Lycra elastane

Alpkit Heavy Weight Trekkers

Price: £12.50
alpkit.com

British brand Alpkit has established a reputation as purveyors of good quality outdoor kit at affordable prices. From bikes to sleeping bags, down jackets to backpacking stoves, Alpkit does it all – and usually pretty well. Socks are among that range, and these Heavy Weight Trekkers are great socks at a great price. They’re not the tidiest or most technical, and they’re not merino either but they work just fine. As winter mountaineering socks they offer plenty of warmth and cushioning. There is extra padding at the heel, toe and top of the foot. They’re also relatively long, edging well past mid-calf. For colder weather, these are a great value option for winter walking.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 56% acrylic, 24% wool, 10% nylon, 8% polyester and 2% spandex

 

Teko Merino Crew Hiking Boot Socks

Price: £31.90 (pack of two)
tekoforlife.co.uk

Teko is a long-standing sock brand that has built a good reputation among walkers. The Merino Crew Hiking Socks feel very substantial and are very comfortable, with all the benefits of merino, including good wicking properties. These socks don’t go in for mapped or zoned areas, simply offering medium cushioning all around the foot. There are no seams around the toe, and the heel is well shaped. The ‘Teko Achilles Wrap System’ pulls in nicely around the Achilles tendon for added comfort. They are a crew height so sit above the top of a hiking boot.

Full Specifications

Fabric blend: 67% merino wool, 31% polyamide nylon and 2% elastane

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