How to choose the best hiking socks

Your basic guide to Hiking socks

When choosing a pair of socks for hiking, don’t be a scrooge! They will be one of the most important investments you will make when you want to go hiking. There are many types of socks that are suitable, and many that will leave you with sore feet and blisters. Your feet need to stay dry, comfortable, at the correct temperature and hopefully blister free. A bad pair of socks can leave you in despair.

What to look for in your hiking socks:

  • A sock that keeps its shape even after washing
  • To keep your feet at the correct temperature, you don’t want a sock that makes your feet sweaty or indeed keeps your feet cold.
  • A sock that will wick away the moisture
  • Cushioned heel and toes to protect knocks and difficult terrain
  • A comfortable well-fitted sock, not tight and not loose
  • Stay away from cheap thin socks with heavy seams

If you’re out for a long hilly hike, then perhaps use a thicker sock or thermal sock with more cushioning on the underneath, but for shorter hikes, a slightly thinner sock should be used. Try to make sure your socks are breathable and can wick away any moisture. Having a boot full of hot sweaty feet will ultimately make your hiking experience a miserable affair.

If a sock is too loose, it may well move around and cause blisters and feel like there’s a foreign body in your boot. You will feel this at every step and as well as be causing your feet some damage will also get on your nerves. A too tight sock will lead to a strangled foot and ankle, leaving that deep imprint on your skin; your feet swell anyway, so a restricted sock will cause more discomfort.

If you’re on a week-long hike. Consider using sock liners that can be worn as the base layer to your feet. These can help with moisture wicking and help with warmth and reduce chaffing.
There are 3 types of sock that you should look for on differing hiking adventures.

Three types of hiking socks:

  • Light weight socks: use for light hiking, say, a 2-4 hour stretch. These usually have a wicking feature and slight cushioning around the heel and toes.
  • Mid-weight socks: For longer ‘perfect day’ hikes of 4 hours plus. These should also have a wicking feature and good cushioning to protect heel, toes and the ball (underneath) of the foot.
  • Heavyweight socks: Obviously for a more serious and strenuous hike. These should be quite thick with extra cushioning around the heel, toes, and ball of your foot. Use of a good sock liner is also recommended.

The material used is very important. All cotton is ‘OK’for short hikes or walks, but they tend to hold moisture and if they get wet (plunging into a bog or stream for example) they can take an age to dry out. With more synthetic socks, the drying out procedure will take half the time. All cotton socks can also make your feet…erm, more whiffy and can hold bacteria and fungus.

Best socks material for outdoor activities

I would suggest purchasing a sock made of a man-made material such asCoolmax®/polyester, Nylon/polyamide in the mix, or even Merino Wool, although only as a combination, as even merino wool can hold too much moisture.

It’s worth forking out that little bit extra for a good pair of walking socks, they should be comforting personified when you first put them on with no tightness or ‘bagging’. Your feet will thank you in the end!

So what are the best hiking socks? Well, it’s trial and error. If you find a sock that works well with you, stay with them, no need to change. I have a pair I use regularly that are more than 5 years old, money well spent indeed. Don’t scrimp just because it’s a sock…they are a very important addition to your hiking equipment.
There are even waterproof socks out there now, and even blister socks. I’ve tried SealSkinz waterproof socks and I really like them as a spare socks for heavy rain.


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