When packing for a hiking trip, choosing a fleece, coat, and over-trousers may take precedence over packing socks. In actuality, your socks may be the most crucial component of your hiking gear. There is a lot more to choosing the right socks than you might think, and it can mean the difference between a pleasant hike and a miserable, uncomfortable one. To decide which socks are best for you, refer to our guide.
Why are hiking socks so important?
- To make your hike more comfortable and enjoyable, they cushion your feet.
- They wick moisture away from your feet, keeping them dry and reducing the risk of blisters.
- When hiking in the winter or adverse weather, they keep your feet warm.
- They lessen friction that leads to blisters.
- They can be used (but only in very small amounts) to enhance boot fit.
Types of Socks
There are numerous varieties of socks available on the market, each with a unique anatomy and construction. See what kinds of socks you might come across below as you search for the ideal pair for you. Decide what you want, then continue reading to discover the various elements of a great hiking sock.
Hiking Socks are usually made from wool and synthetic materials. M ost hiking socks can be worn with both hiking boots and hiking shoes. Depending on what you’re looking for, these come in a variety of lengths and weights. Best for fastpacking, long-distance trail running, backpacking, and day hikes.
To improve breathability and moisture wicking, these are typically made of materials like cotton, synthetics, or wool blends. They come in a variety of lengths and are either light or medium weight. Ideally suited for both road and trail running.
Skiing & Mountaineering
Designed with a longer length to fit a tall ski or mountaineering boot and is usually made of wool and synthetic materials. These socks, which range in weight from light to heavy, are frequently much warmer and have good breathability. Best for alpine sports like skiing, mountaineering, and ice climbing.
General Use Socks
These are the kinds of socks that are typically sold in bulk at a grocery or retail establishment. They are typically made of cotton, which works well for everyday wear but struggles in cold or wet conditions. They are the best for daily wear to work or school, and their price is unbeatable.
The thin polyester material used to make these synthetic socks is used to improve wicking properties for thicker socks or to reduce the risk of blisters. Liners are a fantastic accessory to wear with a pair of compatible hiking or mountaineering socks. If you are prone to blisters, purchase a pair and see if they make a difference.
What to Consider When Choosing Hiking Socks?
Therefore, you’ve decided that a hiking sock is necessary. Knowing what factors to take into account before buying a hiking sock is crucial. First, decide what you’re going to use your sock for and the kinds of conditions you’re going to subject it to. For instance, you would pick a heavier weight fabric over a lightweight fabric if you were planning to tackle a long through-trail like the Pacific Crest Trail. We go over some essential sock characteristics that are crucial to the creation of any top-notch hiking sock. We specifically discuss the benefits and drawbacks of typical fabrics and various weights that you might discover in retail establishments and online.
When it’s cold and rainy outside, a sock’s ability to keep you dry and be breathable as well as warm depends on its material. Search for socks made of wool (preferably merino wool) or a synthetic polymer (i.e., polypropylene, acrylic, polyester). Even when it’s cold outside, your feet will stay warm thanks to the properties of these materials.
Avoid cotton and cotton blends in your search. Although cotton is a good material for hot weather, it is not an effective insulator when wet. On a warm day, it dries more quickly than wool, but on a cold day, it will keep your feet clammy and cold. According to the proverb “Cotton Kills,” this could result in situations that could be fatal. In light of this, be sure to purchase synthetic or wool materials. Finding socks with stretchy components made of spandex, lycra, or nylon will improve breathability and offer a better fit all around.
Examine the proportions of the materials used to make your hiking socks. This will give you a better idea of the thermoregulation range and how well or quickly it may wick away moisture.
Merino Wool and Synthetics are the two most common types of fabrics. Some of the best socks have a combination of the two with a greater percentage of wool.
This material offers exceptional close-to-the-skin comfort with a wide range of thermoregulation. Due to its greater durability and lack of itching, merino wool differs from regular wool. A fter a sweaty day or after being exposed to rain or snow all day, Merino Wool retains insulation when wet, keeping wearers warmer than synthetic options . The fabric doesn’t generally smell as bad as synthetic fabrics and the fibers are excellent at wicking away moisture. Look for socks that are primarily made of Merino Wool if you want the most effective, super-warm socks.
Modern merino wool is produced by merino sheep, the majority of which are bred in Australia and New Zealand. On the skin, regular wool can feel heavy and scratchy. On the other hand, merino is cozy, light, and soft.
The two main synthetic fabrics you’ll find in the sock market are polyester and polypropylene. In the field, this synthetic fiber dries more quickly and is more resilient than Merino Wool. Despite this, synthetic fabrics tend to lose their ability to insulate and wick away moisture at very low temperatures, making them less insulating than Merino wool. Consider Merino wool options when picking out a pair of cold-weather socks. A synthetic sock is a good option if you need something for hiking in the Fall or Spring or in warmer weather. Options made of synthetic materials typically cost less and have longer lifespans.
Nylon, Elastane, Acrylic, Spandex, and other fabrics may be present in a sock’s materials list. These materials are synthetic and designed to increase wicking capacity and durability.A brief summary of each blend material’s advantages is provided below.
Nylon helps in increasing wicking capabilities.Elastane & Spandex are good at providing elasticity which in result provide a better fit. Acrylic is asynthetic fiber that does not absorb moisture. As a result, businesses will use these materials to lessen the bulk of a primary material (like wool), which still has the ability to wick away moisture and lessen absorbency.
Based on sock thickness, there are four different weight categories for hiking socks. Each weight fills a particular need or void in the aerobic activity game.
In hot to warm weather, an ultra-lightweight sock is ideal for running and hiking. It is significantly thinner than other sock types because it places a higher priority on breathability and minimal padding.
Description: This weight is exceptional for warmer environments and more strenuous activities. This weight category includes socks with thinner materials and breathable panels that prioritizes wicking and breathability. Ideal for cool- to warm-weather running, hiking, and backpacking. Not suitable for use during the winter’s coldest months of hiking.
For longer days on the trail, Midweight Socks offer more padding in the heel and forefoot. They are thicker as well and provide insulation in cool to cold weather. If you’re looking for a hiking sock that can be used for a variety of activities, this category of socks is by far the most flexible.
A heavy-weight sock prioritizes warmth and comfort by having thick padding in the forefoot and heel. The length of the sock is covered in a lot of material as well. Usually, socks of this weight are less permeable and don’t wick moisture as well as lighter socks. This kind of sock is ideal for colder climates or if you intend to hike a thru-trail, which calls for continuous hiking for a week or more.
In this section, we examine some additional crucial elements to take into account when buying a pair of hiking socks, such as how high they come up the leg, where panels for compression and breathability are placed, where seams are placed, and how hiking socks should fit different genders.
There are many different lengths and sizes of socks made for numerous uses. Taller socks offer more overall warmth and protection and are more compatible with hiking boots. These work best if you intend to hike in cooler weather or while wearing a hiking boot. We advise wearing a taller sock if you know you’ll be bushwhacking or hiking through tall grasses.
If you prefer to wear a pair of hiking shoes and prefer improved leg breathability, shorter socks are best. Shorter socks provide less protection and are incompatible with the majority of hiking boots. They also keep your legs cooler because they provide less coverage.
Generally speaking, socks with compression paneling around the arch and heel offer a better fit that does not slip. Compression also lessens the need for bulky materials, resulting in a slimmer, more streamlined sock that won’t bunch or be uncomfortable.
To improve the sock’s breathability, look for socks with panels. Most socks will advertise this, and you can usually see it near the foot’s arch, which is likely to be the area where you perspire the most. This is crucial if it’s cold outside because it moves perspiration away from the foot, keeping it from freezing. This is also important for keeping your feet cool and dry while moving around in hot weather.
The majority of hiking socks feature a seamless construction, which is a flat stitch that won’t bunch or chafe. Additionally, the seam should be located at the top of the foot rather than at the ends of the toes. Although most hiking socks have this feature, make sure to check.
Use the associated company’s sizing chart to make sure you order socks in the appropriate size. Make sure to focus on the fit in the heel and toe area when trying them on. There should be little to no material at the toes and the heel should sit properly. If there is extra material, it might bunch, leading to blister and chafing problems. On the other hand, if the sock is too short, you’ll have to reach down and pull it up while moving.
If you are unsure of the fit when ordering socks online, order a few different pairs. Send back the ones that don’t function properly for you.
Gender Specific Designs
Is there a gender-specific difference in a hiking sock? Yes, in a nutshell, but the differences are minimal at best. We all immediately notice the differences in color. While these variations are obvious, there are also less obvious variations in the way the socks are made. In contrast to men’s socks, which have a wider profile throughout the forefoot and heel, women’s socks are narrower. A men’s sock might be the best option if you are a woman with a wide foot. Or perhaps a women’s sock will fit you better if you’re a man with a narrow heel. Many of the socks available on the market are unisex and usually fit both sexes.
Consider the type of guarantee it offers before buying a pair of socks. Darn Tough and Farm to Feet, for instance, have lifetime warranties. In other words, you can return them for a brand-new pair if you ever wear a hole through the material. Since you can (theoretically) purchase just one pair for life, this guarantee is worth paying a higher upfront cost.
Despite the fact that socks like the Darn Tough socks have a lifetime guarantee, it’s crucial to read the care instructions. Merino wool and polypropylene fabrics need special care that may be more involved than simply machine washing them. To ensure the performance and vitality of your hiking sock, read the care instructions before you put your socks in the washer or dryer.
Now that you are well-versed in the art of sock picking, take some time to consider where you will be hiking, the types of weather you will encounter, and which hiking sock is the best option for you. The ideal hiking sock for your upcoming adventures will then be within reach.