Wet and cold feet, blisters, over-sweating…sounds familiar? If it does, then you should consider investing in high-quality hiking socks. You won’t regret it because good socks are an essential hiking item.  When preparing for a hiking trip, socks seem to have less priority, but actually,  this piece of an item can affect your entire hiking journey.

A pair of wisely chosen high-quality hiking socks has the ability to regulate the temperature of your body, keeping your feet warm when it’s cold outside and keeping your feet dry and cool when hiking in hot weather. Happy feet – happy hiker and an enjoyable hike. Wrong hiking socks – miserable hike for sure.

But how to choose the right model? What kind of socks to wear for hiking? What are the best hiking socks for summer hiking? If you’ve wondered the same, read our useful guide to help you decide which model is best for your needs.

Why Are Hiking Socks So Important?

The most important feature of a good hiking sock is that it must provide warmth to your feet and maintain them dry. Cold feet and enjoyable hike – these two just don’t get along. Thick, hiking socks with heavy cushioning will protect your feet from freezing when hiking on an extremely cold day when hiking on an extremely cold day.

WeHike La Bérarde to Pilatte and Châtelleret
High-quality hiking socks protect your feet from freezing when hiking in winter or cold weather. Photographed during the La Bérarde to Pilatte and Châtelleret WeHike. Credit: Kristina Remmert

The material of hiking socks is key to its breathability and the ability to retain warmth. and wick the moisture away. Rule number one: avoid cotton socks at all costs! The cotton absorbs a lot of moisture keeping it close to your feet and therefore it doesn’t keep them warm. Besides, cotton takes forever to dry.

On the other hand, wool and certain synthetic fabrics such as polyester or polypropylene have the ability to use moisture as an insulator. Their hydrophobic and wicking properties will keep the sweat and moisture away from your skin which is highly important for keeping your feet dry and warm. Dry feet are also less prone to blisters.

This way, the sock acts as an insulator that makes your feet warm and dry, providing your entire body the optimal temperature. When hiking in winter or cold weather these fabrics retain heat, while in the warm condition they have the ability to cool you down and make your feet sweat less.

Natural Materials or Synthetic Fibers?

Hiking socks are rarely made of single material, they are usually a combination of several different materials. Hiking socks made mostly of natural material like wool are probably the best choice, but there are many socks on the market that are made of synthetic materials and these models will do service as well. It’s up to you to make the final decision and find what fits your needs best.

Wool

Hiking socks made of wool are highly renowned among hikers. Wool has the ability to regulate temperature to keep your feet from getting sweaty or protect them from freezing. Wool socks are perfect for hikes on hot, summer days thanks to its porosity which allows your sweaty feet to perspire. Just pick a thinner, lightweight model that prioritizes breathability.

Wool is less hydrophobic than synthetic materials, but it’s still very prized among hikers thanks to its various advantages.

Merino wool is highly popular fabric for hiking socks since it has all the mentioned abilities but it is also a lot lighter and softer than the traditional wool, it dries faster, breathes better, and doesn’t scratch the skin.

WeHike Cape au Moine pointe du chevrier
Photographed at the Cape au Moine and Pointe du Chevrier. Credit: Friedhelm Weinberg

Synthetic Fibers

The most common fabrics you’ll find among hiking socks are polyester, polypropylene, nylon, silk, and spandex. Polyester and nylon, for example, provide durability and dry faster than wool. Polypropylene is similar to polyester, but it’s more hydrophobic. Socks made of silk are lightweight but less durable. Spandex makes a sock more elastic, and flexible and comfortable, enabling the sock to hold its shape.

Keep in mind that the sock-boot combination is important too. If you wear boots made of synthetic material, make sure you wear socks made mostly of natural materials.

What Factors Determine a Good Hiking Sock?

Besides material, another crucial thing is the design of a sock. The hiking socks must suit your feet perfectly. Too small, or too big socks may cause unpleasant and painful blisters. Make sure the socks fit the size of your feet, but also pay attention to the anatomy of the sock.

The anatomically designed sock isn’t flat, it rather has cushioned heel and toes, and a compression panel around arches of each sock. Well-designed models will make your feet feel comfortable, and everyone who is prone to blisters should wear only anatomically designed models.

Toe-socks may look attractive, but they are not quite adequate for hiking. The toe-based design is unfavorable in comparison to the classic design because toes are separated and the feet struggles to retain the warmth.

WeHike
Captured at the Faulhorn and Männlichen WeHike. Credit: Thomas Melchior Yttedral

The weather conditions determine the weight or the thickness of a sock. When hiking in hot temperature, choose ultra-light or light models, while for hikes in the cold weather choose midweight or heavyweight socks. Thicker socks are less breathable but will keep your feet warm.

Durability might be the least important factor, but if you’re already investing in hiking socks, consider buying high-quality socks so you can use them for years. Buying a new pair of hiking socks frequently will cost you more in the long run.

What type of hiking socks do you prefer? Share your tips with us in the comment section!

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