You might not think hiking socks a great deal, but a bad pair can turn a pleasant yomp into the hike from hell as blisters bubble and your little toe de-gloves.
Advances in fabric tech and design has made a decent pair an essential part of your kit, and there's more technology in your socks than your average supercar. Merino wools, technical mixes with padding and wicking – there's a lot going on.
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It’s easy to just pick the first pair you see – they all do the same job, right? But hold up. You can’t just put on a pair of old cotton socks to go hiking in. These days, makers offer different thicknesses, lengths, materials, weaves and colorways that results in a wide range of head-scratching choice.
But look closer and you’ll see some are designed for different seasons, weathers and terrains. Don’t scrimp on socks either – the more you pay, the more you will see an increase in quality and craftmanship, and that translates into a comfortable hike and pair of socks that will last you years.
Best for no blisters
Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew NuWool
Buy now: Amazon | From $2
Check out those toes. Injinji is doing something different with its glove-like socks that feature separate toes (the company does regular socks too if you’re not convinced by these). However, once you have tried these, many people never return to hiking in regular socks.
No more skin-on-skin rubbing means the chances of blisters are minimised, and the 43% merino NuWool wicks perspiration away, keeping those little piggies dry. They also claim that, by keeping your toes separated, it means they are aligned properly and so your foot is better prepared to engage in athletic activity.
Best for wet weather
Sealskinz Waterproof Warm Weather Mid Length Sock with Hydrostop
Buy now: Sealskinz (US) / Sealskinz (UK) | $48
These offer something many other socks don’t – full waterproofing. So when you are heading out in the Scottish Highlands in mid-January, these are the pair to reach for.
They comprise two layers, with the outer being 100% waterproof and windproof. The inner features merino wool for warmth and comfort. Together, they combine to form unbeatable protection against all the elements.
Best for warmth
Fits Heavy Expedition Boot Sock
Buy now: Amazon | $24.99
The big boys – 100% merino wool interior, meaning there’s no false advertising on the name ‘Heavy Expedition’. Will keep you warm on the most extreme cold days with no bunching and the thick wool makes for comfortable padding in your boots. Heavyweight socks for heavyweight treks.
Best for feeling like a pro
Stance Sneffels Hike
Buy now: Stance | £17.99
Stance is making waves in the world of sports socks with its bold designs and bright colours and patterns. The brand has a range of hiking socks that feature a natural wool fusion blend, and cushioning where you need it. Named after the 14,000ft Mount Sneffels in the Rockies, these blend retro design with modern tech – the Feel 360 technology means the fibres wick sweat away quickly and silver ions reduce 99% of odour-causing bacteria, so they won’t end up stinking out the bothy.
Best for old-school design
Bridgedale Hike Midweight Boot
Buy now: Amazon | £20
Not the most exciting design, but brash colours aren’t for everyone. These are workhorses – they’ll get you through hike after hike. They are more traditional-looking, with ribbed knit and an ‘engineered zonal padding system’ (basically a big old soft sole) to add comfort. The Northern Irish sock-makers know their elasticated arch from their flat toe seam, so you can hike safe in the knowledge you’re walking on quality and heritage.
Best for those on a budget
Runderwear Merino Ankle Sock
Buy now: Runderwear | £19
Runderwear is famed for its anti-chafing underwear, but it also makes socks with similar anti-chafing properties. These are 50% merino, so warm and moisture-wicking, and they are also at the more affordable end of the hiking-sock price spectrum. They are soft, light and sure to leave your feet pain-free after a day of mountain passes in the boots.
Best for multi-tasking
Gore Thermo Long Socks
Buy now: Gorewear | $35
Long ones, these. They go up over your calves to add warmth and maybe even some muscle compression benefits. As with all Gore products, they’ll keep you warm when the temperature drops, and they won’t slip, so your feet should stay blister-free. The extra benefit to these is their multi-tasking abilities. Going skiing? Pack these. Mountain biking? They’ll do the job. Swimming the Channel? Maybe not.
Best for easy summer hikes
Falke TK2 Cool Trekking
Buy now: Falke | $31.95
The thinner design means these are designed for less-challenging terrain, and the fibre mix makes them particularly cooling, so perfect for summer days as the sweat is rapidly wicked away. Medium cushioning keeps them light and they are available in a range of bright colours to match your flashy new raincoat.