On a mission to track down the best pairs of wool socks, we sought help from the pros.
Wool has long been touted as the best material for overall warmth and odor resistance during outdoor pursuits. These pros love their choice wool socks for breathability, comfort, and long lifespans.
From ice climbing and ski mountaineering in the Rockies to polar adventures at the world’s farthest ice caps and running the hardest ultramarathons on the planet, here are the top five best wool socks according to the experts.
Best Wool Socks
Wigwam Ice Sock: $18
Polar adventurer and expedition guide Eric Larsen is the first person in history to complete expeditions to the South Pole, the North Pole, and the Mount Everest summit in a continuous 365-day period. He also accomplished the first-ever summer expedition to the North Pole.
Keeping all 20 digits healthy is pretty important on those self-supported missions in the coldest environments on the planet. The best sock, in Larsen’s experience, is the Wigwam Ice Sock.
“I got my first pair in 2008. I’ve had a few pairs since then, but, usually, I get about 2-3 years’ use out of one pair,” he said. That means Larsen wears a single pair on a polar expedition for nearly 2 months straight.
So, in a single year, he’ll use that pair for 3-5 months of polar travel and training. He prefers the Wigwam for polar expeditions to the North and South poles, teaching his polar training course, crossing the Greenland ice cap — you know, common everyday athletic pursuits — as well as ice fishing and dog sledding.
“They are a simple wool knit that breathes incredibly,” he noted. “They are a heavier, thick sock, so they provide more insulation than any other sock I’ve ever used and are super durable. I don’t use them in lightweight hiking boots, but in pack boots and my polar boots they are amazing.”
Chantelle Robitaille, an endurance coach at Carmichael Training Systems, recently earned her master of science degree in High Altitude Exercise Physiology. She has also worked as an exercise physiologist and researcher at Colorado’s Western Colorado University, near where she lives. When she’s not doing science, she races 100-mile ultramarathons across the world.
“I’m a big fan of the Point6 Colorado Mini Crew,” said Robitaille, who got the pair as a Valentine’s Day gift about 4 years ago. The socks are ideal for running, biking, and hiking. She loves them so much that she’s since bought a variety of other Point6 socks, including ski and compression.
“This is the only brand of wool socks I’ve owned that don’t get a hole in the big toe within a few wears. They are never too hot or too cold and never get stinky. I even wore a pair of Point6 socks while pacing at Badwater 135 this summer.” If a pair of socks can withstand one of the world’s toughest footraces, we approve.
Professional skimo racer and trail runner Cam Smith is based in Crested Butte, Colorado. He’s a member of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team and a two-time winner of the Grand Traverse Triple Crown.
“I have a few pairs of Darn Tough socks that are my absolute go-to all winter long,” said Smith. His favorite? Smith uses the Darn Tough Mountain Top Over-The-Calf Cushion for all types of skiing from alpine to backcountry to nordic.
They’re warm enough for sitting on chairlifts but light and breathable enough for skinning hard up a mountain. He’ll even wear them in the summer on cold mornings while camping or for predawn runs.
“The little bit of extra cushion adds comfort, which is nice when you’re in ski boots all day. I find they’re great in any cold-weather activity,” he said.
“They’re 2 years old and show only a few signs of wear despite being shoved into my ski boots for hours and hours all winter. Darn Tough also has an awesome lifetime warranty, and if I ever needed to I could exchange them at a local shop.”
FITS Micro Light: $20
Master bootfitter Sam Tischendorf helps skiers from all over the world hone their ski boot fit at Bootdoctors Telluride and as a national Masterful University Instructor. She’s the only female master bootfitter in the entire United States.
“For ski boots, thin, even knitting and consistent thickness around the foot is the most ideal type of sock,” she explained. “I wear wool socks for everything — skiing, snowboarding, running, biking, and kicking around town. My most memorable is a pair of FITS Micro Light. They can get wet but don’t irritate my feet or cause friction in my shoes.”
Tischendorf got the socks about four summers ago, and they were a staple for her mountain endeavors. “They just sprung a hole this summer, so they’re relegated to being worn with boots and jeans,” she said.
Dawn Glanc is an AMGA-certified rock and alpine guide. Specializing in mixed and ice terrain, veteran Glanc has been a professional climber for more than 20 years. A resident of Ouray, Colorado, she’s among the earliest wave of female ice climbers to push the sport, including first ascents in the Westfjord of Iceland and becoming the first woman in the Americas to climb M11.
“A pair of tall socks from Darn Tough are my favorite wool socks,” said Glanc of the now 10-year-old Vertex Over-the-Calf Ultra-Light. She wears these socks year-round in the summer as hiking socks and in winter for skiing as well as ice and mixed climbing.
For length, she prefers tall for the functionality — and extreme fashion. “The socks will not wear out! They have outlasted every other pair of socks I have had,” she said.