Summer 2020 has seen some of the largest turnout ever for outdoor recreation. If you plan to hit the trails, make sure to grab a solid pair of hiking socks first.
Socks are critical to keeping feet dry and comfortable. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or backpacking, socks perform a critical role for your orverall comfort. Luckily, we’ve got you — and your feet — covered.
For this review, we looked for socks that offer a good balance of breathability, cushion, stretch, and durability. Then we checked each brand’s sock performance through online reviews across multiple platforms.
To choose the best of the best, we ranked each sock on quality, feedback from our testing, and the volume of positive reviews and feedback.
Scroll through our picks for the best hiking socks of 2020 or jump to a category below:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Most Popular
- Best Lightweight
- Best New Material (think hemp, yak, and more!)
Remember, socks are tricky. No one sock is going to fit and serve everyone’s needs, but the ones on our list are by far the most popular, most tested, and most trusted.
Best Hiking Socks
With more than 1,200 reviews, these socks still held a 4.8-star rating. We’ve found that Darn Tough’s hiking socks have the perfect balance of warmth and wicking properties and have the best quality in terms of price. The Darn Tough Quarter Cushion socks have light cushioning and a blend of merino wool, nylon, and spandex.
Collectively, we have put down hundreds of miles in our Darn Tough Quarter Cushion socks. They aren’t too thick yet provide enough padding to remain comfortable and prevent rubbing and slipping when in use.
Customers rave about these socks’ great fit, durability, and comfortable performance across activities like hiking, biking, and running. Many reviewers also commented that these were their socks of choice for backpacking and thru-hiking. Best of all, all of Darn Tough’s socks are made in the USA and carry an “unconditional lifetime guarantee.”
Runner-Up: Swiftwick Pursuit Seven ($22)
Swiftwick is definitely a newer player in the outdoor sock market, but it’s doing great things. The brand makes hiking and running socks, but also cycling socks, fitness socks, and more. The Pursuit Seven merino wool, nylon, and spandex blend sock came out less than 2 years ago and has already garnered a lot of praise from hikers everywhere.
The socks are mid-calf height and offer medium cushion, with a reinforced heel and toe to maximize durability. When our editors tried them on, they liked the fit, comfort, and the smooth-to-the-touch feel of the seamless knit construction. (This sock is 63% wool.)
When hiking, we also noticed the ventilation “channels” knit into the upper of the sock for better breathability in hot weather. The Pursuit Seven comes in four sizes.
Swiftwick also just launched the Pursuit Hike collection for men and women, which is a similar style but a more technical, “drier” hiking sock (thanks to the addition of olefin fibers). The Pursuit Hike collection also has varying cushion options. We are still in the process of testing these new ones out.
Best Budget: Smartwool Hike Light Crew Socks (From $14)
Smartwool’s lightweight merino wool ski socks already have our vote, but what about socks for summer? The Smartwool Hike Light crews are a great choice at just $14. The merino wool, nylon, and elastane blend socks are made in the USA, have flat-knit toe seams, and come in four sizes.
Depending on the amount of colored yarn in each style, this sock’s amount of merino wool ranges from 60% to 70%, which we noticed prioritized softness, comfort, and breathability. We also found that the sizing was accurate (didn’t provide too much compression and didn’t slip on the calf).
The original light hiker socks come in four muted colors in men’s and women’s sizing, but of course, Smartwool offers lots of bright and bold patterns to choose from as well. Our editors’ favorites to rock on the trail are the Hike Light Margarita or Hike Light Striped crew socks.
We cross-checked customer ratings across multiple brand sites and retailers, and the Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks won the slot for the highest rated hiking socks. With an average overall rating of 4.7 stars over 2,000 reviews, these socks provide great fit, comfort, and medium cushion.
We loved testing these socks season round, but they’re especially great for hiking in summer and fall, providing enough warmth in cooler weather but great wicking properties when the temps are up. They come in the standard crew height to protect you from rocks, prickly brush, and more, for men and women.
Customers rave on these socks for their all-day comfort, durability, and fit. They aren’t the lightest in terms of weight but were more durable than most we tried day in and day out. (Darn Tough also has a lifetime guarantee, so if the socks you choose aren’t just right, or if your favorite pair fails after a few months or years, the brand will replace them.)
Best Lightweight: REI Coolmax Ultralight Tech Crew Socks ($16)
If minimal cushion and a lightweight feel are what you’re looking for, you can’t beat these ultralight socks from REI, made with an eco-friendly recycled polyester blend. The socks have seamless toe construction (an essential for many hikers), and reinforced heels, toes, Achilles, and footbeds to prevent wear and tear over time.
If you want crew-height protection on the trail but also want something lightweight, the REI Coolmax Ultralight Tech Socks might be the ones for you. Customers love the fit and feel, and many noted how great they are at keeping your feet dry.
The only con? For some, the reinforced areas in the sock made these feel a little thicker than “ultralight.”
Best New Material: United By Blue Bison Trail Socks ($32)
It’s 2020 — the days of polyester and nylon socks are over. Now, socks are made with everything from 3D-engineered knit to hemp, yak wool, and more.
Our top pick for best new material are the Bison Socks from United By Blue. Yes, these socks are pricey. But the comfort and durability are worth it, especially if you have yet to find a pair of hiking socks you love.
The Bison Trail socks have a blend of nylon, spandex, and, of course, bison down. Similar to wool, bison down fiber is naturally temperature-regulating and odor-wicking, but unlike wool, it’s softer and warmer as well. (We definitely agree on the warmer part.) Meaning these crew trail socks — with a flat toe seam and reinforced sole — are a great year-round option.
Bonus: If you like these, check out the brand’s more budget-friendly wool sock (currently on sale!).
Have a favorite pair of socks we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.