This year 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 overall 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 2021 or jump to a category below:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Lightweight
- Most Popular
- Best New Material (think hemp, yak, and more!)
- Best of the Rest
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.
The Best Hiking Socks of 2021
With more than 1,200 reviews, these socks still held a 4.8-star rating. We’ve found Darn Tough’s hiking socks have the perfect balance of warmth and wicking properties and the best quality in terms of price. The Darn Tough Quarter Cushion socks ($18) 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 these were their socks of choice for backpacking and thru-hiking. Best of all, all of Darn Tough’s socks are made in the U.S. and carry an “unconditional lifetime guarantee.”
New for 2021, the Smartwool Performance hike series ($23) replaces its original “light hiker” socks. The Performance series is made with a blend of merino wool, nylon, recycled nylon (new for the brand), and elastane. These socks have a high percentage of merino, contributing to their comfy, light, and breathable feel.
Like the rest of Smartwool’s socks, they are made with the brand’s “Indestructawool” technology for better durability. Add in seamless toes and a choice of crew or ankle height, and these socks were easy to love, even on our first hike out the door.
Note: We tested the Hike Light style and liked it best, but Smartwool does make medium- and heavyweight sock options, too.
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 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.
Best Lightweight: REI Coolmax Ultralight Tech Crew Socks
If minimal cushion and a lightweight feel are what you’re looking for, you can’t beat these ultralight socks ($16) from REI, made with an eco-friendly recycled polyester blend. The socks have seamless toe construction (an essential for many hikers), as well as 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.”
We cross-checked customer ratings across multiple brand sites and retailers, and the Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks ($23) 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 a great fit, comfort, and medium cushion.
We loved testing these socks season-round, but they’re especially great for hiking in summer and fall. They provide 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 New Material: United by Blue Bison Trail Socks
It’s 2021 — 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 is the Bison Sock ($32) 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.) So 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!).
Best of the Rest
Swiftwick is definitely a newer player in the outdoor sock market, but it’s doing great things. The brand makes hiking and running socks as well as cycling socks, fitness socks, and more. The Pursuit Seven ($22) 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 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.
What could be better: In the warmer months, we noticed these socks got a bit hotter than our top two choices on this list.
While mainly a running sock brand, Rockay has recently expanded to socks designed for cycling and hiking as well. We’ve been testing the Flare running socks while trail running and the Razer socks for hiking.
The Razer Socks ($21) have a compression sock-like fit and a performance light- to medium-level of cushioning. For us, these socks were definitely breathable and didn’t slip down, although they fit a little differently.
But the biggest difference between these socks and others we tested is these are the only ones made entirely of 100% recycled materials. That’s right — no animal wool. Rockay uses a blend of 51% Econyl regenerated nylon, 45% recycled polyamide, and 4% recycled elastane.
We only had them in testing for about a month, so can’t speak to the product’s long-term durability, and we’ll plan to update this review as we test further. But they do come with a lifetime guarantee. And they are a good price.
What could be better: We found these socks run slightly small. If you are at the largest end of the size range, consider sizing up.
Made with 54% merino wool yarn and a bit of nylon and elastane, we found these socks ($22) to be on the thicker side but still soft and breathable. For hiking in 40- to 50-degree weather, they were perfect, and the crew length fit nicely too.
What we liked: These socks are a home run if you are looking for a sock with a high merino content. We also like that the brand offers lots of different lengths: ¾-crew, full crew, and ankle.
What could be better: These socks aren’t seamless, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right size sock (and shoes) so they don’t rub in your boots. Our tester didn’t experience this, but noticed that some might with the seam on the ball of the foot.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose
The first step in the process is choosing the correct hiking socks for your activity and then your budget. Do you do a lot of backpacking and want socks with more support and cushion? Or do you mainly enjoy fast and light endeavors?
Decide as well how often you’ll be hiking. If you hike a lot, the more durable, the better.
How We Tested
Our testers tried out socks from sizes S to XL (our testers’ shoe sizes range between 7 and 13). We tested the socks on this list over a course of many months day hiking, backpacking, winter hiking, walking, and more.
What Are the Best Hiking Socks?
Should Hiking Socks Be Thick or Thin?
This is partly based on intended activity and use and partly based on preference. Thicker socks with medium to heavier cushioning might feel more comfortable in a traditional hiking boot, while a light-cushioned sock might feel better in a lightweight or low hiker.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in fall and winter or on longer-length trails, consider thicker socks (both for support and warmth). The Darn Tough Micro Hiking Socks and United by Blue Bison Socks are both good thicker options for winter hiking. If you plan on investing in some hiking socks just for day hiking, maybe go with a lighter option.
What Material Hiking Sock Is Best?
This is really a preference, and materials vary widely by brand and sock style. However, we’ll say we had the best performance and durability from socks with a merino, nylon, and elastane (or spandex) blend, where the merino is the higher material content (50-60%).