It takes an average person 2,000 steps to walk one mile. Add in the ups and downs of hiking trails and the roots and rocks encountered along the way, and it gets even more ridiculous. The right socks are essential for keeping your feet dry and comfortable on your hike.
These are the four essential factors to consider when choosing the best hiking socks.
Sock height: This sock is the right height to protect your footwear from abrasion.
Cushioning: How much cushioning you use can affect your comfort and warmth
Fabric: While most hiking socks are made from merino wool, some are mostly made of nylon or polyester.
Fit: To avoid blisters, make sure your socks are well-fitted
Hiking Sock Height
There are many heights of hiking socks, from short enough to barely touch your ankles to high enough to cover your shoes, to long enough to reach your knees. Take a look at the footwear you are wearing to determine the height. Your boots and shoes have a higher cuff than your socks. This is to prevent your skin from rubbing against your footwear.
These are the four sock heights that you will find in the market:
No-show: These shorty socks offer very little protection against skin boot abrasion. They should be worn only with low-cut shoes, such as trail-running shoes and light hiking shoes.
Ankle: These socks are slightly higher than no-show socks and will generally cover your ankle bone for some extra protection. These socks are suitable for boots and shoes with low-to-mid-cuts.
Crew: This is the standard height for hiking socks. Crew socks are typically a few inches higher than your ankle bones. This is to prevent abrasion when wearing boots with high cuffs. Crew socks can be worn with any low-cut shoes or boots. However, the extra coverage may keep you warm during hot days.
High-heel: There are very few choices in the high-heel category. They will most likely be used for mountaineering. High socks are designed to protect your calves and shins from the abrasion caused by big, bulky boots. High socks can keep your lower legs warm while you climb through the night or cross glaciers.
Hiking Sock Cushioning
You can gauge how thick and warm a sock is by how much cushion it has.
The type of trip you take and the weather will determine the amount of cushioning you need. While a little cushion can help protect your feet while you are doing high-impact activities such as running or backpacking, thicker socks can make your feet sweaty. It may take a few trials here and there before the perfect balance could be found between warmth and cushion. It is helpful to have a wide selection of socks in your sock drawer.
These are the four types of cushioning that you will find:
These ultralight socks can be worn in hot conditions. These socks are very breathable and provide little padding. Liner socks are a small group of socks that can be worn under a light, medium, or heavyweight hiking sock. While liner socks were once popular due to their ability to wick moisture away from the feet and keep them dry, many hiking socks are now strong enough that they don't need to be lined. If you are confident that liner socks work, you can continue to use them.
Light cushioning: These socks are great for warm weather. They prioritize comfort and moisture-wicking over warmth. These socks are quite thin but provide some cushioning at key points, such as the ball and heel of the feet.
Medium cushioning: These socks offer enough warmth to be used in cold or moderate conditions and provide adequate cushioning in the ball and heel.
Heavy Cushioning: These socks are the thickest, most warm, and cushioned. These socks are ideal for long trips, difficult terrain, and cold temperatures. These are ideal for cold-weather backpacking trips and mountaineering, as they can be too warm and thick for warm-weather backpacking.
Hiking Sock Fabric Type
Hiking socks are not made of one fabric. They are usually made from a combination that provides the perfect balance between comfort, warmth, and durability. These are the most popular materials used in hiking socks.
Wool: The most preferred hiking sock material is wool, and it's the one our footwear experts recommend. It provides cushioning and regulates the temperature, so your feet don't get too hot. Wool is naturally antimicrobial, so it retains smells less than synthetic materials. Merino wool socks are now more common than older rag wool socks. They are virtually itch-free. For better durability and faster drying, wool socks are made with a blend of synthetic and wool materials.
Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic material that insulates and wicks moisture quickly. To achieve a great combination of warmth, comfort, and durability, it is often blended with nylon and wool.
Nylon This synthetic material is sometimes used as the primary. It can improve drying times and adds durability.
Silk: Silk is a natural insulator. It's lightweight and comfortable, but it's not as long-lasting as some other options. For reliable moisture-wicking, silk is sometimes used in socks liners.
Spandex: Many hiking socks contain a small amount of spandex. This elastic material helps socks retain their shape and keeps them from bunching and wrinkling.
Hiking Socks Fit
Comfortable hiking boots will be made of socks that are just right. Too big socks can cause blisters and rub on your feet. Too small socks can cause pressure points and slippage.
It's important to measure your foot to determine the correct size. Sometimes people oversize in shoes which can cause them to buy socks that are too big.
Once your foot size is known, you can use it to find the right size socks. If you are shopping in a shop, you will see a size chart on the packaging. To avoid blisters and excess material, size down if you're in between sizes.
How socks should fit: Try socks on and make sure they are snug but not too tight. The heel cup should line up with your heel when a sock is properly fitted.