It is estimated that an average person takes up to 2,000 steps to travel one mile. The numbers only get higher with all the roots and rocks you encounter along the hiking trail. With every step you take, you keep your feet at risk of getting a blister or other injuries if you lack quality socks to accompany your hiking boots or shoes. To keep your feet blister-free and comfortable throughout your hiking journey, you should get the right hiking socks. There are four things you need to consider when looking for hiking socks. They include:
- Sock cushioning
- Sock length
- Socks fabric
- Socks size.
- Wicking ability
- Drying period
What are you supposed to look for when looking for these things in hiking socks?
Table of Contents
Hiking Sock cushioning
The socks cushioning is one detail you must take into consideration when purchasing hiking socks. The amount of cushioning gives you the idea of how thin or thick the socks are and how warm it will be. The cushioning is what protects your feet from friction when hiking and during high-impact activities like backpacking and running. When determining the cushioning, keep in mind the idea that the thicker the cushioning, the warmer the socks is going to be and this can cause your feet to sweat excessively. You need to find the right balance of socks cushioning that works for you.
There are four types of cushion to choose from. They include:
Heavy cushioning: hiking socks with heavy cushioning are the thickest and most available socks. They are also the warmest and most preferred for long trips, cold temperatures and rough terrain. Socks with thick cushioning are the best for backpacking, mountaineering and hiking trips.
Medium cushioning: the medium cushioning socks provide the best services to those who love hiking. These socks are war enough for moderate cold or warm weathers, best for backpacking and hiking trips.
Light cushioning: if you are looking for the best hiking sock for the summer, warm months and the spring, then the light cushioning socks are a better option. These socks are relatively thin, but provide you with the much-needed comfort. However, using the light cushioning socks in the winter months is not a good option since the socks are more about moisture wicking over warmth.
No cushioning at all or ultra-lightweight: the no cushioning socks are the ultra-light socks designed for hot summer months. They have little padding and liner which makes them favorable among hikers. The no cushioning socks are known for their ability to keep the feet dry by wicking away moisture. These socks are best for running, fast packing and hiking.
Hiking Socks height
The height of your hiking socks is another aspect you should consider. Hiking socks come in a variety of heights from short to medium height to length. The right height of hiking socks depends on your footwear. If your footwear has high cuffs, the longer your socks should be. Tall socks are perfect for protecting your skin. The various types of hiking socks include:
- The no-show: short socks that provide very little protection when it comes to skin-to-boot abrasion.
- Ankle: these kind are slightly higher and usually cover your ankle bone, they offer more protection that No-show socks.
- Crew: the crew is the perfect socks for hiking. They land a few inches above the ankle to protect your feet against abrasion
- Knee-high: The knee high socks are probably used by mountaineers. They are worn with burly boots.
Hiking socks fabric
The socks fabric matters a lot. Hiking socks are made from different fabrics that create the balance between durability, comfort, fast drying, and warmth. The most common materials for hiking socks include wool, polyester, nylon, silk, and spandex. Cotton is the most popular materials used and the best when it comes to regulating your feet temperature, cushioning and absolving sweat.
Most common hiking socks fabrics/materials.
Cotton wool: cotton is the most common hiking socks material that fits well with hiking boots. The cotton socks come with comfort, breathability, and durability all in one package. Aside from being prevalent among hikers, these socks regulate the temperature, keeping your feet dry all the time. When comparing the type of wool to get, the merino wool is the best since it’s itchy-free, durable and comfortable. Merino wool prevents clumsiness.
Polyester: the polyester socks are more durable when compared to other types of hiking socks. These socks ensure your feet are dry all the time as they wick moisture, keeping you dry for long. Polyester is a wrinkle-resistant fabric that is easy to clean, breathable and absorbs moisture more than nylon.
Nylon: Nylon is a lightweight material which is preferred by hikers when it comes to stretching and pulling. These socks can be added to other socks fabrics to add durability and improve drying. Like tights, nylon socks are easy to clean.
Silk: when it comes to socks, silk is an option you can ignore. Silk is light, elastic absorbent, dirt-resistant and has insulating properties. The fabric is comfortable, but they require cleaning, regular care and are sensitive to sweat.
Acrylic: this fabric has excellent wicking capabilities. They are soft, quick to dry, warm and lightweight. Some companies blend wool and acrylic to provide socks that can be worn during cold weather.
Spandex: these are hiking socks that can stretch without breaking. Spandex is durable than rubber and stronger yet soft, easier to clean and lightweight. Socks are made using spandex offers an excellent combination of fit without sagging and bagging and comfort
Other hiking socks fabrics include Olefin (CoolMax), Fleece and Polypropylene.
Hiking Sock fit
The right fit is what will determine your comfort. If they are too big, it can lead to wrinkles and eventually blisters. Too small and you will most certainly experience sock slippage and creation of pressure points. To find the right size, know your size and how the socks should fit.
Finding the perfect hiking socks is not as difficult as most people might think. It just depends on knowing what you need, your footwear type, your size and most importantly the socks cushioning.
Women’s hiking socks
Most women have shorter feet with softer skin and higher arch. Women need to search for:
- Built-in arch support
- A tab to prevent slippage
Men’s hiking socks
Men’s socks tends to have thicker-skinned, flatter and carry a lot of weight on their heels, meaning men need to look for:
- Stay-put leg to help keep their socks in place
- Hiking socks that have fully cushioned sole
- Moisture-moving technology to help keep their feet odor-free and dry.
Children’s Sock Size
If you are searching for children hiking socks, you need to check the child’s age, sex, and shoe size. Pay special attention to socks fabrics and how fast they will wear them out.
If you need socks for backpacking or a day-hiking trip, you need a comfortable choice. For the tough terrain, you need to check areas such as toes, compression panels, and heels. This extra cushioning provides the much-needed comfort during hiking trips.
When it comes to hiking socks, the faster they dry, the better. The lighter the fabric is, the faster they are going to dry. Drying the warm weathers insulation is not an issue, which makes synthetic socks the best option.
Wicking ability is not much of an issue than other criteria. Fabrics such as nylon wick better than wool socks meaning they are best for hot or warm weathers. The only problem with this type is the fact you lose some insulating performance. Though wicking ability is not that important if your socks are not wicking well, you should consider wearing liners along with the socks.
For longer trips, medium weight hiking socks can make a better option, especially if you are hiking through the cold weather. Thicker socks or liner socks help keep your feet warm, dry and prevent blisters. Wool (merino wool) or silk are the better options. As we saw above, this type of socks keeps you warm, wick well and comfortable. They are durable too.
Insulation is a vital aspect of hiking socks. You need to keep your feet warm in cold weather and hot conditions. Since most hiking boots come with the insulation option, but hiking socks insulation adds comfort. When it comes to insulation, wool is the best option. Apart from the fact wool takes long to dry, they will keep you warm in rigid conditions. Mid to heavy weight sock wick moisture away and keep you war.
See a review of some socks here.
My favorite hiking boot socks
Here are my favorite hiking boot socks:
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