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Best moisture-wicking ultra lightweight boot socks with odor control?

My son wears workboots / steel toe all day in manufacturing earth moving equip.  He's on his feet all day, and I hear him say daily how his feel are in a swamp after a few hours....I want to buy him some good socks that will not only keep his feet cool, but dry, comfortable and help with odor.  Please can you direct me to the best socks for him?

8 Replies

@Standing-Bear thanks for this question! Smelly, sweaty feet are sometimes hard to avoid, especially when wearing solid work boots that may not breathe all that well. There's just so much moisture trapped in a space without much air circulation/ventilation. Sock choice can help, although it's important to recognize that there's only so much a sock can do in an environment like this. So, a few suggestions:

  • Wool is a great fabric for socks for several reasons - although it may seem counterintuitive, because folks usually think of wool for warmth, wool is actually great for warm and cool situations because it regulates temperature well. Also, wool is naturally antimicrobial, which means it should retain less odor than synthetic fibers - check out this article all about socks!
  • We recommend avoiding cotton, because it retains moisture more than other fabrics.
  • Your son could also add a liner sock, which can help to wick moisture away from his foot, however it's important to note that an additional sock might increase the warmth inside his boot or could change the overall fit of his work boot (tighter).

It may take a few tries to figure out what will work best for your son. We'd recommend considering the following socks:

And if you want to consider adding liner socks:

  • REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner, paired with one of the thinner hiking socks
  • REI Co-op Silk Liner - these are quite thin so they likely won't change the fit of the boot, however know that silk is somewhat delicate and therefore not as durable as other fabrics over time

Sure hope this helps to give you some ideas of socks and sock combinations to try!

Also tagging a few really experienced community members for their ideas and suggestions: @OldGuyot@Philreedshikes@hikermor@Rob6, any thoughts?

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Sorry for my delayed response.

I have to 100% agree with what's been mentioned so far.  I recently reported on another thread my footwear choices, which vary slightly with the seasons.  Cold weather finds me with "expedition weight" wool socks, coupled with a thin, merino wool liner sock.  The warmer months, I wear thinner, ankle-high wool socks with a silk or synthetic liner.  I also have different boots for the different seasons, which are sized differently to accommodate the sock thickness.  I'm happy to say I've had no problems with excessive sweat, odor, or even blisters.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I would guess that it's the boots themselves, not just the socks.   Boots that are made for outside and cold weather, will cause feet to sweat in warmer situations, like indoors or in a vehicle.

I recommend trying a lighter weight, breathable work boot.


REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes great call! I made an assumption the work boot choice wasn't able to be altered, but if it is, that's a great way to increase breathability!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

correct, same boot everyday


I am sold on Darn Tough wool socks for backpacking anyway.  I don't have an odor problem or a work boot context to recommend for but I think they are the best socks around for hard wear situation.   I use the mid cushion hiker boot socks

with my lightweight full waterproof hiking boots...and they worked  a lot better than other brand of similar sock I have tried.  

I also have then in micro crew and a quarter length for other footwear and they work great there too.

They are a bit pricey for socks but I think it is worth trying a pair unless he has some reason he can't use wool.  They do make a non wool version which are supposed to be a bit cooler but they are not as good for odor control.  I haven't tried them.

If the socks don't help enough and more ventilated boots are not an option having a second pair of boots and alternating them might be helpful...if somewhat expensive.


I work for a contracting company and I have to wear boots every day as well. I wear Smartwool PhD socks, Farm to Feet, Darn Tough, and REI socks. All of them are wool and all of them are great. I don't run into issues of my feet getting too hot even in waterproof boots here in Arkansas, nor do my socks stay wet when I sweat in them. My Smartwool PhD and Darn Tough are the most durable, but the Farm to Feet and Darn Tough are the best with odor control. I'm actually about to order new socks soon, and I'm going to get more Darn Tough and Smartwool. 

@Standing-Bear Great question!

You've gotten a lot of really great advice here so I'm going to stick with my experience: in terms of moisture and odor control you can't beat merino wool. There are so many great brands out there that have already been mentioned that you really can't go wrong. I have also struggled with managing moisture in my boots, particularly heavier/waterproof boots, and I have found merino wool to be the only thing that gets the job done.

Please circle back and let us know if any of these ideas worked for your son. Thanks!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.