The Best Hiking Socks of 2024: Staff Picks

Our guide includes the eight best pairs of hiking socks you can find at REI.

Emily Pennington|Updated May 16, 2024

44 reviews with an average rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars
Six hikers stand on a beach log displaying their socks

When you hit the trail for a big adventure, the last thing you want to worry about are your feet. With the right pair of socks, blisters and hot spots may be things of the past, allowing you to fully enjoy that mountain sunset instead of limping into camp.

We polled our expert team, and these eight socks are our staffers’ favorites at REI. They’re trail-tested and hiker-approved, providing the cushioning, breathability and moisture-wicking your feet need for ultimate comfort on trail days.

Staff Picks

Check out our top picks here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.

Best Cushioned Hiking Sock: Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks

Best Light Hiking Sock: Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushioned Crew Socks

Best Winter Hiking Sock: REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Hiking Crew Socks

Best Quarter-High Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Light Hiker Quarter Lightweight Hiking Socks

Best Double Sock: WRIGHTOCK CoolMesh II Crew Socks

Best No-Show Hiking Sock: Balega Silver No-Show Socks

Best Kids' Hiking Socks: REI Co-op Trailsmith Merino Wool Lightweight Crew Socks - Toddlers'/Kids'

Best Compression Socks: Sockwell Circulator Compression Socks

A year-in, year-out favorite on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, this heavy-cushioned crew sock from Darn Tough has seen its fair share of 30-mile days. Unlike a lighter sock that saves the padding for the ball and heel only, this puppy offers plush, high-density cushioning throughout the entire sock to keep feet happy on tough days of pounding rugged singletrack.

Many hiking socks use the wool/nylon/elastane trifecta, and the Hiker Boot Full-Cushion is no different. Where it does dogleg from the others is in the high percentage of merino wool used—that's where the plush cushioning comes from. And for a poofier sock, it's not at all sloppy: Our testers laud its snug, no-slip fit. "No bunching means no blisters, even on even the sweatiest days," says one editor, who's had the same pair of Hiker Boot Full-Cushions in the rotation for seven years.

What's more, this sock comes with the Darn Tough lifetime guarantee. That's the sort of durability we can all get behind.

Wet feet = blister-prone feet. So whether you're naturally sweaty or hiking in high temps, you owe it to your sole to check out a pair of socks with light cushioning like these. The Performance Hike Light Cushion—the brand's evolution of the venerable PhD Outdoor line—has less wool than a full-cushioned sock, reserving the padding in higher-impact zones like the heel and ball. On the top of the foot, Smartwool places thinner, mesh-like fabric that serves as a vent to keep moisture away. "It gives me the benefit of padding without suffocating me," one staffer says. "I get really sweaty feet when I'm hiking, but when I pair the Performance Hike Light Cushion with trail runners, I don't swamp out, even on 80°F days."

The Performance Hike Light Cushion features Smartwool's Indestructawool™ technology, which is basically the brand's way of zoning the merino, nylon and elastane where you need them most without introducing more seams that can chafe or feel annoying. That's all supposed to make the sock more durable—something we haven't tested in a lab but are into. One staffer has logged about 150 miles and a dozen washes on her trusty pair and the socks are no worse for wear. The Performance Hike Light Cushion also has recycled content, and it uses New Zealand merino wool that's ethically sourced—so you can feel good about your purchase.

This sock from REI Co-op is one of the most budget-friendly winter-ready socks, so we'll forgive you for overlooking it at first glance. But on closer inspection, you'll see why these merino wool babies scored high praise from our experts: Warmth and comfort aren't sacrified at this price point. You get all-over cushioning to keep you warm for cold-weather hikes, and reinforcement at the heels, toes and footbeds for lasting comfort. Added bonus: All that merino wool provides natural odor control. And for summertime camping, the Merino Wool Midweight Hiking Crew pulls double-duty as a luxurious sleep sock to stuff in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

Feel good about wearing this socking, too. The Merino Wool Midweight is made using wool that's certified by the animal-friendly Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).

Do a cursory search for "best thru-hiking sock," and Darn Tough comes up every time. This fan-favorite quarter-height sock hits just above the ankles, making it perfect for hikers who wear trail runners or low-cut boots on excursions, while the lighter cushioning extends up the Achilles heel for targeted comfort without feeling bulky. "The last pair of these I bought over 7 years ago and found them again. The first pair has survived two trips to Burning Man," says one member-tester. "I love that they are made in the USA and very comfortable."

Beyond that, the Light Hiker boasts all of the hallmarks we've come to expect from Darn Tough, including a no-slip performance fit, a moisture-wicking merino blend and True Seamless™ fusion to prevent blisters or discomfort. And this sock is also backed by the Darn Tough lifetime guarantee, which is just icing on the cake.

Have an issue with blisters? Try going double: The WRIGHTSOCK Cool Mesh II Crew has two layers that work together to limit friction caused by repetitive motion. The ultrathin inner layer fits snugly so that it's difficult to pinch loose; that makes it nearly impossible for the material to bunch, crease or chafe your bare skin. (It also helps wick moisture like a dream to keep your feet dry.) The outer layer, meanwhile, cushions your foot like a standard sock while absorbing any rubbing from your shoe as it slides (friction-free) over the inner layer. Mesh panels boost breathability for all-day dry, comfortable feet, and a Stabilizer Zone™ in the arches keep your feet snug—no hike-stopping slipping. Silver extruded into the yarn protects against the growth of odor-causing bacteria, and will help your feet feel like a million bucks (while costing 0.0025% as much).

Sick of painful heel blisters on pavement-pounding runs? The Balega Silver No-Show is designed to obliterate your fears. With high heel tabs and extra-deep heel pockets, this low-profile sock grips your foot like a hug. Add in a seamless toe, and you've got yourself a practically blister-proof running mate. "I never have to yank them up," one staffer says. "They stay put no matter what, even on soggy runs in the Pacific Northwest."

The poly/nylon/elastane blend is different from a typical hiking sock like above. In lieu of wool, Balega primarily uses a polyester-based blend. Synthetic polyester dries super quick, making it a great material for sweaty pursuits like running. It lacks the comfort and odor control of natural wool—but that's where the silver comes in. To increase the sock's odor resistance, Balega says it encapsulates the polyester fibers in silver ions, a natural bacteria inhibitor. Combined with mesh paneling along the top of the sock, the Silver No-Show is a runner's dream for hot days.

It's a fact: Kids can't sit still. And all those steps can add up to achy feet. But a good pair of socks like the REI Co-op Trailsmith Merino Wool Lightweight Crew Socks provides midweight cushioning underfeet for all those long hikes, romps through puddles and playground rambles. "These are nicely cushioned and toasty!" says one member reviewer from Kentucky. A bit of spandex adds stretch to the fabric for a snug fit, and the sock is made with merino wool that's certified by the animal-friendly Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).

Whether you're eyeing a leisurely recovery day or a long-distance flight, your legs deserve the power of a properly designed compression sock. Using graduated pressure from the Achilles to just above the calf, compression socks can help decrease swelling and increase blood flow. The Sockwell Circulator has moderate (15-20 mmHg) graduated compression that's highest at the ankles and lightest at the calves, helping push blood up your body toward your heart for maximum circulation. This can help reduce recovery time when you're training and lessen leg swelling during hours spent sitting in an office chair or on a plane.

The Circulator is designed with a merino/nylon/spandex blend similar to what you might find in a typical hiking sock. But Sockwell also sneaks bamboo into the mix, which has antimicrobial properties.

Buying Advice

A person with socked feet in the air with coastal background

When choosing a pair of socks, consider the fabric blend, level of cushioning and cuff height.

Fabric

Most technical socks are made with a fabric blend of several materials that bring different properties to the mix. Most hiking socks use some combination of wool, nylon and elastane. Wool is a comfy fiber that insulates when wet or dry, wicks moisture like a dream and is naturally antimicrobial. Nylon is typically used for creating the durable grid that the wool is woven over. Elastane (like spandex or Lycra) provides the stretchiness and shape retention of your sock. The Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-CushionSmartwool Performance Hike Light CushionREI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Hiking Crew and Darn Tough Light Hiker  all use this general formula.

Running socks, on the other hand, may include polyester instead of wool. Polyester is a quick-drying synthetic fiber that’s second to none when it comes to wicking moisture away from your body. The WRIGHTSOCK CoolMesh II and Balega Silver No-Show socks use polyester.

Still other socks like the Sockwell Circulator may have a fourth ingredient mixed in; the Sockwell has bamboo for its antimicrobial properties.

Note: Cotton socks are less than ideal on trails. Cotton absorbs sweat and dries slooooooowly—the perfect recipe for a big blister.

Cushioning

Finding the right level of sock cushioning requires balancing your desired level of comfort and the amount of warmth you need. In general, there are four categories of cushioning you’ll find at REI: no cushioning, light cushioning, medium cushioning and heavy cushioning. No-cushioning and light-cushioning socks (like the Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion and Balega Silver No-Show) are typically reserved for running and ultralight hiking; they’re the most breathable of the bunch. Medium-cushioning socks (like the Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion and Darn Tough Light Hiker) provide Goldilocks padding and weight and are great choices for hiking and backpacking.  

Cuff Height

First: What kind of footwear are you pairing with your socks? You want your sock to be as tall as or taller than your shoe to prevent rubbing and chafing.

Second: What kind of activity will you be doing in your socks? Avoid a sock shorter than your shoes; you may even want to go taller. Knee-high compression might be a benefit if you’re skiing or mountaineering; crew or ankle-high socks may be best if you’re trail-running or heading off-trail.

Methodology

We asked our crew of REI staffers and member-testers for their favorite socks sold at REI, then vetted their nominations against hundreds of purchase-verified online member reviews. We culled the list down to these seven trusted faves.