There’s few things that are worse than getting a hot spot or a blister on a hike, especially when you’re nowhere near the trailhead. Sometimes you have no choice but to throw some duct tape or moleskin on it and keep going. (While duct tape for blisters may not be ideal, it can actually be a great option when you’re in a bind.)
That being said, the best way to avoid this situation all together is to properly break in your hiking boots. The second best thing you can do to avoid this is by wearing the right kinds of hiking socks paired with the best liner socks for hiking.
Because preventing blisters while hiking all boils down to cutting down to friction and controlling moisture, wearing the right kind of hiking socks is of the utmost importance. You should always avoid cotton, and instead should pick socks that are made of a wool blend, which is ideal for wicking moisture, preventing wet feet, and holding odors at bay.
We personally recommend pairing your hiking socks with high quality boot liner socks. We were skeptical at first – why spend $10-20 on one pair of socks when you already have a pair of regular hiking socks on your feet? I mean they are just a pair on thin socks, right? Well I am a believer now! After I first purchased my first pair of liner socks, I haven’t had a blister or hot spot since – and that was several years ago now. I can’t imagine going back to hiking without them. It’s definitely worth trying one of these top recommendations if you’re a frequent hiker, whether or not you hike in cold or hot conditions or with boots or shoes.
Read on for our top recommendations, as well as an explanation of how sock liners work and what to look for in a good product.
Hiking Liner Sock Reviews
These are our picks for the best hiking liner socks for 2023:
- Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks – Editor’s Choice
- REI Co-op Silk Liner Crew Socks – Best Silk Sock Liner for Hiking
- REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner Crew Socks – Best Merino Wool Sock Liner
- SmartWool Hike Zero Cushion Liner Crew Sock – Best Sock Liner Warranty
- REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Liner Crew Socks – Most Affordable Sock Liner for Hiking
- Injinji Liner Crew Socks – Best Toe Sock Liners
- Hiking Liner Sock Reviews
- Editor’s Choice – Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks
- Best Silk Liner Sock for Hiking – REI Co-op Silk Liner Crew Socks
- Best Sock Liner Warranty – SmartWool Classic Hike Zero Cushion Liner Crew Sock
- Best Merino Wool Sock Liner – REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner Crew Socks
- Best Cheap Sock Liner for Hiking – REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Liner Crew Socks
- Best Toe Sock Liners- Injinji Liner Crew Socks
- How do Sock Liners Work?
- Things to Take into Consideration
Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks
93% polypropylene/6% nylon/1% spandex
REI Co-op Silk Liner Crew Socks
51% silk/47% nylon/2% Lycra® spandex
59% Merino wool, 8% nylon, 30% recycled nylon, 2% elastane, 1% polyester
REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Liner Crew Socks
50% COOLMAX EcoMade polyester/49% nylon/1% spandex
Injinji Liner Crew Socks
75% COOLMAX polyester/21% nylon/4% Lycra spandex
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Editor’s Choice – Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks
Fox River has been making socks since 1900, which gives them over 120 years of experience in making lifestyle performance, sport, and outdoor socks. They are made in the USA using imported and US yarns and are committed to remaining American-made. Since they’ve been around for generations, they know how important it is to preserve the planet for future generations so their mill is 100% powered by renewable energy. They have several other eco-friendly practices that can be found on the sustainability page.
While the name is quite the mouthful, the Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks are the perfect choice for your next hike. These ultra-lightweight sock liners use Fox River’s patented Wick Dry™ technology to keep your feet dry and prevent moisture build-up that can cause blisters. They have a smooth, flat toe seam, and a smooth flat-knit construction for lightweight comfort. They use a combination of synthetic and natural fibers for optimal dryness and to assist the foot with its own temperature regulation.
- 93% polypropylene, 6% nylon, 1% spandex
- Flat Comfort Toe Seam
- Flat Knit Construction for lightweight durability and comfort
- Made in the USA by an eco-friendly company
- Very affordable
- Made by an eco-friendly company
- Flat toe seam
- Mostly made of plastic materials (polypropylene)
Best Silk Liner Sock for Hiking – REI Co-op Silk Liner Crew Socks
REI is a leading name in the outdoor industry, and their name-brand products are a great addition to any adventure-lovers closet. They have an amazing one year no questions asked return policy, so you can be sure you love these socks for many hikes to come.
These silk liner crew socks are designed to be cool and moisture-absorbent, making them a great choice for a hiking sock liner. Made in the USA from durable silk, these socks will keep your feet cool and comfortable all day long. They can be worn under your wool hiking socks, or by themselves on a hot day.
- 51% silk, 47% nylon, 2% Lycra® spandex
- REI brand offers great return policy
- Can be worn by themselves on a hot day
- Made in USA
- REI brand offers great return policy
- Silk is super soft against your skin
- Ultra lightweight material
- Silk can be less durable than other materials
Best Sock Liner Warranty – SmartWool Classic Hike Zero Cushion Liner Crew Sock
This particular sock is made from mostly Merino wool, which is softer than traditional wool. It’s partially made from recycled products (30% recycled nylon), which provides more strength and durability while reducing environmental impact. A bit of elastane offers stretch, and the wool works to fight odor and wick moisture. This sock is the only one on this list that has an elasticized arch brace for a more secure fit, and it also has a flat knit toe seam like others on this list.
- 59% Merino wool, 8% nylon, 30% recycled nylon, 2% elastane, 1% polyester
- 2 year manufacturer warranty
- Partially recycled material
- Partially made from recycled materials
- 2 year warranty
- Has an elasticized arch brace for a more secure fit
- Most expensive socks on this list
Best Merino Wool Sock Liner – REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner Crew Socks
REI Co-op Merino Wool Liner Crew Socks are the perfect choice for hikers who want a bit of extra comfort on the trail. Made from soft Merino wool, these socks provide a snug fit that helps to reduce friction and prevent blisters. These socks are also great for summer day hikes, as they help to keep your feet cool and dry. While it may seem counter-intuitive to wear wool on a warm day, wool is actually a moisture-wicking fabric, which helps keep you cool and dry.
Why is Merino wool good for hiking sock liners? Merino wool is softer than traditional wool, while still being naturally odor-resistant and durable. It’s a natural material that dries quickly, which helps prevent blisters. As an added pro to this merino wool sock liner, it comes with REI’s one year return policy that is one of the best in the industry.
- 64% Merino wool, 34% nylon, 2% spandex
- Naturally odor-resistant
- Seamless toes
- Made using wool certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), which requires that sheep are treated in accordance with leading animal welfare standards
- Made in USA
- Naturally odor-resistant
- Softer than traditional wool
- Made using wool certified to RWS
- Wool can be more difficult to wash and keep its shape
Best Cheap Sock Liner for Hiking – REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Liner Crew Socks
These COOLMAX eco-made sock liners are made with recycled materials (see below for what COOLMAX is). The COOLMAX is a moisture wicking machine, the nylon adds durability, and the spandex offers shape retention and stretch. They’re durable, breathable, and work hard to keep your feet cool and dry. The toe seam is smooth and flat, which ensures there won’t be any bunching or irritation near your toes. Not to mention they are the best cheap sock liner. Wear them as a liner, or by themselves on a hot day.
Because these are REI brand, you know they’re a high quality option that comes with REI’s 1 year no questions asked return policy.
- 50% COOLMAX EcoMade polyester, 49% nylon, 1% spandex
- The polyester yarn is made from recycled water bottles
- Smooth, flat toe seams
- Made in USA
- Most affordable socks on this list
- REI brand has a great return policy
- Flat toe seam
- Even though the toe seam is ‘flat’, there’s still a seam there
Best Toe Sock Liners– Injinji Liner Crew Socks
These Liner Crew Socks from Injinji have especially high ratings by all user accounts, and are one of our favorite pair of sock liners we’ve ever owned. Injinji is based in California and was founded in 1999 by some passionate dreamers looking to change the way people thought about running footwear. The patented five-toe design lets your foot work naturally and lets your toes spread without the confinements of a fitted sock. This also reduces skin-on-skin friction to help prevent blisters. It’s ultrathin so it can be used for warm weather excursions and the COOLMAX Ecomade polyester helps keep your foot cooler. Use it on its own or pair with a wool hiking sock for more support.
- 75% COOLMAX EcoMade polyester, 21% nylon, 4% Lycra spandex
- Patented five-toe design
- Designed as a liner but can also be worn on its own
- Patented five-toe design
- Prevents blisters on your toes and not just on your heels
- Toe sleeves aren’t best for consistent downhill hiking
How do Sock Liners Work?
The main purpose of a sock liner is to decrease friction and moisture, which are the two major causes of blisters. Take away moisture and friction, and you’re more likely to stay blister and hot spot free for longer. The materials seen in these sock liners are made just for these purposes, while also being ultrathin and lightweight. Normally your socks would rub against your skin, creating unwanted friction. Add in sweat and you have yourself the beginnings of a blister. By adding in a sock liner, the friction will then happen between the two pairs of socks, therefore preventing hot spots and blisters.
Do sock liners really work? Yes! We haven’t had a single blister since we started wearing them. In hot weather, sock liners aid your main socks in keeping your feet cool and dry. You can also wear them by themselves on a super hot day, but we like wearing them in combination with hiking socks. While it may seem counter-intuitive to add more layers on a hot day, this is exactly the situation hiking sock liners were made for. In cold weather, they will help keep you warm by keeping your feet dry and adding an additional warm layer.
Things to Take into Consideration
Each sock on this list has different compositions when it comes to the materials used, but they all come down to their effectiveness at wicking moisture and decreasing friction. The main ingredient is either polypropylene, COOLMAX, wool, or silk.
Polypropylene is the majority component in our Editor’s Pick Fox River Alturas, but what exactly is polypropylene? It’s essentially a plastic that has been deemed safe, non-toxic, and has no known carcinogens. It’s the second-most widely produced plastic. and it’s part of the patented formula for Fox River’s highly rated liner socks.
What is COOLMAX?
Why is wool good for sock liners?
Why is silk a good material for hiking sock liners?
Are sock liners good for hiking?
Sock liners are perfect for hiking! They are extremely effective at wicking moisture and reducing friction, and therefore greatly reduce the risk of blisters. Pair them with a wool hiking sock or wear them by themselves on a hot day.
Which sock liner is best?
Our top pick for the best liner socks for hiking is the Fox River Alturas because they are high quality, durable, and made from a long-lasting company that began all the way back in 1900.
What material is best for hiking sock liners?
Most hiking sock liners are either wool, silk, or COOLMAX as the majority ingredient, and each option has its own pros and cons. That being said, they are all great at wicking sweat and reducing friction, so it just comes down to personal preference.
What is a hiking sock liner and do you need them?
Hiking sock liners are ultrathin socks that you wear underneath your thicker hiking socks. They are useful when it comes to preventing blisters because they reduce friction and help wick away moisture. While they aren’t necessary, they are a great addition to your hiking gear, especially if you frequently experience blisters.
Do sock liners really work?
In our experience, sock liners for hiking work fabulously when it comes to blister prevention. Ever since purchasing our first pair, we haven’t had a blister or hot spot since!
Our #1 Recommendation: Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra
Time and time again my Fox River sock liners keep my feet dry, comfortable, and blister-free! Get yourself a pair before your next hike and keep your feet happy!
About the Author
My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.