A hikers worst nightmare on a day out is definitely having a hotspot turn into a full blown blister. They are debilitating, annoying, and in the worst case scenario, they can become infected and cause a whole mess of other problems. Yes, there are ways to prevent blisters while hiking by putting duct tape on your hotspots, or using moleskin on your feet before they develop further, but outfitting your feet with the proper gear is an even better place to start.
First, make sure you properly break in your hiking boots, then pair your hiking boots with a great pair of hiking socks and hiking liner socks. We’ve compiled a list of the best best hiking socks to prevent blisters we could find. Each one of these anti blister socks has been chosen for a specific set of criteria and has been proven to cut down on the moisture and abrasion that leads to hotspots and eventually blisters.
You’ll notice that these hiking socks below are a Merino wool blend, which is ideal for most hiking socks. These kinds of materials keep your feet warm in cold weather, and dry in warm weather. It’s breathable, moisture wicking, and lightweight while still being durable enough to withstand years of wear. You’ll also see features like a flat knit toe seam (for less irritation), and varying levels of lightweight socks and thick socks for different applications.
Best Hiking Socks to Prevent Blisters
From our research and testing, we came to the conclusion that the best hiking socks to prevent blisters are the Patagonia Lightweight Merino Performance Crew Socks. The lightweight cushion and merino wool work in tandem to create a sock that keep your feet cool while wicking away blister causing moisture and negating friction. If you are looking for a cheap pair of merino wool hiking socks, the Fox River Hike Trail Town Lightweight Crew are the best cheap merino wool hiking socks. The Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion are quality socks for blister prevention as well, but are the most expensive hiking socks we tested.
- Best Hiking Socks to Prevent Blisters
- Things to Consider When Choosing a Hiking Sock to Prevent Blisters
- Merino Wool vs. Cotton Hiking Socks
- How Tall Should my Hiking Socks Be?
Our #1 Recommendation: Patagonia Lightweight Merino Performance Crew Socks
Our #2 Recommendation: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion
Wool Content: 61%
Darn Tough has become a house hold name for hikers everywhere, and for good reason. This is their premium offering for hiking socks. A great option is you are willing to float the price tag. Full Review
Best Cheap Hiking Socks: Fox River Hike Trail Town Lightweight Crew
Wool Content: 28%
Fox River has been making socks since 1900. With over 120 years of experience, you can trust that these are a great hiking sock that will last a long time. The fact that they are almost half the price of Darn Tough is just icing on the cake. Full Review
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Editor’s Choice – Patagonia Lightweight Merino Performance Crew Socks
Patagonia Lightweight Merino Performance Crew Socks are designed to offer comfort and durability for those who enjoy the great outdoors. These hiking socks are made of a wool/nylon/spandex blend that is certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). This ensures that the animals that supplied the wool are well-cared for and that their grazing does not damage the land. Less than 1% of wool is certified to this standard, so it goes to show that Patagonia is a really great brand and they make a really high quality hiking sock.
The virgin wool is also extremely breathable (great for summer hiking and keeping your sweaty feet dry) and has excellent stretch and recovery. The mesh arch brace provides a snug fit, and the socks are made in the U.S.A. This makes these Patagonia hiking socks not only environmentally conscious, but also perfect for hiking, camping, or any other outdoor activity.
- 59% RWS-certified merino wool – 39% nylon – 2% Lycra
- Engineered for comfort on and off trail
- Breathable for all day comfort
- Low-Calf-Height Crew Socks
- Four different color options
- Made in the USA
Fox River Hike Trail Town Lightweight Crew
These Fox River Trail Town crew socks may soon be your favorite hiking socks. They are made from a blend of materials that optimize cushioning and moisture wicking, which is why they’re one of the best hiking socks to prevent blisters. Fox River uses a URfit® System to provide arch support and memory-knit construction, while the reinforced heel and toe box increase the socks’ longevity and comfort. They also include the must-have flat comfort toe seam that we need in a good hiking sock, as well as a cushioned sole for shock absorption.
Perhaps one of the best parts about purchasing from Fox River is their commitment to sustainability, which includes having a manufacturing plant that runs off 100% renewable energy. It’s also WRAP certified for ethical manufacturing and they have a robust recycling program. Fox River has been making socks since 1900, so they have some experience under their belt.
- 28% Merino Wool – 37% Nylon – 28% Acrylic – 5% Polyester – 2% Spandex
- URfit® System for arch support and memory-knit construction
- Reinforced toe and heel
- Cushioned sole and toe
- Flat toe seam
- Wick Dry™ keeps your feet dry
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion socks are some of the best wool socks in the industry and for good reason. Not only are they made of high quality materials, but Darn Tough has the best warranty on the market. Darn Tough socks are unconditionally guaranteed for life – if they aren’t the longest lasing socks you’ve ever owned, you can just return them for another pair. They’re even guaranteed against holes and regular ol’ wear and tear, which is something most other companies don’t cover. Plus, they’re made in the USA.
Their Micro Crew Cushion sock is one of the best hiking socks to prevent blisters and is one of the classic styles from Darn Tough. It’s a performance fit that means no bunching, slipping, or blisters, plus reinforcement at the heels and toes. This particular sock is a mid-weight, which can be used year-round and in a variety of conditions – they will keep you warm when it’s cold and will keep your feet cool when it’s hot and sweaty.
- 61% Merino wool – 36% nylon – 3% Lycra
- Moisture wicking & quick drying
- Low-Calf-Height Crew Socks
- Medium Cushioning
- Ring Toe Construction virtually eliminates annoying seams
- Made in USA
REI Co-op Lightweight Hiking Crew Socks
Like the Editor’s Choice Patagonia hiking socks, these REI Co-op Brand hiking socks are made with RWS Merino wool, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly that other sources of not-certified wool. They’re extremely highly rated by users, and come with REI’s traditional one year return policy. We also appreciate that they’re made in the USA!
REI Co-op hiking socks have the classic features of the other quality hiking socks on this list like a seamless toe, stretch arch band for extra support, and reinforcement at the heels, toes, foot beds, and Achilles. They’re perfect for summer hiking when you need an ultralight hiking sock with minimal cushioning because they’re naturally breathable, quick-drying, sweat wicking, and odor resistant. They’re sized for unisex and come in three fun colors.
- 79% RWS-certified merino wool – 20% nylon – 1% Lycra
- Moisture wicking & quick drying
- Crew sock height
- Reinforced heel, toe, footbeds, and Achilles
- Medium Cushioning
- Made in USA
Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks
Smartwool literally has the world ‘wool’ in their name, so you know these wool hiking socks have to be awesome. They’re working towards having products that are made from wool that is 100% climate-positive by 2030, which is a big deal for a company as large as SmartWool.
These Smartwool Performance Hiking Socks are an essential piece of gear for any hiker, offering unparalleled comfort and support on the trail. These socks are virtually seamless in the toe area, preventing irritation and blisters. They also feature a 4 Degree Elite Fit System for a dialed, performance-oriented fit with flex zone at ankle joint. Additionally, Smartwool’s Indestructawool technology features a patent-pending construction method for exceptional durability and comfort, while mesh ventilation zones provide optimum moisture management and maximum breathability.
- 56% ZQ-certified Merino Wool – 11% Nylon – 31% Recycled Nylon – 2% Elastane
- Hiking Sock Height: Crew
- Light cushioning
- Indestructawool™ technology with extended durability zones
- Virtually Seamless™ toe for enhanced comfort
- Comfort welt with ‘stay put’ fit
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hiking Sock to Prevent Blisters
Choosing a pair of socks to prevent blisters can sound simple at first, and it kind of is. But there are a few things to keep in mind that can make a massive difference between your new favorite pair of hiking socks or coming home with blisters and throwing your new socks in the trash. Here are the top things to keep in mind when you are looking for hiking socks that will solve your blister problems.
What are good hiking socks made of?
There are materials out there, more specifically cotton, that are absolutely horrible for hiking socks, and while you can wear your cheap, cotton socks on most days, cotton is probably the WORST thing to put on your sweaty feet when you are hiking for miles and miles.
The best hiking socks have a decent percentage of merino wool, and most of the socks on the market have some other added fibers like Lycra, Spandex, Nylon, or Elastane to increase drying times and durability. A big percentage of Merino wool is simply the best material for a hiking sock to be made out of if you want to prevent blisters while you are hiking.
Merino Wool vs. Cotton Hiking Socks
What is Merino Wool?
Merino is a breed of sheep that’s farmed for its soft wool. Because of Merino wool’s thin diameter, it isn’t itchy like more traditional wools. It’s become widely used in technical fabrics for outdoor enthusiasts, especially in socks and base layers.
What is cotton?
Cotton is a natural fiber that comes from cotton plants. It’s a plant that needs a lot of sun, very little frost, and significant water. The cotton comes from a fluffy fiber that grow in the boll of the plant – which is then spun into yarn that can create soft fabrics.
Why You Should have Merino Wool in your Hiking Socks
Perhaps one of the most magical properties of wool is its ability to wick moisture. Wool only absorbs about 30% of its weight in water, while cotton can absorb up to 2,700%. While this seems backwards, it’s better that wool doesn’t absorb as much moisture because then it doesn’t hold water and make your skin more prone to blisters. Instead, it distributes the moisture so it’s not trapped next to your skin, and lets it dissipate gradually and evaporate through the outer layers. This helps your feet stay more dry and comfortable.
In addition to its moisture wicking capabilities, wool is also great for temperature regulation. It’s proved itself to be better than synthetic or cotton fabrics, no matter the time of year. It’s comfortable in most temperature conditions. In cold weather, even thin wool socks have shown to be warmer than synthetic fibers of the same weight, and in warm weather it wicks moisture more effectively.
Wool is also naturally antimicrobial and odor resistant, making it the perfect material for multi-day treks and adventures. You can go longer between washes without sacrificing smell or durability. That’s one of the many reasons while wool hiking socks are the preferred options for multi-day backpacking trips and those who are into lightweight thru hiking.
Comfort is key when it comes to any type of clothing, and hiking socks are no exception. Merino wool is known for being smooth and soft without the itchy traditional wool feeling. Plus, the smooth fabric makes it more abrasion resistant, letting it last longer than other materials.
While wool is traditionally known as being expensive, it’s hard to compare it when cotton is just so cheap and easy. Cotton will always be cheaper, which is why it’s good for every day casual wear, but you’ll hate wearing it while hiking.
In reality, wool isn’t much more expensive that other technical materials and synthetics, so paying $15-20 per pair of hiking socks isn’t absurd. Ultimately, spending more money will save you in the long run because it will last longer and better protect your feet.
Pros and Cons of Merino Wool
- Wool wicks moisture,
- Cushions your foot,
- Comfortable in most temperature conditions,
- Odor resistant,
- Naturally antimicrobial,
- Lasts longer,
- Warmer than synthetic fibers of the same weight
- Dries slower after soaking,
- More expensive.
“Cotton is Rotten”
You may have heard this saying before, or even something along the lines of “cotton kills.” While these are extreme examples of why you shouldn’t be wearing cotton, the basic theory behind it rings true: wet base layers work against you, especially in cold weather.
If you’re hiking in the cold, even if you feel cold initially, the hard work will warm you up and make you sweat. With about 250,000 sweat glands in each foot, the first body part to get wet is going to be your feet. At some point, you’re going to stop physical activity, and if you are wearing cotton socks that get wet and hold moisture, you’re going to get cold faster.
Not only will the atmosphere draw warmth from your body, but the wet socks will help this process (perhaps a little too much) and draw away even more heat. In extreme circumstances, you could risk hypothermia and severe cold related illness. Instead, stay warm during cold weather hiking by wearing Merino wool socks and base layers.
When You Should Wear Cotton
Cotton is not recommended for active uses, but that isn’t saying that you should never wear it. One of the biggest pros of having cotton material products is affordability. If you’re not planning on getting sweaty, you can save yourself the money and wear cotton clothing and socks. Some might argue that you can wear Merino wool all day, every day, but that may not be affordable or sustainable for the average person.
How Tall Should my Hiking Socks Be?
Whether you’re wearing a hiking shoe or ankle boot, we recommend wearing a crew sock either way. Wearing no show socks or ankle height can still lead to abrasion if they were to ride down or not sit properly.
Wearing a crew height sock has a couple benefits in itself so let’s go over those really quick:
- Protection – During summer, it can get pretty hot, and nothing feels better to me than hiking in shorts on a warm summer day! But I have found in my personal experience that hiking in shorts can lead to scratches and other things on my legs that I don’t necessarily want to be touching them. Crew height socks are a happy medium that protects a good part of my leg, but I still get some free feeling of hiking in shorts on a hot day
- Versatility – I can wear the same socks whether I have a trail runner, waterproof hiking boot, or even my winter boots.
- Keeps things from getting in your socks – A shorter sock is closer to the ground and it seems to me like I used to end up with my things getting into my socks when I was hiking in trail runners. Since going to crew height socks, no more stuff in my socks!
Are cotton or wool socks better for hiking?
Wool is 100% better when it comes to choosing the best socks for hiking. While it’s more expensive, the material is better in all aspects: durability, moisture-wicking, odor control, cushioning, warmth, and it’s naturally antimicrobial.
Are Merino wool socks good for hiking?
Merino wool walking socks (or wool/synthetic blends) are the top choice for hiking socks. They offer the best durability, moisture-wicking, warmth, and quality.
Are cotton socks good for hiking?
No! As the saying goes, “cotton is rotten.” The material will hold on to moisture, making you more prone to blisters. We recommend Merino wool hiking socks for your next outdoor adventure!
What socks are best for hiking?
Patagonia Lightweight Performance socks are our favorite socks for hiking because of their blend of materials and responsibly-sourced wool. They would be great for most hiking conditions and we highly recommend trying a pair!c
When it comes to picking the best hiking socks for blisters, you can’t go wrong with any of our suggestions on this list. As long as it’s a majority merino wool and is crew height, they are going to be better hiking socks than any cotton regular socks. They would be compatible with most hiking shoes, and would do well as an outer layer over liner socks.
Whether you’re hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, thru-hiking, or just generally spending time outdoors, all these budget-friendly hiking socks would be a great addition to your sock drawer and will support you on all your future adventures.
Our #1 Recommendation: Patagonia Lightweight Hiking Socks
Patagonia is one of our favorite brands for any clothing, but we particularly love their socks. They’re made from Merino wool certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) and are made in the U.S.A. They come in four different colors and are perfect for all day comfort on and off the trail.
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.