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Be Kind to Your Feet: Our Favorite Socks

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Dec 04, 2020 02:30 PM |
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For hikers, there is no more important tool than your feet. You want to take care of them so they can carry you for endless miles. Here are a variety of socks that our staff and gear testing team recommend.

Boots above Mount Challenger. Photo by Buff Black.jpg
Boots above Mount Challenger. Photo by Buff Black.

For hikers, your feet are likely your most important tool. You want to take care of them so they can carry you for endless miles. It’s time to give your feet a little love. Here are a variety of socks that our staff and gear testing team recommend.



This pair of thin socks is warmer than they appear, thanks to a nearly equal blend of nylon and Merino wool. Lightweight, colorful and durable, these socks are perfect to use on a midsummer high-country excursion. The seamless construction makes them extremely comfortable, even for long days on the trail or in wet conditions. Made in Vermont for more than 30 years, Darn Tough are designed with longevity in mind, and backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee. If you can put a hole in them, Darn Tough will replace them. $25;

Defeet Aireator SocksDefeet Aireator 6"

Recommended by staff member Andrew Pringle, these lightweight socks "hold up amazingly well for how light they are." Worn by cyclists, hikers and runners, these socks are versatile, lightweight, and allow your feet to breath. The Aireator is an excellent pick for people who prefer thinner socks. $15;

Bridgedale_TrailBlaze_ Gunmetal.jpg


This sock is a true hybrid, in several ways. The sock is woven with an equal blend of nylon, merino wool and Endurofil polypropylene fibers, which combine to give the sock warmth, softness, and moisture wicking. The sock also has a unique construction with two levels of thickness. The fabric around the ball of the foot and the heel is slightly thicker than the rest of the sock, to provide cushioning in high-use areas. The result is a sock that has a bit of texture that may take some getting used to, but it’s ultimately very comfortable to wear outdoors on the trail or indoors on hardwood floors. $20.95;

Sockwell Compression SocksSockwell Pulse Firm Compression Socks

Staff member Barbara Budd recommends these compression socks for all types of activities, from hiking to trailwork. "I've gone to using Sockwell compression socks as a liner sock. The compression socks have really helped with the aches of lots of miles and/or trailwork, plus they're thin enough for a liner sock, which keeps me from blistering." $26.95;

Elite Merino+ No Show Berry.jpg


Merino wool blends make great socks, but not all socks are created equal. Feetures! gets it right with their Elite series—the merino is blended with rayon fibers from bamboo along with nylon and spandex to create an ultra-soft sock that stands up to the abuse of long days on trail and a variety of conditions. These socks withstood hundreds of miles of testing without causing a blister, and they maintained their softness after repeating washings. They come in both ultralight and cushioned versions, with stretch panels to help provide arch support and extra cushioning in high-impact areas like the arch, toe box and Achilles tendon area. They are anatomically constructed and have a clearly labeled right and left. They’re marketed to runners, but worked equally well for a long hike or trail run. $15.99;

Run Lightweight No-Show Open Water.jpg


It’s impossible to ignore the fact that these socks look ridiculous. Don’t let that deter you. For hikers who get blisters between their toes, these socks can change your life, especially on long backpacking trips. They take a bit of getting used to, but once you get moving, you won’t even notice you’re basically wearing gloves on your feet. These socks are especially effective for those with wide feet, giving the toes a chance to spread out. Even over two weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail, our tester didn’t end up with a single blister. One downside: They are a pain to get on, especially if they’re wet. But it’s worth it. These socks were also recommended by staff members Rachel Wendling and Jessi Loerch! Rachel says "there's something so cozy to me about toe socks. Like each of my toes is getting a lil hug." $13;

Smartwool PhD SocksSmartwool PhD Nordic Medium

Recommended by WTA staff member Holly Weiler, these medium weight socks are perfect for winter snow sports and staying warm in cooler temps without getting too warm (who wants sweaty feet?). Holly uses them for nordic skiing in Eastern Washington and highly recommends them! $24.95;

Staff sock thoughts

In addition to the recommendations above, staff also shared some tips and other favorites. Here are a few of their sock thoughts:

"My biggest sock tip is to always bring a backup pair. In summer, I swap them out mid-hike to deal with sweat. In winter, I reserve them for if my feet get cold and wet. When backpacking, I keep a pair of sacred socks at the bottom of my bag to be used only for sleeping, and then I wear them on the last day of hiking. I've even used my backup socks as a temporary bandage for my dog's hurt paw." - Loren Drummond

"For longer backpacking trips (week+), I sometimes buy a new pair of socks and save them in my bag until the last day or two, or if I have a really hard day, so I can put on brand new clean socks as a treat to myself." - Kaci Darsow

"I love Injinji's lightweight no-show socks (reviewed above). I am prone to pinky-toe blisters, and Injinji socks are one of the few that keep me blister-free during a long backpacking trip." - Rachel Wendling

Injinji no-show socks - Rachel Wendling
Rachel Wendling showing off a pair of her Injinji no-show socks. Photo by Rachel Wendling.

"I'm a fan of Darn Tough for most hiking and trail running, Smartwool mountaineering weight for winter (snowshoe & winter backpacking), and Smartwool Nordic medium-weight for Nordic skiing. But I mostly use the Costco merino socks for trail work because I positively destroy my trail work socks." - Holly Weiler

"Darn Tough and From the Ground Up socks hold up extremely well, keep blisters at bay over 30+ mile adventures, and are extremely comfortable." - Grady Olson

From the Ground Up Socks - Grady Olson
Grady Olson picking up some trash on a hike at Rattlesnake Ridge in his From The Ground Up socks. Photo by Christina Hickman.

This article originally appeared in Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.

Comments on Be Kind to Your Feet: Our Favorite Socks

Browning brand with Merino Wool content; many varieties of available, though may be hard to find. I've been wearing them for a decade now. Bought some for my daughter and she LOVES them! She turned my ex-wife on to them, and she loves the too. Fox River brand Snow Boarding socks are awesome too, my son loves those.

Posted by: on Oct 20, 2018 09:05 AM

spontaneousexplorer on Be Kind to Your Feet: Our Favorite Socks

I love WrightSocks. After hiking over 500 miles one summer, I not once ever had a blister!

Posted by:

spontaneousexplorer on Nov 11, 2019 05:38 PM

LITS1954 on Be Kind to Your Feet: Our Favorite Socks

Good morning,
I bought merino wool socks from "From The Ground Up" because they say they donate 5% of sales to WTA. I just received my order and they certainly appear to be wonderful socks (haven't used or gifted them yet). I suggest that WTA publicize this purchase/donation option!
Cindy Murrill

Posted by:

LITS1954 on Dec 11, 2020 09:22 AM