You learn to appreciate certain things more as you get older, like olives or red wine. But one of the most unexpected changes has to be finding a pair of socks under the Christmas tree and being excited rather than disappointed.
Because a good pair of socks is something to get excited about! You spend most of your day in a pair of socks so why wouldn’t you want the best of the best wrapped around your feet?
Walking socks (or hiking socks) are different to dress socks or even most sports socks as they offer more protection for your feet by providing cushioning and often come with fabric designed for wicking moisture.
Picking the right kind of sock is essential for any hiking or hillwaking trip, keeping your feet comfortable, dry and blister free as you journey on the trails.
In this article, we reviewed five of the best walking socks on the market right now, so no matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got a recommendation covered.
In a rush? The best walking socks that we tested were the Bridgedale Merino Endurance Socks which were brilliant overall and also reasonably priced. However, if you like a big thick pair of traditional wool socks, you may want to consider the Smartwool Extra Cushion Crew Socks.
The best walking socks are:
- Bridgedale Merino Endurance Ankle Socks – best overall.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Merino Socks – most versatile.
- Injinji Trail Midweight Crew Coolmax Peak Teensokken – best toe socks.
- Smartwool Classic Edition Extra Cushion Crew Socks – best traditional wool socks.
- YUEDGE 5 Pairs Walking Athletic Socks – very budget.
I’ve worn each of these socks for at least 5 hours now (some favourites for a lot longer!), in different weather conditions, over different terrains and for different lengths of time. To make sure I was getting the full experience of the socks, I paired them with my current main hiking boots (the fantastic and comfortable Grisport Saracans) as well as a pair of budget pair of hiking boots I bought a few years back from Decathlon.
I used four criteria to test these socks:
- Comfort – how supportive is the cushioning? Does the sock provide adequate arch support? Can these socks help you avoid blisters?
- Breathability – does the sock allow for good air circulation? How well does the sock wick away moisture? Will your feet be warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather?
- Durability – Does the sock use quality materials? Is the construction of the sock to a high standard?
- Hygiene Rating – are these socks easy to wash and dry? Will the sock suffer from issues like retaining odour?
So whether you know exactly what you’re looking for in a sock or if you are totally clueless, this article will give you everything you need to make the right decision for you.
Best walking socks overall
After reviewing these socks, I was genuinely impressed by the quality and design – no other socks tick as many boxes as efficiently as the Bridgedales did for me.
These socks come with targeted cushioning to offer protection for the parts of your feet in most need rather than all-encompassing padding. There are pros and cons to each design but I certainly didn’t feel let down by the cushioning of these socks. The padding supports your feet in the places it needs it most.
However, if you have a high or low arch to your foot, you might feel that these socks leave you exposed with inadequate cushioning to offer protection for you so bare that in mind when making your decision.
For most people, these socks will certainly offer enough padding to keep your feet comfortable and blister-free.
The main advantage of the targeted cushioning is the vast improvement it makes to how breathable the sock is. With mesh overfoot ventilation built into the design and the moisture-wicking merino wool material, the air is able to circulate around your foot and keep your feet cool on longer hikes or hillwaking in the warmer summer months.
The trade-off of the reduced padding and increased breathability that is so beneficial in warmer climates, is that in colder climates you might feel like the sock isn’t warm enough. Personally, I haven’t had any concerns when pairing these socks with a good, warm pair of boots but if I was looking for a sock for primarily the winter months rather than summer, I would probably opt for the next sock we’re going to review on this list.
I was really impressed with how cool my feet felt walking in these socks, even after a few hours.
The Bridgedale sock is made using their FushionTech Merino Performance design which combines merino wool with a synthetic blend of fibres that provides the benefits of both materials. The wool wicks moisture whilst the synthetic fibres retain the shape of the sock.
The craftsmanship of the sock is well-constructed and Bridgedale offers a lifetime guarantee against poor workmanship which provides comfort that even if you are unfortunate enough to receive a pair that don’t meet their high standards, you can easily replace them.
We’ve already covered that these socks are great at wicking moisture and keeping your feet cool, so it should be no surprise that we haven’t found any issues after wearing the socks for a couple of days.
Socks that stop your feet from getting as sweaty, also help with foot odour issues which is a real benefit of these socks.
The socks also dry really quickly, thanks to the reduced padding and less materials used in comparison with some other walking socks.
This sock is comfortable, cool and well-constructed. I use it heavily from Spring to Autumn with no issues, but sometimes you might want an alternative pair for Winter that offers more padding to keep your feet warm in the cold weather.
Most versatile walking socks
Darn Tough is a brand I’ve had recommended to me by a couple of people independently, so I had high expectations before reviewing – but did they live up to the hype?
Offering comprehensive protection, the Darn Tough surpasses the Bridgedale in terms of encompassing coverage. Compared to the Bridgedale, the Darn Tough socks have more padding that might be beneficial to people with higher or lower arches, worried about the lack of cushioning offered by the Bridgedale socks.
The socks stay in place and don’t rub against your feet which helps to prevent blisters.
I found these socks offered just as much support as the Bridgedale but had the added benefit of total coverage of padding for further comfort.
If you prefer heading out in the colder, winter months rather than the warmer, summer months, I would recommend the Darn Tough socks over the Bridgedale. They aren’t as lightweight and breathable as the Bridgedale but do offer more protection for keeping your feet warm.
The Darn Tough sock doesn’t have the same ventilation features as the Bridgedale but isn’t too heavy to cause concern for most of the year. But at the height of summer, I would definitely prefer the Bridgedale socks over these Darn Tough.
Darn Tough socks come with a lifetime guarantee so I expected to find good quality materials and construction.
When people have recommended these socks to me in the past, they mention the lifetime guarantee but I don’t actually know anyone who has used it yet. The quality of the construction means that Darn Tough can be confident in that guarantee.
I found no issues with the quality of the craftsmanship in the construction and the materials felt durable. The sock is made from a merino wool and synthetic fibre blend which combines the benefits of both.
Whilst the socks might not reduce sweat as well as the Bridgedale, the Darn Tough’s have a higher mix of Merino wool to wick away any moisture. Merino wool also has anti-microbacterial properties which helps with odor control.
The socks dried pretty quickly after being washed so they would be ideal for taking on longer trips.
It’s easy to see why these socks are so highly recommended. They are comfortable and wick moisture well, as well offering plenty of warmth for the colder months. My personal preference is still with the Bridgedale socks because I prefer going out in the summer months but these are also a great all-year option.
Best toe socks for hiking
Something a little different
Before trying these socks, I’d never worn toe socks before and was a little apprehensive about them. They took some getting used to but surprisingly, I think these socks won me over.
When I first put these socks on, I did not think they were comfortable. It took me about 10 minutes before I got used to the feeling of the design. But after wearing them in my boots for a short walk, I forgot about how strange it felt pretty quickly and actually found them really comfortable.
I personally found that the cushioning was not as supportive as the Bridgedale or the Darn Tough socks but was certainly still adequate comfort when combined with a good pair of boots. I think the padding might be a little light for longer walks in poorer-quality hiking boots.
I was surprised by how little I felt the socks move when I wore them. I had thought that, as toe shape and size vary so widely (toes are far more diverse than feet), there might be issues with the sock retaining a fixed position. But I’m happy to report that it was never an issue I came across wearing them. They stayed in place fairly comfortably.
Like a lot of other socks we reviewed, the Injinji socks come with mesh on the top of the foot to help your feet breathe and promote air circulation.
My feet felt really dry after wearing these socks which I was surprised by, I didn’t know if the toe features would end up resulting in moisture getting trapped but the Merino wool and synthetic blend does a good job of wicking away moisture.
The other advantage of the toe features is that they do a good job of keeping your feet warm when temperatures drop – if you find that your toes get chilly when you’re out hillwalking or hiking, I would strongly recommend giving these socks a go.
The Injinji socks are made from a blend of merino wool and synthetic fibres which is an ideal mix for a walking sock.
Although I didn’t find any issues with the construction quality of the sock, I imagine the Injinji sock will have issues with durability more often than other socks on this list due to the design presenting more opportunities for weak points to be exposed. The construction of the toes and their attachment to the rest of the sock doesn’t look like it will fail easily, however, it creates a number of new places that the stitching might come undone.
Like most of the socks on this list, I didn’t find any issues that suggest these socks would present any challenges from a hygiene perspective.
The merino wool and synthetic fibre blend combines the anti-microbacterial properties of the wool with the shape retention of the fibres. These socks are quick to dry and maintain their shape after repeated washes.
These socks are definitely not for everyone. The initial sensation is very strange but despite not expecting to be won over to the toe sock design, I think I might be a convert. I’m not going to be replacing all my socks for toe socks any time soon but I’ll definitely consider a second pair in the future.
Best traditional wool walking socks
A traditionalist pick
If you want something a little more old school, then Smart Wool is the sock for you – these are a real classic walking sock.
These socks have a really good, impressive amount of cushioning and padding which means even with boots that aren’t as high quality, your feet should feel comfortable and protected. If you have high arches or a flat foot, these socks should add a little extra protection wherever you need it.
I personally find that the sock moved slightly more than others on this list when I was wearing them, although not really enough to cause any concerns about getting blisters.
These socks were pleasant and snug to wear, with lots of cushioning to support your feet.
If you want a sock that will keep your feet warm in low temperatures, this is a great choice. It comes with adequate padding to trap warm air in but the high content of merino wool means that the sock wicks away moisture to prevent issues with damp socks getting cold.
But that does mean that it isn’t quite as breathable as some other options. There’s no mesh ventilation to improve air circulation like some of the other socks have.
Personally, these would not be my first choice for a walking sock in the summer but some people do prefer the extra padding and moisture-wicking wool, even in warmer months.
The Smart Wool sock uses a high content of merino wool in its construction which is a great material for socks.
The quality of the stitching on the heel and the toe looks impressive and doesn’t appear likely to split. Smart Wool are a brand that are regularly regarded as being made with excellent craftsmanship from high-quality materials
However, with wool products there is a higher likelihood of the material stretching or shrinking and losing its shape after repeated washes. All materials have pros and cons and whilst I haven’t seen complaints about the Smart Wool socks losing shape over time, it is worth considering.
The abundance of merino wool in this sock is great for preventing odour issues as wool has anti-microbacterial properties.
Despite having lots of material, these socks dry much quicker than expected. Although wool can lose its shape after washing, that hasn’t been an issue with these Smart Wool socks so far.
For something more traditional and protective, the Smart Wool sock is a great choice. The sock offers cosy protection for your feet all year long.
Others to consider
YUEDGE Men’s 5 Pairs Wicking Breathable Cushion Comfortable Casual Crew Socks Multi Performance Walking Athletic Socks
An entry-level sock – but one not to be discounted
If you’re just getting started with outdoor pursuits, I’m sure you’ll have noticed how quickly the cost of everything starts to add up – so you might be looking for something a little more budget-friendly in your sock.
The Yuedge sock is surprisingly comfortable thanks to the decent layer of cushioning all around the sock. If there are any points where your boots rub or feel uncomfortable, the Yuedge socks will do a good job of padding out any discomfort.
However, wearing these socks for long periods of time wouldn’t be recommended. They are a cotton blend, so there’s a higher chance of blisters occurring do to the moisture management of the fabric.
When it comes to temperature regulation, these socks will keep your feet warm or cool as long you aren’t engaging in long periods of exercise… Which can be a problem if you’re looking for a sock for backpacking or hiking.
But they do the job for shorter bursts. They definitely keep your feet warm, but the lack of wool to wick away moisture means that the dampness can soon make your feet cold.
There is a mesh ventilation system on the top of the sock as well to help with air circulation however, it isn’t as good as some of the other socks we looked at.
The main thing to acknowledge is that the sock is made from a cotton blend which is a material that is less durable than wool.
In terms of the construction, the loose threads inside the sock raise some concerns about potential weaknesses in the workmanship. Other than that there weren’t any major concerns about the durability of the sock. It certainly feels like the least well-constructed sock that we reviewed but that stands as a testament to the quality of the other socks.
Cotton absorbs moisture so after a while, these socks might start to have issues with odor as sweat is absorbed into the fabric. However, this is a pack of five socks so you have multiple socks to choose from rather than having to reuse the same sock.
The Yuedge sock took the longest to dry by some distance – about twice as long as the other socks made from more appropriate fabrics like the Smart Wool sock.
These socks aren’t a good choice for serious backpackers. However, if you want a few spare pairs to throw into your bag for day hikes, or for wearing at the campsite when you want to be warm but aren’t planning long-distance walking, these are a good option to consider.
Wrapping up our walking socks review
So overall, my favourite sock that we reviewed and the one I would personally recommend is the Bridgedale. It offers great targeted padding which provides support and comfort whilst also utilising features like mesh ventilation to keep your feet cool and dry.
A close runner-up was the Darn Toughs, which I know from other people’s experiences are a reliable sock that would be a good choice for colder trips rather than the Bridgedale.
The Injinji socks are certainly something different but don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t a good pair of socks beyond their novelty. The Smart Wool socks are really a great example of a more traditional style and finally, the Yuedge socks might not be an ideal choice for serious hikers or hillwalkers but they definitely provide a useful purpose for the right person.