While boots often get most of the attention, a good pair of socks is the unsung hero of a hiker’s kit. They wick moisture to prevent blisters and cushion in the right spots for more comfort and less wear and tear on your feet. And though a sock seems like a pretty simple item, some do the job better than others. I put five pairs to the test to find out which stand above the rest.
Over two weeks, I donned these socks for my daily hikes and walks—wearing one brand on one foot and another brand on the other. To bump up the mileage, I also put in some time on my under-desk treadmill. In the end, I logged ten miles in each sock. I took notes on comfort, fit, and how well they wicked sweat. I wore the same pair of Pearl Izumi Trail N2 running shoes throughout the test to eliminate any variables due to footwear.
Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion ($22)
This sock did everything extremely well, but mostly it was just damn comfy. The cushioning at the forefoot was thick without being so bulky that it bunched up or crowded my foot inside the shoe. The heel locked in nicely as well: the Micro Crew didn’t slip around as I powered up steep ascents and quick-stepped going downhill. On top of that, the elasticity along the arch allowed the sock to stretch instead of rubbing back and forth. And though I don’t have the fancy machinery to simulate a long-term wear test, it’s worth noting that Darn Tough socks are favorites of Pacific Crest Trail hikers for their durability and no-questions-asked replacement policy.
2. Wigwam Traverse Peak ($18)
The Traverse felt more like a running sock than the others I tested—in a good way. That’s because it’s made mostly from synthetic fibers (like nylon, spandex, polyester, and Tencel). The remaining 30 percent is merino wool. All the tight, stretchy material lent it an excellent locked-in fit, and it never bunched while I was hiking. The Traverse was neck and neck for the win but ended up losing to Darn Tough because its slimmer profile didn’t offer as much cushioning.
3. Farm to Feet Max Patch Lightweight 3/4 Crew ($23)
The Max Patch tied with the LeBent (below) for the most breathable sock here despite its thicker build. And while the fit was dialed, the sock moved around a bit and rubbed my foot as I hiked. But I will give it kudos for having just the right amount of padding over the instep, something I really appreciate since I like to yard down when tying my boot laces.
4. Fits Medium Hiker Crew ($22)
Fits makes my favorite skis socks, and the Medium Hiker stood out in this test for, well, the fit. It hugged my foot without feeling tight or constrictive. If you don’t demand a long list of tech features and just need a bare-bones sock that fits, this is a great choice. I personally prefer more cushioning than this one offers.
5. Le Bent Le Sock Hike Light Crew ($22)
The Le Bent moved moisture and vented better than any sock on this list. Credit the mesh panel along the top for that. But the breathability came with a tradeoff. Like the Fits, the cushioning was a bit minimalist for my taste, albeit well-placed. I’d relegate Le Sock to warm-weather hikes when you know you won’t be plodding very far.